Peer Review: Leaving Cerecor after a year, Peter Greenleaf starts a new CEO chapter at Aurinia — out to slay Restasis
→ A year after orchestrating Sucampo Pharma’s sale to Mallinckrodt, Peter Greenleaf is still in hot demand. Aurinia has poached him from the helm of Cerecor, where he’s helped lay a foundation for a new pipeline for orphan neurological disorders in the past year.
At Aurinia, the new CEO will shift gears to ophthalmology and immunology as the Canadian biotech launches an ambitious challenge to Allergan’s best-selling dry eye drug Restasis. In a Phase II head-to-head read out weeks ago, Aurinia’s voclosporin demonstrated a statistically significant improvement on efficacy compared to Restasis — a surprising win on a secondary endpoint. The primary endpoint of beating the blockbuster drug’s tolerability score was not met.
Aurinia is keenly planning a larger Phase II/III trial, and Greenleaf — “a thoughtful and decisive leader” according to H C Wainwright analysts — also led Histogenics and AstraZeneca’s big MedImmune unit. As Aurinia keenly plans a larger Phase II/III trial for voclosporin, he will play a key role across clinical, business development and commercial operations.
The company’s main focus is its lupus program, for which late-stage data are expected by the end of 2019.
“I am very excited to lead the company at this pivotal time and through several critical datapoints over the next year including Phase III trial results by the end of 2019, followed by the planned regulatory submission and preparations for the potential commercialization of voclosporin during 2020,” Greenleaf said in a statement.
→ Hong Kong-based Uni-Bio Science has tapped a seasoned financial exec to steer the ship. This is Zhao Zhi Gang’s first try at being a biotech CEO, having started his career as an accountant and moved up to CFO roles at China’s life sciences companies, most recently Simcere Pharma. HKEX-listed Uni-Bio Science made its money in manufacturing but is working on new drugs for diabetes, ophthalmology and dermatology.
→ A year after leaving Astellas to join Alkermes $ALKS, Jim Robinson is resigning from the CNS biotech. Robinson, who will remain president and COO for one more week, called it an “exceedingly difficult decision” triggered by personal reasons. His tenure coincided with a tough year for Alkermes, which was battered with repeated FDA objections to its depression drug ALKS-5461.
→ Gary Altman is embarking on his next company-shaping mission as CEO of IGF Oncology, which is developing a conjugate of methotrexate and a proprietary recombinant protein derivative of insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) for myelodysplastic syndrome. A former CEO of Provista Diagnostics and COO of Human Longevity, Altman’s longest running role is principal of his own consulting firm with assignments including turnarounds, startups and M&A, according to his LinkedIn profile.
→ Andrew Southan’s quick ascent at CRO Metrion Biosciences has culminated in a promotion to CEO. Having joined the ion channel contract research and drug discovery company as head of commercial operations in 2016, become COO in 2017 and joined the board of directors in 2018, Southan — an alum of Charles River Laboratories — pledges to expand the UK company’s global reputation.
→ Leaving the stage at Endocyte after the curtains are drawn following Novartis’ $2.1 billion buyout for the radiopharmaceuticals company, Michael Sherman has landed his next CEO job at Chimerix $CMRX. And he’s bringing a friend with him: Michael Andriole, Endocyte’s CFO, will be scouting deals for the Chimerix’s antivirals as its chief business officer. His appointment comes after Michelle Berrey — the woman who replaced Chimerix CEO Kenneth Moch in 2014 after the company notoriously sparked a viral protest movement after a dying child was initially denied compassionate use of its experimental treatment — stepped down for undisclosed reasons.
→ Robert Zeldin wrapped a brief CMO stint at Acceleron just as the biotech and its partner Celgene submitted an NDA for billed blockbuster luspatercept. “We spoke to management and learned that the CMO’s departure was due to lack of cultural fit,” Cowen’s Yaron Werber wrote in a note, adding that “he did not have a major role in designing ongoing studies.” Zeldin moved to Acceleron after his former employer, Ablynx, was acquired by Sanofi.
→ Synlogic has poached gastroenterology expert Scott Plevy from Janssen to lead its research endeavors. As CSO, Plevy will drive development of Synlogics’ platform, which reengineers bacteria into “living medicines” with potential to treat metabolic diseases, immune-mediated diseases and cancer.
→ The regenerative specialists at Surrozen is welcoming Trudy Vanhove to their team as CMO. Most recently at Jazz Pharma, she will help select and move Surrozen bi-specific antibodies into clinical development — something that the Bay Area biotech recently banked $50 million to do. Surrozen’s key capacity has to do with selective modulation of the Wnt pathway, a critical part of tissue repair that’s also pursued by the biotech unicorn Samumed.