Peer Review

Top scientist Thor Voigt vaults to CMO role at Boehringer Ingelheim; Celgene’s Scott Smith tapped as president at BioAtla

Thor Voigt

Boehringer Ingelheim has promoted one of its top scientists to the chief medical officer’s job, giving Thor Voigt a big voice in the company as it grows its R&D organization.

The private German company put out the word at the beginning of the week that Voigt will be taking the place of Christopher Corsico, who is leaving the biopharma company after 20 years. Voigt has been a staffer for 26 years.

The changeup comes as Boehringer follows through with an ambitious expansion of R&D after pledging to get 15 new drugs to an approval over the next 7 years — a considerable challenge for any company in drug development.

Boehringer has about 8,000 staffers in its research group, and earlier this week snapped up an upstart in the oncolytic virus arena with their $244 million deal to acquire ViraTherapeutics.

Scott Smith

Scott Smith has emerged just as suddenly as he was ousted at Celgene. The former biotech COO has joined San Diego-based BioAtla as president, claiming a number of responsibilities in “business development and partnering activities, new product development and execution” of plans to advance the company’s conditionally active biologic antibody platform worldwide.

→ Dermatology specialist BioPharmX $BPMX has tapped David Tierney as CEO to shepherd its acne treatment into Phase III. Tierney — chief executive at Icon Bioscience until its recent merger with EyePoint Pharma — succeeds co-founder Anja Krammer, who will keep her titles of president and corporate secretary.

Andrew Cheng spent close to 20 years at Gilead, ending as its chief medical officer after playing a key role in developing a string of blockbusters. Now, after making a recent exit at Gilead in an exodus of top execs, he’s surfaced at the helm of an upstart biotech with plans to play a disruptive role in the burgeoning NASH field. Cheng is the new CEO of Akero Therapeutics, and his recruitment was important enough for the still-small company to decide to switch its headquarters from the hot hub in Cambridge, MA to trendy San Francisco. And startup CEO Jonathon Young will now switch to the COO’s job.

Sanofi and Bayer are swapping out two top execs, triggering a reorganization at the French pharma company that will allow for a closer focus on China. Stefan Oelrich is leaving his job at Sanofi as head of the diabetes and cardio operation, headed back to Bayer as the new chief of its pharma group, where he began his career. Sanofi, meanwhile, recruited Bayer’s Dieter Weinand — who Oelrich is replacing — and assigned him to the office in Bridgewater, NJ, where he’ll run a new primary care unit that combines diabetes/cardio and their “Established Products” group.

Sanofi is also carving out a new group called “China and emerging markets” and assigning it to Olivier Charmeil, who will be in charge. China has grown swiftly into Sanofi’s second largest market, and they want to add an emphasis here.

Julia Gregory

Julia Gregory is the new executive chair at Cavion, the startup backed by Eli Lilly and Novartis to create therapies for rare neurological diseases by modulating the T-type calcium channel. A seasoned biotech board director, Gregory had served as CEO of Five Prime, EVP at ContraFect and CFO at Lexicon before making a move to consulting.

→ Experienced commercial exec Paul Firuta has jumped ship from uniQure to become COO of Achillion. In addition to prepping the biotech’s complement factor D programs for Phase III registrational trials, he will have a key role in the potential launch of these rare disease drugs — something he’s had plenty of practice in. Firuta is the second C-suite member Achillion CEO Joseph Truitt has poached from uniQure, joining CMO Steven Zelenkofske.

Pavel Pisa

→ Cambridge, UK-based Crescendo Biologics has recruited Roche vet Pavel Pisa to oversee its pipeline of T cell enhancing therapies. As the former head of translational medicine at the pharma giant, Pisa regularly handled first-in-human studies and had a front-row seat to their early efforts in immunotherapy — checking all the boxes for Crescendo execs keen on pushing their oncology programs into the clinic.

Detlev Biniszkiewicz and Scott Chappel met at Surface Oncology, steering the immuno-oncology upstart together through a slate of preclinical programs and a recent IPO. The experience bringing an idea to life captivated both Biniszkiewicz — a Big Pharma vet — and Chappel, who held a streak of biotech exec roles before co-founding Surface. As the Atlas-backed biotech got on track for human studies, both began itching to do it again. Now, after a brief spell apart, they are back in the same office as part of a larger team of “entrepreneurial engines” at MPM Capital, scouting new investment opportunities and taking operational roles in biotechs ventures.

→ In an effort to establish a bigger presence in Asia, France’s Poxel has formed a Japanese subsidiary and poached a veteran exec from Janssen to run the operation. Takashi Kaneko, a veteran staffer of multinational pharma companies in Japan, will serve as president of Poxel KK with the additional title senior vice president, medical. He will dive right into Poxel’s ongoing clinical and market access plans for diabetes drug imeglimin, working closely with new partners at Sumitomo Dainippon.

Medivir $MVIR has appointed Linda Basse as CMO, handing her the reins over a broad portfolio of cancer drugs. Before joining the Stockholm-based biotech, Basse has served as medical director at Denmark’s Zealand Pharma and Genmab.

→ On a hunt for pharma companies interested in its drug delivery tech, Travecta Therapeutics has enlisted Douglas Hicks for some dealmaking expertise. As chief business officer, Hicks will help devise the corporate strategy and scout partnerships where Travecta’s platform, which enables transport of small molecules across the blood-brain barrier and blood-retina barrier, can come into play. Most recently, he was in charge of the BD department of the contract development and manufacturing company iBio.

→ As Idera Pharma $IDRA consolidates all of its operations in Exton, PA, longtime CFO Louis Arcudi will not be moving with the rest of the team. His resignation will lead to the promotion of John Kirby, currently VP of finance and previously VP of accounting. That’s not all: Idera has hired Bryant Lim as general counsel, SVP and secretary of the board of directors. Lim’s recent stint at IDO drug developer Incyte, combined with his previous experience with ViroPharma’s pivot to commercialization, convinced Idera execs that he is an ideal exec to have on their side while they look to get an OK on tilsotolimod.

→ Following a decorated career that spanned gigs at Astellas, Onyx, Genentech, Eli Lilly and most recently Aegerion, Jeffrey Bloss has landed his latest job at Tarveda Therapeutics. The CMO’s appointment comes on the heels of announcements that Tarveda is starting mid-stage studies for two of its miniature drug conjugates dubbed Pentarins. He will be working with two other new hires: Steven Hamburger, VP of regulatory affairs, and Laura Mei, VP of clinical operations.

David Gryska is set to retire from Incyte $INCY at the end of this year, triggering a search for a new CFO.

Roy Baynes Merck’s CMO and often the face for its Keytruda franchise — has joined the board of Atara Biotherapeutics, which recently inked another collaboration deal with a star investigator at Memorial Sloan Kettering to beef up its pipeline of off-the-shelf T cell immunotherapies.


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