Just like starting over: Moderna tees up another CFO; Geoffrey Porges puts down his SVB pen to join Schrödinger
→ Moderna is hoping this CFO is the one that sticks.
The mRNA titan has poached James Mock from PerkinElmer, an appointment that Peer Review has been waiting on CEO Stéphane Bancel to make since the last hire took a strange turn in May. Jorge Gomez played finance chief for a day when Moderna was made aware of an investigation into his financial reporting practices by the company he just left, Dentsply Sirona. Gomez was out before he was ever really in, triggering yet another search for a CFO and delaying David Meline’s retirement.
The appointment follows the UK approval of Moderna’s Omicron-specific Covid-19 vaccine earlier in the week. Mock, a GE vet who had spent four years as PerkinElmer’s CFO, will take over on Sept. 6.
→ In a move that caused Peer Review to do a bit of a double take, Geoffrey Porges has left SVB Securities to take the CFO job at Schrödinger. Porges had provided his takes on the industry at SVB since 2015 as senior managing director, director of therapeutics research and senior research analyst, and he was also a marketing exec at Merck’s vaccine division in the 1990s. Add Porges to the growing list of big-name analysts who have moved on to other companies in the last year: Biren Amin said goodbye to Jefferies in April 2021 to become CFO of Immuneering, while Bernstein’s Ronny Gal chose the Big Pharma route by starting his new gig as Novartis’ chief strategy & growth officer on July 18. Kyle LaHucik spoke with Porges about his appointment on Thursday.
→ Founded by Aaron Ring — one of our 20(+1) under 40 honorees this year — and scoring a $40 million Series B in January, cytokine-centered Simcha Therapeutics has installed Sanuj Ravindran as CEO. Ravindran concluded a four-year run as chief executive of BridgeBio subsidiary PellePharm, and he’s also been CBO of aTyr Pharma and SVP of corporate development at The Medicines Company. Elsewhere at Simcha, ARCH venture partner and ex-MyoKardia CBO Jake Bauer has been named chairman of a board that includes Ring, Ravindran, SR One’s Simeon George, WuXi AppTec’s Sean Li and Arcus CEO Terry Rosen.
→ Ambrx Biopharma had a lot going for it last year, riding to Nasdaq with a $126 million IPO after a $200 million crossover round in November 2020. But the bear market has shattered its stock and the runaway success of AstraZeneca and Daiichi Sankyo’s HER2 drug Enhertu has put a crimp in its pipeline plans, prompting a shakeup at the top. Just last month, Kate Hermans joined Ambrx’s board of directors, but she’s now been named interim CEO as Feng Tian steps down. Hermans, the ex-VP of marketing at Radius Health, spent 13 years with Pfizer in myriad roles before pivoting to Bristol Myers Squibb in 2012, eventually leading specialty portfolio commercialization strategy. One more Ambrx note: Ymmunobio CEO Katrin Rupalla has succeeded Tian as chair of the board.
→ Amy Mahery has finished up an 18-year stay at EMD Serono and will join Roivant as chief commercial officer, an announcement that Matt Gline’s crew disclosed in its quarterly report this week. Mahery held a whole slew of posts at EMD Serono and led the global business franchise, neurology and immunology before venturing off to Roivant. One of its many subsidiaries, Dermavant, passed through the approval gate at the FDA three months ago with the plaque psoriasis topical med Vtama.
→ Cara Cassino has resigned after nearly seven years as CMO of ContraFect, which is chopping 37% of its staff following a Phase III pratfall with exebacase in July. Istari Oncology CMO Garrett Nichols will be pitching in relief until ContraFect chooses a permanent successor. Nichols, the ex-VP, global HIV clinical development at GSK, has also served as medical chief of Chimerix.
→ Piling on the cash with a $270 million Series C three months ago, Shankar Ramaswamy’s gene therapy play Kriya Therapeutics has welcomed Pedro Huertas as CMO of its rare disease division. The role of medical chief isn’t a new one for Huertas as he arrives at a biotech where there are CMOs for different therapeutic areas: Theresa Heah was named CMO and president of Kriya’s ophthalmology division in October 2021, and Ma’an Muhsin arrived in February as CMO and president of the oncology division. Huertas was previously the CMO with Inozyme Pharma, Sentien Biotechnologies and Eloxx Pharmaceuticals, and earlier he was a global medical lead with Shire and Pfizer.
→ Bay Area-based Nuvig Therapeutics, a startup sprouting from the lab of Jeff Ravetch at The Rockefeller University, has propped the door open for Joanne Quan as CMO following its $47 million Series A in May. Quan, a former clinical development exec at Arena Pharmaceuticals, is the ex-CMO of Eiger BioPharmaceuticals who was previously the medical chief at Modis Therapeutics from 2018-21.
→ After taking the interim tag off co-founder and now-CEO Dominique Verhelle, the Bob Langer-linked NextRNA Therapeutics out of Dana-Farber has tapped Jason Katz as head of drug discovery. Katz put in 13 years at Merck before becoming director of chemistry (and later senior director of chemistry) at IFM Therapeutics. Verhelle, the interim chief when NextRNA took the wraps off a $56 million round of funding in early March, previously held leadership posts at Celgene, Pfizer and Takeda, where she was head of academic innovation at the Japanese pharma’s Center for External Innovation.
→ As NetScientific completes its stake buy of Vortex Biosciences, the commercialization and investment company has now named Paul Jones as CEO. Jones joins Vortex from Illumina, where he served as global head of population genomics. Jones is also the founder and CEO of MyGene and earlier in his career held roles at AstraZeneca, Sanofi and Novartis.
→ Looking to target cancers caused by HPV, San Diego-based Toragen is bringing in some new faces to its team. The company announced the appointments of Cheryl Collett as CFO, Richard Lumpkin as director, research & development, and Paul Engler (founder of Cactus Feeders) to its board of directors. Collett saddles up to the company after a stint as CFO of Anivive Lifesciences and previous experience with Puma Biotechnology, Sierra Scientific Instruments, Cougar Biotechnology, Hythiam and 20th Century Fox.
Meanwhile, Lumpkin served as former senior director at recently Pfizer-acquired Global Blood Therapeutics. Lumpkin’s other stints include roles at Portola Pharmaceuticals, Millennium Pharmaceuticals, Cor Therapeutics, Ribogene, Amylin and Corvas International.
→ Health tech outfit Zephyr AI has pegged Allen Hodge as chief commercial officer. The erstwhile VP of US oncology sales at Array Biopharma and an ex-regional sales director with Celgene, Hodge spent the last three years as BioCryst’s SVP and general manager, US commercial.
→ Getting a fresh cash injection this spring through a $275 million upfront payment from Taiho Pharmaceutical as part of an alliance that was forged in 2019, Cullinan Oncology has named Jacquelyn Sumer as chief legal officer. Sumer, a Big Pharma legal vet with Novartis and Bristol Myers, had been chief legal and compliance officer at Genocea Biosciences before the company decided to shutter operations.
→ Portage Biotech CEO Ian Walters has tacked on the role of chairman, while the Connecticut-based I/O player that just took full ownership of iOx Therapeutics has enlisted Justin Fairchild as VP of development. Fairchild is a 14-year vet of Bristol Myers who’s been VP of clinical development at the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy. Walters, who also has Bristol Myers ties, has helmed Portage since 2019.
→ The protein degradation specialists at Arvinas have picked up their second exec of the month with Lisa Sinclair as SVP, corporate operations, and the biotech also put out word late Thursday that it would carve out space for ex-Pfizer business chief John Young on the board of directors as Liam Ratcliffe moves on. Sinclair spent 18 years with Pfizer before moving on to AstraZeneca in 2011 as VP of R&D portfolio and performance. At her last two stops, she was head of program and alliance management with Pfizer spinout SpringWorks Therapeutics and head of corporate & commercial strategy since 2019 for Rallybio. Arvinas began the month of August by nabbing Nektar vet John Northcott as chief commercial officer.
→ South Rampart Pharma is adding Josh Blacher to its team as CFO. Blacher, who helped manage Teva Innovative Ventures, has previously been the CFO of Galmed Pharmaceuticals and Therapix Biosciences, and he also has CBO experience from his time at Inmed Pharmaceuticals.
→ At Resverlogix, CSO Norman Wong is passing the baton to Ewelina Kulikowski as he heads off to retirement. Kulikowski joined Resverlogix in 2005, having started out as director of research development and culminating in her role as SVP, research & development.
→ Relief Therapeutics has ushered in David McCullough as senior director and head of US market access. McCullough hails from Mirum Pharmaceuticals, where he was national account director (payer account lead). McCullough also has experience under his belt from gigs at Novartis Gene Therapies, Spark Therapeutics, Shire, MedImmune and Abbott Labs.
→ Just after adding Sabine Sydow and Falk Nuernberger to its leadership team last week, German CDMO Rentschler Biopharma is now welcoming aboard Mark Caswell as VP, site head of its Massachusetts facilities. Caswell joins the company from Lonza, having served as head of operations at its site in New Hampshire. Prior to that Caswell had stints at Sanofi Genzyme, culminating in his role as director, global engineering and technology.
→ Eliav Barr has picked up a seat on the board of directors at Bayer’s thyroid cancer partner Veracyte. Barr took over for Roy Baynes — now CMO for Roger Perlmutter at Eikon Therapeutics — at Merck Research Laboratories and has worked for the Big Pharma since 1995.
→ Jeff Bluestone has bolstered the board at Sonoma Biotherapeutics — chaired by Rick Klausner — with the additions of Katina Dorton and John Davis. Dorton has been a CFO with NodThera, Repare Therapeutics and Avrobio, while Davis is a Pfizer alum who led R&D and was CMO of Magenta Therapeutics.
→ While we’re thinking of Davis’ old company, Michael Vasconcelles is headed to Magenta’s board of directors. Before his CMO gigs at Unum Therapeutics and Roche’s Flatiron Health, Vasconcelles led the oncology therapy area unit at Takeda.
→ Now under the direction of Brian Goff with Jackie Fouse riding off into the sunset last week, Agios has made room for Rahul Ballal and Merck alum Cynthia Smith on the board of directors. Ballal has helmed Imara for the last four years, and Smith is the ex-chief commercial officer of ZS Pharma who has board seats with Protara Therapeutics, Spero Therapeutics and Akebia Therapeutics.
→ Rachel Humphrey has clinched a spot on the board of directors at Pyxis Oncology as it prunes the pipeline and shines the spotlight on PYX-201 and PYX-106. The ex-CMO at Black Diamond is now president and CEO of I/O biotech Normunity.
→ Merck human resources vet Karen Ling has joined the board of directors at Mallinckrodt. Ling was chief human resources officer at Allergan from 2014-19, then took the same position at AIG for two years. She also sits on the board of directors at iRhythm Technologies and TherapeuticsMD.
→ Dinged by a partial clinical hold on its blood cancer drug FHD-286 after a patient death, Flagship biotech Foghorn Therapeutics has given a seat to Lynne Parshall on the board of directors. Parshall has had a 30-year association with Ionis, where she’s now a senior strategic advisor and board member, and she’s on the boards of Cytokinetics, Repertoire Immune Medicines, and Ring Therapeutics.
→ We profiled Schond Greenway not too long ago when he took the CFO job at MindMed — this time around, the psychedelics biotech has elected Tiaki Therapeutics chief Suzanne Bruhn and Opiant Pharmaceuticals CEO Roger Crystal to the board of directors. Bruhn just became a board member at Vigil Neuroscience, and Crystal is on the board of directors at BIO.
→ Fund manager Justin Yorke (the San Gabriel Fund, JMW Fund and Richland Fund) has been named chairman of the board at Hanover, MD-based Processa Pharmaceuticals. Khoso Baluch, the former CorMedix CEO who was on the Eli Lilly team from 1984-2008, has joined XOMA CEO Jim Neal on Processa’s board.
→ Nonprofit biotech Odylia Therapeutics has pulled out two seats on its board of directors for Sharon Walker and Brian Fenton. Walker joins the Atlanta-based company with experience as Sanofi’s senior counsel, vaccines patents. Meanwhile, Fenton was CBO of Translate Bio and formerly worked within the business development group at Shire.
→ Ymmunobio, the Swiss-based CEACAM1 biotech we referenced earlier, is bolstering its board of directors with the appointment of Juergen Heitmann. Currently, Heitmann serves as director of business development at Nordic Pharma. Heitmann is the ex-CBO of Sensorion and has held roles at McKinsey & Company, Novartis, Nycomed and Takeda.
→ Needing to hit the reset button with the FDA after pulling its BLA for bevacizumab in late May, Outlook Therapeutics has added Julia Haller to the board of directors. Haller chairs the ophthalmology department at Sidney Kimmel Medical College at Thomas Jefferson University and is ophthalmologist-in-chief at Wills Eye Hospital in Philadelphia.