Synergy CEO passes torch to CCO Troy Hamilton; President Steven Kafka resigns from Foundation; AbbVie vet John Leonard to helm Intellia
→ Marking a new phase for the biotech, Synergy Pharmaceuticals $SYGP announced that co-founder and Trulance co-inventor Gary Jacob is passing the CEO baton to Troy Hamilton. Joining Synergy in 2015, Hamilton was chief commercial officer and EVP, steering the launch and commercialization of Trulance. The chronic idiopathic constipation drug is right up Hamilton’s alley, as he managed the gastrointestinal unit at Shire for nine years after spending much of his career at Janssen and McNeil Specialty Products. “One of my initial areas of focus will be to work with our CFO, Gary Gemignani, and the Synergy management team to continue to refine our business plan and focus on achieving cost efficiencies throughout the company while prioritizing investments that will drive significant Trulance growth,” Hamilton said in the statement. He also made sure to thank Jacob, who will continue his involvement with the company as executive chairman of the board.
→ President and COO Steven Kafka has informed Foundation Medicine $FMI of his intention to resign next February, triggering a leadership reshuffle that adds the president title to CEO Troy Cox and COO role to SVP of international markets Konstantin Fiedler. Kafka’s tenure at Foundation lasted almost five years, noticeably longer than his stints at other biotechs including Millennium Pharmaceuticals and Aileron Therapeutics. Cox and Fiedler are both relatively new to the biotech, but each had spent time at some big name companies before landing here.
→ Cambridge, MA-based startup Disarm Therapeutics has lured Peter Keller to join as chief business officer after seven years at Selecta Biosciences. Keller hasn’t always worked in biotech — he was a management consultant for a decade — but while in the industry, he has been involved in an acquisition, a big IPO and a billion-dollar deal. While we haven’t heard much about where Disarm’s axonal degeneration-preventing tech is headed, we now know Keller will be shaping part of it.
→ As Joe Jimenez continues to search for his next big break after Novartis (ideally in Silicon Valley), he will spend some time in Cincinnati as a member of Procter & Gamble’s board of directors. Consumer business is familiar turf for Jimenez, who worked top jobs at Heinz before taking the reins of the Swiss pharma giant.
→ In a clear signal that CRISPR/Cas9 player Intellia Therapeutics is pivoting to a Phase I, John Leonard, founding chief medical officer, is being kicked up to the CEO’s office. Having led the biotech $NTLA through a quick and successful IPO in 2016, Atlas partner Nessan Bermingham will return to biotech venture capital. The R&D trek will likely be long, with rivals Editas and CRISPR Therapeutics — who are still fighting over the IP — determined to have a slice of the market. The board is putting its faith in Leonard, the former top scientist at AbbVie who worked on HIV and HCV while taking a lead role on Humira during his 22-year tenure.
→ Genzyme vet Marc Becker will be Concert Pharma’s new CFO, after a brief stint at CRISPR Therapeutics. The Lexington, MA-based biotech $CNCE is preparing to broaden its pipeline of deuterium chemistry product candidates — a pipeline where four out of five programs are currently partnered — and Becker will be very much involved in that, according to a statement.
→ Paris-based Acticor Biotech has tapped Yannick Plétan as its first chief medical officer. A spinoff from the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research, the 4-year-old company is developing an antithrombotic agent for the acute phase of ischemic stroke. Plétan’s clinical and medical experience at Roche and Pfizer will be important as Acticor navigates the next trial phase for its lead candidate ACT017.
→ Rajesh Shrotriya, the 15-year chairman and CEO of Spectrum Pharmaceuticals, has been fired, the company announced Sunday. The termination triggered a chain of leadership changes: current president and COO Joseph Turgeon is now president and CEO, as well as a board of director member; director Stuart Krassner fills the chairman seat; and Thomas Riga (EVP, CCO and head of business development) becomes COO. Turgeon is an Amgen vet who used to oversee commercial activities for Spectrum.
→ In line with CEO George Scangos’ vision for Vir Biotechnology to be a science-driven company, immunologist Antonio Lanzavecchia has been brought on as SVP and senior research fellow. His main charge is to provide scientific leadership for Vir’s technical programs looking into serious infectious diseases. While doing that for the San Francisco upstart, he will continue his roles as director of the Institute for Research in Biomedicine in Bellinzona, Switzerland and as professor at the Università della Svizzera italiana.
→ Following November’s IPO, Apellis Pharmaceuticals $APLS has appointed Timothy Sullivan, formerly a VC firm partner, as CFO. Sullivan has spent the past three years as an observer on Apellis’ board of directors, as the Kentucky biotech took its Soliris rival drug and age-related macular degeneration therapy further along the pipeline, raising money even after a foiled first IPO attempt. Now Apellis is ready to enter Phase III trials for both programs in 2018, and in his new role, Sullivan will lead the development of its financing and growth strategy.
→ Longtime EVP and CFO Ryan Maynard is resigning from South San Francisco-based Rigel Pharmaceuticals $RIGL for undisclosed reasons (but certainly not due to a dispute or disagreement with the company, according the to SEC filing). Nelson Cabatuan, current VP of finance, will step in as the interim principal accounting officer while the biotech searches for a replacement ahead of its lead drug’s PDUFA date.
→ Bellerophon Therapeutics $BLPH has quietly hired a new CFO, Assaf Korner, to replace Megan Schoeps, who resigned a couple weeks ago. Korner has worked a slate of financial jobs at medical device and consumer product companies such as Syneron Medical, Iluminage Beauty and KPMG.
→ After wowing investors with its BCMA-targeting CAR-T at ASH, bluebird bio $BLUE turned to its internal operations and named Kory Wentworth VP of finance and principal accounting officer. A veteran of big public accounting firms, Wentworth cut his teeth in biotech controllership during his 9-year run at Alexion. He fills the shoes of Jeffrey Walsh, the biotech’s chief financial and strategy officer, who will continue to serve in the principal financial role.
→ British discovery and development service provider Concept Life Sciences has hired Andrew Scott as head of bioassay development and screening, and Magalie Ferbach as business development director for Southern and Central Europe. Scott has experience spanning pharma, biotech and CRO, while Ferbach’s background is in agrochemicals. These appointments wrap up Concept’s expanding year, marked by the acquisition of Aquila Biomedical in Edinburgh and opening of new laboratory space at Alderly Park.