Peer Review

Kenji Yasukawa takes the reins at Astellas; Voyager hunts for new CEO as Steven Paul goes back to research

Kenji Yasukawa

→ As Astellas pursues a new strategic plan, Kenji Yasukawa is taking the reins from Yoshihiko Hatanaka as president and CEO. Yasukawa’s resume suggests that he’s been groomed for the position: having joined the Japanese company in its early early Yamanouchi days, he worked his way up the management ranks, finally becoming a representative director side by side with Hatanaka. Hatanaka will retain that title, alongside his new role of board chairman.

→ Marking almost 30 years of service at Boehringer Ingelheim, Wolfgang Baiker has been promoted to US president and CEO, succeeding Paul Fonteyne, who is retiring at the end of 2018. Baiker is currently an SVP and the head of the biopharma business unit, having previously led clinical development and clinical research in Connecticut. Fonteyne, who’s been at the helm for six years and presided over the launch of Spiriva, will remain the chairman of the Boehringer USA board.

Steven Paul

Voyager Therapeutics $VYGR is hunting for a new CEO as co-founder and current chief executive Steven Paul has decided to focus on preclinical discovery research and portfolio development. After six years on the front line, he will transition to the role of executive science advisor and stay on both the board and the science & tech committee. Paul, an Eli Lilly vet, was a venture partner at Third Rock when he helped form the biotech, known for its gene therapy for Parkinson’s disease.

→ As Novo Nordisk $NVO continues to hunt for new blood disease assets (and insists they could not see the value at which Ablynx was bought), longtime CFO Jesper Brandgaard is stepping down from that position but continuing as EVP, responsible for Novo’s biopharm business and legal affairs. His successor, Karsten Munk Knudsen, is also a veteran of the Danish giant and has played financial roles in both the headquarters and the US division — most recently, SVP of corporate finance. In other news, board of directors chairman Goran Ando has decided not to seek re-election; Helge Lund was proposed to fill his position.

Camille Bedrosian

→ While Ultragenyx $RARE is moving into commercial operations, it’s shown the world that it’s not forgetting its pipeline with the appointment of Camille Bedrosian as CMO and EVP. During her 10-year tenure at fellow rare disease biotech Alexion, Bedrosian oversaw the development and eventual approval of Soliris. Her domain at Ultragenyx will span strategic leadership on clinical development and translational research programs, as well as day-to-day oversight of medical affairs, clinical operations and drug safety.

→ After making the rounds at big pharma offices in the region, Alina Culcea is joining Amgen as its new general director in Romania. She has previously managed regional vaccines sales for GlaxoSmithKline, handled HR for Pfizer and Actavis, and directed public affairs for Novartis Romania. “Romania is one of the priority markets for Amgen and so, the role of general manager of the local affiliate is critical for our business success,” said executive director and regional general manager Viktoria Anashkina.

Insys Therapeutics $INSY has ushered in two new executives to its senior management team, as the painkiller maker slowly shakes off the attention around the problematic marketing schemes that led to the arrest of its founder. Psychiatrist Ahmed Elkashef, a former NIH staffer and academic, has been appointed VP of clinical development. Also joining Insys (and the biotech industry) as the new VP of human resources is Carol Summersgill, whose career has spanned a number of retail and manufacturing sectors.

→ With a PDUFA date for its Eisai castoff coming up, Dova Pharma $DOVA saying goodbye to old CFO Doug Blankenship and welcoming Mark Hahn as his successor. A Genentech vet, Blankenship stumbled upon the Durham, NC-based biotech when he began a sabbatical in the area. Hahn will now take over the charge to transition Dova to a commercial stage company. Having spearheaded Cempra’s financing activities all the way from its IPO up to the Melinta acquisition, Hahn said he is delighted to help the biotech grow around avatrombopag.

→ Israel’s Intec Pharma has brought in Michael Gendreau as CMO to lead the Phase III trial of its combo for Parkinson’s disease as well as other clinical development of the Accordian Pill technology platform. Gendreau was a founding member at San Diego-based Cypress Biosciences (now owned by Royalty Pharma), where he worked for 15 years before founding his own consulting firm.

Ole Larsen is departing the CFO position at Bavarian Nordic, where he’s spent the past 10 years. The Danish biotech has attracted some big name partners with its vaccine platform, but has stayed relatively quiet since a PhIII cancer vaccine trial flopped last year.

Bob Hugin

→ After orchestrating the emergence of one of the biggest biotechs to come along in the art 20 years, Bob Hugin has announced his retirement as executive chairman of Celgene. Hugin started at Celgene $CELG as CFO and went on to dazzle Wall Street by building the franchise around Revlimid. More recently Celgene CEO Mark Alles, who Hugin had groomed for the top spot, managed to rattle the market with some shaky forecasts. But the company quickly bounced back with deals to acquire Impact and most notably Juno, positioning the company as one of the leaders in the CAR-T field. His departure comes right on the heels of word that Hugin, a committed Republican and major league contributor to the conservative party in New Jersey, has been considering a run for the Senate in a showdown with Democratic Senator Bob Menendez.

Merck vet Diane Plotkin is the new VP of clinical development at Los Angeles-based Ritter Pharma $RTTR, a tiny company taking on lactose intolerance. As Ritter prepares to launch a pivotal Phase III trial for its sole program, microbiome modulator RP-G28 (with altered endpoints), Plotkin’s clinical knowledge and experience will likely be important for cash-strapped team. Like company founder Andrew Ritter, Plotkin said she’s drawn to the work given her personal experience with the condition. Enrollment for the trail — expecting 500 patients — will begin this summer.

→ After building McKinsey’s bio division as a partner for the past few years, Ralf Otto is returning to the biopharma world as the COO at Rentschler Biopharma. He succeeds Thomas Siklosi, who will move to the parent corporation of the German contract development and manufacturing organization.

→ Industry veteran Jack Shannon has moved up again in the CRO world, having landed the title of chief commercial officer at Synteract. Here, he oversees the global sales and marketing functions — something he’s done before as VP of global business development biopharma at Chiltern.

→ Buena, NJ-based generic maker Teligent has recruited AstraZeneca vet Damian Finio to replace outgoing CFO Jennifer Collins. Finio, who’s joining from Virtus Pharma, has built a career on financial positions in pharma, including a brief stint as audit committee chair at Teligent back when it was known as IGI Laboratories.

→ Cambridge, UK-based RNA epigenetics drug discovery specialist Storm Therapeutics has appointed Nobel Prize winner Thomas Cech as a scientific adviser. Cech, a Merck board member and expert in the field, previously helped found an RNAi biotech that later became an Alnylam subsidiary.

→ Canada’s Xortx Therapeutics has appointed two new directors, Allan Williams and Paul Van Damme, as co-founder and longtime director Alan Moore resigns from his position. He remains with the kidney disease company as a senior executive consultant for clinical and regulatory affairs.

Frank Perabo has stepped down from the CMO seat at Essa Pharma $EPIX, but will remain involved with the Canadian cancer company as part of the medical advisory committee.

→ Oslo, Norway-based cancer biotech Nordic Nanovector has appointed Malene Brondberg as VP of investor relations and corporate communications.

Cure Pharmaceutical has hired Vered Gigi to drive growth for CUREfilm, its drug release formulation platform, as VP of strategy and business development.


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