Peer Review

Richard Pascoe takes the helm at Histogen; Lonza COO steps up at CEO Richard Ridinger retires

Richard Pascoe

→ Having handed off troubled microcap biotech Apricus Biosciences to Seelos Therapeutics via a merger, Richard Pascoe is moving on to his next CEO (and chairman) gig at Histogen. The regenerative medicine developer is anticipating data from a clinical trial in female hair loss this year, and the board likes Pascoe’s experience in both fundraising and regulatory dealings. Pascoe also appears to have a penchant for companies that get absorbed, including Somaxon Pharma, Ariad and Pfizer-acquired King Pharma.  

→ While Lonza had investors’ attention with its full-year results, the Swiss drug manufacturer has announced that CEO Richard Ridinger is retiring from the company after seven years. Marc Funk, the current COO of the pharma and biotech division, will step up to the role on 1 March. Lonza adds that Ridinger, who has positioned the company for big roles in drug delivery tech as well as cell and gene therapy, “intends to build a portfolio of non-executive positions” moving forward.

→ Fibrotic disease drug developer Indalo Therapeutics has appointed Robert Jacks as its president and CEO, who comes from Symbiomix Therapeutics where he served as co-founder, president and CFO. The company is expected to take its lead drug, IDL-2965, into the clinic in early 2019.

Aarif Khakoo

Arthur Levinson has recruited an Amgen vet as Calico’s new head of development for everything in preclinical through Phase II development at Google’s buzzy anti-aging biotech. Aarif Khakoo, who most recently headed a team of 100 investigators doing the translational work at Amgen, is headed over to Calico, which has its base in South San Francisco. His earlier work left him in charge of everything from first-in-human to proof-of-concept studies for cardiometabolic, inflammation, neuroscience and oncology, as well as clinical biomarkers, in vitro diagnostics, and digital health.

→ After a brief stint at Celgene, Aleksandra Rizo is jumping over to Geron to head up late-stage development work for imetelstat. The new CMO worked on myeloid compound development during a lengthy career at J&J’s Janssen, where she oversaw this precise program before the pharma giant dumped its once highly touted pact with Geron. The setbacks, though, have not deterred the Menlo Park, CA-based biotech from opening up a New Jersey office to support the new clinical team under Rizo.

Corvus Pharmaceuticals $CRVS has scooped Mehrdad Mobasher from Genentech to be its CMO. As the development lead for venetoclax (Venclexta), Mobasher brings some fresh experience hustling blood cancer drugs through the clinic. Corvus’ most advanced experimental therapies, now in Phase I/Ib and Ib/II trials, both target the adenosine pathway.

Portola has appointed Merck vet Sheldon Koenig to fill the chief commercial officer position, which has been vacant since Tao Fu left for Zai Lab. In addition to 25 years at Merck’s cardiovascular unit, Koenig also brings experience leading business operations and international product launches for Sanofi. He will hit the ground running with the rollout of Andexxa, Portola’s $PTLA reversal agent for Factor Xa anticoagulants.

Dimitris Voliotis

→ After dedicating years of his academic and biopharma career to oncology, Dimitris Voliotis is broadening his therapeutic focus at mRNA specialist CureVac. The Bayer vet — who was most recently at Eisai — has been tapped as chief development officer, a role that gives him immense R&D responsibility from discovery to regulatory filing for the company’s pipeline of cancer as well as rare and infectious disease treatments. He will be based in the Boston office and make regular trips to the German biotech’s sites in Tübingen and Frankfurt.

GigaGen has elevated Adam Adler to CSO in recognition of his contribution to the company’s discovery research and growing R&D team — of microfluidic engineers, molecular biologists, immunologists, and cancer biologists — during his last five years as VP. A Genentech alum, Adler has been credited for creating GigaGen’s immune analysis and drug discovery technology, a big boost to its polyclonal antibody work, which is now partnered with Grifols. Other promotions include Rena Mizrahi, the new VP of process development, and Catherine Medina, VP of operations.

→ As Apellis Pharmaceuticals $APLS readies a pitch for its Phase III programs in geographic atrophy and paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria, the Kentucky biotech is opening an office in Switzerland. Thomas Lackner, the newly appointed SVP and head of Europe, will spearhead that effort as well as global commercialization for Apellis’ complement inhibitors. Lackner has been on the ground in the Swiss city of Zug for the past two years prepping a launch for Prothena’s ill-fated lead program, following a 15-year career at Biogen.

IQVIA vet Milena Kanova-Petrova is taking her 21 years of experience in project management to the young team at Nuvelution. As SVP of operations, she will consult with the late-stage assets that Nuvelution has brought under its wing through risk-sharing programs.

→ Looking to up its game in translational dermatology and immunology, Denmark’s LEO Pharma has recruited Thomas Hultsch, Sanofi’s clinical lead on Dupixent, to be its head of translational medicine. Hultsch, who began his industry career at Novartis, will help establish a new group in Boston.

→ San Diego-based Turning Point Therapeutics has hired Robert Xin to oversee early-stage studies and IND filings for its kinase inhibitors. Having filled a number of oncology roles at Pfizer, Roche/Genentech and Eli Lilly, Xin will now assume the title SVP of clinical development at Turning Point.

Kamada has appointed Teva vet Michal Ayalon to succeed Liliana Bar as the VP R&D retires from the company, which is focused on plasma-derived protein therapeutics.

→ Following a string of stints in the biopharma services world, Michael Rasche has taken a job as international business head Metabolon, a Triangle Park, NC-based company applying its metabolomics platform in research, drug discovery and development, diagnostics and therapy response.

Dynavax has named Heather Rowe, a seasoned exec with recent stints at Five Prime and Kythera, as its VP of investor relations and corporate communications.  

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Research Scientist - Immunology
Recursion Pharmaceuticals Salt Lake City, UT
Director of Operations
Atlas Venture Cambridge, MA

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