Novavax CFO Greg Covino makes a quick exit as leadership carousel keeps turning; Kite execs fly away to a cell therapy upstart teaming up with Lyell
→ If it seems like Covid-19 vaccine bridesmaid Novavax is shuttling staffers in and out, you’re not alone. This week, Greg Covino announced he’s leaving the biotech after holding the CFO job for a blink-and-you-miss-it tenure. An advisory role within the company awaits for Covino, who came to Novavax just five months ago from Bristol Myers Squibb, while CCO and CBO John Trizzino juggles even more executive responsibility by taking on the interim CFO title.
Elsewhere, Novavax has promoted Gale Smith to SVP, discovery and preclinical research and chief scientist, while Troy Morgan steps in as chief compliance officer. Novavax’s scientific platform hinges on the insect-cell technology developed by Smith, who has been with the biotech since 2004. Morgan has held compliance positions with Biogen, Bioverativ and, more recently, with EMD Serono as chief compliance officer.
And so it goes with the dizzying array of leadership changes at Novavax, which in the last year alone has named Rick Crowley as COO, selected Filip Dubovsky for CMO and appointed Henrietta Ukwu as chief regulatory and quality officer, among many others. EVP of CMC Ben Machielse also joined in July 2020, but Crowley took over CMC duties when he became COO in December.
→ Partnering with Lyell on cell therapies while netting $40 million in Series A financing last year, South San Francisco’s CERo Therapeutics has bolstered its staff with Remus Vezan as CMO and John Rossi as SVP and head of translational medicine. Both Vezan and Rossi hail from Kite: Vezan was executive director of clinical development for such drugs as Yescarta and Tecartus, while Rossi was in charge of the cell therapy clinical pharmacology team. Prior to Kite, Vezan spent four years at Pharmacyclics and Rossi had a 13-year stay at Amgen.
→ At a time when M&A prospects aren’t looking particularly promising for Amarin, John Thero is moving on after seven years as CEO and 12 years overall. On Aug. 1, the retiring Thero will be replaced by Karim Mikhail, who came on the scene at Amarin less than a year ago as commercial head of the company’s fish oil pill in Europe, known as Vazkepa as it launches in that region and Vascepa in the US. From 1996-2018, Mikhail took on numerous roles at Merck, the last four of those years as the global commercial leader of the Big Pharma’s lipid franchise.
→ Diogo Rau has certainly left his mark after 10 years as a senior director with Apple, and he’s making the leap to Eli Lilly, becoming the pharma giant’s SVP, chief information and digital officer. The retirement of his predecessor, Aarti Shah, after 27 years has been in the works at Lilly for some time. If you’re like most of the population and have ever visited an Apple Store, shopped at the Apple Online Store, or used the Apple Store app, Rau was a guiding force behind developing all the technology.
→ Focused on developing off-the-shelf CAR-T therapies, Wugen has snagged Daniel Kemp to steer the ship as CEO. Kemp hails from Takeda, where he was responsible for transacting the company’s strategic partnerships in the CAR-NK and CAR-T cell therapy space — most notably spearheading the in-licensing of Takeda’s flagship allogeneic NK cell program from MD Anderson Cancer Center in 2019. Kemp also sat on the boards of GammaDelta Therapeutics and Adaptate Biotherapeutics. Earlier in his career he had stints at Beryllium, Merck Research Labs and Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research.
→ Swiss-based Quercis Pharma is making a whole slew of changes to its leadership team with the appointments of John Boghossian as CEO, Manon Veraart as CBO, Thomas Pfeiffer as director of pipeline projects and the addition of Lars Wilde to the board of directors. Boghossian is taking over for Ilias Läber, who will transition to the role of chairman of the board. Boghossian previously served as VP of operations at Compass Pathways. Boghossian’s fellow colleague Veraart formerly served as VP of business development at Compass. Meanwhile, Pfeiffer comes aboard from the University College London, where he served as a senior researcher. Last, but not least, Wilde is the current co-founder, president and CBO of Compass and co-founder of Atai Life Sciences.
→ Two weeks after Salvatore Giovine and Chris Frankenfield joined the squad as CFO and general counsel, respectively, immuno-oncology biotech Xilio has made a trio of moves by promoting Rónán O’Hagan to CSO while naming Li Malmberg chief technology and manufacturing officer and Uli Bialucha SVP of research. O’Hagan, who first arrived on the scene at Xilio in 2018 as SVP of research and translational science, logged seven years at Merck and rounded out his career at the Big Pharma by helming the oncology discovery program. Malmberg, the ex-head of process sciences at AbbVie and a Celgene vet, makes the switch to Xilio from Magenta Therapeutics, where she was SVP head of CMC technical operations. And Bialucha spent nine years at the Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research before his recent stint as VP of drug discovery with Immunitas Therapeutics.
→ Backed by Hillhouse and RA Capital — and making a big $423 million splash in its Hong Kong debut —Shanghai-based Everest Medicines has scaled to the top of the mountain to select Jennifer Yang as CSO. Yang is no stranger to Big Pharma after almost eight years at J&J, including as VP of the pharma giant’s Lung Cancer Initiative. She’s also been a senior research scientist at Eli Lilly and a senior scientist in Pfizer’s oncology research unit. Trodelvy, Everest’s big-ticket item with licensing partner Gilead, just won accelerated approval for locally advanced or metastatic urothelial cancer this week.
→ Radnor, PA-based Marinus Pharmaceuticals is filling out its C-suite with Steven Pfanstiel as CFO while bringing on Lisa Lejuwaan for the new VP of sales position. Pfanstiel devoted 16 years to J&J and was recently VP, finance at another Pennsylvania company, LifeScan. Lejuwaan was Alexion’s executive sales director, neurology franchise and spent seven years there overall. CEO Scott Braunstein adds the two execs after Christy Shafer hit the ground running in November as chief commercial officer and he heaped praise on Phase III data for ganaxolone that could be considered company-saving: “We were close to going under a year ago,” Braunstein said in September.
→ AavantiBio has been a frequent flyer on the Peer Review airline, and this week is no different at Bo Cumbo’s gene therapy player as Paul Herzich and Jared Simons jump on board as chief technology officer and VP of manufacturing, respectively. Herzich has held leadership positions at Novartis Vaccines and Pfizer, and he just completed his time at BridgeBio as VP of CMC. Simons, meanwhile, was senior director of manufacturing sciences and technology for John Crowley at Amicus Therapeutics. AavantiBio has built the team rapidly after its October debut, gaining a CFO, COO and CMO in the span of a month.
→ Luca Scavo is making his way to Simba Gill’s Evelo Biosciences as CFO, effective June 1. Scavo will round out his tenure as SVP and CFO of Roche Diagnostics North America before making the switch to the Flagship-backed biotech, which is developing drugs for inflammatory diseases and cancer. Scavo has also been VP, chief accounting officer at Genentech and the CFO for AstraZeneca Spain. Evelo also announced a new member of its board of directors: ex-Centocor president and current Ironwood chair Julie McHugh.
→ Co-founded by Tony Coles, neurodegenerative disease biotech Yumanity — which reverse merged with Proteostasis Therapeutics last year — has appointed Ajay Verma as EVP, head of R&D. Verma was a Biogen exec from 2010-16, ultimately taking on the role of VP, neurology drug discovery and development. His most recent chapter was with Codiak BioSciences, where he was EVP of research and experimental medicine.
→ Co-founded and chaired by Corey Goodman, and with $62 million worth of Series A funding at its disposal, Bay Area cancer biotech Tallac Therapeutics has given the CBO keys to Curtis Hecht. He hails from Calithera Biosciences, where he held the same title the last seven years, and he also took on various business development responsibilities at Roche and Genentech, namely as global alliance director.
→ Helping Dan O’Day redouble his oncology efforts with Gilead in an $805 million deal for the anti-CCR8 drug JTX-1811, Jounce Therapeutics has poached Dmitri Wiederschain from Sanofi to be CSO. Wiederschain, who also spent time at the Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research, had an 11-year run at Sanofi with duties ranging from section head of oncology discovery to global head of the immuno-oncology research therapeutic area.
→ With the FDA giving a priority review to lead drug odevixibat — “We are over the moon,” CEO Ron Cooper told Endpoints News in January — Albireo has also turned its attention to new execs, welcoming Joan Connolly as chief technology officer. Connolly previously served as SVP, technical operations at Stemline Therapeutics and has also been director, strategic sourcing at Bristol Myers.
→ Longtime Genentech alum George Gauthier has signed on to become chief commercial officer of Silicon Valley-based IGM Biosciences. Gauthier heads to the IgM antibody biotech after an 18-year association with Roche/Genentech, leaving as VP of global product strategy for breast and gynecological cancers. He was also marketing director for Xolair and life cycle leader for Rozyltrek and Kadycla.
→ Berkeley cell therapy player Kyverna Therapeutics, partnering with Gilead to target autoimmune diseases and backed by Vida Ventures and Westlake Village, has made James Chung CMO. Chung spent almost 17 years at Amgen, starting in medical services/early development and climbing up to executive medical director, head of inflammation and neuroscience, global medical organization, and global development leader for Enbrel.
→ Foresite’s Jim Tananbaum considered Gemini Therapeutics a perfect SPAC match last fall, and the AMD player has handed the CMO reins to Samuel Barone, two months after Brian Piekos became Gemini’s CFO. Barone, an ex-medical officer in the FDA’s Office of Cellular, Tissue and Gene Therapies, founded and was CMO of Halodine. He was also CMO of Avalanche Biotechnologies, and when the company later became Adverum, Barone served as SVP of clinical development.
→ Co-founded by Nimbus vets Gerry Harriman and Jonathan Montagu and coming up on a year since their $65 million Series B, allosteric therapy biotech HotSpot Therapeutics has enlisted Timothy Reilly as chief development officer. Reilly wore many hats in his 18 years with Bristol Myers, starting out as a research investigator in immunotoxicology and bidding farewell to the Big Pharma as SVP, early development program leadership.
→ Cory Hogaboam has been chosen as CSO of Austin, TX-based Lung Therapeutics, which scored orphan drug designations in the US and EU as well as a fast track designation with lead candidate LTI-01 for loculated pleural effusion. Hogaboam is a professor of medicine at Cedars-Sinai and is also a research scientist at the Women’s Guild Lung Institute that’s located at the hospital.
→ Janssen vet Johan Aschan has joined the fray at Stockholm-based natural killer biotech XNK Therapeutics as CMO. Aschan heads over to XNK after a brief run as a global clinical lead in clinical development for another Swedish company, Oncopeptides, which named Marty Duvall as its CEO last summer. Aschan served in several capacities during his time at Janssen, among them medical director or hematology in the EMEA region.
→ Brian Lestini has answered the call to become CMO at Waltham, MA biotech Pyramid Biosciences, which has TRK inhibitor PBI-200 in development for primary and metastatic brain cancers. Lestini exits Bristol Myers after a nine-year tenure that saw him get elevated to VP and development leader for relatlimab. Pyramid has also plucked Jeffrey Wasserman from law firm Curcio Mirzaian Sirot and he will take over as general counsel.
→ Sioux Falls, SD-based SAB Biotherapeutics — which pulled in funding from BARDA to develop a polyclonal antibody drug to treat Covid-19 — has corralled Kipp Erickson as COO. Erickson has a veterinary pharmaceutical discovery background with Pfizer Animal Health and Zoetis, but also has human drug discovery experience with Procter and Gamble and Pfizer. He was recently COO of RTI, a veterinary CRO out of nearby Brookings.
→ Sitryx has named Iain Kilty as their new CSO. Kilty joins the team from Quench Bio, where he also served as CSO. Prior to Quench, Kilty held a 22-year stint with Pfizer, most recently serving as VP, preclinical sciences in the Inflammation and Immunology Research Unit. In addition, Kilty is an entrepreneur in residence at Atlas Venture.
→ Tübingen, Germany-based Atriva Therapeutics has made some new additions to its management team with the appointments of Olaf Althaus as CFO and Stephan Stenglein as CMO. Althaus brings to the table experience from CellMed, where he was co-founder, CEO and CFO, as well as AEterna Zentaris. Meanwhile, Stenglein comes from AstraZeneca, where he was VP & head late-stage development respiratory. Before that, he was with Novartis, Glenmark and Shire.
→ Enveric Biosciences has bagged Carter Ward as CFO. Ward succeeds John Van Buiten, who will remain in a consulting role with the company. Ward hops aboard from Elite Pharmaceuticals, where he served as CFO. Prior to that, Ward was serving at Actavis, Centennial Communications, Ceejay Healthcare and Petro Pharma.
→ Medvantx has promoted Micah Benford to the position of chief pharmacy officer of Medvantx Pharmacy Services. Benford joined Medvantx last May as pharmacy operations manager/PIC. Before Medvantx, Benford was with KnippeRx.
→ Codagenix — which scored a $20 million Series B round last year for its platform tech — has reeled in Linda Maldonado as VP, biologics chemistry and manufacturing controls. Maldonado joins the Farmingdale, NY-based company from Catalent Cell and Gene Therapy. Prior to that, she was with PharmAthene, Human Genome Sciences, Baxter Bioscience, Progenics and Sanofi Pasteur.
→ Focused on allogeneic gamma delta T cell therapies, Adicet Bio has enlisted Blake Aftab as VP of research. Aftab leaves his role as VP and head of preclinical science and translational medicine at Atara Biotherapeutics, where he logged six years overall. Aftab is the latest new exec at Adicet after the biotech named Nick Harvey as CFO and Don Healey as CTO last fall.
→ San Diego cancer biotech Oncternal Therapeutics has brought on Chase Leavitt to be its general counsel. Leavitt spent nearly two years at Lineage Cell Therapeutics as general counsel and corporate secretary, and before that he was VP, legal affairs at Tang Capital Management and Odonate (which just had a wrecking ball plow through the company after the discontinuation of tesetaxel).
→ Benjamin Jackson has taken on the role of general counsel at Salt Lake City’s Sera Prognostics, a health diagnostics company specializing in individualized prenatal care. Jackson just spent the last 15 years holding a series of legal capacities at another Salt Lake City outfit, Myriad Genetics, becoming general counsel in 2019.
→ Entering a SPAC race that’s all the rage these days with Panacea Acquisition II a month ago, Oleg Nodelman has been elected to the board of directors at AnaptysBio, which saw its lead drug imsidolimab flop in a Phase II trial. Nodelman is the managing director at EcoR1 Capital, which he founded in 2012.
→ After a kerfuffle involving what was argued as insufficient citation of David Liu’s work at a March presentation, CRISPR biotech Intellia has made Georgia Keresty a member of the board of directors. Keresty has decades of Big Pharma experience and is now in an advisory role with Takeda R&D after being its COO for three years.
→ Stanley Frankel has joined the board of directors at Jim Wilson collaborator Precision BioSciences, along with ex-Moffitt Cancer Center CEO Alan List‘s arrival as CMO. As Bristol Myers’ SVP, cellular therapy development, Frankel was in charge of such drugs as Breyanzi and Abecma.
→ After prepping for a nine-figure IPO back in January, Landos Biopharma, the lead company in the portfolio of Chris Garabedian‘s fund with Perceptive, has cleared a seat for Tiago Girão on its board of directors. Currently, Girão is the CFO of ProteoVant Therapeutics — a newly-launched development-stage biotech created by Roivant Sciences. Before that, Girão was with Cytori Therapeutics and NuVasive.
→ Hideki Garren just made a Peer Review appearance last week by taking the CMO gig at Prothena, and now he gets a seat at the board of directors at Houston-based neuro startup Coya Therapeutics, which launched with a modest $10 million Series A in February. Joining Garren on the board is Indapta CFO and CBO Dov Goldstein.
→ A couple months removed from a $130 million Series B round, South San Francisco’s Day One Biopharmaceuticals has named Saira Ramasastry to the board of directors. Ramasastry, a managing partner with Life Sciences Advisory, is also on the boards of Vir, Akouos, Glenmark and Sangamo.
→ Battling with the FDA over its Friedreich’s ataxia drug omaveloxolone, Reata is adding Christy Oliger and Shamim Ruff to the board of directors. Oliger, a 20-year Genentech vet, is also on the board at Karyopharm, while Ruff is Stoke Therapeutics’ chief regulatory affairs officer and SVP, head of quality assurance.
→ Resolution Therapeutics has recruited Lisa Bright as non-executive director. Bright served as chief commercial and corporate affairs officer and later president international at Intercept. In addition, she held roles at Gilead, GSK and Ascendis Pharma among others.
→ Bristol Myers partner Ikena Oncology has made room for Maria Koehler on the board of directors. Koehler, the CMO at Repare Therapeutics, is the ex-CMO at Bicycle Therapeutics and was a key exec in Pfizer’s oncology business unit.
→ Who’ll stop the Rain? Nobody yet. Rain Therapeutics has elected Stefani Wolff to the board of directors after nabbing a CMO last week. A Genentech alum, Wolff had been Principia Biopharma’s chief development officer. Additionally, Memorial Sloan Kettering’s Simon Powell has been given a place on Rain’s scientific advisory board.
→ San Diego-based Ambrx — the protein engineers that inked a deal with BeiGene last year — has tapped Olivia Ware and Katrin Rupalla to its board of directors. Like Wolff, Ware was an exec at Principia Biopharma, serving as SVP, BTK franchise head. Before that, she served in roles at CytRx and Genentech, among others. Meanwhile, Rupalla currently serves as SVP of regulatory affairs, R&D quality and medical information at Lundbeck. Prior to her role at Lundbeck, Rupalla was with Bristol Myers, Celgene, Roche and Merck.