Jose Carlos 'JC' Gutiérrez-Ramos hits the exit at Synlogic; Rich Heyman passes Oric reins to ex-Ignyta CFO
→ An abrupt resignation by president and CEO Jose Carlos Gutiérrez-Ramos has left Synlogic $SYBX in the hands of CMO Aoife Brennan. JC Gutiérrez-Ramos exits the Cambridge biotech almost exactly a year after he orchestrated its reverse merger onto Nasdaq, leaving behind an operation with two ongoing Phase I studies and one discovery pact with AbbVie, all built upon Synlogic’s specialty in reengineering bacteria into therapeutics. No reasons were given for his departure, which comes three years after he joined from Pfizer, where he held a high-profile R&D job. Peter Barrett is stepping into the executive chairman’s role to ensure Brennan can balance her interim executive duties with all the research, preclinical activities and clinical trials underway. Gutiérrez-Ramos” will serve in an advisory capacity as needed.”
→ Having led Oric Pharma’s transition from research to development stage, serial entrepreneur Rich Heyman figured it’s time to pass the reins to a permanent CEO. Enter Jacob Chacko, the former Ignyta CFO who helped grow the company from a valuation of $50 million to $1.7 billion — the price at which Roche bought it out. So while this will be his first time in the chief executive role, he brings to Oric both fundraising experience and knowledge about an early-stage oncology company. (Before Ignyta, he worked as an investor for private equity firm TPG Capital.) For now, his priority lies in progressing the pipeline of drugs addressing treatment resistance, especially lead candidate ORIC-101. Heyman, who oversaw a $50 million Series C financing during his one-year-plus interim term, will stay on as board chairman.
→ A startup trying to develop a stem cell cure for type 1 diabetes has recruited former Magenta executive Bastiano Sanna — a guy best known for leading the development of Novartis’ cell-based medicines — to serve as the company’s new CEO. Cambridge-based Semma Therapeutics is bringing Sanna in to replace its interim CEO Elizabeth Stoner. Sanna comes directly from Magenta — another startup developing stem cell tech — where he was chief operating officer. Before that, Sanna was an executive at Novartis’ cell and gene therapy division, overseeing the development of CAR-T drugs.
→ Following its first public appearance with $14 million in Series A cash, Austin-based TFF Pharmaceuticals announced that it has tapped Glenn Mattes as CEO. A J&J vet and two-time biotech CEO, Mattes has been brought in for the long haul, trusted to take the biotech to commercial success. Instead of antiviral therapies or cancer treatments, however, he will now focus on TFF’s dry powder inhaler versions of pulmonary drugs generated with its namesake, the Thin Film Freezing technology. He takes over from Robert Mills, who is now chairman of the board.
→ Allergan aesthetics chief David Moatazedi is leaving to take the helm of Evolus, a much smaller biotech developing a rival to Botox. Evolus’ new drug DWP-450 (PrabotulinumtoxinA) is under review. Moatazedi noted: “The team at Evolus has done a fantastic job in bringing forward what I believe will be the most exciting new product in aesthetics. I look forward to working with this talented group of professionals and completing the build out of a best in class leadership team.”
→ Six months into Daniel O’Connor’s tenure at Oncosec $ONCS, Punit Dhillon is phasing out even more from the biotech he co-founded and once helmed. In a consolidation, O’Connor will now serve as both CEO and president — a role that formerly belonged to Dhillon. Dhillon will, however, remain on the board.
→ Indicating its drive to gain market share in the gene engineering services space, Horizon Discovery has promoted its head of commercial operations Terry Pizzie to CEO, filling a vacancy left by the departure of Darrin Disley three months ago. Richard Vellacott, who’s been shouldering most of the responsibilities, will go back to just being CFO. Before joining Cambridge, UK-based Horizon last year and starting to build out its team, Pizzie had led commercial operations for Genetix and Biacore.
→ Michael Stocum is stepping down from Inivata, the liquid biopsy company he’s led for four years, to make way for a new CEO “with a different set of skills” as the University of Cambridge spinout enters its “next stage of growth.” Stocum, formerly of GSK, founded and continues to run a strategy consulting business called Personalized Medicine Partners.
→ A senior global R&D leader at Genentech is leaving the biotech giant for a new post at South San Francisco’s Atara Biotherapeutics. Dietmar Berger will join Atara $ATRA as global head of R&D, taking the company’s allogeneic T cell treatments through the clinic. Berger is best known for his recent role at Genentech/Roche, where he’d been working as senior vice president and global head of product development within the company’s hematology and oncology unit since 2014. There, he led medical strategy for Genentech’s portfolio of cancer medicines, including global filings of approved drugs like Gazyva, Cotellic, Alecensa, Tecentriq and Hemlibra. At Atara, he will manage a slate of R&D programs, including a CAR-T partnership with Juno co-founder Michel Sadelain announced just a day after his appointment.
→ In the aftermath of a decisive PhII failure for one indication of its sole drug, Menlo Therapeutics $MNLO has reshuffled its C-suite to divvy up early- and late-stage clinical responsibilities. Paul Kwon, a Genentech vet who’s been CMO for the last two years, will now take on the role of CSO, identifying potential new indications for serlopitant and running early-stage trials. Mary Spellman, previously SVP of clinical development, has been tapped to manage the planning and execution of late-stage clinical programs as CMO. The new appointments for Kwon and Spellman, both of whom are dermatologists, underscores Menlo’s conviction for its drug in the prurigo nodularis itch and psoriasis itch indications, though it does have Phase II data for its refractory cough program coming up later this year.
→ Audentes Therapeutics COO Natalie Holles is adding “president” to her title. Her new mandate covers day-to-day operations of the company $BOLD, including R&D, manufacturing, program management and corporate development. For Audentes, this marks an evolution in their leadership structure, part of a quest to bring gene therapy for rare diseases to the market.
→ As Third Rock-backed Tango Therapeutics begins to translate its CRISPR-based discovery platform into next-gen immuno-oncology therapeutics, it has promoted a founding staffer to the C-suite and brought in another exec from Novartis. New CSO Alan Huang and SVP of pharmaceutical sciences Charles Davis share roots in Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research; Huang later went on to become a consultant at Third Rock. Together with Davis, a GSK vet of 20 years, he will work to build a pipeline for the young biotech.
→ On the brink of moving its fibrosis drugs into the clinic, Pliant Therapeutics has brought in Éric Lefebvre from Allergan to lead development strategy and clinical operations for its product candidates. As CMO, over time, Lefebvre is expected to channel the many skills he’s accrued at Tobira, Janssen and GSK — ranging from development and medical affairs to commercialization. He will do all this under the leadership of newly installed board chairman Hoyoung Huh, a former McKinsey partner and veteran board director who will guide the management team on high-level business strategy.
→ Flexion Therapeutics $FLXN has found a successor for retiring CFO Frederick Driscoll in David Arkowitz. Between Visterra, AMAG Pharma and Merck, Arkowitz has served in COO, CBO and controller roles in addition to being the top financial person. Execs also liked his commercial experience, given that Flexion is still relatively new in the marketing game for its injectable drug for osteoarthritis-related knee pain.
→ Looking to bring its cell-based implant to the US, Canada’s Sernova has hired Sean Hodgins to assist the CEO in executing the company’s business development and capital market strategies. The new CFO managed a couple of Nasdaq IPOs while working in the US and has handled several Canadian listings and CFO jobs since then. He replaces Scott Langille.
→ Tapping what they see as a boom in stem cell-based regenerative medicine, Tel Aviv-based Cellect Biotechnology $APOP is opening a US center of operations and wooed a former GE Healthcare exec to lead it. Andrew Sabatier’s official title will be chief business officer, in which he will leverage his previous experience marketing raw materials to a generation of biotechs developing new therapies.
→ Moving from one women’s health biopharma to the next, John Fair has taken a CBO job at Daré Bioscience $DARE. The San Diego company is developing a non-hormonal contraceptive and a drug for female sexual arousal disorder using the active ingredient in Viagra; Fair will be seeking partnerships for these and other reproductive product candidates in the works.
→ Following a four-month search, Syneos Health concluded that its interim CFO Jason Meggs is the best person for the job left behind by Greg Rush. Formerly an EVP and CFO of commercial solutions, Meggs joined INC Research back before it merged with InVentiv Health, creating an integrated company $SYNH with both contract research and contract commercialization capabilities.
→ Adare Pharmaceuticals’ Princeton, NJ headquarters is bubbling with activity. Endo Pharma vet Robert Rush is joining as VP, finance and CFO; Ajay Damani has left Lonza to lead Adare’s pharmaceutical technologies business unit as a VP; and Giuseppe Di Vincenzo has been promoted to VP, strategy. Together, they will help balance an operation that features both in-house R&D and clinical services. Joseph Del Buono, who used to have Rush’s job, has resigned to pursue other opportunities.
→ Leaving behind a clinical program lead position at Bristol-Myers Squibb’s virology unit, Stephanie Noviello is now the VP of clinical development at antibiotics maker Motif Bio. Noviello will stay — at least initially — laser-focused on the EMA submission for Motif Bio’s Phase III Gram-positive bacterial infection drug iclaprim.