Peer Review

Sunao Manabe takes top job at Daiichi Sankyo in wake of AstraZeneca deal; CAR-T player Celyad promotes Filippo Petti to CEO

Sunao Manabe

→ Barely a day after Daiichi Sankyo wrapped a mammoth collaboration deal with AstraZeneca, the Japanese pharma announced a succession plan for its CEO. George Nakayama, who’s keeping his chairman seat, is passing the reins to Sunao Manabe, currently president and COO. This marks one of the final transitions as Nakayama winds down his decades-long career run with the company, starting at Daiichi subsidiary Suntory in 1979. He delegated the president role two years ago.

Celyad, the Belgian biotech now making a low-profile run for off-the-shelf CAR-T success alongside more prominent peers like Cellectis, Servier and Allogene, has promoted CFO Filippo Petti to CEO. He replaces Christian Homsy, who’s stepping aside to a non-executive, supporting role after leading the company through a transition from stem cell therapy for the heart to immuno-oncology during his 12-year tenure.

→ Palm Beach Gardens, Florida-based Xcovery has tapped two Big Pharma vets for top posts at its oncology operation. Li Mao, a long time academic, is taking the helm after a stint as head of the Johnson & Johnson China Lung Cancer Center. Giovanni Selvaggi, who’s served roles at GlaxoSmithKline, Novartis and Bristol-Myers Squibb in the past nine years, joins as CMO. Together, they will steer development of ensartinib and vorolanib, Phase III and Phase I/II drugs for ALK-positive non-small cell lung cancer and thoracic cancer, respectively — both indications that Selvaggi became familiar with over the course of both his medical and industry careers.

Willem Scheele

→ As Imara gets up to full speed with its mid-stage program for sickle cell disease, the biotech has wooed Pfizer’s rare disease head to be its permanent CMO. Having scored a $63 million round co-led by Arix and OrbiMed just days ago, the Cambridge, MA-based biotech is anticipating some data on its experimental med IMR-687, a phosphodiesterase-9 inhibitor, by June. Scheele replaces Shi Yin Foo, an exec of the orphan drug accelerator Cydan who was helping out on an interim basis.

Rekha Hemrajani is joining Arcus Biosciences $RCUS as chief operating and financial officer, a role that combines her experience at FLX Bio and 3-V Biosciences. The biotech, led by Terry Rosen’s crew at Flexus, is busy evaluating several Phase I readouts for its slate of cancer drugs: AB928, a dual A2a/A2b receptor antagonist; AB154, an anti-TIGIT antibody, and AB680, a small-molecule CD73 inhibitor.

Shreeram Aradhye has followed his old colleague Bill Hinshaw out Novartis’ doors and into Axcella’s C-suite. As EVP and chief development officer, Aradhye will steer the Flagship-founded biotech’s non-IND clinical studies focused on reprogramming metabolism with endogenous metabolic modulators. Karen Lewis, Biogen’s former head of human resources, has also come on board in a similar role.

→ After working with Abingworth on a number of co-investments (including Wilson Therapeutics and Valneva) as a senior partner at MVM Partners, Bali Muralidhar is joining Tim Haines’ prominent biotech fund. He will become part of a global team spread between London, Boston and Menlo Park that identifies new investment opportunities and supports startups in the existing portfolio.

Turning Point Therapeutics has hired experienced healthcare communicator Jim Mazzola to lead corporate communications and investor relations as it preps its lead kinase inhibitor for a Phase II trial in the second half of the year.

→ In Abzena’s latest effort to beef up its management team, the biologics contract research organization is appointing Campbell Bunce and Bo Adair to the new positions of CSO and SVP process and operations. Bunce will keep his other role as the head of Abzena’s Cambridge, UK, which he’s filled since 2015. Adair, on the other hand, comes from a regular consulting gig following a recent job at Aptuit.

WindMIL Therapeutics has tapped Sanjin Zvonić, a seasoned exec who most recently led Progenitor Cell Therapy’s integration into Hitachi, to lead its processes and manufacturing.   

“At WindMIL, we’re always looking to the future of cancer immunotherapy, so Sanjin’s ability to bridge research and manufacturing makes him an ideal fit for us as we deliver both the current generation of MILs and look toward developing the next generation,” interim CEO Don Hayden said, referring to the Baltimore biotech’s marrow-infiltrating lymphocytes technology.

→ On the heels of a second glaucoma drug approval, Aerie Pharmaceuticals $AERI has  recruited Angela Justice (formerly of Sun Pharma) as western regional director, medical science liaison, and Brian Sakurada (formerly of Intarcia Therapeutics) as director of scientific market access. Concurrently, Novartis alum David Ellis is joining as director of chemistry while  Karisma Sharma has been named VP, human resources.

→ After trying out research and early development at Roche and Novartis, Shaolian Zhou has returned to the CRO world. He is now the SVP and lab director for bioanalytical services at Worldwide Clinical Trials, responsible for the overall operations of the lab facility in Austin.

→ As Intra-Cellular Therapies plots a turnaround and quick launch for its schizophrenia drug lumateperone, it has appointed Bristol-Myers Squibb vet John Bardi to spearhead market access, policy and government affairs. Bardi jumps to the New York-based biotech $ITCI from Otsuka, where he played a similar role in bringing the antipsychotic Abilify to market.

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

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