Peer Review: Anil Singhal assumes leadership of Adicet Bio; Adaptive Biotech woos Genentech vet as CMO
→ More than a year after Aya Jakobovits abruptly vacated the CEO office, Adicet Bio has found her permanent successor just ahead of its first IND. Anil Singhal takes over from Donald Santel, the executive chairman who’s been filling the role. An AbbVie vet, Singhal joins the immunotherapy company with some fresh biotech experience as executive-in-residence at Canaan Partners and CSO of OncoResponse.
→ At the beginning of this year, Adaptive Biotechnologies scored $300 million in upfront cash from Roche’s Genentech for access to its T cell receptor identifying platform. Four months later, the Seattle-based biotech has poached one of its top execs, too. Lance Baldo, who had a hand in launching Hemlibra and Ocrevus as Genentech’s head of US medical affairs, is coming on board as CMO. Aside from its cell therapy platform, Baldo said he’s also drawn to Adaptive’s potential in diagnosing and monitoring disease of the immune system.
→ CMO Rob Iannone announced Monday that he’s leaving Immunomedics to move to a new career in Pennsylvania so that he can be closer to his family. His plans come as the company is suffering from setbacks and departures. CEO Michael Pehl left two months earlier after accusations of a data integrity breach and when the company’s lead drug — the anitbody drug conjugate IMMU-132, or sacituzumab govitecan — was rejected by the FDA.
→ The Canadian penny stock biotech Trillium Therapeutics has announced that CEO Niclas Stiernholm has abruptly resigned from the company. As they search for a replacement, Robert Kirkman, the current chairman of the board, will act as executive chairman. CSO Bob Uger will assume the role of interim president.
→ Ahead of releasing its first-quarter results on Thursday, Gilead disclosed yet another senior executive departure: longtime CFO Robin Washington, who unveiled plans to exit come March 2020. In parallel with the drugmaker’s announcement on Tuesday, Google’s parent company Alphabet unveiled Washington was set to serve on its board.
→ As it looks to expand its US footprint, Swedish rare disease specialist Sobi has wooed Amy Pott from Shire to head up its North American operations. Having overseen commercial operations, strategy and planning for both Shire and Baxalta, Pott joins Sobi after a period of rapid growth — quadrupling its workforce in two years — overseen by Rami Levin.
→ Joanne Smith-Farrell is getting promoted to chief business officer at bluebird bio. The Merck vet spent the past two years hustling deals and bringing in new tools and partners for the CAR-T and gene therapy pipeline, bluebird said, while building a team to support the oncology franchise. She will continue to lead that group while assuming more responsibility in corporate development and strategy.
→ San Diego-based Immunic $IMUX has appointed Tamara Seymour as interim CFO, banking on her decades of experience in corporate finance and biotech fundraising as it moves its immunology drugs along the clinic. Most recently, Seymour has been assisting life sciences companies with M&A and other needs on an advisory basis after multiple CFO stints at Signal Genetics, Hemaquest Pharmaceuticals, Favrille and more. Immunic’s lead compound is a Phase II drug for ulcerative colitis and relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis.
→ Vivera Pharmaceuticals has recruited Stephen McColgan to its mission of harnessing cannabidiol as a non-addictive way to manage pain. “Over the course of my 30-year career as a surgeon, I’ve watched opioids cause total and complete devastation in patients who had originally sought only pain relief,” said the new CMO. Based in Newport Beach, CA, Vivera sells a number of CBD formulations.
→ Following a brief stint at Bicycle Therapeutics, Maria Koehler has jumped to another oncology startup in the Boston area. Repare Therapeutics’ drug discovery efforts are guided by a combination of DNA damage response and synthetic lethality, aided by CRISPR screening. Koehler is now tasked with testing those compounds in the clinic. Also joining the company is CFO Katina Dorton, who had the same role in Avrobio.
→ Poised to begin a pivotal study, cancer drug developer Rainier Therapeutics (you might remember it as BioClin) has scooped Gary Christianson from Nohla Therapeutics, where he was COO. In his new position of chief technical officer, Christianson will oversee manufacturing of vofatamab, an anti-FGFR3 drug for bladder cancer. Prior to Nohla, Christianson honed his commercial product development expertise at Cascadian Therapeutics (acquired by Seattle Genetics) and Corixa (later GlaxoSmithKline).
→ With a new PD-1 in the pipeline and a biomarker alliance with Strata Oncology in place, Arcus Biosciences has wooed the experienced I/O vet William Grossman as their new CMO from Bellicum. Grossman is credited with a leading role in 50 clinical trials, with a big hand in the development of Tecentriq at Genentech. Grossman will be stepping into an active, clinical-stage oncology program, with an ongoing Phase I monotherapy dose-escalation trial in patients with advanced tumors and other combination studies.
→ Having cut back on its urology and CNS efforts and decided to stay laser focused on developing its lead drug for sleep disorders, Avadel Pharmaceuticals $AVDL has hired neurological expert Jordan Dubow as CMO. He is now tasked with refining clinical development and regulatory plans for FT218, a treatment Avadel hopes to market as a more convenient option for excessive daytime sleepiness and cataplexy in narcolepsy patients. Prior to this appointment, Dubow served in a number of similar roles at Esteve, Clintrex, Marathon and AbbVie.
→ Graham Cooper is leaving Assembly Biosciences after one year, leaving open the CFO and COO roles passed on by co-founder David Barrett. Michael Samar, the current VP of finance and business operations, will take on the accounting and certain other tasks as the hep B biotech $ASMB hunts for a new CFO. Meanwhile, Aptinyx alum and biopharma vet David Houck is joining as SVP of product development and portfolio management to lead a nascent clinical effort for both HBV and a few Allergan-partnered microbiome programs.
→ Fresh off a $100 million round, Guo-Liang Yu has added a CMO to the trans-Pacific team he’s building for Apollomics. Fabio Benedetti brings a background in oncology portfolio management from Taiho, Geron, Onyx and Millennium. Between Apollomics’ California and China offices, Benedetti will oversee a pipeline of cancer combination therapies partnered with a host of Chinese biotechs.
→ CANbridge Pharmaceuticals has tapped seasoned healthcare banker Glenn Hassan for a dual position of CFO and chief business officer. Hassan was most recently at China Renaissance Capital but previously held investment and analyst roles at Leerink, Citadel and Fidelity Investments. The Chinese rare disease player has also enlisted former Editas Medicines CMO Gerald Cox as chief development strategist and interim CMO to temporarily replace May Orfali, who resigned for personal reasons.
→ In the middle of an IPO attempt, Applied Therapeutics has named Mark Vignola its CFO, tasked with finding friends for the company in the financial community. Vignola was head of corporate development and investor relations at Intercept, his first biotech gig after an equity research job at Needham & Company. The New York-based biotech is developing a drug for diabetic cardiomyopathy as well as diabetic peripheral neuropathy.
→ The genome engineering experts at Inscripta has brought in an Illumina vet on their journey to popularize their version of the CRISPR editing platform. Ron McGrath’s title is CFO, but he will likely play a bigger role in scaling the company’s infrastructure as it prepares to commercialize its product.
→ Amylyx has appointed Patrick Yeramian as CMO and Tom Holmes as global head, supply chain for the company. Both began their respective positions in March 2019. Yeramian previously held the role of consulting medical director for Amylyx and Holmes was the senior director of external manufacturing at Biogen for 10 years.
→ Zymeworks announced Tuesday that the company is expanding its global clinical development team by hiring three new vice presidents. The three include: Mark Hollywood, senior vice president of technical and manufacturing operations; Neil Josephson, vice president of clinical research; and Bruce Hart, vice president of regulatory affairs. David Poon was also promoted to vice president of business development and alliance management within the company.
By Amber Tong and Kathy Wong.