Peer Review

John Orwin tapped to lead Atreca; John Tsai takes Vas Narasimhan’s old role at Novartis; Hal Barron nabs Genentech’s Kevin Sin

Tito A. Serafini

Atreca co-founder Tito Serafini is passing the reins to newly installed CEO John Orwin, electing instead to spend his time on the new chief strategy officer role he created for himself. Serafini has a broad mandate over research, preclinical development, technology and intellectual property at the biotech, which is focused on harnessing the human immune response for next-gen immuno-oncology drugs. Now that he’s built upon the concept and established a slate of preclinical assets with a proprietary discovery engine — including a lead candidate ready for IND in mid-2019 — the board thinks it’s time to bring in someone to scale the company up. With his experience leading biotechs Relypsa and Affymax as well as working for giants like J&J and Genentech, Orwin strikes them as the right partner for Serafini.

Novartis CEO Vas Narasimhan has found his replacement as head of their global drug development organization at Amgen, a big pharma partner which has led the work on their new migraine drug. John Tsai, the chief medical officer at Amgen, is now taking the job Narasimhan left as he moved up to the top suite in Basel. And he’ll be taking one of the most visible jobs in drug R&D at a group that spends about $9 billion a year on everything from discovery to approval. Tsai has moved through a series of top drug development posts in several of the industry’s top players without making much of a splash or drawing much attention to himself along the way. After working as a cardio group leader at Pfizer from 2000 to 2006 he jumped to Bristol-Myers as head of US medical in 2009.

→ New GSK R&D chief Hal Barron has recruited Kevin Sin, the longtime oncology BD chief at Genentech, to the top job on the deal side of the company. His new official title is head of worldwide business development. And he’ll be moving into Barron’s new office being set up in San Francisco. Barron and Sin worked together at Genentech, where Sin had a hand in more than 100 transactions, according to a spokesperson for GSK. GlaxoSmithKline has been a notorious laggard on the drug development side of the business, failing to achieve the kind of landmark approvals needed to grow a portfolio. CEO Emma Walmsley — who also wrestled Luke Miels away from AstraZeneca as the top pharma chief — has now set out to change things with a brand new team.

Badrul Chowdhury

→ Twenty-year FDA veteran Badrul Chowdhury, most recently director of the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research’s (CDER) Division of Pulmonary, Allergy and Rheumatology Products, has taken a job this month at AstraZeneca. AstraZeneca tells Endpoints News that Chowdhury will be moving into a top research job, taking on the role of senior vice president of research development at AstraZeneca and MedImmune, where he will be heading up the Respiratory, Inflammation, and Autoimmunity, Innovative Medicine and Early Development Biomed Unit. Chowdhury joined the FDA in 1997 and left on 16 April, the latest in an exodus of agency officials in recent months.

Sanofi is preparing for the retirement of  CFO Jerome Contamine, who’s leaving the French drugmaker after almost 10 years in the role. Before he leaves later this year, the company says, Contamine will help identify a successor and guide the transition.

→ Biotech veteran Randal Chase has resigned from Advanced Proteome Therapeutics, relinquishing all his duties as president, CEO and director of the company. That marks the latest addition to the string of former exec stints on Chase’s resume, including top roles at Shire Biologics and Immunovaccine. Chase was a business adviser to the Vancouver-based company, which specializes in production and delivery of anti-cancer drugs, before he took the helm, only to leave after a year.

→ East Brunswick, NJ-based generics maker Heritage Pharma is ushering in a new time with two new leaders at the very top. William Marth is now the president and CEO, North America and Europe, of Heritage Pharma Holdings, the parent company, while John Denman will serve as president of the actual operation. The duo had worked together at Teva, where Marth was president and CEO of Teva Americas at one point and Denman largely focused on the commercial side of things. Both had since ventured into contract research and manufacturing organizations — Marth as CEO of AMRI and Denman at Renaissance.

→ A month after the sudden departure of co-founder Randy Shatzman, Alder BioPharma $ALDR has hired its first COO to assist interim CEO Paul Cleveland. Erin Lavelle comes to the migraine drugmaker at a time it’s planning its first marketing application, and it’s reflected in her job responsibilities: She will take charge of the anticipated commercialization of eptinezumab in addition to leading operational strategies and planning. The Amgen vet had spent the past couple of years managing commercial products in the Asia-Pacific region, following a global marketing role in the company. She is now based in the company’s headquarters in Bothell, WA.

→ With its lead drug under FDA review and another in Phase IIb studies, Dermira $DERM has appointed Christopher Horan as its first chief technical operations officer. More than anything, Horan is tasked with ensuring that the operation making glycopyrronium tosylate (DRM04) is ready for commercialization. That involves overseeing the supply chain — which means talking to contract manufacturing — alongside pharmaceutical sciences, procurement and quality. While the therapeutic area could be new to him — the drug treats an excessive underarm sweating condition called primary axillary hyperhidrosis — the kind of work is not so different from what he did as Genentech’s SVP of global product and supply chain management.

Susan Horvath has been tapped as CFO and VP of finance at Minneapolis-based Sun BioPharma, filling a vacancy left by Scott Kellen. A seasoned finance exec, Horvath joins the pancreatic diseases-focused biotech after a brief stint at an eyewear company. She’s also been serving as a “fractional CFO” and board member for a pharma outsourcing startup out of the University of Minnesota.

Nick Pizzie

→ After sharpening his CFO skills at Pierre Fabre USA, Nick Pizzie is jumping to Axsome Therapeutics $AXSM for the same job. Pizzie’s appointment comes just a week after predecessor John Golubieski submitted his resignation to the New York-based biotech, which tackles central nervous system disorders. Earlier in his career, Pizzie had held stints at Merck and Pfizer.

Oncolytics Biotech has lost CMO Andres Gutierrez to other opportunities after a year and a half, during which Gutierrez assembled a clinical and regulatory team surrounding Reolysin, the immuno-oncolytic virus anchoring the small company. “Having played a pivotal role in developing a comprehensive clinical development plan and the design of our phase three study in HR-positive, HER2-negative metastatic breast cancer required for approval, his work culminated in the submission to receive a special protocol assessment from the USFDA,” CEO Matt Coffey said in a statement. The Canadian firm is seeking a new CMO to join them in their San Diego office.

Ra Pharmaceuticals $RARX has wooed John King from rival Alexion to help cement the commercial foundation for its sole clinical asset, RA101495 SC, as chief commercial officer. As Alexion’s VP of US neurology business unit, King built and led the team launching Soliris for generalized myasthenia gravis in the US. He was also involved in the paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria franchise. Ra Pharma execs want him to do it all again with their own programs in PNH and gMG, currently in PhII enrollment and PhI development, respectively.

Trisha Millican

→ As Metacrine prepares its entry into the clinic, it has brought in two new execs to steer its financial and clinical operations. Trisha Millican, formerly of Seragon and Aragon, is the new CFO, while Karl Cremer has been named VP of clinical operations. Cremer is tasked with managing a pipeline of liver, gastrointestinal and metabolic disease treatments, led by NASH drug MET409.

Ole Larsen is jumping from the CFO seat at Bavarian Nordic to take the same role at BioPorto Diagnostics.

→ After seven years devising business strategies for molecular profiling firm HTG, John Lubniewski has been promoted to president and COO, continuing to push HTG’s biomarker identification technology to biopharma clients.

→ Following Celgene’s $9 billion acquisition of Juno, Hans Bishop, the co-founder and former CEO of the CAR-T biotech, has joined Celgene’s board of directors. Meanwhile, longtime director and medical researcher Gilla Kaplan is retiring from the board. Also new to the board: Patricia Hemingway, a health insurance exec who’s expected to offer insights regarding market access.

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

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