Tillman Gerngross leads a pack of biotech CEOs out the door; With eyes on pipeline expansion, Poseida woos a gene therapy exec from Novartis
As market volatility sweeps through the landscape, CEO changes are really ramping up, and topping the list is Tillman Gerngross, a force in the antibody space who hitched his wagon to finding another Covid-19 solution by co-founding Adagio Therapeutics. With big investors backing him, the big dreams sputtered when ADG20 proved less effective against Omicron in December. Gerngross has now resigned as CEO, handing things over to COO David Hering on an interim basis until a permanent successor is named. No stranger to the Covid vaccine fight, Hering was poached from his role as global mRNA business lead of Pfizer in July 2021.
The pandemic threw a wrench in Jeff Marrazzo’s plans to exit Spark earlier, while the company settled in as a wholly-owned subsidiary of Roche. But the founding CEO feels the time is right to walk away from the Luxturna maker on April 1 and hand things over to Pfizer alum Ron Philip, the COO for the last year and a Spark exec since 2017. For Marrazzo, another CEO gig isn’t on the horizon: “I’m looking to move from being very deep, as I’ve been for the last 11 years at Spark, to being broader and working with a multitude of different leaders and founders that are trying to do things,” he told Endpoints News.
Although specifics weren’t disclosed as to why Mark Rothera stepped down from Silence Therapeutics this week, our Max Gelman points out that Craig Tooman’s M&A bona fides could be a determining factor as to why he succeeded him — two weeks removed from releasing a study of its siRNA candidate SLN360 for heart disease. Tooman, taking the job after a year as Silence’s finance chief, was previously CEO of Leawood, KS-based animal health company Aratana Therapeutics until it merged with Elanco in 2019. He was also CFO and COO at Vyome Therapeutics.
Scott Carmer tendered his resignation last week at T cell immunotherapy player NexImmune a year after its Nasdaq debut, and the Gaithersburg, MD biotech has filled the vacancy by promoting Big Pharma vet Kristi Jones to CEO. Jones, the CBO at NexImmune the past four years, was VP of global strategic marketing and then head of portfolio strategy and management at AstraZeneca from 2013-15. Further back, Jones spent 16 years at Genentech/Roche in such roles as head of immunology and ophthalmology in global portfolio and product strategy.
Finally in our crop of CEO transitions, Victoria Richon has stepped down at Ribon Therapeutics, but this isn’t goodbye. She’ll be an R&D advisor to the board of directors and will chair the scientific advisory board as Prakash Raman takes over the top spot. Before his recent stint at Flagship Pioneering as senior partner, chief business development officer, Raman was VP, global head of business development and licensing at the Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research. The PARP inhibitor RBN-2397 is the lead program at Ribon, which hit paydirt in July 2021 with a $65 million Series B1 round.
→ Poseida just hooked a big fish from the Novartis pond, catching Brent Warner and naming him president of gene therapy. In his previous post, Warner was the Swiss pharma’s VP of gene therapy and rare disease, and his appointment is pivotal to Poseida’s gene therapy alliance with Takeda from October 2021 which could produce up to eight candidates. Up first is hemophilia A, and Warner has experience with this indication as US commercial leader for valrox at BioMarin, who’s giving the drug another go with the FDA following its CRL in 2020. Warner’s arrival comes after Eric Ostertag passed the CEO torch to Mark Gergen on Feb. 1.
→ This coming Tuesday, Christine Roth will lead the oncology strategic business unit at Bayer’s pharmaceuticals division, succeeding Robert LaCaze. And on May 1, LaCaze has his next move all lined up, leading a biotech of his own at Mnemo Therapeutics, a French T cell therapy player with Michel Sadelain as one of its scientific co-founders. LaCaze spent 26 years at Bristol Myers Squibb before jumping to Bayer and will replace founding CEO Alain Maiore, who transitions to COO once LaCaze takes over.
→ Although Karyopharm put its Xpovio data through the positive spin cycle a couple weeks ago, analysts were less than impressed, and now comes word that CMO Jatin Shah is out in order “to pursue other professional opportunities, but will continue to serve Karyopharm in an advisory capacity.” In the meantime, Karyopharm has brought in Patricia Judson as SVP of medical strategy and Stuart Poulton as SVP of strategy and portfolio management. At AstraZeneca, Judson was US medical head for the DNA damage response franchise in women’s oncology, and she then jumped to GlaxoSmithKline as global head of women’s oncology, medical affairs. Poulton worked for Eli Lilly and Amgen for more than a decade each and comes from AbbVie, where he was VP of clinical development operations.
→ It hasn’t been peaches and cream for Metacrine these days, jettisoning half its workforce a couple weeks ago and pivoting to IBD after striking out on NASH. The Rich Heyman-chaired biotech now has its second C-suite departure to contend with in two months as CFO Trisha Millican resigns. While she helps with the transition until March 31, Michael York gets the bump from SVP, business development and commercial strategy to CBO. At the end of 2021, Hubert Chen resigned as Metacrine’s CMO to take the same job at ADARx Pharmaceuticals.
→ Buffalo’s own Athenex has tapped Joe Annoni as CFO, replacing Randoll Sze, who turned in his walking papers last August. Since 2010, Annoni had been managing director of GFW Partners before joining Athenex, whose stock tanked in March 2021 when the FDA brought down the CRL hammer on its breast cancer drug, oral paclitaxel and encequidar. The acquisition of Kuur Therapeutics the following May did little to dramatically turn things around as Athenex falls deeper into penny stock territory, and it’s up to Annoni to stem the tide.
→ Still under a clinical hold that was triggered in July for its hemophilia A program, Flagship’s Sigilon Therapeutics has appointed Sarah Yuan as chief technical operations officer. When bluebird bio split in half, Yuan shifted over to 2seventy bio as VP of process and analytical development after holding that post at bluebird since July 2019. Earlier, the 10-year Biogen vet was head of manufacturing for the rare blood disorders franchise at Sanofi following the buyout of Bioverativ, where she was head of technical development and manufacturing sciences.
→ Amylyx is getting its legal ducks in a row before its June 29 PDUFA date and the FDA’s Peripheral and Central Nervous System Drugs adcomm that will convene March 30 to discuss the ALS drug AMX0035. Gina Mazzariello has been selected as chief legal officer and general counsel after a number of roles at Boehringer Ingelheim that spanned nearly 15 years; she had been the German company’s VP, human pharma business law since 2015. A rubber stamp here would give Josh Cohen and Justin Klee only the third approval for an ALS therapy since 1995.
→ Feel the beat of the Rhythm of the night, or in this case, the Rhythm of promotions: David Meeker’s Rhythm Pharmaceuticals has doled out new gigs to Joe Shulman (chief technical officer), Patrick Kleyn (SVP and head of translational R&D), and Elisabeth Crönert-Bendell (SVP and head of strategy). In 2020, Shulman was ushered into the squad as SVP of technical operations from Ra Pharmaceuticals, where he held that very position before UCB came along for a $2.1 billion buyout. Kleyn, the director of external innovation during a six-year tenure with EMD Serono, joined Rhythm in 2018 and had been interim head of the translational R&D team. The newbie of the bunch and a 10-year Sanofi vet, Crönert-Bendell gets promoted here to SVP after a year as VP and head of international strategy.
→ Avidity Biosciences, where Art Levin is leading the science on the development of antibody oligonucleotide conjugates, has brought on Steve Hughes as CMO. Hughes, the ex-medical chief and current strategic medical advisor for Arcturus Therapeutics, was chief development officer at Ionis after its name change in 2015 and made earlier stops at Ionis partner Biogen (medical director, oncology) and CSL Behring (medical affairs coordinator, Western Europe).
→ Tempting though it may be, Peer Review will eschew the “Bewitched” references and just say that Elizabeth Montgomery has taken on the role of chief people officer at Black Diamond Therapeutics, which has experienced its share of leadership turnover of late. Montgomery held the same role at ClearView Healthcare Partners before heading to a crew that has seen the termination of CMO Rachel Humphrey and the resignations of CSO Chris Roberts and CFO Thomas Leggett in the last year.
→ John Goldberg has been promoted to CMO at Oncorus, whose lead program ONCR-177 is an oncolytic HSV-1 targeting several cancers. Goldberg first started at Oncorus in October 2018 as SVP of clinical development, and prior to that, he was senior medical director at H3 Biomedicine.
→ Last month, Avenge Bio came on the biotech scene with $45 million in Series A funding, and this week the Natick, MA-based immunotherapy player announced that Douglas Carlson has joined their ranks as COO and CFO. Prior to joining Avenge — which was co-founded by CEO Michael Heffernan, Rice University’s Omid Veiseh and Obsidian chief Paul Wotton — Carlson was COO, CFO and chief compliance officer of Ikena Oncology. He also served as VP, commercial operations and VP, corporate strategy & business development at Collegium Pharmaceutical.
→ Zach Hornby is hiring up a storm at San Diego’s Boundless Bio, filling a crucial position with Klaus Wagner as CMO. The Genentech and University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center alum had logged seven years as the medical chief at Inhibrx. There’s certainly been a boundless amount of new faces at Boundless Bio in the last year alone, notably picking up CBO Neil Abdollahian from Cidara Therapeutics and appointments also ranging from general counsel to VP of precision medicine.
→ Feng Zhang spinout Arbor Biotechnologies, the CRISPR player which signed on the dotted line with Vertex on a $1.2 billion cell therapy deal and then put together a $215 million Series B haul last year, has tapped Steven Favaloro as CFO. Favaloro has been a finance chief before at Arranta Bio and CDMO Brammer Bio, which Thermo Fisher purchased in March 2019.
→ Ncardia, a Dutch-Belgian biotech focused on induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), has appointed Andy Holt as COO. Prior to joining Ncardia, Holt served as EVP, commercial development and manufacturing at AskBio as well as its CDMO sub Viralgen. Earlier in this career, Holt also took on roles in business development and management at MilliporeSigma and Lonza.
→ ANI Pharmaceuticals out of Minnesota is bulking up its rare disease business unit with Mary Pao as CMO and Elizabeth Powell as chief compliance officer and head of legal. Pao worked on Rituxan at Genentech, was a global medical affairs lead at GSK and led clinical affairs at W20 Group until May 2021. Powell’s long career at Merck began in 1997, culminating in her role as managing counsel and executive director, US commercial & compliance legal before moving on to ANI, which bought generics company Novitium Pharma almost a year ago for up to $210 million.
→ Brian McGee has signed on to be CBO of Swedish TCR player Anocca, while Mark Farmery gets elevated to chief development officer. McGee owns Big Pharma experience from commercial, finance and strategy roles at GSK and was a partner at London consulting firm Novasecta. An AstraZeneca business development vet, Farmery had been VP of BD at Anocca since May 2020 before gaining this promotion.
→ George Chi has joined the executive team at Tavo maker OncoSec as CFO. OncoSec hasn’t found a permanent CEO since the departure of Daniel O’Connor, with Brian Leuthner serving briefly as interim CEO last year and Kevin Smith now taking the role as interim president and chief executive. Speaking of CEOs, Chi held that title at THPlasma since July 2020 before taking on this role at OncoSec.
→ Last year was huge for synbio upstart Antheia, netting a $73 million Series B in June and partnering with Ginkgo shortly thereafter. This week Christina Smolke has expanded the team with Heidi Pucel, who brings her HR acumen as chief people officer. Pucel also took on this very role at Countsy, an accounting firm geared toward startups, for nearly five years.
→ Frederick, MD-based Veralox Therapeutics, developing a 12-lipoxygenase (12-LOX) inhibitor named VLX-1005 for heparin-induced thrombocytopenia, has turned to Lisa Beck to be CBO. Beck spent nearly 24 years at GSK and later jumped to Alexion, where she was executive director and head of global business development transactions and alliance management. In 2018 she shifted to Brii Biosciences, serving as VP of business development before climbing to SVP, business development and portfolio strategy.
→ Newton, MA rare disease biotech Acer Therapeutics has recruited ex-BioMarin global medical affairs head Adrian Quartel as CMO. Since 2020 Quartel had been medical chief at Adamas Pharmaceuticals, whose Parkinson’s portfolio was enticing enough to Supernus to plunk down more than $400 million for the company in October 2021. Acer is looking at a June 5 PDUFA date for its lead program ACER-001 to treat urea cycle disorders (UCDs).
→ UK-based Myricx Pharma is bringing aboard some fresh faces to its leadership team with the appointments of Zahid Bashir as CMO, Richard Rutter as head of biology and Francesco Falciani as head of bioinformatics. Bashir has led successful careers at Roche, GSK, Kite, Bristol Myers and AstraZeneca. Meanwhile, Rutter formerly served as director of biology at the GlaxoSmithKline Neurodegeneration Research Unit in Singapore and was the CSO of Auspherix. Finally, Falciani previously had a stint at GlaxoWellcome as bioinformatics group leader and was head of target discovery at Lorantis.
→ To the eastern tip of Canada we go, where Newfoundland and Labrador-based Sequence Bio has welcomed Roderick Scott as chief science officer. Scott was employee No. 1 at Helicon Therapeutics, where he was director of discovery systems, and more recently he’s been VP of research at Leading BioSciences, the company that merged with Seneca Biopharma to become Palisade Bio.
→ Femasys — focused on meeting women’s needs — has brought on Dov Elefant as the company’s first-ever CFO. Elefant most recently served in the same capacity at Cellectar Biosciences and held the same role at Celsus Therapeutics and Althera Medical.
→ EyeYon Medical — focused on the development of ophthalmic medical devices — has welcomed Sharon Bakalash to the fold as CMO. Bakalash comes with experience from her times at TissueGen, Novartis and Alcon.
→ Modifying its R&D alliance with Takeda last fall, Wave Life Sciences has called upon Anne-Marie Li-Kwai-Cheung to be SVP, regulatory affairs, compliance and policy. Li-Kwai-Cheung has held regulatory positions at Genzyme, GSK, and recently at Roche as lifecycle leader for tominersen — the Huntington’s drug that Roche is trying to resurrect after a disastrous Phase III trial. Wave’s wipeouts with Huntington’s have been well-documented too, as two drugs for the disease circled the drain in March 2021.
→ Menlo Park, CA-based PacBio is bringing in Michael Eberle to the pack as VP of computational biology. Eberle joins after a 15-year stint at Illumina, where he most recently served as VP and distinguished scientist.
→ Macrophage-focused Enlivex Therapeutics has brought on Einat Galamidi as VP, medical. Galamidi comes aboard after a decade stint at Gamida Cell, where she most recently served as VP of clinical development. During her time at Gamida, Galamidi led clinical development for potential cell therapy omidubicel — a potential bone marrow transplant solution for patients with blood cancers.
→ With their latest round of cash sewn up last May and former CRISPR Therapeutics exec Philippe Drouet in his first year as CEO, protein degradation outfit BioTheryX has made Nancy Miller-Rich chair of the board. Upon her retirement from Merck in September 2017, Miller-Rich was SVP, global business development and licensing, strategy and commercial support for the Human Health business. She’s also on the boards of Intercept, Aldeyra Therapeutics, 4D Molecular Therapeutics and Attralus.
→ Integra Therapeutics — a biotech looking to create next-gen gene writing tools — has attracted a big name onto its SAB with George Church. In his star-studded career, Church helped initiate the Human Genome Project in 1984 and the Personal Genome Project in 2005 and demonstrated that CRISPR/Cas9 could be used to edit human stem cells. Church currently serves as professor of genetics at Harvard Medical School and professor of health sciences and technology at Harvard and MIT.
→ UK genomics company RevoluGen has tapped Annalisa Jenkins as chair of its board of directors. Jenkins brings with her a wealth of experience to the role while currently serving on the boards of Affimed, Avrobio, Cocoon Biotech, Compass Pathways, Oncimmune and Ori Biotech to name a few. Jenkins previously held long careers at Merck Serono (EVP, head of global development) and Bristol Myers (SVP and head of global medical affairs).
→ Ruby Chandy will be added to the board of directors at Thermo Fisher on March 1, making it a baker’s dozen in a board that includes Editas Medicine CEO Jim Mullen and Tyler Jacks. Chandy, the ex-Dow chief marketing officer, has board seats at DuPont and Flowserve.
→ San Diego-based Abilita Bio is making room on its board of directors for Daniel Bradbury. Bradbury currently serves as executive chairman of Equillium and previously had an 18-year stint as president, CEO and director of Amylin Pharmaceuticals. This is far from Bradbury’s first rodeo in a board capacity. He currently sits on the boards of Biocon, Castle Biosciences, Equillium and Intercept, among others.
→ Almirall is losing its chairman of the board Jorge Gallardo Ballart as he plans for retirement. The company has nominated Carlos Gallardo Piqué (Almirall’s VP of the board) as his successor. Piqué jumpstarted his career at Pfizer, spending nearly a decade there before joining Almirall and serving as general manager of the UK and Ireland before parting ways with the company in 2013. In addition, Piqué is the founder and CEO of CG Health Ventures.
→ OrbiMed-backed NASH player 89bio has brought Morrey Atkinson into the fold as a member of its board. The head of commercial manufacturing and supply chain at Vertex since June 2020, Atkinson spent eight years at Bristol Myers and another nine at Eli Lilly in manufacturing roles.
→ After completing its recent IPO, Edinburgh-based TC Biopharm — the company that bagged $16 million and teamed up with bluebird back in 2017 to take on gamma delta T cells — is enlisting four new members for its board of directors: Mark Bonyhadi (senior advisor at Qiming Venture Partners USA); James Culverwell (chairman of HOX Therapeutics); Arlene Morris (non-executive director at Cogent Biosciences, Viridian Therapeutics and Palatin Technologies); and Ed Niemczyk (partner at Bridges Fund Management).