Peer Review

Merck vet Thomas Cannell takes the reins at Sesen Bio; Post-turbulence, Rockwell Medical appoints new CEO

→ It’s been a year of change for Sesen Bio — or, until three months ago, Eleven Bio — and they are now adding a new CEO to that list. Merck vet Thomas Cannell is stepping in to steer the company through a Phase III trial they hope will take their bladder cancer treatment, Vicinium (VB4-845), to regulatory submission in 2019. Cannell jumps from a stint as COO and president of global commercial products at Orexigen, the bankrupt diet pill maker that just sold to Nalpropion. He replaces Stephen Hurly, the former CEO of Viventia Biotech who took the reins when Sesen acquired Viventia and switched its focus from ophthalmology to oncology. Marking the beginning of the new era, two board directors — Third Rock partner Abbie Celniker and eye disease expert Paul Chaney — are also leaving their role.

→ Remember when Rockwell Medical CEO Robert Chioini unfired himself after getting ousted by the board? After weeks under the radar, it seems like the Detroit biotech $RMTI is ready to turn a new leaf with the appointment of Stuart Paul to the top job. A court had barred Chioini, a founder of the company, from any contact with his former colleagues outside of mediation. Now Paul, a life sciences vet with stints at Baxter, Gambro, Quest Diagnostics and Abbott Laboratories, has the tall order of putting the commercial operation back on track. “While there remains significant work ahead to strengthen the business and enhance value, I believe the Company benefits from a unique market position due to its two innovative renal drug therapies,” he said, referring to Triferic and Calcitriol.

GlaxoSmithKline CEO Emma Walmsley is reaching into the global banking world to finish rounding out the top team she expects to reverse the pharma giant’s steady erosion over the past decade. HSBC’s Iain Mackay will gradually take the CFO reins by next spring, when he’ll be slowly replacing the departing Simon Dingemans. Walmsley, CEO now since April, 2017, said this about Mackay in a statement: “As a proven CFO of a complex, regulated global organization, he brings tremendous finance experience and will be a great addition to the team. He is a strong leader with a track record of driving cost, cash and capital allocation discipline to deliver strategy. These capabilities will be vital as we continue to implement our innovation, performance and trust priorities for the benefit of patients and shareholders.”

→ Boulder, CO-based i2 Pharmaceuticals has tapped David Stover to lead its nascent operation. Not much is out there about i2’s antibody-based immuno-oncology assets, but chairman Bruce Eaton said Stover’s arrival coincides with a “strategic growth-phase.” While this will be Stover’s first time as CEO, he brings experience heading an Astellas affiliate called Agensys, which also focused on antibody and antibody drug conjugate development.

→ Following a deal spree, Adlai Nortye has wooed Lars Birgerson from Bristol-Myers Squibb to guide clinical development for its beefed up pipeline of cancer treatments. As president and CEO of the Chinese biotech’s US operations, as well as its chief development officer, Birgerson inherits a portfolio that includes an immuno-oncolytic virus and a PI3K drug cast-off from Novartis.

→ After helping drive Agios’ two acute myeloid leukemia drugs — Idhifa and Tibsovo — through the clinic to approvals, Samuel Agresta is starting fresh at Infinity Pharmaceuticals, where he’s been named CMO. Agresta is tasked with overseeing global clinical development and regulatory affairs for the Cambridge, MA-based company, which is still in early-stage studies for its sole asset IPI-549. The drug is being tested as both a monotherapy and in combination with Bristol-Myers’ Opdivo.

→ BioXcel Therapeutics has brought in a former Pfizer director to lead the company’s neuroscience efforts. Michael De Vivo will serve as vice president of neuroscience, aiding the company’s CSO Frank Yocca in executing BioXcel’s neuroscience strategy. De Vivo was director of neuroscience at Pfizer, where he led translational research and preclinical studies, and oversaw a Parkinson’s disease project, according to BioXcel’s statement.

Robert Lee has been promoted to president at Particle Sciences after 10 years at the contract development and manufacturing organization. 

→ Belgium’s CAR-T cell therapy player Celyad $CYAD has tapped Wells Fargo investment banker Filippo Petti to fill the CFO seat vacated by Patrick Jeanmart.

→ As Oncopeptides moves beyond its Stockholm base to expand its organization into Europe and the US, Birgitta Ståhl is passing the CFO baton to Anders Martin-Löf, formerly of Wilson Therapeutics and medtech company Raysearch. Ståhl, who helped prepare and execute the cancer drugmaker’s recent IPO, will continue to work in the company.

→ Casma Therapeutics has recruited two new executives: Jeffrey Saunders as senior vice president of drug discovery, and Daniel Ory as senior vice president of translational medicine. Saunders comes from Nuvalent Therapeutics, where he worked as vice president of chemistry. Ory is joining from Washington University School of Medicine, where he served as a professor of medicine, cell biology, physiology and cardiology.

→ Portola Pharmaceuticals has hired Ernie Meyer, a former Celgene HR exec, to serve as the company’s vice president and chief human resources officer. At Celgene, Meyer most recently served as VP of human resources and corporate services.

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

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