Ex-AstraZeneca exec Lisa Anson to lead do-over at Redx; Advaxis shakes up C-suite
→ Redx $REDX has enlisted esteemed British exec Lisa Anson to lead the company’s do-over as its CEO. Having held management roles at AstraZeneca for 20 years — serving as AstraZeneca UK’s president for the last six — Anson, who’s also the president of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry, inspires confidence about turning things around for the battered biotech. If the hopes are high, so are the stakes. Redx saw its shares suspended almost a year ago after the city of Liverpool said it went delinquent on a £2 million loan, and was hit by a safety crisis just last month that forced it to halt a PhI/II trial. Anson, however, is upbeat about the work cut out for her: “The team have impressed me and the company now has a clear focus on some very exciting areas of science in both fibrosis and cancer where there are a number of ongoing programs.” When she comes on the job on June 1, executive chairman Iain Ross will revert to a non-executive position.
→ Advaxis’ $ADXS C-suite is buzzing with activity as it names two new execs while parting ways with another. Kenneth Berlin, a J&J vet jumping from the helm of diagnostics company Rosetta Genomics, is taking over the roles of president and CEO from interim chief executive Anthony Lombardo. He will be assisted on the clinical side by new CMO Andres Gutierrez, who’s taking charge of all development and regulatory activities for Advaxis’ Listeria monocytogenes-based antigen delivery platform. Bringing experience with a slate of cancer immunotherapies at Oncolytics Biotech and Sellas, where he held the same role, Gutierrez inherits a lead drug — axalimogene filolisbac — that’s well into Phase III development but haunted by an FDA clinical hold on a PhI/II trial evaluating a combo treatment with the drug and AstraZeneca’s Imfinzi, issued weeks ago. Concurrently, CFO Sara Bonstein is leaving the Princeton, NJ-based company for another opportunity. While she is leaving almost immediately, Lombardo will stay for a while for the transition.
→ Almost two decades after co-founding Probiodrug, Konrad Glund has decided it’s time to pass on the reins — and he’s selected a fellow entrepreneur-executive. Ulrich Dauer had worked 14 years as chief executive of 4SC, a cancer drug developer he helped start, before taking more recent stints at Ventaleon and Omeicos Therapeutics. As CEO, Dauer will work closely with longtime chief development officer Inge Lues to push Probiodrug’s Alzheimer’s disease candidate into Phase IIb studies, taking advantage of FDA’s new guidelines for the notoriously hard to treat disease. The hope is that the results would be good enough to warrant conditional approval of the drug, dubbed PQ912. Also stepping down from the front line: CFO Hendrik Liebers, who will become an adviser alongside Glund.
→ With early-stage clinical trials underway at gastrointestinal specialist OrphoMed, Gary Phillips has been tapped as CEO so that founder Nikhilesh Singh can transition to a newly created CSO position. The appointment brings Phillips to San Francisco after four years in London, where he worked as EVP and chief strategy officer for Mallinckrodt Pharma. That was after almost 20 years of moving back and forth across the Atlantic for a series of jobs at companies like Bausch & Lomb, Novartis and Merck KGaA. While he steers strategy and operations, Singh will devote his time to a pipeline of dimer therapeutics.
→ After 7 years as head of Sanofi R&D, former NIH chief Elias Zerhouni is stepping down and handing the job to John Reed, who spent the last 5 years running Roche’s pRED research group based in Basel. Reed, like Zerhouni, will have offices in Cambridge, MA. The change at the top of the Paris-based pharma giant’s research arm marks the latest in a series of switch-ups in the world’s biggest pharma R&D organizations. Both Reed and Zerhouni are known as influential scientists with a keen understanding of translational research. But they’ve never made the leap to become known for mastering development on their own. Reed is joining Sanofi April 30, two months before Zerhouni leaves Sanofi.
→ As Dermtreat makes its second home in San Diego, it has tapped an American CEO, Nishan de Silva, to advance late-stage clinical trials for its mucosal patch. Rivelin, developed by founder Jens Hansen and backed by Sofinnova, treats the autoimmune disease oral lichen planus by directly delivering a drug to mouth surfaces. In his new role as president of R&D, Hansen will continue to overseeing the company’s Denmark-based operations. With a background in healthcare consulting and private equity investing, de Silva joins Dermtreat from the president and COO seat at Poseida Therapeutics. His top marching order is to chart a commercial path for Rivelin, which is set for PhIIb trials in mid-2018 using the drug clobetasol.
→ Canada’s Scythian Biosciences has brought in European medical cannabis expert Rob Reid to replace CEO Jonathan Gilbert, who’s now tasked with a more focused role managing the company’s partnership with the University of Miami. Established in 2016, the partnership seeks to evaluate Scythian’s cannabinoid-based pill in concussion injuries, with both rodent and human studies planned.
→ Two-time biotech CEO Matthias Schroff is now the chief operating officer at Exicure, where he gets to flex all his immuno-oncology, TLR9 biology and RNAi muscles. The German exec arrives at a time the Chicago-based biotech is wrapping up Phase I studies for its lead solid tumor drug and another psoriasis treatment. He is expected to put the deep clinical experience he honed during his runs at Vaximm and Mologen to use, helping break new grounds with the spherical nucleic acid delivery technology developed in part by CEO David Giljohann.
→ Keith Katkin has assembled a star-studded team in preparation for pivotal trials and eventual commercialization at Urovant Sciences. Three of the five new hires share roots in Allergan: CMO Cornelia Haag-Molkenteller led clinical development of onabotulinumtoxinA for neurogenic detrusor overactivity and overactive bladder there; general counsel Bryan Smith was chief counsel a number of business units including urology; and Nori Ebersole, now Urovant’s SVP and chief human resources officer, was responsible for several commercial and R&D expansions at the Botox maker. Katkin also wooed Michael McFadden from Avanir to be chief commercial officer, and Christine Ocampo from Novus Therapeutics to be chief accounting officer. High profile exec teams are a hallmark of Roivant subsidiaries, as are assets from Big Pharma — Urovant’s lead drug for overactive bladder, videgron, was in-licensed from Merck.
→ As Third Rock startup Revolution Medicines opens a new chapter in its history with a $56 million venture round aimed at moving its first experimental therapy into the clinic, it has also been recruiting new execs for the top team. Ryan Martins joined as chief financial officer, suggesting some added attention for capital formation that will likely include fresh strategizing that could lead to an IPO. Xiaolin Wang jumped in as senior vice president, clinical development and Hirdesh Uppal joined as vice president, development sciences. Thilo Schroeder, a partner at cancer specialist Nextech Invest, and Barbara Weber, chief executive officer of Tango Therapeutics, joined the company’s board of directors.
→ Sanofi has lost its global diabetes R&D chief and regional CSO Philip Just Larsen to German pharma giant Grünenthal, leaving the company in a lurch to fill his shoes at the company’s Frankfurt office. At Grünenthal, Larsen will serve as chief scientific officer, where he will get to flex his neuro background. “As an MD PhD with clinical neurology expertise, I have first-hand experience in pain management, the core competence at Grünenthal,” Larsen said in a statement. “I am thrilled to contribute to the development of innovative medicines for high unmet medical needs in pain.” Before joining Grünenthal, Larsen spent six years at Sanofi — first as SVP and global head of its diabetes division, and later as CSO of the German hub in addition to his former role. By exiting Sanofi for the German drugmaker, Larsen gets to helm an active R&D group. Grünenthal plans to introduce four or five new products by 2022 with hopes of becoming a $2 billion business. Larsen will likely stay busy as the company dumps more investment in R&D — along with buying up specialty drug programs.
→ Alder Biopharmaceuticals $ALDR is piecing together its interim team in the lead-up to an NDA for their CGRP migraine drug eptinezumab. Eric Carter, a biotech vet who’s been consulting for the company, is stepping in as interim CMO. He’ll be reporting to interim CEO Paul Cleveland, who took the top spot following the abrupt departure a few weeks ago of CEO Randy Schatzman, who founded the company. Alder is widely viewed as a big step behind the leaders in this field, with Amgen/Novartis in the lead.
→ Fresh off a job handling early-stage clinical programs at Infinity Pharma, Claudio Dansky Ullmann has signed on to advance MaxCyte’s very first autologous CAR drug candidates. The cell engineering service provider was in desperate need for an expert to spearhead its jump into drug development, and Dansky Ullmann, a former clinical investigator who got his industry start at Takeda, fits the bill. He will oversee the entry of MaxCyte’s lead drug, MCY-M11, into the clinic.
→ Janssen vet Anish Suri has landed his first biotech job as CSO of Cue Biopharma $CUE. The immunology expert will channel his scientific expertise to guide discovery, preclinical and translational research efforts at the Cambridge, MA-based company, which harnesses immunotherapy for cancer and autoimmune diseases. Another part of his job is to build new teams to work on applications of Cue’s precise immune modulation technologies.
→ Almost a year after launching out of X-Chem, X-Biotix Therapeutics has brought in a key exec, two board directors and $7 million in Series A funding. As chief scientific officer, Dominic Ryan — a former discovery director at Cubist Pharma — will steer the biotech’s research strategy as it pursues antibiotic scaffolds for multi-drug resistant Gram-negative pathogens. Waltham, MA-based X-Biotix is building a pipeline based upon X-Chem’s DNA encoding technology and a collaboration with several microbiology specialists at Harvard. Also joining the company are Aduro Biotech CEO Stephen Isaacs and private equity partner Christopher Ray, appointed to help grow the early-stage company.
→ Gary Christianson is the new COO at Nohla Therapeutics, with a mandate to build a commercial-ready operation for its pipeline of off-the-shelf cell therapies. Most recently, Christianson worked at Cascadian Therapeutics, where he had the same title before it got acquired by Seattle Genetics. At Nohla, Christianson will once again deal with immunotherapies for autoimmune diseases — something he spent plenty of time with at Corixa.
→ Following a four-year run at an advisory firm, Josh Hamermesh is back scouting deals for Gamida Cell’s epigenetic regulation technologies. As CBO, Hamermesh will lead the business operations and corporate development strategies at the Israeli biotech’s Cambridge, MA office. The new job adds to a slate of BD roles on his resume, spanning Genzyme, Pervasis Therapeutics and Infinity Pharma. He will be joined at Gamida Cell by Paul Nee, a former Sunovion Pharma staffer who will take charge of market research, analytics and commercial strategies as VP of marketing.
→ Craving a piece of the action, investor Joep Muijrers has joined PureTech Health as CFO. Given that his prior investments included Kite Pharma, Ablynx and Juno Therapeutics, it’s not hard to imagine where he’s coming from. At the Boston-based company, Muijrers will have broad authority over all aspects of its finances, including capital markets strategy and execution, driving growth for its affiliates, strategic and financial planning, and financial reporting.
→ In a recognition of his contributions, Aaron Berg has been promoted to chief commercial officer at Amarin $AMRN, replacing Mark Salyer, who left after less than a year in the job. Building upon his duties as VP of marketing and sales, it is now his job to ensure commercial growth for Vascepa, the triglyceride-lowering drug currently in a landmark cardiovascular trial with results anticipated in Q3.
→ Gossamer Bio is welcoming former Leerink director and investment banker Bryan Giraudo to the other side of the table. Giraudo will lead all finance and administrative functions for the biotech, founded by ex-Receptos execs. With the $100 million round it got in January and a built-in deal-heavy model, the new CFO will likely stay busy.
→ Now that Sellas has gained its foothold in the public market, Aleksey Krylov, the interim CFO overseeing its reverse merger with Galena, is giving way to a permanent successor. Gene Mack brings a combination of finance consulting, biotech experience and equity research to his new job. His resume also boasts of a number of M&A and product licensing transactions, something that Sellas — which is looking for partners on a cancer vaccine with a mixed record while prepping another pivotal Phase III cancer study — could really use.
→ In a boost to its customer-facing units, Parexel has recruited Peyton Howell from drug distributor AmerisourceBergen to become its chief commercial strategy officer. Global sales, customer service and sales operations will all be under her purview as Howell takes her first crack at the biopharma service industry. She will work with CEO Jamie Macdonald, who himself joined the company just weeks ago.
→ East Lyme, CT-based CRO Phesi has named Paul Chew its chief medical officer. A cardiologist by training, Chew cut his teeth at Bristol-Myers Squibb before assuming a slate of clinical roles at Sanofi. His most recent gig at digital therapeutics startup Omada Health makes for a natural transition to Phesi, which likes to tout its clinical trials database and predictive analytics tools.
→ Anticipating a commercial launch for its anti-infective drug, Denmark’s Xellia Pharma has appointed Craig Boyd to the president seat of its US business. His hiring coincides with a plan to open a new office in Chicago, providing an anchor for the manufacturing facilities in Cleveland that’s scheduled to come into full operation this year. A former Novartis sales executive, Boyd jumps from contract research organization Envigo. That experience might come into play as he seeks partnerships and increases Xellia’s manufacturing footprint in the US.
→ After getting a seven-year introduction to biopharma at contract research and manufacturing organization AMRI, Lori Henderson is now Moderna’s general counsel and corporate secretary. Her new colleagues like her blend of regulatory, governance and corporate development experience, suggesting that she will play a similar role in company growth and partnerships at the biotech unicorn advances its messenger RNA therapeutics.
→ Recro Gainesville, a CDMO based out of Georgia, has hired Heather Sugrue to lead its business development team, convinced by a track record she’s established at Pantheon, Ricerca Biosciences and MDS Pharma Services.
→ Teva vet Maureen Cavanaugh has been named senior vice president and chief commercial operations officer at generic drug manufacturer Lannett, triggering a shuffle in the C-suite. COO John Kozlowski will now become chief of staff and strategy officer, while John Abt, VP of quality and an old colleague of Cavanaugh’s, is promoted to chief quality and operations officer.
→ In a bid to strengthen its Alderley Park site, Concept Life Sciences has appointed Merck vet Matilda Bingham as site director and David Higton as principal scientist, with a focus on bioinformatics. Both were recently at UK biopharma companies — Bingham at Redx Pharma and Higton at Cyprotex.