Peer Review

Outsourcing veteran Jamie Macdonald takes the helm at Parexel; CSO Rosana Kapeller exits Nimbus

Josef von Rickenbach

→ Top-10 CRO Parexel has brought in an experienced hand to take the helm. Co-founder Josef von Rickenbach — a familiar face in the outsourcing world — is stepping up to concentrate on the chairman’s spot after guiding the company for the past 35 years. And he’s being replaced in the CEO suite by Jamie Macdonald, who not so long ago headed INC Research before its merger with inVentiv and rebranding as Syneos. “What we have is a tech backbone, a strong basis in Asia, data and analytics,” the new CEO told Endpoints News. Key concerns remain the same: “Are we selecting the right drug and the most appropriate protocol, putting them into the right hands in sites and investigators.” Are they buying anything anytime soon? “We certainly have the capability to acquire certain assets,” said Macdonald, who sounded most interested in adding capabilities rather than buying market share through M&A.

Rosana Kapeller

→ Having helped turn “the vision of computational-based drug discovery into reality”  at Nimbus Therapeutics, founding CSO Rosana Kapeller has decided it’s time to take on an executive leadership role elsewhere. During her eight-year tenure, the Cambridge, MA-based biotech has built up a pipeline spanning metabolic, autoimmune and immuno-oncology programs. That has attracted big partners and big bucks from GileadGenentech and Celgene. Before joining Nimbus, Kapeller co-founded Aileron Therapeutics. “Rosana is a top-notch scientist who is uniformly admired by the team at Nimbus and our wide array of corporate and academic partners,” Nimbus CEO Don Nicholson said in a farewell statement. “She has helped assemble a talented, high caliber drug discovery organization which is larger and more capable than at any time in our history, and the deep experience and talent of our leadership team has enabled a seamless transition.”

→ Aya Jakobovits has abruptly left the top position at cell therapy player Adicet. Jakobovits, the first CEO at Kite, is staying on the board of the Menlo Park, CA biotech and will continue as an adviser to the company. Donald Santel is stepping up as interim CEO while the company hunts for a successor.

John Reed’s 5-year effort to revamp Roche’s big, unproductive pRED research group is over. Recruited from his position as head of the prestigious Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute in La Jolla, CA, Reed’s job was to bind up the wounds and rally pRED after a major reorganization that led Roche to sever its sprawling campus in Nutley, NJ. This week, Roche CEO Severin Schwan said he was out, leaving for “personal reasons” and returning to the US. William Pao is taking his place, moving up from his role as head of pRED’s oncology discovery and translational area.

→ As the exec team at Aeterna Zentaris $AEZS scouts deals for its lead asset Macrilen (macimorelin) around the world, it has brought on James Clavijo to manage its finances. That would include the $24 million it earned when it handed Strongbridge US and Canadian rights to Macrilen, as well as the $179 million promised in milestones. Most recently at manufacturer/distributor Tri-Source Pharma, Clavijo is an experienced CFO who founded a consulting firm providing such services.

→ Though still in very early stages of developing a chronic liver disease diagnostic, Greenwood Village, CO-based HepQuant has tapped a former diagnostics CEO to be its new COO. For 10 years, Richard Whitcomb — who’s currently advising academic scientists as an entrepreneur in residence at University of Colorado Boulder — led an optical technology company called Bioptix Diagnostics (it was later sold to a company that pivoted to cryptocurrencies).

Matthew McClure has landed his first CMO job at Second Genome, a platform biotech focused on the microbiome. The company, which is advancing a NASH program into Phase II and an inflammatory bowel disease drug into Phase I, is embracing his clinical background and biopharma experience with open arms. He previously held a senior director position at Alios Biopharma, a J&J viral disease company also based in South San Francisco. At Second Genome, he will oversee regulatory and clinical operations, helping pluck research from diverse therapeutic areas into its preclinical basket.

→ With all hopes on its sickle cell disease drug voxelotor, Global Blood Therapeutics $GBT has poached Gilead’s David Johnson to be its chief commercial officer. With the experience he gained launching drugs at Gilead and GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson will have to create GBT’s commercial ops from the ground up, building the team as he leads sales, marketing, analytics and market access efforts.

→ After hustling a slate of programs along BioMarin’s rare disease pipeline as its VP of clinical development, Wolfgang Dummer is now the CMO of Aridis Pharmaceuticals. Dummer, a Genentech vet with expertise in immunology, will now juggle several monoclonal antibody programs in PhII/III development in addition to preclinical programs. Helping him on the supply side will be product development specialist Mitchell Rosner, who’s officially joining as VP of quality, having worked there part-time for a few months.

→ While founder Martin Shkreli is facing his final judgment, Retrophin $RTRX is turning a new leaf and striving to “become a preeminent member of the rare disease community.” That includes the appointment, as VP of corporate development, of Casey Logan, the former CBO of Tracon Pharmaceuticals. Reporting to the COO, Logan will seek global business opportunities for the San Diego biotech.

Merck KGaA has tapped Wendy Sussman to lead government policy strategy and advocacy for its biopharma business in the US and Canada, known as EMD Serono. Sussman succeeds Michael Ruggiero, who moved up to the healthcare global government and public affairs team. She previously held similar positions at Novartis’ Sandoz and Hospira, liaising with legislative bodies, regulatory agencies, trade associations and advocacy groups.

Pfizer vet Nancy Hutson has taken a board seat at orphan disease company PhaseBio, one of several she’s joined since retiring in 2006. Linda Tufts, a general partner Fletcher Spaght Ventures, has also become a director.

Partner Therapeutics has welcomed its first board members outside of its two founders. Healthcare analyst Ellen Hukkelhoven and venture partner Terry Gould, both veteran board directors, have stepped up to help steer the young biotech.

→ After a career in big pharma spanning several continents, Rolf Hoffmann is now advising a nascent specialty oncology company called EUSA Pharma as a board director.


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