Moving on from Usama Malik's insider trading imbroglio, Fore resets at the top; Takeda spinout turns to Neurana CEO to lead the way
→ The ouster of former Immunomedics exec Usama Malik created a CEO opening at Fore Biotherapeutics, which is taking aim at BRAF mutations following a rebrand last year. Matthew Ros has now stepped up to the tee box as CEO and a member of the board after Malik was embroiled in an insider trading scandal during his time at Immunomedics that he chose to address in a rather cryptic LinkedIn post in December. A 17-year Bristol Myers Squibb vet, Ros left Sanofi Genzyme in 2016 to become COO of Epizyme, where he had since been chief strategy and business officer. Fore Bio, once known as diagnostics company NovellusDx and chaired by former Sanofi exec Dieter Weinand, is in a Phase I/IIa trial with its lead candidate FORE8394.
→ Brad Margus is out as CEO of Takeda CNS spinout Cerevance, and Craig Thompson stands at the ready to take his place. Margus will slide into the executive chairman post at the end of this month and hand the reins to Thompson, the Pfizer and Merck alum who got out of Dodge as chief executive of Neurana Pharmaceuticals, where a recent Phase III bellyflop with tolperisone cast a bleak outlook on the company’s future. Before his turn as Neurana’s chief, Thompson was president and CEO of Anthera Pharmaceuticals and the COO at Tetraphase.
→ Vor Bio CMO Christopher Slapak intends to retire with enrollment in progress in its Phase I/IIa trial for acute myeloid leukemia patients with high risk of relapse. The biotech from scientific founder Siddhartha Mukherjee is searching for candidates to succeed Slapak, the longtime Eli Lilly exec who shed the interim medical chief label at Vor in July 2020. “Our plan has always been for Dr. Slapak to build a team and infrastructure to successfully initiate the VBP101 clinical trial,” Vor chief Robert Ang said in a statement. “Now that we are actively recruiting with data expected in the second half of 2022, we are moving into an execution phase of the study. We have expanded our clinical operations capability and expertise to support this activity and now is a natural time for this transition.”
→ Back in February, Merck announced that three people would replace Frank Clyburn as the exec left to serve as CEO at DuPont-majority owned International Flavors & Fragrances (IFF). At the time, Merck plucked up two execs from within, Arpa Garay (chief marketing officer, human health) and Jannie Oosthuizen (president, Merck Human Health). And now, a former Merck exec is coming back to take the third spot. Joseph Romanelli was with Merck for 25 years before he took off less than a year ago to become CEO at Shanghai-based Ji Xing Pharmaceuticals. During his time at Ji Xing, Romanelli helped lead the company to ink its licensing deal with LENZ Therapeutics for its two presbyopia candidates.
Now, in his new role, Romanelli will manage Merck’s $22 billion international Human Health business and a team of 14,000 staffers. All three execs will report directly to CEO Robert Davis.
Meanwhile, the founding CEO at Ji Xing, Peter Fong, will be retaking the reins at the company after Romanelli’s departure.
→ Things aren’t looking good over at Imara. So much so that the company is laying off 83% of its staff at the end of this quarter — the company’s SVP and CMO Kenneth Attie among them — leaving Imara with a meager 6 employees and a hunt for strategic options to look at next steps. The axe follows the Phase IIb flops earlier this month. Attie joined the company in January 2021 after more than a decade at Acceleron as VP, medical research.
→ Citius Pharmaceuticals is shaking things up at the top as the board has handed Leonard Mazur the controls as CEO and chairman. Starting May 1, Myron Holubiak — Mazur’s predecessor and the former president of Roche Laboratories — will be transitioning to executive vice chairman of the board. Along with Holubiak, Mazur co-founded Leonard-Meron Biosciences, which merged with Citius in 2016. Mazur also founded and was CEO of Genesis Pharmaceuticals.
Along with Mazur’s move, Jaime Bartushak will also be taking on responsibilities as CBO in addition to his current CFO duties. Finally, Citius has welcomed Michael McGuire — who devoted more than a quarter century to Roche — as VP, program leader for anti-infectives. McGuire directed the Tamiflu team at Roche Laboratories and joins the company from Melinta Therapeutics, where he served as SVP commercial, government affairs and customer engagement.
→ Earlier this month, Harbour BioMed entrusted its CLDN18.2xCD3 bispecific antibody HBM7022 to AstraZeneca in a deal worth $25 million upfront, and the Shanghai company has tapped Humphrey Gardner as CMO. The nomadic Gardner has held positions at numerous companies in the last decade, starting with AstraZeneca, where he was VP translational medicine, early clinical development. In that time period he’s also been SVP of clinical development at Karyopharm; chief, medical oncology for Evelo Biosciences; CMO at Silicon Therapeutics; and a CMO in residence for Roivant.
→ Facing a rocky road with its phenylketonuria gene therapy that they’re trying to repave, Homology Medicines has promoted Albert Seymour to president of the company. Seymour, the chief scientist at Homology since 2016, was SVP and head of global research and nonclinical development with Shire after 13 years at Pfizer. The FDA put the clamps on Homology’s phenylketonuria trials in late February, with BioMarin running into similar regulatory headwinds in this indication a week earlier.
→ The Maraganore Meter has resurfaced yet again as John Maraganore has been named a strategic advisor at Simba Gill’s Evelo Biosciences, alongside ex-MyoKardia CEO Tassos Gianakakos. A couple weeks ago, we told you that the former Alnylam chief is on the verge of being elected to the board at Takeda, and Maraganore also racked up another advisory role at Treg biotech Abata Therapeutics.
→ Last summer, Kelly Gold was promoted to CBO and SVP of finance at Camp4 Therapeutics, the regRNA biotech from Rick Young’s lab at the Whitehead Institute that netted a $45 million Series A last summer. This week, she proves that maybe all that glitters is gold, as she has been promoted yet again, this time to CFO and SVP of finance. Gold joined Camp4 in 2017 after three years at Biogen.
→ In Michael Parini’s first year as CEO of Freeline, the London biotech has notched a win in its early-stage Fabry disease trial, while Pamela Foulds has succeeded Julie Krop as CMO and Henning Stennicke has assumed the role of chief scientist. This week Paul Schneider enters the fray as CFO after a stint as SVP, finance and operations with Exo Therapeutics. Schneider, a former finance exec at Aegerion Pharmaceuticals, was SVP, finance during his three years at Casebia Therapeutics.
→ Chaired by ex-Gossamer Bio CEO Sheila Gujrathi and motoring along with a $111 million Series B haul in January, California CAR-T player ImmPACT Bio has appointed Venkat Yepuri as COO. Yepuri spent two decades at Amgen, starting out as a global strategic sourcing director in 2001 and rising to VP, global business solutions and chief procurement officer at the pharma giant from 2017-21.
→ Mathias Oelke has earned a promotion to CSO at NexImmune, where Kristi Jones succeeded Scott Carmer as CEO in late February. Oelke, a scientific co-founder, was previously SVP, preclinical immunotherapy and head of cell biology since 2017. NexImmune’s two lead assets— NEXI-001 for relapsed AML and NEXI-002 for multiple myeloma — have advanced to Phase I/II trials.
→ Turnstone Biologics, the Takeda viral immunotherapy partner whose $80 million Series D last summer dwarfed its previous three rounds, is swinging the door open for Venkat Ramanan as CFO and Joseph Campisi as general counsel. Ramanan held a handful of finance positions at Gilead and then pivoted to his latest stop at Seagen, where he would be promoted to SVP of finance. Campisi, the deputy general counsel for a portion of his 16 years at Bristol Myers, was recently EVP, general counsel and secretary with Scorpion Therapeutics.
→ Rasmus Holm-Jorgensen leads a huge cast that has ventured off to Acrivon Therapeutics, Peter Blume-Jensen’s bid to revive the old Eli Lilly drug prexasertib (now known as ACR-368). Holm-Jorgensen, Acrivon’s new CFO, spent 11 years at Novo Nordisk and helped build Kiniksa from the ground up in 2015 as chief strategy and portfolio officer. Joining Holm-Jorgensen are the following execs: Bruce Close (VP of quality and compliance); James Dunyak (VP of biostatistics); Joon Jung (VP and head of data science); Crystal Mercado (global head of HR); Thomas Nifong (head of clinical CDx operations); Sam Rua (VP of CDx regulatory); and John van Duzer (VP of CMC).
→ Roche vet Ehab El-Gabry has signed on as CMO of AstraZeneca spatial biology partner Akoya Biosciences, which has made several appointments in the past year, including former Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy COO Frederic Pla. Before taking on this role, El-Gabry had been senior medical director for Personalized Health Care Solutions (PCHS) at Roche Tissue Diagnostics.
→ Focused on hepatitis delta virus but boasting positive results with peginterferon lambda for Covid-19 last month, Eiger BioPharmaceuticals has scaled more leadership peaks to find chief technical officer Chris Kurtz and SVP of corporate affairs Sarah Mathieson. Kurtz left Gilead, where he was head of commercial API manufacturing, to become EVP of technical operations at Cidara Therapeutics in late 2020. Meanwhile, Mathieson — a 10-year GSK alum who was the Big Pharma’s global head of R&D communications and global head of communications and engagement for GSK Consumer Healthcare — was recently the EVP, corporate communications, patient advocacy and engagement with Adamas Pharmaceuticals.
→ Aaron Osborne has been appointed CMO and chief development officer at Nanoscope Therapeutics, a Dallas biotech developing gene therapies for retinal diseases, joining Anil Lalwani (VP of CMC and quality) and Jared Stephens (VP of strategy and BD) as the newest execs. At Adverum, Osborne most recently served as CMO, and he has also held positions at Genentech, Alcon, Novartis and Bayer.
→ Gotta have Faeth: Thomas Strack is on board as CMO of Faeth Therapeutics, while Virginia Casadas joins the San Francisco-based squad as head of clinical operations. Strack had led clinical development at Molecular Templates, and Casadas — a Pfizer and Novartis vet — is the ex-director, clinical operations at Vir Biotechnology. The scientific co-founders at the AI-driven cancer metabolism company include Lewis Cantley, Sid Mukherjee and Cancer Research UK’s Karen Vousden.
→ Treadwell Therapeutics has brought on JD Mowery as COO. Mowery makes his way to the company with plenty of experience under his belt from his times at Genentech, Lonza, Juno/Celgene and AGC Biologics. During his most recent stint at AGC, Mowery served as EVP, US operations.
→ Austin-based Maxwell Biosciences has ushered in Edward Rudnic as COO. Rudnic was the founder, chairman and CEO of MiddleBrook Pharmaceuticals and has previous experience in stints at Shire, Vivreon Biosciences, QRx Pharma, UnionBridge Management, Merck and Bristol Myers.
→ Just after pulling in Dan Devine as CBO and general counsel last week, Aussie biotech Vaxxas is now welcoming aboard Scott Fry as COO. Fry hails from Ellume where he served as chief operations officer and was responsible for the development and commercialization of rapid tests for detecting dengue, influenza A, influenza B, group A streptococcus, respiratory syncytial virus and Covid-19.
→ A month removed from Siddhartha Kadia’s appointment as CEO, digital cell biology player Berkeley Lights has recruited Lucas Vitale as chief human resources officer. Vitale just had a short stay as SVP of human resources at Arena Pharmaceuticals, part of what Pfizer hopes is a continued M&A blitz that recently included the $525 million buyout of ReViral. He also climbed up the ranks to finish his seven years at NuVasive as chief human resources officer.
→ Another Arena vet has chosen a different path: Patrick Malloy is now SVP, investor relations and strategic communications for Luca Santarelli at VectivBio. After 16 years at Actelion, Malloy joined Arena as senior director, global market development for its PAH drug ralinepag, earning a promotion to VP, investor relations and strategic communications.
→ Third Rock-backed regenerative play Ambys Medicines is bringing in a new duo to its leadership team with the appointments of Samira Shaikhly as chief human resources officer and John McKeon as VP of finance. Shaikhly spent 15 years over at Gilead — culminating in her most recent role as global head of human resources, corporate function — before making her way to Ambys. Meanwhile, McKeon hops aboard after serving as senior director of financial planning and analysis at Allakos and has other stints at Jaguar Health, BioMarin, Avinger and Genentech under his belt.
→ ProMIS Neurosciences has reeled in Larry Altstiel as CMO. Altstiel tacks on this role to his current responsibilities as part time CMO at Pinteon Therapeutics. Earlier in his career, Altstiel served as VP and head of neuroscience clinical research at Pfizer.
→ Boulder, CO-based Enveda Biosciences has made room on its exec team for Robert Buckley as chief people officer. Buckley most recently served as chief people officer at RainFocus and has prior experience at Minova International, eBay, General Electric and Thumbtack.
→ Vigil Neuroscience — which closed a $98 million IPO back in January to fuel its two ex-Amgen TREM2 agonists — has welcomed aboard Christopher Verni as general counsel and Mary Thistle to its board of directors. Verni most recently served as SVP, general counsel and chief intellectual property officer at Sarepta Therapeutics. Prior to that, Verni had gigs at ARIAD Pharmaceuticals, Genzyme and Pfizer.
Meanwhile, this isn’t Thistle’s first board appointment as she sits on a number of boards including Alaunos Therapeutics, Homology Medicines, Entrada Therapeutics, Enterome and Cocoon Bio. Thistle currently serves as special advisor at the Bill & Melinda Gates Medical Research Institute and before that, served as COO of Dimension Therapeutics. Thistle also has held roles at Ultragenyx, Cubist Pharmaceuticals, PerkinElmer and Viacell.
→ Computational chemistry outfit Nimbus Therapeutics has welcomed two new execs while promoting another: VP of clinical development Bhaskar Srivastava, a veteran of J&J’s Janssen, has been elevated to SVP. Gabrielle Poirier (VP, clinical operations) just held the same post at antibiotics biotech Entasis, and the former clinical operations VP at Proteostasis Therapeutics was also an associate director at Ironwood and Alexion. Zak Huang (VP, regulatory affairs) spent 11 years before moving on to CSL Behring to become head of global product regulatory strategy and later the head of China R&D.
→ Enochian BioSciences has appointed François Binette as EVP for R&D. Binette, who once worked in regenerative medicine at J&J, most recently served as SVP of product development at Lineage Cell Therapeutics. Earlier this month, the Los Angeles-based developer of cell therapies for HIV and cancer brought on longtime Pfizer vet Greg Duczynski as SVP for clinical operations.
→ In its first Peer Review appearance since COO Nirupama Subramanian joined the team, Third Rock-backed Rheos Medicines has lined up Katerina Leftheris as SVP of drug discovery and Nabil Uddin as VP of strategy and business development. Leftheris, a Bristol Myers alum, completes a nearly five-year run as VP of chemistry at Pliant Therapeutics, while Uddin has exited the stage at Concert Pharmaceuticals after his time as VP of corporate development.
→ Gamma delta T cell outfit IN8bio has two appointments that we didn’t get to during the short week last week: Urvashi Patel has taken over as VP, regulatory affairs, and Stacey Bilinski is the new VP, clinical operations. Patel, who comes to IN8bio from her role as VP of regulatory and quality systems at WindMIL Therapeutics, also held positions at Janssen, Elan Pharmaceuticals and Genentech. Bilinski most recently served as global senior director, operations at Taiho Oncology.
→ Alzheimer’s biotech Alzheon out of Framingham, MA has dialed up three new staffers: Susan Flint (VP of clinical operations) also led clinical operations at Swedish biotech Wilson Therapeutics, which Alexion purchased for $855 million several years ago; Patrick Kesslak (VP of clinical development & medical affairs) is an Amgen and Allergan vet who was recently the senior director, clinical development for Revance Therapeutics; and Erwan de Naurois (VP of finance) has left the role of senior director, financial planning & analysis at Flagship Pioneering.
→ Boston-based Aileron Therapeutics, whose lead program ALRN-6924 focuses on p53-mutated cancers, has enlisted Christopher Zergebel as VP, program management and clinical operations. So ends a long association with Taiho Oncology, where Zergebel was recently VP, R&D services and VP, project management.
→ With its lead bispecific antibody candidate ISB 1342 in Phase I for relapsed/refractory multiple myeloma, Glenmark spinout Ichnos Sciences has selected Ashok Marín as general counsel. Marín held the role of chief legal officer for four short months at Rafael Holdings after a year-long stay at Gilead as associate general counsel. He’s also been Mallinckrodt’s VP, compliance & chief privacy officer.
→ Dirk Sauer, who retired last year after 31 years at Novartis, has been added to the board of directors at Baltimore-based Graybug Vision, succeeding Gerard Cagle. From 2011-21, Sauer was in charge of Novartis’ ophthalmology development unit.
→ Geron president and CEO John Scarlett will retire from the board of directors at South San Francisco cancer biotech CytomX when stockholders meet on June 15. Scarlett had served on the board since June 2016.
→ US-Austrian immunotherapy biotech Hookipa Pharma has elected Tim Reilly to the board of directors. After an 18-year run at Bristol Myers ended in 2021, Reilly made the leap to HotSpot Therapeutics as their chief development officer.
→ Roquefort Therapeutics is ushering in Simon Sinclair as non-executive director to its board. Sinclair has held a number of roles at J&J and Merck. Currently, Sinclair serves as chief safety officer at Reckitt Benckiser Group.