Peer Review

Longtime Apitope CEO Keith Martin steps down; Clearside Biomedical taps Spark exec as CMO

Hayley French

Keith Martin is retiring from the CEO post at Apitope, the University of Bristol spinout he’s led from launch to clinical stage. While the biotech searches for a permanent replacement, Hayley French is stepping up to the responsibilities as the newly installed COO. She will likely preside over an eventful time Apitope, with three new trials coming up for its autoimmune therapies in the next quarter. But she has had plenty of time to get familiar with the pipeline in the past eight years, most recently as CBO.

→ NDA-ready for its macular edema treatment, Clearside Biomedical $CLSD has recruited Thomas Ciulla from Spark Therapeutics to become its CMO. As ophthalmic strategy lead at the gene therapy company, Ciulla was credited for defining a medical strategy that supported pioneering vision loss therapy Luxturna. Evidently upbeat about a potential approval, Clearside has also tapped industry vet Thomas Crawford as VP, supply chain, planning the distribution of suprachoroidal CLS-TA. Clearside has formulated this suspension of the corticosteroid triamcinolone acetonide for administration to the back of the eye.

Dolca Thomas

→ Seasoned pharma exec Dolca Thomas is taking up the CMO post at newly public Principia Biopharma $PRNB to steer a late-stage program for its BTK inhibitor. Having been involved with a dozen immunology product candidates between Bristol-Myers Squibb, Pfizer and Roche, she will now spearhead a Phase III for PRN1008 in a chronic skin condition called pemphigus. Her predecessor Steve Gourlay will cap his five-year tenure with a transition period as senior medical adviser.

→ After spending 13 years trying to crack T cell engineering at Sangamo Therapeutics, Gary Lee has decided to join Senti Biosciences’ upstart crew at “the forefront of next generation adaptive therapies.” As CSO, Lee is tasked with stewarding applications of Senti’s synthetic biology tech platform into the clinic, starting with programs in solid and liquid tumors.

Andreas Muhs is taking a medical leave from AC Immune $ACIU. The CSO will pass his duties temporarily to his deputy, David Lowe, who will continue the research on neurodegenerative diseases with some guidance from Muhs.

→ Just a month after wooing Brian Gallagher from SR One to run its Boston office, Abingworth has poached SV Health Investors’ Jackie Grant to be a principal working under him. Armed with $315 million the UK-based biotech fund raised in July, the team will scout transatlantic venture investments together with colleagues in Menlo Park and London.

→ Biopharmaceutical company Cara Therapeutics $CARA, which is developing treatments for itchy skin, has hired Joana Goncalves as chief medical officer, to replace Joseph Stauffer, who is transitioning into a consulting role. Goncalves, who most recently served as VP of medical affairs for dermatology and neurology at Celgene $CELG and worked on the biotech’s psoriasis drug Otezla, is tasked with executing the late-stage development of Cara’s Korsuva, an experimental drug for chronic kidney disease-associated pruritus.

→ AstraZeneca vet Kevin Horgan is jumping over to Cambridge, MA-based Seres as its new CMO. “Kevin is an accomplished drug developer with extensive experience successfully leading numerous mid- and late-stage clinical programs to approval. Seres’ R&D efforts are increasingly focused on early and later stage immunological indications, and Kevin’s deep clinical background in these areas makes him very well suited to lead our clinical development studies,” said Seres CEO Roger Pomerantz.

→ Houston-based Marker Therapeutics has built out its leadership team by giving its scientific founders some official titles and hiring other local talents. Juan Vera, a scientific co-founder of Marker’s multi-antigen T cell therapeutic platform, has been named chief development officer; Ann Leen, another co-founder credited for the MultiTAA T cell therapy platform, will be chief scientific officer; General counsel Ken Moseley jumps from immunotherapy company Bellicum, as does Tsvetelina Pencheva Hoang, the new VP of R&D.

→ A few months after exiting Novartis’ US oncology group to pick up the reins of Axcella, Bill Hinshaw has convinced a former colleague to make the same jump. Marking an end to a 15-year career at the Big Pharma, Stephen Mitchener will assume the role of CBO and SVP of the biotech, which is focused on the nascent field of metabolic modulators.

→ With CFO Henrik Juuel leaving for Bavarian Nordic, Sweden’s Orexo has quickly promoted Joseph DeFeo — who was head of finance and operations in its US subsidiary — to the position. Johannes Doll, EVP and head of corporate development, will pick up the investor relations portion of the job.  

→ Having worked in the regional offices of a number of big multinational drugmakers, Cheryl Tan is joining Singapore-headquartered Cerecin for a change. As head of commercial strategy, she’s expected to offer commercial guidance on the biotech’s neurology therapies based on her experience with Allergan, Actelion and Sanofi Genzyme, among others.

→ Cancer immunotherapy developer EpiVax Oncology has appointed Dominique Bridon chief technology officer.

→ As Kala Pharmaceuticals $KALA preps the launch of its first eye product and gears up for clinical development of another, it’s brought in Shire vet Steven Zhang as VP of medical affairs.

→ Following Aravive’s reverse merger with Versartis, founder Ray Tabibiazar has found a new gig as SVP corporate development and business strategy at Twist Bioscience, where he will also manage the biologics drug discovery division.


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