Peer Review

Peer Review: Don Hayden commits to CEO role at WindMIL; X4 nabs new CMO Lynne Kelley from Histogenics exile

→ Since leaving a 25-year career and the president of global pharmaceuticals title at Bristol-Myers Squibb in 2005, Don Hayden has kept himself busy as a consultant and adviser to biopharma companies, sometimes juggling seven or eight board appointments. But after a few months as interim CEO of WindMIL Therapeutics, he’s ready to “substantially pull back” on all those commitments as he transitions to a full-time role.

Don Hayden

“Every now and then in one’s career you come across a combination of circumstances that convince you you just want to be a part of it, and that’s really what happened at WindMIL,” he told me.

The Baltimore-based startup was spun out of Johns Hopkins and got its name, in part, from marrow infiltrating lymphocytes, or MILs. These memory T cells residing in the bone marrow have an innate ability to recognize tumors, rendering them a potent cancer killing agent both on its own and as a “base” for other treatments like CAR-T.

His focus now, Hayden said, is to position the company for a “very big year” in 2020, when the first data readout from a multiple myeloma trial is due. WindMIL also plans to delve deeper into solid tumor, following a non-small cell lung cancer trial (in PD-1 refractory/relapsed patients) it hopes to start this year.

Graham Kelly

→ In preparation for a Nasdaq listing, Australian drugmaker Noxopharm has reassigned some hats in top leadership. Founder Graham Kelly is moving up to the executive chairman role, tapping Greg van Wyk — the current CMO — to double as chief executive. This way, the company says, Kelly can spend more time “looking to raise the company’s profile in the US capital markets,” where he’s led two IPOs almost two decades ago.

Novartis’ Vas Narasimhan has raided GlasoSmithKline’s senior executive crew for his new Sandoz chief. Richard Saynor is making the leap from his last post as SVP classic & established products, commercial & digital platforms at a time speculation about the future of Sandoz has been rampant. But he may have some ideas on what can be done better. According to his LinkedIn page, he’s been at GSK for close to 9 years — after jumping over from Sandoz.

Jim Robinson

→ After a stint at Alkermes $ALKS that took him to Boston area for a little over a year, Jim Robinson is moving home. Reporting at Paragon Biosciences’ Chicago office this week, Robinson keeps the same title: president and chief operating officer. But instead of overseeing one entity, he will run a host of functional services to support Paragon’s six and counting portfolio companies.

X4 Pharmaceuticals $XFOR has recruited Lynne Kelley to steer a Phase III program for a rare genetic, primary immunodeficiency disease known as WHIM syndrome. The new CMO is one of the Histogenics execs who were disbanded after the microcap essentially sold its shell to Ocugen in a reverse merger.

John Curnutte

John Curnutte is hanging up his R&D boots at Portola Pharmaceuticals $PTLA, trading a lead role for a consultant position. His retirement comes almost a year after that of ex-CEO William Lis, which put Curnutte in charge briefly as a co-president. In their time, the two execs shepherded Beyvexxa — an anticoagulant — and Andexxa — an anti-anticoagulant — to FDA approvals, despite some hiccups along the way. Pamela Conley, a 15-year veteran of the company and current SVP of research, will take over the research team while Jeff Myers serves as interim CMO.

→ After kicking off its Phase III program, Entasis Therapeutics, the biotech spun out from AstraZeneca to house its antibiotics group, is planning for its commercial future — and hiring an experienced hand. Eric Kimble joins the biotech $ETTX as the field is still rattling from Achaogen’s bankruptcy, yet another stark reminder of the grim conditions that face antibiotics developers even when they manage to bring their drugs to the market. Kimble, a Cubist Pharma alum who’s spent the past five years consulting for antibiotics startups, said he welcomes the challenge.

→ A troubled Aduro has recruited Pfizer cancer R&D exec to take the chief medical officer’s job. Dimitry Nuyten is moving from his job as vice president and immuno-oncology clinical development leader to the biotech. His stint at Pfizer put Nuyten in charge of its Bavencio work, partnered with Merck KGaA. “We are extremely pleased to welcome Dimitry as we prepare to broaden our development plans for STING agonist ADU-S100 and initiate our first in human study of anti-APRIL antibody BION-1301 in IgA nephropathy,” noted CEO Stephen Isaacs in a statement.

→ The crew at Juvenescence has brought on David Ellam on their anti-aging crusade. Ellam jumps from the same role at London-based Silence Therapeutics, which he joined after stints at BioMarin and Ark Therapeutics. With over $110 million to spend on existing and future portfolio companies, Ellam will work alongside CEO Greg Bailey to build up Juvenescence’s infrastructure and corporate governance as it explores “a listing on an international exchange.”

Thomas Leung is the new CFO at Menlo Park, CA-based Adverum Biotechnologies $ADVM, playing a big role in shaping the company as it charts a clinical path for its gene therapy for the eye. A former VP at TPG Capital, Leung’s most recent job was in business operations at a women’s health genetic testing company.

→ Keen on getting its wet age-related macular degeneration drug approved around the world next year, Outlook Therapeutics $OTLK has appointed Jennifer Kissner as SVP clinical development. As CMO Kenneth Bahrt heads out the door (with no replacement planned), Kissner will effectively take up the responsibility to work with contracted services to drive ONS-5010 forward, leveraging lessons she learned at Alcon, Acucela and most recently Clearside Biomedical.

→ Having learned the ins and outs of cancer diagnostics at Foundation Medicine, Alfred “Freddi” Bowie is bringing his business skillset to Veracyte $VCYT. As VP, corporate and business development, Bowie is tasked with assessing and managing partnerships, licensing and acquisitions. One of them will be a lung cancer detection project allied with J&J in an alliance announced this January.

→ Rare disease-focused LogicBio Therapeutics $LOGC has hired five senior execs to help manage its expanded lab operations, from CMC and technology development to program and clinical management. They include Matthias Hebben, VP of technology development, jumping from Genethon; Marie Payton, VP of clinical operations, formerly of Millennium; Sanofi Genzyme vet Carol Sherako, senior director, program management; Sven Loebrich, a CMC expert with experience at ImmunoGen; and Voyager’s Lauren Drouin, who will focus on analytical development. Together, they will push LogicBio’s first drug into clinical development while refining its gene editing platform.

Yposkesi, a French CDMO specializing in gene therapy viral vector manufacturing, has appointed Morad El Gueddari as production director of its core operation. A veteran of CellforCure — now a Novartis subsidiary — El Gueddari joins as the company is doubling its global footprint.

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VP Oncology Biology
Skyhawk Therapeutics Waltham, MA
Associate Director CMC
Elektroki Boston, MA
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Elektroki Boston, MA
Research Scientist - Immunology
Recursion Pharmaceuticals Salt Lake City, UT

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