Peer Review

Fred Aslan returns to biotech as president of Vividion; Zai Lab scoops Portola’s Tao Fu to spearhead US operations

Fred Aslan

→ After a stint as CEO of a medical device company, Receptos co-founder and Venrock alum Fred Aslan is back in the drug development business. As president and chief business officer of Vividion Therapeutics, he will play a crucial role in engineering deals to finance the multiple applications of Vividion’s synthetic and proteomic chemistry platforms, which has already scored a big collaboration with Celgene. Vividion has also wooed Larry Burgess — longtime exec at Array Biopharma — to become its head of chemistry.

→ Remember when Tao Fu quietly resigned from his post as chief commercial and business at Portola? It turns out he was prepping a move to Zai Lab $ZLAB, where he’s been appointed president and COO with responsibility on everything from business development to manufacturing. The Shanghai-based biotech likes his US experience — accrued over years of working for J&J and Bristol-Myers Squibb — which will come into play as they open up their US headquarters around his office in San Francisco.

→ Werner Cautreels, the longtime CEO at Selecta Biosciences $SELB, is retiring from his post. The biotech reported this morning that Bayer vet Carsten Brunn has been named as the new CEO. Cautreels is staying on as an adviser after he leaves his job at the end of this year. Selecta is prepping a Phase III study for SEL-212, an experimental gout drug. Cautreels was named CEO in 2010, a couple of years after the launch of the company focused on synthetic vaccine particle tech from the lab of MIT’s Bob Langer.

Karim Dabbagh

→ There’s been a change of leadership — and strategy — at one of the Bay Area biotechs looking to play a prominent role in microbiome R&D. Glenn Nedwin is out as CEO of Second Genome, leaving the top post open for chief scientific officer Karim Dabbagh to step into. Also out is the broad-based approach to R&D that Nedwin had, including ag work, as the biotech looks to create a razor-sharp focus on an upcoming Phase II for NASH — a blockbuster target which has inspired a frenzy of competition. Dabbagh’s next chapter as CEO will center on SGM-1019, a P2X7 inhibitor that inhibits NLRP3, an inflammasome that has been attracting a broad group of players.

→ Ali Fattaey is out as CEO of Curis. The Lexington, MA-based biotech says Fattaey is leaving the company, which is about all it has to say about that. The ex-CEO was credited with hiring his replacement, COO James Dentzer, now president and CEO. “Looking forward, we believe (Dentzer) is best positioned to lead Curis as we seek to progress our three high-value programs quickly and successfully through the clinic,” says chairman Martyn Greenacre.

→ As Marizyme completes the acquisition of its protease platform — and some drug candidates developed on it — the biotech has appointed Michael Handley as its new CEO. Handley takes over from Nick DeVito and has the big task of realizing Marizyme’s vision for buying late-stage products in the acute care space to push them over the regulatory finish line.

Nautic Partners has hired biotech vet Michael Kallelis to run Mikart, the contract development and manufacturing organization it just bought.

Volker Herrmann

→ Weeks after closing a $72 million round, Armon Sharei, the young founder and CEO at SQZ Biotech has brought in an industry veteran to shape the biotech’s corporate strategy, operations and communications as it approaches the clinic. Volker Herrmann’s official title is president and COO, but he will also take over the business development front. A Pfizer vet, Herrmann first made the jump to biotech for Viamet Pharmaceuticals and had since worked as COO of Selenity Therapeutics.

→ Ramping up for pivotal studies for an old Sanofi drug, X4 Pharmaceuticals has appointed Adam Mostafa as CFO. While Mostafa most recently served in the same position at Abpro, he spent most of his career in the investment banking world, capped by a stint as managing director at Cantor Fitzgerald.  

→ Having steered Genfit’s lead drug, elafibranor, to a Phase III program, CMO Sophie Mégnien has decided to resign from the company but emphasizes that the decision is “entirely personal and is totally unrelated to Genfit or its R&D programs” — presumably in response to rumors that she has an offer to join a competitor. Pascal Birman, her former deputy, is stepping up to lead the clinical team.

→ Scrapping for cash to produce additional safety data requested by the FDA before it could proceed with its lead drug, Gemphire has cut into its C-suite for a round of layoffs. The reduction — which claims five staffers, or a third of the tiny biotech’s workforce — caps a turbulent few months at Gemphire $GEMP during which its shares were battered. Among the five laid off are CFO Jeffrey Mathiesen and CMO Lee Golden. CEO Steven Gullans will now double as the principal financial and accounting officer of the company.

Merck vet Arthur Santora has joined a newly public Entera $ENTX as its CMO, replacing Eric Lang. The Jerusalem-based biotech is developing oral formulations of parathyroid hormone (PTH) for osteoporosis and hypoparathyroidism.

→ With Phase III trials for its non-opioid, non-steroid pain drug underway, Centrexion Therapeutics is ready to talk commercialization. Andrew Partridge, formerly of Vertex and Amgen, is the new EVP and CCO tasked with building out the team.

→ Emerging from the Nuplazid scandal after an FDA review concluded the Parkinson’s drug carries more benefit than risks, Acadia is now ready to move on with this and other clinical programs in central nervous system disorders, announcing two new hires. Organon vet Robert Kaper has joined as SVP, global head of medical affairs, while Eliseo Salinas assumes the CSO and SVP post after hopping around a slate of biotechs.

Mitsubishi Tanabe Pharma America has recruited Joseph Scalia from Bayer to head its US operations as VP of commercial sales and marketing.

Eagle Pharmaceuticals $EGRX has elevated chief commercial officer David Pernock to the COO role, while keeping president in his title, in preparation for the “next phase in commercialization” of their injectables.

→ Harvard professor and Broad researcher David Liu — widely recognized for his work on gene editing and synthetic biology, with a couple of biotech startups under his belt — has joined the board of WuXi Biologics.

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Research Scientist - Immunology
Recursion Pharmaceuticals Salt Lake City, UT
Director of Operations
Atlas Venture Cambridge, MA

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