No Myth: CEO of ADC upstart calls it quits; Bristol Myers vet Jon Wigginton scales new heights at Bright Peak
→ When Mythic Therapeutics CEO Alex Nichols spoke to Endpoints News last December about the biotech’s $103 million Series B, he and fellow co-founder Brian Fiske emphasized safety, saying that they’re “really working on trying to overcome what has been one of the most historically challenging obstacles to realizing the full potential of ADCs.” But Mythic will have to look for someone else to take up that mantle.
Nichols has moved on from the Waltham, MA-based biotech “in order to pursue new opportunities,” while Fiske remains CSO. Additionally, Mythic’s new chief development officer is Daiichi Sankyo vet Gilles Gallant, who knows ADCs well from his work with Enhertu as global head of oncology clinical development. Gallant came to Daiichi Sankyo in 2017 from BioMarin, where he was VP, oncology clinical sciences, and he also held several oncology posts at Bristol Myers Squibb from 1991-2002.
Fiske, Gallant and COO Sandra Poole will run the company until a CEO is found.
→ Taking aim at IL-2 and IL-18, Versant upstart Bright Peak Therapeutics has tapped Jon Wigginton as president of R&D. At Bristol Myers, he ran early clinical development of an I/O portfolio that produced the Opdivo/Vervoy combo therapy — which went on to collect multiple approvals after his departure. The CMO of MacroGenics from 2013-20 and a 15-year vet of the National Cancer Institute, Wigginton then took off for Cullinan Oncology, first as medical chief and later as senior advisor and chairman of its scientific advisory board. Unlike many other biotechs that are struggling to scale craggy financial mountains, Bright Peak isn’t strapped for cash after a $107 million Series B in June 2021.
→ As Amber Tong told you at the start of the week, Thomas Willemsen will take over as CEO of Singapore’s Tessa Therapeutics on Oct. 1. Several chief executives have shuttled in and out of the CAR-T biotech, including Jeff Buchalter, Andrew Khoo, and acting chief John Ng, who will slide into the role of chief technical officer. Willemsen winds down his three-year run at Takeda, where he was SVP, Asia-Pacific, and he held multiple leadership posts in China and Taiwan within a 10-year period at GSK. His connection to the Asia-Pacific region began at Merck KGaA, but he ended his time at the multinational as head of its German oncology business unit in 2009.
→ Another week, another big Kriya Therapeutics appointment: This time, the gene therapy joint led by Shankar Ramaswamy has recruited Curt Herberts as president and COO. Herberts breaks away from Tim Lu’s crew at Senti Biosciences, where he juggled the CFO and CBO posts from 2018-21 and had been COO since last year. He also had an eight-year run at Sangamo, ascending to business chief in 2016. Kriya welcomed Pedro Huertas just last week as CMO of its rare disease division.
→ Celsius Therapeutics has appointed Sarah Grant as CMO. Grant joins from Novartis, where she most recently served as chief of staff and strategic assistant for the head of global drug development. Her other roles at Novartis included head of respiratory discovery within translational medicine and roles in the pulmonary and immunology indications. Prior to her career at Novartis, Grant was with Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
→ Liz McKee Anderson has left the board of directors at monkeypox vaccine maker Bavarian Nordic to take a board seat at GSK. McKee Anderson rounded out her 11-year tenure with Janssen in 2014 as the worldwide VP and commercial leader in infectious diseases and vaccines, and she sits on the boards of BioMarin, Revolution Medicines, Insmed and Aro Biotherapeutics. Dana-Farber president and CEO Laurie Glimcher will step down from the board on Oct. 13, an announcement that was made during a busy few months at the pharma giant that have included the Sierra Oncology buyout, the wobbly start to the consumer health spinoff Haleon, and an ADC deal with Mersana Therapeutics.
→ Ex-CVS Health CEO Larry Merlo will chair what’s currently known as J&J’s New Consumer Health Company, which will be helmed by Thibaut Mongon. The announcement comes after Mathai Mammen shockingly split the scene as the pharma giant’s R&D chief a couple weeks ago, with William Hait — J&J’s EVP, chief external innovation, medical safety and global public health officer — pinch-hitting in the interim. The consumer health split is slated to take effect next year.
→ Against the backdrop of last month’s Phase III dud with its alcohol use disorder drug AD04, Adial Pharmaceuticals has appointed Cary Claiborne as CEO while William Stilley — Adial’s chief executive since 2010 — becomes CEO of the Virginia biotech’s subsidiary Purnovate. Claiborne joined Adial last December as COO, and he’s made several stops as a CFO with such companies as Indivior, Sucampo Pharmaceuticals and Osiris Therapeutics. One other snippet of Adial info: Kevin Schuyler, a board member since 2016, has been named chairman.
→ In wait-and-see mode after the FDA imposed an islatravir-related hold on HIV candidate BRII-732, Brii Biosciences has welcomed Eleanor de Groot as chief technology officer and Aleksandar Skuban as CNS diseases therapy area head. A former Helsinn exec, de Groot was with Alaunos Therapeutics (known as Ziopharm until January) since 2015 and had served as EVP of operations for almost a year. After a handful of posts in a seven-year period with Otsuka, Skuban headed to Alexion as executive medical director in its ophthalmology therapeutic area. Since last November, he had been SVP of clinical development at Better Therapeutics.
→ No sooner had the gene therapy drug Zynteglo been approved for transfusion-dependent beta thalassemia than Anne-Virginie Eggimann was out of the picture at bluebird bio. Two days removed from the Zynteglo triumph, she’s now the chief regulatory officer at Flagship gene writing outfit Tessera Therapeutics after a year in the same position at bluebird and 11 years overall. And Derica Rice, who had a 27-year career with Eli Lilly before joining CVS Health, has been elected to Tessera’s board of directors. Kyle LaHucik has more about this move at Tessera, currently run by former AbbVie exec Michael Severino.
→ Lauren Sabella is out as COO of Acorda Therapeutics, which sent pink slips to 15% of its staff nearly a year ago and has felt the budget crunch before. With the resignation, effective Sept. 30, SVPs Sofia Ali and Susan Way will be splitting COO duties. Sabella spent six years with Boehringer Ingelheim and was Acorda’s chief commercial officer for 11 years before she was named operations chief in September 2021, when the recent round of job cuts took hold at the Inbrija maker.
→ The resignations don’t stop there: Acerus Pharmaceuticals CEO Robert Motz will exit stage left, but it won’t take effect until Nov. 20, which buys some time for the Toronto-based men’s health company to find a successor. Motz had handled finances at Acerus since October 2018.
→ Biotheryx has enlisted Tracy Lawhon as chief development officer, the latest C-suite move at the San Diego protein degradation shop after CFO Jeff Caravella’s appointment in April. For the last year and change, Lawhon was VP of strategic development and clinical operations with Flagship’s Valo Health. She’s also held posts at Eli Lilly, Novartis and Schering-Plough Research Institute.
→ Swiss I/O startup CDR-Life, which hit paydirt with a $76 million Series A from RA Capital, Jeito Capital and Omega Funds in April, has installed Swethajit Biswas as CMO. At Adaptimmune, Biswas was the development leader for MAGE-A4, the type of T cell engager that CDR-Life is hoping to push into the clinic first with CDR404. He was also a clinical director in oncology drug development during his five years with GSK.
→ Another company that notched a Series A round in April — Bay Area startup Ansa Biotechnologies — has recruited Jeremiah Hanes as SVP of R&D. Hanes spent the last 13 years at Pacific Biosciences, starting as a senior scientist and working his way up to VP of reagents R&D in 2020. Northpond Ventures led the group of investors that contributed to the $68 million round for Ansa, built on CEO Daniel Lin-Arlow’s assertion that it has the “best DNA synthesis method in the world.”
→ Nov. 1 will be Henriette Wennicke’s first day as CFO of Zealand Pharma, the Danish biotech that has suffered from lackluster sales with Zegalogue and chopped 90% of its US staff while changing CEOs. Wennicke spent a decade with Novo Nordisk before jumping to GN Group, where she’s now VP and head of investor relations and treasury at hearing aid maker GN Store Nord. In May, Zealand whistled a different tune with Zegalogue after hitting its primary endpoint in a Phase III trial for children aged 7 days to 12 months with congenital hyperinsulinism.
→ To the beautiful state of Utah we go — Peer Review recommends a visit to any one of its national parks — as Salt Lake City-based Elevar Therapeutics promotes Wade Smith to CFO. Smith had been head of US institutional commercial/finance at Viatris before pivoting to Elevar as VP of finance in January. Elevar has continued to assemble its C-suite with the additions of chief commercial officer Paul Friel, CMO Jan Van Tornout, and chief regulatory officer Gordon Schooley after bringing in Alnylam vet Saeho Chong as CEO in March.
→ Tom Van Blarcom has stepped up to the plate as SVP, head of research at Kyverna Therapeutics, an autoimmune disease biotech that garnered an $85 million Series B round in January for its synReg approach to CAR-T therapies. Van Blarcom, who succeeds CSO and scientific co-founder Jeffrey Greve, is a Pfizer alum who joined David Chang’s squad at Allogene as interim head of translational sciences in 2020 and eventually became the CAR-T player’s executive director, head of protein engineering and research operations.
→ San Diego-based biotech Plexium — which struck a deal with AbbVie in April — has welcomed Daniel Sipes to the team as SVP, head of technology. Prior to his new role, Sipes was SVP, strategy and operations, site head San Diego at Strateos. Before that, Sipes had gigs at Novartis Research Foundation, Kalypsys and Ligand Pharmaceuticals.
→ Thinking big picture with its COPD drug ensifentrine after positive Phase III data were the catalyst for a public offering — an approach used by many a biotech these days — Verona Pharma has made two commercial hires with Matthew Casbon as VP of sales, marketing and training, and Matthew Rysavy as VP of market access and trade. Casbon and Rysavy were both at Salix Pharmaceuticals at the same time, with Casbon as associate VP of marketing and Rysavy climbing up to the role of senior national account manager Casbon was recently CBO of Target RWE, and Rysavy had been head of market access and trade since 2018 at BioDelivery Sciences International.
→ Mark Dizon has left BeiGene to take on the role of general counsel at AbbVie partner Frontier Medicines, a protein degradation player which is targeting the KRAS-G12C mutation. Dizon was BeiGene’s assistant general counsel and chief compliance officer since 2018, and the Novartis vet has also been a compliance exec with Affymax, Actelion, Relypsa and Prothena.
→ Irvine, CA-based AI medtech GATC Health has named Robert Sorrentino as CMO. Before founding his own consulting firm, Sorrentino filled an array of AI roles, including chief medical scientist at the IBM Watson Research Center.
→ Allucent is picking up Steffany Cox as chief marketing officer. Before making her way to Allucent, Cox served in roles at Labcorp (SVP of product management and segment growth), Covance and Eli Lilly.
→ Biosion has named Steven Knapp as chief regulatory & quality officer. Most recently, Knapp was SVP of global regulatory and quality at Antares Pharmaceuticals. Before that, Knapp served at Valeant Pharmaceuticals.
→ Biorchestra has signed on Gabriel Helmlinger as VP, head of translational & clinical pharmacology, toxicology. Helmlinger has had stints at Novartis, AstraZeneca and Obsidian Therapeutics.
→ Brent Saunders is making an appearance on the board of directors of GLO Pharma. Since his departure from Allergan, Saunders chairs the board at OcuTerra and is executive chairman of The Beauty Health Company, a merger between The HydraFacial Company and Vesper Healthcare Acquisition Corp.
→ Boasting a Phase III win for patisiran to treat ATTR amyloidosis with cardiomyopathy, Alnylam has reserved space for ex-Bristol Myers CSO and R&D chief Elliott Sigal on the board of directors. Sigal co-chairs the SAB at Amgen and has a plethora of board seats at Adaptimmune, Vir Biotechnology, Surface Oncology, Tessera Therapeutics and Affinia Therapeutics.
→ With its lead drug for membranous nephropathy in early-stage trials after a $70 million Series A in April 2021, ValenzaBio has elected Aurinia CEO Peter Greenleaf to the board of directors. The ex-Cerecor chief has also been a board member at Antares Pharma, which was sold to Halozyme this spring for $960 million.
→ Jane Bell has joined the board of directors of Mesoblast, the Australian stem cell therapy biotech that has been reeling from broken Big Pharma partnerships and late-stage flops. The deputy chair of Monash Health, Bell is also a board member at Melbourne-based Amplia Therapeutics.
→ Now partnering with Pfizer on an old AstraZeneca drug named RIST4721 after initially striking the deal with Arena last summer, Aristea Therapeutics has added Poseida Therapeutics CEO Mark Gergen and Novo Ventures partner Daniel O’Connell to the board of directors. Michael Vincent, SVP and CSO of Pfizer’s inflammation and immunology research unit, will be a board observer.
→ Sequana Medical has appointed Alexandra Clyde to its board of directors, taking over for Erik Amble, who is stepping down. Clyde is SVP of global health economics, policy and reimbursement for Medtronic.