Peer Review

Sanuj Ravindran to lead PellePharm as CEO; Paul Hastings leaves OncoMed; Moderna taps John Mendlein as president

Sanuj Ravindran

→ A new president and CEO, Sanuj Ravindran, will lead PellePharm into this year’s Phase III trial for its skin cancer drug. PellePharm, which specializes in rare genetic dermatological conditions, has received breakthrough therapy and orphan drug designations for patidegib, which treats Gorlin syndrome. Ravindran comes to PellePharm — and BridgeBio, PellePharm’s lead investor, where he will be CEO-in-residence — from rare disease biotech aTyr. For two years, he led corporate and financial strategy as chief business officer. Once a practicing physician, Ravindran learned about the industry as a venture capitalist for a decade before diving into biotech at the Medicines Company. He will be assisted at PellePharm by an executive team that just got bigger: Alix Alderman has been named VP of regulatory affairs and Gerd Kochendoerfer is the new VP of technical operations and program management.

→ Seattle-based OncoResponse has tapped scientific talent from AbbVie and Celgene to bolster its immuno-oncology therapeutic antibody programs. New CSO Anil Singhal headed global approvals of Empliciti in multiple myeloma and Zinbryta in multiple sclerosis while at AbbVie — the latest on a long list of biopharma companies on his resume. Kamal Puri, who will become VP of R&D, helped Gilead win approval of Zydelig before joining Celgene.

Wendy Young just got a promotion at Genentech that puts her in charge of a larger small molecule research team. A medicinal chemist by training and formerly VP of discovery chemistry, Young succeeds Bruce Roth — the atorvastatin (Lipitor) discoverer who retired at the end of 2017 — as SVP. While she’s been leading BTK protein efforts at Genentech, her expertise spans oncology, cardiovascular disease, central nervous system diseases and immunology.

Paul Hastings

→ Shortly after partially returning from medical leave, Paul Hastings has resigned from OncoMed $OMED, where he held the triple position of chairman, president and CEO. In the interim, the cancer therapy biotech will deploy a similar setup to that when Hastings was away: the two-men office of the president will continue to perform the duties of president and CEO, with EVP of R&D John Lewicki and EVP/CFO Sunil Patel still in charge. Perry Karsen is newly appointed chairman of the board while Jack Lasersohn — formerly lead director of a special committee — remains on the board. With 12 years at the helm behind him, Hastings said he is moving to new professional opportunities.

→ Two months after passing the reins of aTyr, John Mendlein has landed the company president job at biotech unicorn Moderna, with responsibility for corporate and product strategy. For CEO Stéphane Bancel, a prominent — if unusual — new hire like this underscores the many moving parts associated with a fast-growing portfolio of pipeline projects: the introduction of combination approaches, major league partners, the creation of a full fledged manufacturing operation for personalized products and a blockbuster investment effort designed to make Moderna a pioneer in messenger RNA. An attorney by training, Mendlein will be shouldering part of the strategy load now, as well as directing the BD and IP parts of the operation. And it’s something Mendlein, a board member, is excited about: “I’ve been associated with companies with great platforms and science. The science here is absolutely terrific and the breadth of the applications is stunning.”

John Sullivan-Bolyai has stepped down from the CMO role at hep B virus fighter ContraVir Pharmaceuticals $CTRV after a two-year stint. He remains involved in the company’s strategic decisions as a consultant and member of its scientific advisory board.

Vivus $VVUS has named Thomas King as interim CEO following the departure of Seth Fischer. The small pharma has two products in the market targeting weight loss and sexual health, respectively, and is working on a third that treats pulmonary arterial hypertension. A J&J vet, Fischer will receive a total of $1.8 million in the separation.

→ Looking down the road for BLA filings in 2019 and 2020, Agenus $AGEN has onboarded three senior staff members to advance combination clinical programs for its immune checkpoint antibodies and cancer vaccines. Hagop Youssoufian, a former CMO of BIND Therapeutics, will serve as senior clinical strategist for all trials. BioNTech vet John Castle will head translational medicine and informatics, building on his earlier work on neoantigens at the company. Lastly, University of Texas professor Tyler Curiel was appointed senior strategist for translational and biomarker development.

→ New York City startup Syntimmune has recruited Biogen’s former head of global operations Jean-Paul Kress to lead the company as president and CEO. Kress takes over from David de Graaf, who’s been CEO since mid-2016 but who is now resigning from his position and the company’s board. Kress had a relatively short stint at Biogen, where he worked as executive vice president, president international, and head of global therapeutic operations from June 2017 until now. Before that, he was at Sanofi Genzyme as vice president and head of North America, where he played a key role in launching dupilumab, among other products. That background in immunology comes in handy as Syntimmune advances its pipeline of autoimmune products, featuring leading drug SYNT001.

Werner Cautreels

Selecta Biosciences $SELB is hunting for a new president and CEO after Werner Cautreels announced his plans to retire at the end of 2018. It turned out the hiring of a new CFO and CCO in recent months was leading up to his departure. During his seven-year tenure at the biotech working on immune responses, Cautreels oversaw a $70 million IPO and high profile collaboration with Spark. Prior to joining Selecta at Watertown, MA, Cautreels held management positions in several biotechs between Europe and the United States, ending in the CEO role at Belgium’s Solvay Pharmaceuticals (later acquired by Abbott). Selecta co-founder Omid Farokhzad of Harvard will now step in as chairman as the leadership transitions. “Under Werner’s leadership, we have built the company with a promising and diverse pipeline of proprietary product candidates as well as licensed product development opportunities,” said Farokhzad in a statement. “I have greatly enjoyed working with Werner over the past seven years.”

→ Just ahead of its rebranding as Syneos Health $SYNH, INC Research/inVentiv Health $INCR announced that CFO Greg Rush is leaving at the end of April to pursue an opportunity at a private company. Having served in the role for four years, Rush “played an important role in INC Research’s initial public offering, successfully merging INC Research and inVentiv Health and building great momentum in our integration,” said CEO Alistair Macdonald. The CRO has started looking for another CFO, but in case it doesn’t have someone by Rush’s departure, Jason Meggs (EVP and CFO, commercial solutions) will act as interim CFO.

Joseph Lobacki

→ As Verastem $VSTM hustles duvelisib data to the FDA, it is already thinking about commercialization — and trusting Joseph Lobacki to the task. The new chief commercial officer and EVP did a brief stint as COO of Finch Therapeutics after leaving Pfizer’s Medivation. “I am motivated to work with the leadership team to execute on the launch strategy as we work toward bringing duvelisib to market as an important new oral monotherapy for patients in need of additional treatment options,” said Lobacki.

Paul Stead has joined TCR T-cell therapy player Adaptimmune $ADAP as VP of business development. A GSK vet, Stead previously held the same position at Inovio Pharma and Nimbus Pharma.

→ Knee-deep in PhII/III studies, Austin-based lung disease biotech Savara $SVRA has recruited Peter Ginsberg as VP of business development. A former analyst, Ginsberg brings experience with licensing, acquisition and selling a priority review voucher.

Sigilon Therapeutics, a biotech that lists Flagship Pioneering and Bob Langer among its co-founders, has tapped Eli Lilly vet David Moller as CSO. Having helped discover and develop some new therapeutic technologies, Moller will now drive forward a “living therapeutic” platform that programs cell implants to manufacture proteins needed to treat different diseases.

→ Newly public Spero Therapeutics $SPRO has brought in David Melnick to work on its multidrug-resistant (MDR) bacterial infections treatments as CMO. Most recently a VP at Allergan, Melnick was also involved in a slate of anti-infectives during his 15-year run at AstraZeneca. The Cambridge, MA-based biotech raised $77 million in its IPO back in November.

→ Amid OvaScience’s announcement of a (second) massive restructuring came the positive news about the appointment of new CSO James Lillie, who will lead preclinical efforts. The Waltham, MA-based fertility company $OVAS is focusing on early-stage R&D, one of the programs being OvaTure, a treatment using cells to make fertilizable eggs. Fresh off the position of VP, in vitro biology at Genzyme, Lillie will oversee that and everything related to the platform tech.

Brian Roberts, a longtime financial officer who’s most familiar with medtech, is the new CFO at Tarveda Therapeutics, developer of solid tumor-targeting drug conjugates called Pentarins.

Kristine Peterson, former biotech company group chairman at J&J and ex-CEO of Valeritas, has added Immunocore’s non-executive director to her list of board membership. Consumer retail executive Laura Wade-Gery has also been appointed to the board.


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BIO 2018