Ignyta founder boosts team at his new cancer startup; Cytomx CMO hits the exit
→ Ignyta founder and ex-CEO Jonathan Lim is beefing up the team at Erasca, his new startup dedicated to erasing cancer. Genentech vet Gary Yeung has been promoted to chief operating and financial officer, leaving an open CBO role for David Chacko to step in. Chacko joins from Versant Ventures, where, as a principal, he was credited for advancing several portfolio companies through fundraising, business development and other affairs. Les Brail, who has been working on Neon’s personalized neoantigen vaccine, will be the VP of clinical development; Karen Gilmore, one of Lim’s old colleagues at Ignyta, has been tapped as VP of finance.
Erasca has also assembled an R&D advisory board: Bruce Roth (chemistry), Dave Matthews (crystallography), Greg Cosma (development), Paul Pearson (ADME/PK), Jane Chang (toxicology), James Freddo (medical) and Linda Robertson (regulatory affairs).
→ CytomX Therapeutics has quietly parted ways with Rachel Humphrey, SVP and CMO. No reason was given for her departure in the middle of the week, which comes months after Bristol-Myers Squibb broke off a partnership on three collaboration discovery targets (though a Phase I/II for a partnered CTLA-4 Probody — intended to be a safer, gentler version of Yervoy — remains on track). Humphrey joined the biotech in 2015 after stints at AstraZeneca and Bristol-Myers, where she led clinical development of Yervoy.
→ Flush with $142 million in new financing and partnership dollars, Frequency Therapeutics has brought in new execs to guide the upcoming Phase II study of its regenerative drug for hearing loss. CMO Bill Chin, who jumped out of retirement more than a year ago to join the biotech, is moving over to EVP of clinical and translational science, with broader responsibilities around the whole progenitor cell activation (PCA) platform. Dana Hilt will assume that role, in which he will also establish other applications of the tech, including a remyelination program in multiple sclerosis. His background in neurology and CNS drug development — accrued at Lysosomal Therapeutics, Forum Pharma, Amgen and others — will bolster Frequency’s foray into degenerative diseases, according to CEO David Lucchino. Other appointments place Moderna alums Jeff Hrkach as SVP of technical development and Jason Glashow as SVP of corporate affairs.
→ uniQure made some changes to its leadership team with the promotion of Sander van Deventer to executive vice president, research and product development and Genzyme vet Alex Kuta to executive vice president, operations. With these changes, the company is eliminating the COO role, and Scott McMillan, the current holder of the job, will be retiring. Both van Deventer and Kuta joined uniQure in 2017 as CSO and general manager, Amsterdam; and SVP, regulatory affairs, respectively. Van Deventer was a co-founder of uniQure’s predecessor Amsterdam Molecular Therapeutics (AMT) in 1998 and previously served on the company’s board of directors. He is currently the operating partner at Forbion Capital partners and professor of translational gastroenterology at Leiden University Medical Center. Kuta previously served stints at EMD Serono, AMAG Pharmaceuticals and Genzyme. Prior to those roles, he was the chief of the Cytokine and Gene Therapy Branch in the Center for Biologics at the FDA.
→ Boston-based Biofourmis has scooped up two Roche execs to grow its digital therapeutics business and health analytics platform. John Varaklis is trading global head of clinical operations for the chief strategy officer job as Biofourmis seeks more pharma partners to leverage its technology integrating pharmacotherapy with remote patient monitoring and digital products. Peter Braun — whose 28-year career at the Swiss pharma giant culminated in a position lead global access strategy, health policy and communications — will become chief commercial officer. In this new role he will continue to focus on communicating with payers, healthcare providers and patients.
→ Complexa has wooed Clarus CMO Theodore Danoff to steer its lead drug candidate through late-stage development. As CMO, Danoff is expected to leverage his clinical development knowledge across therapeutic areas to usher not just CXA-10 in pulmonary arterial hypertension and focal segmental glomerulosclerosis but also other trials of nitrated fatty acids to treat fibrotic and inflammatory diseases.
→ Having laid low since its two initial rounds of financing last year, T cell therapy player Torque is ready to make some moves on the clinical trial and cell manufacturing fronts. And it’s recruited Sok Cheng Soh as CFO to help execute those plans while Ana Radeljevic is coming on board to manage business operations. Between Bioverativ and Boston Scientific, Soh has accumulated experience building tax and treasury capabilities as well as balancing financial risk and liaising with capital markets. Radeljevic, who had started her own advisory firm, has a resume that spans PerkinElmer, Sanofi/Genzyme and Deloitte.
→ A year after Millendo Therapeutics’ — a company focused on treatments for orphan endocrine diseases — reverse merged with OvaScience, the company has tapped Tamara Joseph to succeed Jeffery Brinza as general counsel and corporate secretary, as well as naming Ryan Zeidan as chief development officer. Prior to joining Millendo, Joseph served as general counsel at Enzyvant Therapeutics and in the same role at InVivo Therapeutics, Cubist Pharmaceuticals, Mayne Pharma and Transkaryotic Therapies (TKT). She played advisory roles in Mayne Pharma’s acquisition by Hospira and TKT’s sale to Shire. Zeidan has served as Millendo’s SVP of development since joining the company in 2018. Prior to Millendo, he had stints at Celgene, Novartis Oncology, Boston Consulting Group and Calando Pharmaceuticals.
→ Consumer packaged goods cannabis company, Pivot Pharmaceuticals — which is planning to grow and expand markets in Canada, the US and the EU — has tapped Toni Rinow as CEO. Rinow has held various leadership roles in which she headed acquisitions across Canada, Latin America, Europe and India. In addition, CMO Wolfgang Renz will be serving as regional manager Europe along with his current tasks. Renz was a former corporate vice president at Boehringer Ingelheim.
→ Cambridge, Massachusetts-based, AVROBIO — currently focused on the development of their gene therapy, AVR-RD-01, in Fabry disease — welcomed Georgette Verdin as chief human resources officer. Verdin joins the company after stints at Novartis Institutes of Biomedical Research, Biogen, Amazon and Microsoft.
→ Computer scientist Imran Haque has found a new home at Recursion as their vice president of data science. Haque hops over to the role after a stint as CSO of Freenome. Prior to his time at Freenome, Haque served in various roles at Counsyl, including vice president, scientific affairs.
→ Sherron Kell has hopped on board to Provention Bio as SVP of clinical development. She will lead the anti-CD3 monoclonal antibody PRV-031 (teplizumab) program — which was granted breakthrough therapy designation — for the interception and prevention of clinical type 1 diabetes. Most recently, Kell served as the vice president at Impax Pharmaceuticals (now Amneal Pharmaceuticals). She also brings experience from Johnson & Johnson and Novartis to the role.
→ Eli Lilly vet Fred Larimore is making the jump from Vancouver, Washington-based AbSci’s scientific advisory board to his new role as the company’s vice president, process development. AbSci is a synthetic biology company with an E. coli cell line for rapid and low-cost biomanufacturing of complex protein therapeutics. At Lilly, Larimore served as a research fellow and senior scientific leader. He oversaw the manufacturing of Humulin, Humalog, Humatrope, Forteo and recombinant human glucagon. Previously, Larimore was the vice president of scientific affairs and CSO of Cook Pharmica. In addition to Larimore’s appointment, AbSci is planning to make 14 additional positions by the end of 2019.
→ VenatoRx Pharmaceuticals — focused on the discovery of anti-infectives to treat multidrug resistant bacterial infections and other hard-to-treat viral infections — made some new additions to its leadership team with the appointments of Jennifer Ellis as SVP, quality; Paul McGovern as vice president, medical sciences and Lauren Tornetta as vice president, regulatory affairs. Ellis joined VenatoRx after stints at TRACON, Trius Therapeutics (acquired by Cubist Pharmaceuticals), Pfizer, and Alliance Pharmaceuticals. Prior to his new role with the company, McGovern served as the vice president, clinical & medical affairs at Paratek Pharmaceuticals, as well as a stint at Wyeth/Pfizer. Tornetta was a former regulatory project manager of the division of anesthesia, analgesia and rheumatology products at the FDA. She also served at Galera Therapeutics, Pfizer, Endo Pharmaceuticals and Nabi Biopharmaceuticals prior to jumping aboard VenatoRx.
→ San Francisco Bay area-based Veeva Systems — provider in cloud-based software for life sciences clients — made the addition of president and COO of TESARO (acquired by GSK in 2019), Mary Lynne Hedley, to the board of directors.
→ Andreessen Horowitz-backed Shield Diagnostics has welcomed David Esposito to its board of directors, joining its mission to bring precision medicine to infectious diseases. Esposito is the current CEO of Ann Arbor-based ONL Therapeutics.
→ We found out Monday morning where Levi Garraway was headed after he left Eli Lilly as head of oncology R&D a few days ago. Roche named Garraway as their new chief medical officer, replacing Sandra Horning, who they say is retiring from the company. Garraway made the shift to the Big Pharma world less than three years ago after a distinguished academic career with stints at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard Medical School. Lilly, though, gave him a fast education in the highs and lows of drug development. Horning, meanwhile, had a 10-year stint at Roche/Genentech, where she started out as head of oncology R&D following her own academic career, with 21 years at Stanford.
→ Cadent Therapeutics — currently in collaboration with Novartis $NVS to develop a negative allosteric modulator, now in Phase II for the treatment of treatment-resistant depression — welcomed John McBride on board as CFO. McBride jumps over from the same role at Syntimmune, where he helped with the company’s sale to Alexion $ALXN. Prior to his time at Syntimmune, McBride served as the COO and CFO at Tokai Pharmaceuticals and had stints at Gloucester Pharmaceuticals, Pharmacia, CytoTherapeutics and Phytera. In addition, the company announced several other hires, including Minnie Mildwoff, Vice President, Regulatory Affairs and Quality Assurance; Robert Gaffey, Vice President, Finance and Administration; Nicole Luosey, Vice President, Strategic and Program Operations and Noah Goodman, Executive Director, Business Development.