Pierre Beaurang hits the ground running at his 3rd startup; Mike Grey poaches Astellas dealmaker to head protein degradation player
As Nitrome Biosciences — a biotech founded in 2017 to focus on a class of enzymes called nitrases — rebrands to Nitrase Therapeutics, the company is also bringing on a new CEO: Pierre Beaurang.
In Nitrase’s statement earlier this week announcing its new CEO, the biotech said that the founder and now-former CEO — Irene Griswold-Prenner — will stay on with Nitrase as the new CSO. And this new appointment comes in tandem with the biotech’s Series A expansion, where Bristol Myers Squibb became an investor alongside AbbVie and Sofinnova Partners, bringing the total amount raised to $45 million.
If you recognize Beaurang’s name, you may remember him as the former CBO at Nurix — and as one of the founding team members at Five Prime Therapeutics two decades ago.
Beaurang first started in the bio sphere at Boston University, where he graduated with his bachelor’s and master’s in biology and biotechnology — before moving to UC-Berkeley to earn a PhD in molecular and cell biology.
After Berkeley, he was a part of the team that founded Five Prime back in 2001 — where he spent the next 16 years working up to executive director of business development. And he was only in that position for less than a year before going over to Nurix.
When we spoke with Beaurang, he told us that he took the position at Nitrase for three reasons: because of the opportunity it provided; because it fit his 3 personal “Ps” that he looks for in opportunities — people, platform, and pipeline; and because it felt like Nurix and Five Prime.
“One of the feelings I felt when I was approached about this opportunity is that it reminded me very much of what Nurix was when I joined that company seven years ago. At Nitrase, to say we’re the leaders in nitrase therapeutics? That’s — that’s true. When I joined Nurix, at that time, we were saying we were the leaders in ligase therapeutics, and that was true at that time,” Beaurang said.
“And we wanted to own that space, just like we are owning the space in networks or buildings. And so there were a lot of similarities there. And again, the same thing — the people, the platform, the early pipelines — all those things were kind of aligned with themselves,” Beaurang added. “And that takes me back to what we did at Five Prime in the very early days, again, having the right people, building a platform that can fill the pipeline, those three elements.”
Since Beaurang came on board at Nitrase two months ago, he has had a few objectives to kick off his time as CEO — from expanding Nitrase’s R&D in different therapeutic areas to hiring on more employees and positioning the company for potential partnerships.
The San Francisco biotech has a lead program potentially for Parkinson’s disease, targeting a nitrase for the popular synuclein target — which, according to Beaurang, formed the basis of Nitrase’s platform. The team is also looking at diversifying its pipeline into oncology, fibrotic diseases and immunology.
And since the company has only 17 or so employees, the number of employees will change, depending on what partnerships or other projects Nitrase takes on. As for more specifics? You’ll have to wait for those.
— Paul Schloesser
→ Back in January, Plexium put more cash in the hopper with a $35 million Series B and made ex-Amplyx CEO Mike Grey chairman. The San Diego protein degradation biotech has poached Percival Barretto-Ko from Astellas to be president and CEO, succeeding Swamy Vijayan and ending a 16-year run at the Japanese pharma. A mere nine months ago, Barretto-Ko took the CBO job at Astellas after three years as president of Astellas US. This marks the second straight week that a protein degradation company based in San Diego has named a chief executive following the appointment of BioTheryX CEO Philippe Drouet.
→ Paul Hoelscher has announced his retirement as CFO of Horizon Therapeutics, which is turning to one of their own to succeed him. Hoelscher steps aside on May 16, 2022, in favor of Aaron Cox, a Horizon staffer since 2016 who earns the title of EVP, finance until he takes over. A former exec at BMO Capital Markets, Cox had been SVP of business development the last four years at the Dublin-based biotech that bought AstraZeneca spinoff Viela Bio and its neuromyelitis optica spectrum disorder (NMOSD) drug Uplizna for $3 billion in February. Hoelscher will remain with Horizon in an advisory role until May 2023.
→ On the subject of CFO retirements, there’s another one taking place at Provention Bio as Andrew Drechsler has decided to hang up the cleats after four years on the job and almost 30 years in the business overall. Provention Bio has already lined up Alexion’s Thierry Chauche to take over as finance chief on Dec. 1, and Drechsler will stay until mid-2002 as a special advisor to CEO Ashleigh Palmer. Chauche was previously the head of strategic financial planning and analysis at Alexion, which is experiencing a consistent drain in talent following the sale to AstraZeneca. Earlier, Chauche was VP of FP&A at Intercept and has a Big Pharma background at Novartis and Bristol Myers Squibb.
→ Fabian Tenenbaum has informed Peer Review that he has been appointed CEO of Israeli immuno-oncology startup Nectin Therapeutics as it develops a pipeline that includes ADCs, CAR-T and CAR-NK cell therapies. Tenenbaum, the former CEO of Bellerophon Therapeutics, has also been CBO and CFO of Anterios Therapeutics, which was sold to Allergan for $90 million upfront at the start of 2016.
→ It hasn’t been peaches and cream at all for Oncopeptides lately — a couple weeks ago its multiple myeloma drug Pepaxto got yanked from the US market, which in turn pummeled the stock. A week earlier, CFO Anders Martin-Löf resigned for personal reasons after three years on the job, and the Stockholm biotech has turned to Annika Muskantor to succeed him in an interim capacity beginning Monday. Muskantor, most recently the finance chief at Stockholm-based Frisq, has been an interim group CFO before at Scienta Omicron and Sobi, among other companies.
→ Last week Ipsen CBO Philippe Lopes-Fernandes gave our Nicole DeFeudis an inside look at the company in the year since he took the job, and now Ipsen has given Stewart Campbell a different role: EVP and president of North America. Just this year, Campbell joined CEO David Loew’s squad as SVP and franchise head of oncology following a 15-year run at Roche/Genentech that saw him take on a collage of roles working with such blockbusters as Rituxan and Kadcyla, ending with his time as lifecycle leader, global product strategy.
→ Swiss-based Santhera has been riding the struggle bus for awhile, punctuated by a significant reduction in its staff after scrapping a Duchenne muscular dystrophy program in October 2020. But hitting the primary endpoint with another Duchenne drug, vamorolone, in a Phase IIb study has given Santhera reason for optimism, and Stephanie Brown will be president, North America starting Dec. 1. Brown’s career is a veritable Big Pharma sampler, taking on leadership positions at Takeda, Biogen, Merck and Genentech. She will jump to Santhera next month after closing out her tenure as Ipsen’s SVP and head of the rare diseases franchise, North America.
→ According to an SEC filing Monday, both COO Daniel Faga and CMO Joseph Leveque are out at Mirati, while chief accounting officer Vickie Reed has stepped into the role of CFO. After his FerGene flameout, David Meek will now retool his leadership a month and a half into his tenure as CEO, shepherding Mirati through an NDA slated for Q4 with a KRAS inhibitor that it hopes can put a dent in Amgen’s Lumakras in non-small cell lung cancer. Mirati also took the wraps off positive colon cancer data for that same drug, adagrasib, in September.
→ On Dec. 3, Eric Murphy will walk away as CSO of Nima Farzan’s cancer biotech Kinnate Biopharma “to pursue a new opportunity.” This isn’t goodbye completely for Murphy, who stays on as a member of the scientific advisory board at the California-based developer of small molecule kinase inhibitors. After a whopping $276 million IPO at the tail end of the 2020 gold rush, Kinnate established a subsidiary in Shanghai with the assistance of OrbiMed and Foresite Capital in May.
→ Fresh off a new alliance with Sinopharm, Shanghai-based I-Mab has shifted CFO Jielun Zhu to chief strategy officer and named John Long as finance lead in his stead. Zhu, the CFO since August 2018, steered I-Mab to an IPO that cracked the $100 million mark in January 2020, the first Chinese biotech to hit Nasdaq since Samantha Du’s Zai Lab in 2017. Long will become part of I-Mab’s board of directors and has previously been SVP of finance at WuXi AppTec.
→ San Diego-based Acadia — forced by the FDA to reassess its sNDA for Nuplazid after the agency saddled the neuro biotech with a CRL in April — has promoted Brendan Teehan to EVP, COO, head of commercial. Teehan has swiftly climbed the ladder here after joining Acadia in 2018 as VP, commercial insights, analytics & operations; since January he had held the title of chief insights and analytics officer. The J&J and Amgen vet also logged two years as VP, provider solutions at Tesaro.
→ Tango in the night: Under the leadership of Barbara Weber, precision oncology player Tango Therapeutics found a dance partner to light up the biotech ballroom in April, reverse merging with Boxer Capital’s blank-check company BCTG Acquisition Corp. Tango has now tapped Marc Rudoltz as CMO and Doug Barry as general counsel to shore up the leadership. Rudoltz is a Novartis vet in clinical development (with Gleevec and Tasigna) who has held the CMO job on an interim basis at WindMIL Therapeutics, Deciphera Pharmaceuticals and Constellation Pharmaceuticals. Barry was previously VP of corporate law at Alexion.
→ As radiopharma continues to sizzle, Fusion Pharmaceuticals — a Canadian biotech in the space that burst onto Nasdaq with a $212.5 million IPO last summer — has selected Christopher Leamon as CSO. Leamon was VP of research and later president of Endocyte, the radiopharmaceutical player Novartis bought in 2018 for $2.1 billion. And just before he took this gig at Fusion, Leamon served as Novartis’ executive director, radioligand drug discovery. Eric Burak, Fusion’s only other chief scientist since its launch, will now shift to chief technology officer.
→ Roche immunology and neurology partner Jnana Therapeutics has bumped up its co-founder Joel Barrish to president and CSO. A 27-year veteran of Bristol Myers, Barrish helped found Jnana after a short stay as CSO of Achillion, and he’s also on the scientific advisory board at Kojin Therapeutics, led by new CEO Luba Greenwood. The Stuart Schreiber-founded Jnana, focused on solute carrier (SLC) transporters, enjoyed a $50 million Series B haul in August that was headlined by RA Capital.
→ Boston hearing loss biotech Akouos has named Stacy Price as chief technical officer, its first major hire since ex-Spark CMO Kathy Reape joined Manny Simons’ team in early May as chief development officer. Price escapes the drama at Ziopharm Oncology — now under new management after the activist attack brouhaha — where she was SVP of technical operations. While with Shire, Price led pharmaceutical development operations and was in charge of CMC program management.
→ Blending together with K5 Therapeutics and gathering up a Series A in July co-led by Novo Holdings and Sofinnova Partners, Danish neurodegenerative disease company Muna Therapeutics has pegged Niels Plath as CSO. Plath had been a mainstay at a familiar Danish name, closing out 16 years at Lundbeck as acting head of global research and VP for neuroscience. Muna has its sights set on small molecule drugs for such diseases as Alzheimer’s, frontotemporal dementia and Parkinson’s.
→ It didn’t take long for Los Angeles-based cancer outfit Aadi Bioscience to resurface in Peer Review, naming Scott Giacobello CFO after the appointment of CMO Loretta Itri last week. A former finance exec for seven years at Allergan, Giacobello spent the last four years as CFO of GW Pharmaceuticals, the maker of the cannabinoid Epidiolex that Jazz Pharmaceuticals scooped up in a $7.2 buyout in February. Giacobello’s first day at Aadi is Nov. 28.
→ J&J vet Frank Wiegand has leapfrogged to Oxford-based Beckley Psytech, which received $80 million in Series B funding this summer, as CMO. Before pivoting to Beckley, which is developing therapies derived from psilocybin and “toad venom” for severe headaches and treatment-resistant depression, Wiegand spent more than 20 years with J&J, rounding out his time at the pharma giant as VP, global medical affairs in neuroscience.
→ Houston neuro startup Coya Therapeutics is building out its leadership roster further by welcoming Adrian Hepner as CMO and Greg MacMichael as chief technical officer. Hepner jumps to Coya from his double duty at Pharnext as CMO and head of R&D, and he spent his previous five years as the medical chief of Eagle Pharmaceuticals. An Eli Lilly and Novartis alum, MacMichael held the same title at Castle Creek Biosciences and has been a manufacturing exec with Axovant, NantKwest and Rocket Pharmaceuticals.
→ Gene, we hardly knew ye: Gene Mack seemed like he just took the CFO job 10 minutes ago at Coya, but he’s already had a change of heart and has become finance chief at Imcyse, a Belgian biotech developing synthetic peptides called Imotopes which is partnering with Pfizer on rheumatoid arthritis therapies. Mack was previously CFO at OncoImmune and its spinout OncoC4.
→ A triad of new execs is hoping to strike the right chord at San Diego-based Inhibrx, which rolled out results in October for its alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency drug INBRX-101. Eli Lilly vet David Matly (chief commercial officer) climbs aboard after four years at Novartis Oncology, and in his final year he was the global leader of the MDS/AML portfolio. David Kao (VP of regulatory affairs) owns regulatory experience from Roche, Daiichi Sankyo and Receptos/Celgene and was recently development program lead (immunoscience) at Bristol Myers. And after 12 years at Sanofi Genzyme, Jack Tsai (VP of business development) had a year-long stay as Takeda’s oncology and cell therapy new product business development lead before taking on this role.
Finally, Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute president Kristiina Vuori has been added to Inhibrx’s board of directors.
→ Philadelphia-based women’s cancer biotech Context Therapeutics has announced two updates to its C-suite. Jennifer Minai-Azary has taken over as CFO this month, and back in April, ex-Teva associate general counsel Alex Levit was appointed chief legal officer. Most recently, Minai-Azary served as CFO at Millendo Therapeutics, and Levit was VP, deputy general counsel and assistant corporate secretary of OptiNose.
→ One of the biotechs tackling the riddle wrapped in a mystery inside of an enigma known as NASH, Pennsylvania-based Madrigal Pharmaceuticals has recruited Stephen Dodge as global head of medical affairs and Kia Motesharei as SVP, business & corporate development. Dodge worked in medical affairs at Merck, Novo Nordisk and Novartis, changing course here after two years at Intercept that concluded as cholestasis program head. Motesharei just had a quick stay at another company out of Pennsylvania, NeuBase Therapeutics, as chief business and strategy officer. The ex-Genfit CFO has also been a business development exec at EMD Serono and Akcea.
→ Livija Deban has been promoted to CSO at Prokarium, a microbial immunotherapy biotech out of London with a lead program that targets non-muscle invasive bladder cancer. Deban, a Prokarium exec since 2018, previously got elevated to VP of research in 2020 from her original post — VP of immunology and oncology. Kristen Albright received the ultimate promotion in July at Prokarium, vaulting to CEO after a year as COO.
→ Ted Danse has hit the ground running as head of business development at Seattle presbyopia biotech Visus Therapeutics, which bagged a $36 million Series A in March. Danse, an Allergan and Schering-Plough alum, is the ex-CEO of ISTA Pharmaceuticals and Neurotech. Elsewhere at Visus, SV Health Investors venture partner David Guyer has been named chairman of the board after serving as an advisor since the company was founded in 2019.
→ CDMO AGC Biologics has recruited Jean-Baptiste Agnus as CBO. Agnus hails from Ajinomoto Bio-Pharma Services. Additionally, Agnus has served at Novasep and Isochem.
→ Brian Johnson is making his way back to Novan to take back the mantle of his former job as CCO. Johnson’s been busy since he parted ways with the company in 2018, busy working stints at Two Hearts Group, UCB and Galderma. Additionally, Johnson formerly served at Revian, Novartis, Ortho Pharmaceutical and Medicis.
→ Palo Alto, CA-based 180 Life Sciences has reeled in Quan Vu as COO/CBO. Vu hops aboard with experience from his times at LS Associates, Baleena Bioscience, Opiant Pharmaceuticals, Anthem and Amgen.
→ Hail to the victors: Located west of the University of Michigan, Strata Oncology — a startup that captured a $90 million Series C this summer with the help of Merck and Pfizer — has welcomed Jennifer Reyntjes as chief people officer. Reyntjes, who began her career at General Motors, comes from the animal health world after a year and a half as chief human resources officer for Mission Veterinary Partners.
→ BioCryst has promoted Jinky Ang Rosselli to the position of chief data and insights officer. Rosselli joined the NC-based company in 2015 as VP of global business analysis and operations. She made her way over to BioCryst from United Therapeutics, where she led the global business intelligence and insight team. Prior to that, Rosselli was with Talecris Biotherapeutics (now Grifols) and Novartis.
→ Better Therapeutics is welcoming aboard Thiago Licias de Oliveira as chief people officer. de Oliveira most recently served as head of global talent management for J&J Medical Devices.
→ Surf’s up: Steven Spector, who spent almost 20 years as general counsel at Arena Pharmaceuticals from 2001-20, has signed on at ex-Arena sub Longboard Pharmaceuticals in the same capacity. After his departure from Arena, Spector worked part-time as a general counsel and advisor for not just Longboard, but Dynavax and Galecto as well. Making its debut with a $56 million round in October 2020, Longboard ventured off to Nasdaq in March through an $80 million IPO.
→ Over in The Netherlands, AM-Pharma has appointed Alexander Bastian as VP, value and market access. Bastian held the same position at Galapagos, which has imploded impressively after the filgotinib fail with Gilead, before making the leap to AM-Pharma. Back in September, AM-Pharma partnered with Tokyo-based Kyowa Kirin for exclusive development and commercialization rights in Japan for its kidney drug, ilofotase alfa.
→ While grabbing a cool $275 million to help launch startups, Mission BioCapital has signed on Mike Taylor as operating partner and Steve Tregay as co-managing partner. Taylor comes with experience from his times at Pfizer, Ensemble Therapeutics and Deciphera Pharmaceuticals under his belt; while Tregay formerly served at Novartis and FORMA Therapeutics.
→ Brion Murray has been appointed SVP of research at Lengo Therapeutics, led by first-year CEO Enoch Kariuki. Before joining the San Diego-based Lengo, Murray was VP, cancer biology and translational research at Turning Point Therapeutics. He has also served as a research fellow at Pfizer.
Speaking of Lengo, its chairman Dave Johnson has been added to the board of directors at glyco-immunology biotech Palleon Pharmaceuticals, which racked up a nine-figure Series B last year to propel its lead candidate — a enzymatic sialoglycan degrader — toward the clinic. Johnson, the ex-CEO of VelosBio and Acerta Pharma, also chairs the board at Aura Biosciences.
→ If Laronde CEO Diego Miralles started singing the chorus of “We’re In the Money” after the Flagship company’s gigantic $440 million Series B in August, Peer Review wouldn’t begrudge him. This week Sheri McCoy and Pablo Cagnoni have been elected to the board of directors at Laronde, which is making a play at endless RNA (eRNA). McCoy devoted 30 years to J&J and was the pharma giant’s vice chair before becoming CEO of Avon, while Cagnoni has helmed Rubius Therapeutics since 2018.
→ Longtime Genzyme vet Richard Douglas, who has been on the board at MaxCyte since 2018, has now been appointed chairman. Douglas, a board member at Novavax, serves as an advisor at RedSky Partners and is chairman of Aldeyra Therapeutics.
→ Back in October, Esperion announced that it would cut 40% of its staff due to budget concerns over the course of the month and there’s also been a change at the top. On the brighter side of things, the biotech has announced the appointment of Seth Fischer to its board of directors. Fischer, a J&J alum, also serves as a board member for Agile Therapeutics, Spectrum Pharmaceuticals and Marinus Pharmaceuticals.
→ J&J alum Tom Graney is the latest member of the board of directors at Cambridge, UK startup Mogrify, which just brought in CSO Louise Modis last month. Graney, the current CFO at Oxurion, also held that role at Ironwood, Vertex and Generation Bio.
→ Graney is on the board of Andrea Pfeifer-led AC Immune, which is chaired by Codiak CEO Doug Williams and also includes Carl June and Evotec CEO Werner Lanthaler — and has grown further with the additions of Monica Shaw and Monika Bütler. Shaw is Leo Pharma’s EVP, head region for Europe, Canada and Australia, and Bütler is an economist who’s a board member with Schindler Group and Huber+Suhner.
→ Anemia-focused Akebia Therapeutics has a seat ready for Ron Frieson on the board of directors. A former chairman of the American Kidney Fund’s board of trustees, Frieson is COO at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.
→ After naming attorney Ken Clark to the board of directors a month ago, Bob Duggan’s Summit Therapeutics has appointed Urte Gayko to the board this week. Gayko worked for Duggan in regulatory affairs at Pharmacyclics in the 2010s and she’s now the SVP of drug development & regulatory affairs for Nektar.
→ Former Bristol Myers and Amgen R&D exec Elliott Levy has joined the board of directors at UK-based NuCana. Back in May, Levy became a board member at Omega Therapeutics and he previously chaired the board at TransCelerate BioPharma.
→ BriaCell Therapeutics has welcomed Jane Gross to its board of directors. Gross has previously served as CSO and SVP, research and non-clinical development at Aptevo Therapeutics and was VP, applied research and non-clinical development at Emergent BioSolutions.
→ Acepodia has recruited a couple industry veterans to its board of directors and scientific advisory board. Robin Andrulevich, who currently serves as EVP and chief people officer at Sana Biotechnology, will join the board of directors. For the SAB, Acepodia brings on Eileen Higham, who serves as SVP, head of technical operations at Intergalactic Therapeutics.
→ Adial Pharmaceuticals is adding former Indivior CFO Cary Claiborne to its board of directors. In addition to his past role at Indivior, Claiborne has served as CFO of Sucampo Pharmaceuticals and Osiris Therapeutics.
→ Kathy LaPorte is tacking on another board appointment to her résumé with her latest addition to 89bio. LaPorte formerly served as CEO of Nodality and currently sits on the boards of Bolt Therapeutics, Precipio and Phoenix Biotech Acquisition Corporation.