Randy Schatzman jumps to the helm of another start-up; Novo Nordisk vet lands top post at Macrophage Pharma
→ In biotech, long-term survival in the executive ranks can depend a lot on the quality of your connections in the venture/investing side of the business.
So when Randy Schatzman exited Alder after taking the company from conception to the threshold of a likely approval for a new migraine therapy, it was his relationship with longtime backers that led him to his new job as CEO of Bolt Biotherapeutics, announced this week.
Connections at Novo and another investor asked him to check out the Redwood City, CA startup, which has been working on what they call “immune-stimulating antibody conjugates” to turn cold tumors hot — a popular theme in the oncology field.
He was impressed with the technology and the team of about 35, which he expects to see double in size in the next 18 to 24 months. But the big move will be the shift to the clinic in Q1 2020, which is right around the corner now. Funding as always will be a key consideration for the startup, but Schatzman already knows just how committed the syndicate is — which helps considerably.
“I think I got some insights, building a company from scratch to the commercial environment,” Schatzman tells me. So he’ll stay focused on the fundamentals: tech and clinical development plans, recruitment, financing and making sure he has a rock-solid board backing him.
Schatzman’s advice for other CEOs: Having a “board that is rowing in the same direction,” he says.
He’s grabbing an oar to help set the tempo. — John Carroll
→ A few months after Synlogic — a pioneer in reengineering non-pathogenic bacteria into medicines — inked a collaboration with Ginkgo Bioworks, it’s appointed Richard Riese as CMO and Michael Slater as head of regulatory affairs. Riese most recently served as the vice president, clinical development at Alnylam and was previously at Alexion. Slater was the head of regulatory affairs and, later, development operations at Merrimack Pharmaceuticals, where he helped lead the company to the 2015 US approval of Onivyde for the treatment of metastatic pancreatic cancer. Slater has held various stints, including at Millennium Pharmaceuticals, Anika Therapeutics and Biogen. In addition, the company announced that CFO Todd Shegog will be hitting the exit to pursue other opportunities.
→ Paris-based Step Pharma — an autoimmune-focused biotech on the cusp of ushering its first oral nucleotide synthesis inhibitor targeting CTPS1 to the clinic — has wooed former Zealand Pharma CSO Andrew Parker as CEO, succeeding Geoffroy de Ribains. Parker announced his resignation from Zealand in early August after a three-year stint with the company. During his time at Zealand, Parker helped assemble a preclinical pipeline of ion channel blockers, GLP-1 assets and a complement C3 inhibitor. Prior to that, he was general partner and scientific director of life sciences investment company Eclosion2 & Cie SCPC. Parker’s previous stints include roles at AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson and Opsona Therapeutics.
“The company has made significant progress in optimizing selective CTPS1 inhibitors and exploring the role of CTPS1 in autoimmune diseases. My role will be to design and implement a plan to translate the phenomenal scientific progress made to date into a clinical pipeline,” noted Parker.
→ Novo Nordisk vet Søren Bregenholt is taking up his first CEO post at Macrophage Pharma in England to steer the startup through early efforts of applying its Esterase Motif Technology. CRT Pioneer Fund, Aglaia Oncology Fund II, Novo Holdings and M Ventures had pooled together £9 million back in 2017 for the ESM platform, which generates small molecule drugs that induce transcriptional reprogramming of monocytes and macrophages. The lead program targets p38 MAPK. While Bregenholt brings fresh experience in immuno-oncology from a brief CBO stint at IO Biotech, he is also talked with unlocking ESM’s potential in other diseases.
→ Ready to stake a bold claim in the nascent field of RNA modification, Accent Therapeutics has wooed seasoned dealmaker Shakti Narayan to become its CEO. Narayan, who most recently served as CBO of Tango Therapeutics, was credited for leading the biotech’s “transformational” collaboration with Gilead, which was worth up to $1.7 billion. Having specialized in oncology business development from Genentech to J&J, he will now team up with Accent president and CSO Robert Copeland in plucking the most promising inhibitory small molecule drugs (blocking RNA-modifying enzymes) in their discovery pipeline.
→ Months after Nightstar’s $800 million sale to Biogen, Akouos has scooped Gregory Robinson as CSO, leveraging his expertise in both gene therapy and rare disease translational research. While Robinson had focused on retinal disorders at Nightstar (and CNS diseases before that at Agilis Biotherapeutic), he will now turn his attention to sensorineural hearing loss. Also joining the C-suite is Michael McKenna, a co-founder of Akouos, who’s expanding his role to full-time CMO. A neurotologic surgeon at Massachusetts Eye and Ear, McKenna contributed years of research on inner ear drug delivery that was key to Akouos’ creation.
→ German cardiovascular and ophthalmology biotech Omeicos has named Simon Russell chief business officer as it approaches clinical proof-of-concept and dose confirmation for its atrial fibrillation program, OMT-28. Russell spent the earlier years of his career climbing the ranks at AstraZeneca and Novartis, ending as global commercial leader for the Swiss pharma giant’s ill-fated canakinumab. He has since made the trek to biotech and is now an entrepreneur in residence at the Basel Area accelerator BaseLaunch, co-founding his own company just weeks before joining Omeicos in Berlin. “Omeicos has a very promising therapeutic platform targeting one of nature’s most important cell-protective pathways,” Russell said of its synthetic epoxy eicosanoid analogs.
→ James Mackay has wooed a former colleague from Ardea Biosciences to help expand the clinical portfolio of his new startup, Aristea. Nihar Bhakta jumps to the CMO position from Gossamer Bio, where he was a project team leader. At San Diego-based Aristea he will keep a laser focus on inflammatory diseases, starting with a lead drug from AstraZeneca currently in Phase II. His prior experience spans Roche and Bristol-Myers Squibb.
→ Anticalin protein-based drugs focused Pieris Pharmaceuticals had some change-ups to its leadership team with the addition of Hitto Kaufmann as SVP and CSO and the announcement of the departure of Allan Reine, SVP and CFO. In this new role, Kaufmann will be responsible for the company’s drug discovery, protein engineering and biomanufacturing activities, while overseeing alliance management and serving as site head for its German R&D facility. Kaufmann held a stint at Sanofi before hopping over to the Boston, Massachusetts-based company. His prior experience spans roles at Boehringer Ingelheim and at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute in Melbourne. Pieris intends to initiate a search for a new CFO as Reine will be pursuing another business opportunity. Upon Reine’s resignation, Tom Bures, the company’s vice president of finance, will serve as treasurer and principal financial and accounting officer.
→ AbCellera has expanded its executive team with the additions of Andrew Booth as CFO and Tryn Stimart as general counsel. Booth makes the jump from the company’s board of directors and brings experience to the role from his previous stint at STEMCELL Technologies as vice president of instrumentation, CFO and CMO. Stimart draws from experience from his roles at Gibbons PC, Finnegan, Cooley and Womble Bond Dickinson, where he has represented clients from Gilead, Takeda, Gevo, Sunovion and Aptalis.
→ Data science company Genomics — which was founded in 2014 by four professors out of the University of Oxford — has brought on one of its founders, professor of statistical genetics Gil McVean, as chief information officer of the company. McVean is a founding director of the Big Data Institute (BDI) and brings experience from his time as head of bioinformatics and statistical genetics at Oxford’s Wellcome Centre for Human Genetics to the table.
→ After banking €12M to develop a drug for multiple system atrophy (MSA) — targeting toxic protein aggregation — in June, German biotech MODAG has appointed Johannes Levin as CMO. Levin brings experience in MSA along with a background in protein aggregation. He recently led a clinical MSA study with professor Armin Giese, CSO of MODAG — the findings were published in The Lancet Neurology. In his new role, Levin will be responsible for advancing the company’s lead candidate, anle138b, into the clinic.
→ EastGate Biotech has enlisted Bill Abajian to oversee the licensing and marketing of their liquid insulin mouth rinse solution for type 2 diabetes as COO. Abajian, who’s previously helped Generex commercialize an oral insulin spray in developing countries, will continue to focus on that part of the world. “We are on the cusp of major licensing initiatives and the company needs to be streamlined and focused to maximize shareholder value,” he said, adding about EastGate’s pink sheet stock: “The market reaction to our fundamental story has been extremely disappointing as shareholders choose to focus on the structural risks of dilution instead of the potential of the technology. We are about to change the paradigm on how a small biotech brings drugs to market.”
→ Terry-Ann Burrell has hopped over to Beam Therapeutics — a company founded by CRISPR trailblazers David Liu, Feng Zhang and J Keith Joung — after a stint as managing director at JP Morgan. During her time at JP Morgan, Burrell helped execute over $10 billion in equity and equity-linked financings and more than $50 billion in M&A transactions. Prior to that, Burrell worked in equity research at Citigroup, covering specialty pharmaceuticals and generics.
→ Jernej Godec has joined VC firm Atlas Venture. Prior to hopping on board to Atlas, Godec was the senior associate at Apple Tree Partners, involved in building Elstar Therapeutics, an ATP-founded company developing next-generation of multifunctional immunomodulatory antibodies for cancer, where he also served as a board observer.
→ Kallyope — focused on identifying and pursuing therapeutic opportunities involving the gut-brain axis — has welcomed Juha Lauren aboard as CBO. Lauren joins the company after a stint as senior director, business development and R&D strategy at Regeneron, focusing on deals with Alnylam, bluebird bio and Intellia Therapeutics. Lauren began as a neuroscientist, publishing studies in journals including Nature and Neuron before launching his business career as a management consultant with Accenture.
→ Tracey Franklin has been chosen as the chief human resources officer at Moderna — a company developing mRNA therapeutics and vaccines. Franklin hops over after a 15-year stint at Merck, serving as vice president, HR chief talent and strategy officer.
→ Scholar Rock — focused on diseases in which protein growth factors play a fundamental role — has brought George Nomikos into their company as vice president, head of medical research, muscle franchise. In this new role, Nomikos will be the medical lead for the SRK-015 program in Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) as well as future clinical programs in the muscle franchise. Prior to jumping on board, Nomikos served as the senior medical director, global medical lead for the BIIB054 clinical program for Parkinson’s at Biogen. Nomikos’ previous clinical work contributed to the approval of antidepressant vortioxetine and the acceptance of the drug label updates in the US and EU. His other stints include roles at Sage Therapeutics, Takeda, Astellas Pharma, Amgen and Eli Lilly.
→ Kevin Duffy has hopped from Merck and onboard to Northwest Biotherapeutics — developing DCVax immune therapies for solid tumor cancers, such as Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) — as vice president, medical affairs and external collaborations. At Merck, Duffy served as research scientific director for the past five years in the Keytruda program. Prior to his work at Merck, Duffy served in various roles, including as regional scientific manager for oncology and cardiovascular therapeutics at AstraZeneca.
→ While its lead product candidate, losmapimod, is currently in a Phase IIb trial to investigate its potential use in facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy (FSHD), Fulcrum Therapeutics has ushered in Pamela Strode as their senior vice president, regulatory affairs and quality assurance. Strode jumps to the company after a stint in the same role at Epizyme, where she directed multiple US fast track and US/EU orphan drug designations. Strode formerly served at Bristol-Myers Squibb, Boehringer Ingelheim and Cerulean Pharma.
→ While collaborating with Jazz Pharmaceuticals in developing PF743, a recombinant crisantaspase, and PF745, a recombinant crisantaspase with half-life extension technology, Pfenex has announced the appointment of Steve Kay to its scientific advisory board. Kay currently serves as the Director of the University of Southern California (USC) MESH Academy, the Director of the USC Michelson Center for Convergent Bioscience, and is a Provost Professor of Neurology, Biomedical Engineering and Biological Sciences at the Keck School of Medicine of USC.
→ Aleta Biotherapeutics has made some new additions to its board of directors, with the appointments of Mark Leuchtenberger as executive chairman and Eva-Lotta Allan as non-executive director. Leuchtenberger presently serves as the interim CEO at Brooklyn ImmunoTherapeutics and Allan is the current non-executive director for Targovax and Crescendo Biologics, as well as chairman of C4X Discovery.
→ Lyra Therapeutics — a biotech focused on developing medicines to target ear, nose and throat (ENT) diseases — has welcomed Genzyme vet, Ann Merrifield, to its board of directors. Previously, Merrifield served as the CEO of PathoGenetix.