Peer Review

Roivant brings Pfizer vets Azoulay, Gulfo into its C-suite; Aileron CEO Joseph Yanchik is out

Salomon Azoulay

Vivek Ramaswamy has ushered two Pfizer vets into Roivant’s C-suite as he continues to build his vision for a Vant kingdom. New CMO Salomon Azoulay most recently held the same role at Pfizer Essential Health, the business unit in charge of a slate of marketed drugs. Adele Gulfo, who’s now chief of commercial development, got her start launching Lipitor and used to run the business development for AstraZeneca before joining Pfizer.

Adele Gulfo

Roivant not so long ago upped its involvement in both China and the infectious disease market by bagging rights to Nabriva’s lefamulin in the region. And then there was the launch of Genevant just a month ago, born out of a partnership with the RNAi specialists at Arbutus. With Axovant’s spectacular failure in Alzheimer’s still fresh in everyone’s mind, it’s a critical time for CEO Ramaswamy, a skilled fundraiser and financial engineer, to prove he is equally good in actually delivering new drugs.

“As the scale and scope of our pipeline continue to grow and we approach commercialization for several therapies across the Vants, Sam and Adele will work to ensure that our medicines reach patients as quickly as possible,” said Ramaswamy in a statement.

→ Having steered Aileron Therapeutics $ALRN into clinical stage and through an IPO, Joseph Yanchik is leaving his company of 12 years and all his roles, including president, CEO and board member. Biopharma consultant and two-time CEO John Longenecker has been brought in to fill the role on an interim basis. The Cambridge, MA-based biotech did not give a reason for Yanchik’s sudden departure in its press release, choosing instead to highlight mid-stage clinical plans for its lead oncology candidate. A venture partner at Apple Tree, Yanchik had helped found Aileron in 2005.

Bryan Irving

Genentech vet Bryan Irving just got a promotion at Five Prime Therapeutics $FPRX, where he will now be EVP and CSO. Irving, a key researcher in the development of Tecentriq, has a broad mandate to set discovery strategy and priorities for Five Prime’s immuno-oncology protein therapeutics pipeline. Prior to joining the South San Francisco biotech, he spent several years directing cancer immunology at CytomX.

→ Phase I data in hand, Sensei Biotherapeutics has named John Celebi president and CEO to cement its immuno-oncology platform and be the face of its new identity (until earlier this year, the company was known as Panacea Pharmaceuticals). Celebi paid his dues as COO of X4 Pharmaceuticals and CBO of Igenica Biotherapeutics, leading — respectively — their oncology and immunotherapy programs. He brings a string of dealmaking and alliance management records to Gaithersburg, MD-based Sensei, where his initial priority will be lead drug candidate SNS-301, a cancer vaccine developed with the SPIRIT platform which targets neoantigens or altered self-antigens encoded by tumor-specific mutant genes.

→ After co-founding and leading generics company Amneal Pharmaceuticals for 15 years, Chintu Patel is setting his sight on biosimilars. He is now the CEO of Adello Biologics, a monoclonal antibody specialist headquartered in Piscataway, NJ and currently focused on cancer. He succeeds Peter Moesta, Adello’s CEO for almost three years.

→ Diabetes expert Pawel Fludzinski has jumped from Eli Lilly to the helm of AmideBio. He replaces founding CEO Misha Plam, who will remain as president and chairman of the board. “AmideBio’s novel approach to developing glucose responsive insulins (GRI) promises to radically improve diabetes treatment,” said Fludzinski in a statement. “I look forward to leading the GRI effort as well as other growth opportunities.” During his lengthy tenure at Lilly, Fludzinski led a cross-functional team working through late-stage studies and global registration of Trulicity — a key franchise for its diabetes business unit.

→ Former Acerta Pharma exec Francisco Salva is taking his finance and operation expertise to the CEO post at Complexa. The Berwyn, PA-based company is developing a drug dubbed CXA-10 in pulmonary arterial hypertension and focal segmental glomerulosclerosis — both orphan indications — and has tasked Salva with advancing its Phase II development. Salva, who worked as a VC before moving on to start Acerta, is also expected to beef up the pipeline with more next-gen nitrated fatty acid compounds to treat fibrotic and inflammation based diseases.

Jeanne Magram

Quentis Therapeutics has put its $48 million of Series A dollars to use, recruiting Jeanne Magram back to New York City from Toronto’s Northern Biologics. As CSO, Magram will build on the young biotech’s scientific foundation about the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) pathways — with science coming out of Laurie Glimcher’s lab at Dana Farber — guiding drug discovery and development in “immuno-oncology and beyond.” While the spotlight now goes to a small molecule IRE1α inhibitor scheduled to enter the clinic in 2019, a pipeline of preclinical programs is expected to follow. That kind of early stage work is the sweet spot for Magram, who previously led Pfizer’s Centers for Therapeutic Innovation and did drug discovery work at Boehringer Ingelheim.

→ After tackling a number of oncology programs at Astellas Pharma, Pfizer and Eli LillyStephen Eck will now zero in on T cell therapies as CMO of Immatics. The biotech is based in Houston, with substantial ties to the MD Anderson Cancer Center — a collaborator Eck has gotten to know while coordinating clinical trials for Astellas. Eck is tasked with steering the preclinical-heavy pipeline toward clinical development.

Raymond Urbanski is getting promoted to president at GT Biopharma, on top of the CMO role that he’s been in for about eight months. According to CEO Shawn Cross, that reflects the critical contributions that Urbanski has made to the immuno-oncology biotech, ranging from scientific and clinical activities to talent recruitment and internal process management. While the experienced CMO had played similar roles at his former workplaces, including Pfizer, Mylan and MannKind, this marks his first time being president of a company.

Astellas is handing Bernhardt Zeiher, currently president of development, the additional role of CMO. The promotion means Zeiher will now be responsible for quality assurance in research and clinical activities, planning and administration, as well as regulatory affairs. A Pfizer vet, Zeiher joined Astellas’ Northbrook, IL headquarters as a leader of its inflammation, immunology and infectious diseases unit. He now has a much broader mandate regarding the whole pipeline — part of a corporate strategic plan devised by newly minted CEO Kenji Yasukawa.

→ Faced with a growing crisis over its $1.2 million in payments to President Donald Trump’s personal attorney Michael Cohen, Novartis $NVS announced early Wednesday that the company’s top lawyer has abruptly resigned in hopes of bringing the whole tawdry affair to an end. “Although the contract (with Cohen) was legally in order, it was an error,” said Felix Ehrat, group general counsel of Novartis, in a statement. “As a co-signatory with our former CEO, I take personal responsibility to bring the public debate on this matter to an end.”

→ With its Epitope-Specific Immuno-Therapy platform, ImmusanT has wooed Ken Truitt away from Daiichi Sankyo to become its CMO. Though Truitt is initially focused on the Phase II clinical development for Nexvax2 in celiac disease, CEO Leslie Williams hired him with the long view in mind, banking on his experience from preclinical up to NDA. The Arch-backed startup plans to explore its tech in other autoimmune diseases including type 1 diabetes.

→ In a bid to emerge as a “global, multi-product oncology company,” Seattle Genetics $SGEN has tapped Roger Dansey — a former Merck exec of Keytruda fame — as CMO. Previously the therapeutic head for late-stage oncology at Merck, Dansey inherits franchise drug Adcetris and a slate of early- to mid-stage drugs from longtime CMO Jonathan Drachman. Adcetris was recently approved for frontline Hodgkin lymphoma, its fifth indication, with plans for more. The company is counting on Dansey’s development and approval experience, dating back from his Gilead and Amgen days, to drive successful pivotal trials for other cancer drugs in its basket, some of which it picked up from the $614 million Cascadian buyout pact executed in January. Drachman will be on hand as a strategic adviser.   

Rodin Therapeutics has recruited three new execs in its quest to tackle synaptic resilience in Alzheimer’s disease — and beyond. Michael Ryan, a physician-scientist with neuroscience research backgrounds in Novartis and Pfizer, has been named CMO; Ex-Sunovion exec Anne Sullivan will lead corporate strategy as CBO; Steven Sweeney, formerly of Infinity Pharma and Arteaus Therapeutics, is now VP of clinical development operations. Guiding their efforts will be David Bleakman, a longtime Eli Lilly research exec who’s joined the scientific advisory board.

→ A new appointment has brought globetrotter Ralph Laufer to Cambridge, MA and Paris, where he will run gene therapy programs as CSO of Lysogene. Prior to joining the biotech, which focuses on orphan disease of the central nervous system, Laufer managed small molecule discovery and nonclinical development for Israel’s Teva — and that’s after directing a science park for a CRO in Italy.

Eliel Bayever has landed his first CMO role at Canada’s OncoQuest, continuing his career-long involvement with oncology therapeutics. With an immunotherapy asset in various stages of development for different indications, the company is counting on Bayever’s expertise in both early and late stage clinical studies to move its ovarian, pancreatic and breast cancer programs along. For Bayever, formerly of J&J and Merrimack, the potential that oregovomab has shown for frontline ovarian cancer in Phase II is the most exciting.

TP Therapeutics has brought in industry veteran Athena Countouriotis as EVP and CMO. In addition to her extensive experience in the job — having served in the role at Adverum, Halozyme and Ambit — the Orbimed-backed biotech also likes their alignment in the kinase inhibitor area. As San Diego-based TP Therapeutics unveils Phase I data for lead asset TPX-0005 (ropotrectinib), Countouriotis will help drive strategy for this and other programs addressing resistance to oncogene targeting cancer treatments.

→ New Haven, CT-based Trevi Therapeutics has appointed Christopher Seiter as CFO, putting all financial, treasury and accounting functions in his hands as it pursues late-stage studies of Nalbuphine ER in chronic pruritic conditions. An investment banker of 23 years, Seiter made the jump to biotech operations a couple years back at Millendo Therapeutics.

Keith Vendola is bringing his investment banking background to Rezolute, a metabolic and orphan diseases company based in Colorado. With two assets in Phase I and II, alongside plans to file an IND this year, the company believes Vendola’s expertise in finance and dealmaking could come into play.

Liquidia Technologies is already thinking about commercialization for its pulmonary arterial hypertension treatment, and it has recruited Jeri Thomas to develop those plans as SVP, commercial. Her marching orders will be to lead the launch of LIQ861, currently being evaluated in a Phase III safety trial. Before jumping to a marketing agency, Thomas made her rounds from Bristol-Myers Squibb and Roche to Janssen and The Medicines Company, in a variety of commercial roles.

→ Wall Street analyst Michael King has made the jump to biotech, taking up the position of entrepreneur in residence at Fortress Bio’s $FBIO NYC offices. He is expected to leverage his eye for promising therapies and knowledge about corporate structures to help expand Fortress Bio’s portfolio in oncology and under-the-radar diseases, adding to its 10 subsidiaries and over 25 development-stage therapies.

Rocket Pharmaceuticals $RCKT has named Gayatri Rao its first VP of regulatory policy and patient advocacy. Leaning on her experience as a former director of the FDA’s Office of Orphan Products Development, Rao will be trusted for direction to global regulatory policies and strategies for Rocket’s rare disease programs, some of which have readouts this week.


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