Novavax grabs another CFO while Pat Cotroneo retires from FibroGen; Eli Lilly reassembles key staff after biomedicines unit split
→ The perennial Charlie Brown of vaccine development, Novavax is grappling with Lucy’s knack for pulling the football away once again, this time with its Covid-19 vaccine as the FDA pushed back another bid for an EUA earlier this month. In the meantime, Novavax has found Jim Kelly to replace Greg Covino as CFO, leaving John Trizzino one less C-suite title to juggle. Kelly, the ex-CFO at Vanda Pharmaceuticals, was just in this space in October 2020 when he succeeded Greg Patrick as CFO of Supernus, and now he makes a quick change to a biotech that can’t seem to avoid taking on Sisyphean qualities no matter what it does.
Furthermore, Novavax has hired Nasir Egal away from Sanofi to be SVP of quality assurance. Egal rounded out nearly 10 years at Sanofi by leading global quality external affairs, and before that, he was responsible for quality and compliance in several regions for Novartis.
→ Finally catching a break with Europe’s approval of roxadustat after the FDA rejected it last week, FibroGen is changing CFOs, with Pat Cotroneo retiring on Labor Day to pave the way for Juan Graham on Sept. 7. Thus ends a 20-year association with J&J for Graham, the last two of those years as global CFO / VP, finance supply chain. Cotroneo had served as CFO since 2007 and will be CEO Enrique Conterno’s executive advisor until March 31, 2022. A month ago, CSO Percy Carter came on board the same week that an FDA adcomm voted against the anemia drug by wide margins.
→ Using the Aduhelm affair to make the case for its own potential Alzheimer’s competitor donanemab, Eli Lilly is caught up in the fervor and has split Lilly Biomedicines into Lilly Neuroscience and Lilly Immunology. Anne White, president of Lilly Oncology, will now be president of Lilly Neuroscience, while Loxo Oncology at Lilly CEO Jake van Naarden will replace her and be responsible for bringing Loxo and Lilly Oncology’s brands together. Patrik Jönsson, a Lilly staffer since 1990, has been appointed president of Lilly Immunology and will also continue in his duties as SVP and president, Lilly USA and chief customer officer.
Additionally, Lilly International president Alfonso “Chito” Zulueta is retiring at the end of the year, with Lilly Biomedicines president Ilya Yuffa waiting to succeed him. Zulueta has been with the pharma giant since 1988, while Yuffa has devoted nearly a quarter century to Lilly. Our Kyle Blankenship has more on this cascade of changes.
→ Freeline Therapeutics is placing enough confidence in Michael Parini only five months into his tenure as president and COO to promote him to CEO. Theresa Heggie leaves Freeline after an 18-month run that was marked by the London biotech’s IPO in August 2020 and a two-year delay on a pivotal trial for hemophilia B candidate FLT180a six months later because of CMC issues. Before Parini climbed aboard on March 15, Parini was EVP and chief administrative, legal and business development officer at Vertex.
→ There’s a passing of the torch forthcoming at Swiss-based MetrioPharm — focused on chronic inflammatory diseases — as Thomas Christély takes over the CEO job from Wolfgang Brysch starting Oct. 1. Brysch, who co-founded MetrioPharm and has been chief executive since 2016, will settle into the dual roles of CSO and CMO. Christély was managing director and CFO of German HDV and HBV player MYR GmbH, which announced its sale to Gilead in December for $1.7 billion before Gilead’s head of virology Diana Brainard jumped to AlloVir.
→ RNA processing biotech Remix Therapeutics brought out the VIPs in its Series A round as ARCH, Foresite, The Column Group and Atlas all participated. President and CSO Peter Smith, an entrepreneur in residence at Atlas, has been bumped up to president and CEO at Remix eight months after its launch. Formerly in the oncology group at Millennium/Takeda, Smith was CSO at H3 Biomedicine before co-founding Remix with Atlas partner Kevin Bitterman.
→ Unlike FibroGen, Myovant and Pfizer earned the FDA’s approval with Myfembree for heavy menstrual bleeding associated with uterine fibroids in May, and on Sept. 7, Myovant welcomes Uneek Mehra as chief financial and business officer. Mehra, the CFO at PACT Pharma since October 2019, spent 13 years with Novartis in a number of capacities, from CFO of the US integrated care and critical care business units to global head of portfolio management, licensing and M&A for the oncology business. The Myfembree approval was an early win for Myovant CEO David Marek, who replaced Lynn Seely at the start of 2021.
→ Richard Buckley has parted ways with AstraZeneca to become chief corporate affairs officer at EQRx, one of many companies getting in on the SPAC craze by reverse merging with CM Life Sciences III in a deal worth $1.8 billion. To close out his 17 years at AstraZeneca, Buckley was Pascal Soriot’s VP, global corporate affairs, and has also served as Eli Lilly’s director of federal government affairs. Making cheaper drug prices their main objective, EQRx also made a CEO change when the SPAC deal was announced, as president and COO Melanie Nallicheri takes the top spot and Alexis Borisy shifts to the role of chairman on Sept. 1.
→ A sea of Yumanity: There’s been no shortage of hiring at Yumanity since it reverse merged last summer with Proteostasis Therapeutics, and CFO Michael Wyzga continues the trend. Wyzga, who was VP in the healthcare investment banking group during his eight years at Needham & Company, joins the list of such newcomers as head of R&D Ajay Verma and general counsel Devin Smith.
→ North Carolina-based gene therapy group Atsena Therapeutics, which landed a $55 million Series A in December for clinical trials on ocular gene therapy, has brought on Linda Couto as its new CSO. Formerly the head of pharmacology, toxicology and ocular research at Spark Therapeutics, Couto joins Spark co-founder Jennifer Wellman at Atsena, who was named to the board of directors last month.
→ Portland-based startup Sparrow Pharmaceuticals, looking to cut down corticosteroid use with its lead candidate SPI-62, has tapped Frank Czerwiec as CMO and Jamie MacPherson as VP of regulatory affairs and quality. After 20 years with Otsuka, Czerwiec became CMO at Goldfinch Bio, a position he had held since December 2018. And MacPherson, the ex-director of regulatory affairs at Alexion, has been a regulatory exec with Akcea the last four years. OrbiMed-backed Sparrow took flight in May with $50 million in Series A financing.
→ Jubilant Therapeutics has recruited Leila Alland to its board of directors and Jeremy Barton as strategic advisor and interim CMO. Alland currently serves as CMO of PMV Pharmaceuticals and was previously the CMO of Affimed and Tarveda Therapeutics. As for Barton, he was previously CMO at Biogen, eFFECTOR Therapeutics and Mirati Therapeutics. In addition to those stints, Barton was head of early oncology development at Pfizer.
→ Concurrent with the Genuity Science buyout, HiberCell has poached several Genuity employees: Chief technology officer Tom Chittenden has been with the company since 2015 and was once chief data science officer; Genuity co-founder and CSO Jeff Gulcher becomes CSO of genomics; and chief informatics officer Hákon Guðbjartsson is Gulcher’s longtime colleague from their days at deCODE genetics and, before it became Genuity, NextCode Health. The $100 million all-stock deal comes after HiberCell’s $67.4 million Series B raise in May, all part of the biotech’s quest to see how stress biology and innate immunity contribute to cancer recurrence.
→ Immunotherapy startup Immunitas Therapeutics promoted Amanda Wagner this week to CBO, coupled with Immunitas’ recent success in obtaining $58 million in Series B financing for their lead program, a CD161-blocking antibody. Wagner was one of the earliest employees when she joined Immunitas in October 2019 as VP of strategy, one month before they officially launched. Before joining Immunitas, she was VP of corporate development at Q32 Bio after leaving Concert Pharmaceuticals, where she was VP of business development and product strategy for a decade.
→ Antibody-drug conjugate (ADC) biotech Mersana Therapeutics recently hired Tushar Misra as their CMO, succeeding the retiring Michael Kaufman, who will stay for a transition period that lasts until Sept. 10. A Takeda and Wave Life Sciences alum, Misra was the former head of manufacturing at Flagship-backed Laronde, a biotech startup led by Diego Miralles that officially launched in May with a $50 million Series A.
→ Going public in February with the help of SPAC-tician Rajiv Shukla in a $255 million deal, Laura Niklason-led Humacyte has locked in B.J. Scheessele as chief commercial officer. Scheessele, a former marketing director at LifeCell who stayed on at Allergan when Brent Saunders purchased the company in 2017, completes a three-year stay as Quest Medical Imaging’s EVP of global marketing.
→ Longtime Novartis vet Caryn Parlavecchio has signed on as chief human resources officer at Cambridge, MA-based Scholar Rock, which just replaced CEO Tony Kingsley a couple weeks ago with founder Nagesh Mahanthappa. Parlavecchio rose to VP and global HR head, oncology and pharma development during her 19 years at Novartis, and for the last year she’s been chief human resources officer at Holy Name Medical Center in Teaneck, NJ.
→ China-based bioconjugate developer GeneQuantum Healthcare has selected Kaida Wu as CMO. His experience reads like a veritable who’s-who of pharma: more than five years as a scientist of discovery medicine at AstraZeneca; three years as an oncology research investigator at Sanofi; another three years at Janssen; and finally, the last four years at Celgene/Bristol Myers Squibb, where he was recently involved in hematology/oncology and cell therapy (HOCT) at the Mechanisms of Cancer Resistance Thematic Research Center.
→ Hearing loss biotech Decibel Therapeutics — which followed its Series D financing with a nine-figure IPO in February — has named Cynthia Hu chief legal officer and corporate secretary. Hu joined CASI Pharmaceuticals back in 2006 when it was known as EntreMed and was COO as well as VP, general counsel and secretary. In June, ex-Otsuka CEO William Carson became chairman of Decibel’s board.
→ This isn’t Evan Ballantyne’s first rodeo in the CFO seat as he hops aboard to take on the title at OncXerna Therapeutics. Ballantyne has served as the CFO of several companies, including Orchestra Biomed, Cerecin, Clinical Data, Synthetic Biologics, Avedro and ZymeQuest.
→ Founded and chaired by CEO Stanley Crooke, the non-profit n-Lorem Foundation has brought in its first-ever chief development officer with the appointment of Sarah Glass. Glass joins the company from Parexel, where she served as global head of rare diseases.
→ Amsterdam-based Lumicks has enlisted Paul Wheeler to be the company’s first CCO. Wheeler brings with him experience from his time at Luminex, Merck, PRW Bioscience, Singulex, Gyros, Oxford Immunotec and Guava Technologies.
→ AI company BenchSci has welcomed Vanessa Ribreau as chief people officer. Ribreau was formerly the global VP of people, places, and technologies at AlayaCare. Additionally, BenchSci has pulled out a seat for Bonita Stewart on its board of directors. Stewart is a board partner at Google‘s venture fund Gradient Ventures. Prior to that role, Stewart spent 15 years at Google, most recently serving as their VP, global partnerships.
→ Recursion made everyone take notice with a gargantuan $436 million IPO in April, and the Salt Lake City-based AI drug developer has now enlisted Jordan Christensen as VP of engineering. Since 2017, Christensen has been VP of engineering at ecobee, which specializes in smart thermostats and other home automation technology.
→ All too accustomed to FDA roadblocks with its Duchenne muscular dystrophy gene therapy, Solid Bio has pegged Michael Inbar as VP of finance. Inbar, a former associate director of SEC reporting at Acceleron, has spent the last four years as VP, accounting and corporate controller at Syros Pharmaceuticals. Solid Bio has remained active on Peer Review this year since the promotion of COO Joel Schneider with the appointment of a chief regulatory officer and SVP of clinical development, among other new execs.
→ ReCode Therapeutics, the genetic medicines biotech backed by MPM and OrbiMed and led by former Amicus CSO David Lockhart, has brought on Angèle Maki as SVP of business development. Maki hails from Eli Lilly, where she was the Indianapolis pharma’s VP, venture science, corporate business development, and she also owns BD experience at Genentech, 23andMe and Merck.
→ Mary Coleman has been named VP, head of investor relations with Firdapse maker Catalyst Pharmaceuticals out of the Miami area. Coleman, who just held the same title at BioXcel, was VP, investor relations and communications for Jubilant Pharmaceuticals and covered similar bases during her time as senior director at Savient Pharmaceuticals from 2007-13.
→ Premier Research has brought some new execs into the fold with the appointments of Slawomir Wojtowicz-Praga (VP, global head of medical affairs), Ayesha Pandit (VP, medical oncology strategy), and Ashley Herrick (executive director, oncology strategy). Wojtowicz-Praga hops aboard with experience from stints at Genentech/Roche, Talon Therapeutics, Sankyo Pharma Development, Aventis and Theradex. Meanwhile, Pandit previously served in roles at AbbVie, J&J and the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. Last, but not least, Herrick joins from MD Anderson, where she served as senior clinical research program coordinator.
→ Mark Goldberg is adding another stint to his résumé as non-executive director of cancer immunotherapy-focused Avacta. Goldberg is a medical oncologist and hematologist on the faculty of Brigham & Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School. Currently, Goldberg sits on the board of directors of ImmunoGen, Idera Pharmaceuticals, GlycoMimetics, Walden Biosciences and Blueprint Medicines. In addition, Goldberg previously served on the board of Audentes.
→ Backed by the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, T cell therapy player BlueSphere Bio has made ex-Amgen CFO Jonathan Peacock chairman of the board. Peacock is also a board member at Genmab and UCB, and he’s the lead director at Avantor.
→ Equipped with a Series C round to propel its anti-CTLA-4 antibody and IL-2 agonist into the clinic, Xilio Therapeutics has elected Sara Bonstein to the board of directors. Currently the CFO at Insmed, Bonstein was also CFO and COO at OncoSec from 2018-20.
→ Neil Kumar’s BridgeBio has a trio of new board members, with former Schering-Plough CEO and current Warburg Pincus partner Fred Hassan leading the group. Andrea Ellis, the CFO of transportation outfit Lime, and former AIG chief investment officer Douglas Dachille also have seats on the board.
→ Tamara Seymour has hopped onto the board of directors of KemPharm. Seymour currently sits on the board of Artelo Biosciences and Kintara Therapeutics. Previously, Seymour has served as CFO of Signal Genetics (now Viridian Therapeutics) and HemaQuest Pharmaceuticals.
→ PACT Pharma CEO Scott Garland has joined the board of directors at pediatric cancer biotech Day One Biopharmaceuticals, which raised $160 million in an upsized IPO this spring. The Merck, Amgen and Genentech vet also helmed Portola from 2018 until Alexion’s 2020 acquisition.
→ Rekha Hemrajani and Jason Coloma have been given seats on the board of directors at anti-aging upstart BioAge Labs — a board that also includes Vijay Pande. The ex-president and CEO of Aravive, Hemrajani is on the boards of MaxCyte and ALX Oncology, while Coloma has helmed Maze Therapeutics since 2019.
→ ViroCell Biologics has tapped Recro Pharma CEO David Enloe to be a part of its board of directors. Prior to his current role, Enloe was president and CEO of Ajinomoto Bio-Pharma Services and head of Lonza’s viral therapeutics business unit. In addition to Enloe’s appointment, the company has also brought on CAR-T expert Martin Pule to its scientific advisory board.
→ Gastrointestinal disease-focused AzurRx BioPharma has added BioDelivery Sciences EVP and CFO Terry Coelho to the board of directors. Coelho spent the back half of her seven years at Novartis as global head of oncology development finance.
→ San Diego-based Otonomy has reeled in Jill Broadfoot to its board of directors. Broadfoot currently serves as the CFO of aTyr Pharma and has previously been the CFO of Emerald Health Pharmaceuticals and Emerald Health Bioceuticals. Additionally, she has held roles at GW Pharmaceuticals and Vical.