Shinichi Tamura reclaims the throne at Sosei; Jeff Abbey exits Argos for Novadip; Frank Czerwiec is the new CMO at Goldfinch
→ Jeff Abbey is jumping to the helm of Belgium’s Novadip Biosciences after leading Argos Therapeutics as president and CEO for the past eight years. Having led Novadip’s autologous cell therapy through a Phase I/IIa trial in spinal fusion patients, founding CEO Jean-François Pollet decided it’s time to pass the reins to a more experienced chief executive. And Abbey — whose experience includes overseeing a Phase III trial, raising over $250 million in private financings and an IPO, and sealing several partnerships — fits the bill.
→ The suspense over who will succeed John Milligan at Gilead has finally ended. Daniel O’Day, current CEO of Roche’s pharma division, has been tapped for the top job, Gilead announced days before Milligan is set to depart from his corner office. O’Day’s appointment ushers in a new era for the Foster City, CA-based big biotech, which Milligan and his predecessor, John Martin, ran for nearly three decades, creating an HIV powerhouse and an industry-dominating hepatitis C franchise.
Before O’Day assumes his role on March 1, 2019, Gregg Alton — a 20-year veteran of the company who’s served as general counsel and, most recently, chief patient officer — will man the fort as interim CEO.
→ Shinichi Tamura’s experiment with putting a Westerner at the helm of Sosei in a bid to make the Japanese pharma company a more global operation has come to a close. Tamura — who founded the company — is now reclaiming the helm he handed to Peter Bains after limiting himself to the chairman’s position.
Sosei, which acquired UK-based Heptares’ GPCR platform in a $400 million deal back in 2015, isn’t backing away from the move to go global. Tamura says he is still intent on that strategy, with new investments being planned in R&D.
→ Jeff Jonker — an ex-lawyer who was part of the executive team at NGM Bio that inked a $450 million research deal with Merck in 2015 — has risen to the ranks of CEO, at Third Rock-backed Ambys Medicines. The announcement comes months after the company — named after the Mexican salamander famed for regenerating limbs — secured $140 million in launch money and an elusive deal with Japan’s Takeda. The Redwood City, California-based company is targeting liver disease on three fronts: cell therapy for liver regeneration; gene therapy for liver restoration; and small molecule therapy to replace lost protein function.
Jonker takes over the reins from Third Rock’s venture partner Jeff Tong, who was brought in to serve as interim CEO until a permanent executive was found. Tong will now move to the role of chairman.
→ Entering a season of change, RNA biotech ProQR $PRQR has appointed four new execs as it prepares for two retirements. Aniz Girach, CMO, jumps from the same role at Nightstar Therapeutics to lead the retinal disease program; Novartis vet Tiffany Burt will be VP, head of commercial; Celgene’s Lisa Hayes has been hired as VP of investor relations and corporate communications; CFO Smital Shah will add chief business officer to her title. Meanwhile chief corporate development officer and general counsel René Beukema and Robert Cornelisse — chief of people and organization — will retire at year-end 2018.
→ With an IND in sight for its lead program, Goldfinch Bio has scooped Frank Czerwiec from Otsuka Pharma, where he’s worked for 20 years ending in VP, global clinical development role. As CMO, Czerwiec will have oversight on the entire kidney disease pipeline with a keen eye on the latest breakthroughs in the genetics of what triggers the ailments.
→ More than a year into Genocea’s $GNCA quest to remake itself into a player in personalized therapies, the company is ready to scout some deals. Enter Girish Aakalu, the new chief business officer with stints at Ipsen, Pfizer and Genentech. “(W)e believe that Girish will help us maximize our pipeline opportunities and capitalize on the myriad of possible applications of our ATLAS platform, which uses each patient’s immune response machinery to identify and characterize antigens, rather than relying on predictive approaches,” said Chip Clark, president and CEO.
→ As Adaptimmune $ADAP transitions into the clinical stage, chief technology officer Gwen Binder is signing off her historic role at the company to pursue other opportunities in early development and technical innovation. Binder first joined the biotech’s US office in 2011, managing what began as a one-woman translational collaboration with the University of Pennsylvania. She will depart in January 2019.
→ Adam Schechter is stepping down as president of global human health at Merck, triggering a reorganization of the pharma giant’s commercial organization. Frank Clyburn has been promoted to chief commercial officer while Micheal Nally assumes the chief marketing officer post.
→ Sailaja Puttagunta has joined Israeli biotech BiomX as CMO, tasked with steering its microbiome programs in acne and irritable bowel disease to the clinic — with trials slated for mid 2019 and 2020 respectively. An anti-infective expert formerly of Pfizer and Allergan, Puttagunta most recently served as VP of development at Iterum Therapeutics.
→ Cancer detection company Grail has appointed ex-Morgan Stanley managing director Catherine Friedman to the head of its board, replacing Bill Rastetter. Concurrently Alex Aravanis, a co-founder, is getting promoted to the CSO and head of R&D role.
→ Pushing a plan to establish commercial manufacturing capabilities in the US, Cellectis has tapped Dendreon vet William Monteith to oversee the cell manufacturing plant it’s building to support its off-the-shelf CAR-T therapies.
→ Following a couple of deals to beef up its immuno-oncology pipeline, CStone Pharma has hired Archie Tse to fill the newly created role of SVP and chief translational medicine officer, responsible for early-stage assets up to proof-of-concept. Trained at Memorial Sloan Kettering, Tse has previously led oncology programs at Merck and Daiichi Sankyo.
→ Nkarta Therapeutics has hired Matthew Plunkett to be CFO and SVP, citing his mix of management — at the likes of Medeor Therapeutics and CTI BioPharma — and investment banking experience.
→ Enzyvant, a member of the Roivant family focused on rare diseases, has appointed biopharma vet George Elston as CFO and head of corporate development. Elston was most recently president and CEO of 2X Oncology.
→ Christian Jones is the first chief commercial officer at Nanoform, joining the drug particle engineering company with a background in API development and manufacturing.