Two months after inking a SPAC deal, Renovacor taps new CMO; CureVac reels in a new development chief from Merck KGaA
Marc Semigran was at sleepaway camp in Hopewell Junction, NY, when Neil Armstrong took the first steps on the moon. He packed into a social hall with a couple of hundred kids whose eyes were glued to one small, staticky, black-and-white television as Armstrong descended the ladder.
It sparked an interest in physics for Semigran whose focus later turned to medicine because he wanted to help people. That, and “I’m probably too tall, I don’t think I would have made it as an astronaut,” he quipped.
He went on to Harvard Medical School, then an internship and residency at the renowned Massachusetts General Hospital. His cardiology work there eventually led to a gig as CMO of MyoKardia, where he stayed until the company was bought out by Bristol Myers Squibb for a whopping $13.1 billion last year. And now, he’s taking the same role at gene therapy-focused Renovacor, just as the company prepares to go public on the back of a SPAC.
“Something that really reassured me about my decision was that we will have the funds to be able to carry out the scientific mission,” he said. Upon closing its deal with the blank-check company Chardan Healthcare Acquisition 2 Corp, Renovacor is set to pocket gross proceeds of up to $116 million.
Semigran joined MyoKardia back in 2016, where he oversaw Phase I and II studies and the design of registrational studies, worked with regulators, and helped file the NDA for mavacamten — MyoKardia’s drug for obstructive cardiomyopathy. In 2019, Semigran was promoted to senior VP of medical sciences. The FDA set a decision date of Jan. 28, 2022, for mavacamten, the same year that Renovacor is hoping to get IND clearance for REN-001, its gene therapy for BAG3-associated dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM).
“It would be great,” he said, if one of his drugs gets approved in the same year that another enters the clinic.
“So many of our therapies for heart failure really address manifestations of heart failure, rather than the primary underlying problem,” Semigran said. “Differentiating by cause is really what we need to do with heart failure… Both REN-001 and mavacamten address very different segments of the heart failure population, and we need them both.”
BAG3 protein is expressed predominantly in the heart, where it plays a role in the maintenance of sarcomeres, normalization of protein quality control, inhibition of programmed cell death, and responsiveness to adrenergic signals. BAG3 DCM has an average onset at 38 years old, and a survival rate of less than 50% five years after discovery.
“Certainly, our first and primary target is to address the patients with the genetic mutations in BAG3. But as we learn more from treating these patients, there may be the possibility of expansion to other heart failure patients,” Semigran said, or even other organs. — Nicole DeFeudis
CureVac, the runner up mRNA company making a new vaccine for Covid-19, has poached their new development chief from Merck KGaA.
The German biotech reported it recruited Merck KGaA’s Klaus Edvardsen for chief development officer. Edvardsen had been head of oncology for the German Merck, making him a good cultural fit with CureVac. He had earlier served a stint as head of oncology development at AstraZeneca and had worked at GSK and Genmab before that.
He has a tremendous background, having led both business development and clinical research on a global scale for several high-profile biopharmaceutical companies. His great breadth of knowledge and expertise in research and different therapeutic areas will serve CureVac well as it continues to evolve from a research-oriented biotechnology to a fully integrated biopharmaceutical company,” observed Jean Stéphenne, chairman of the supervisory board of CureVac. — John Carroll
Nurix Therapeutics is celebrating the addition of its newest board member, and it’s reeled in a high-profile biotech CEO.
Clay Siegall of Seagen is hopping onto the board, Nurix announced this week, joining the protein degradation player that’s secured partnerships with Gilead and Sanofi. The move comes as Nurix is expected to launch clinical studies for three product candidates sometime before the end of the year.
Siegall made his name by founding Seagen as Seattle Genetics way back in 1998, and has transformed it into one of the larger biotechs in the US. Under Siegall’s leadership, Seagen has shepherded three drugs past the finish line with the potential for a fourth in October.
It’s pinned blockbuster hopes on one of its drugs, the Nectin-4 targeting therapy Padcev, which saw sales more than double to $69.8 million in the first quarter in 2021 compared to 2020.
Siegall himself has made a pretty penny as the company’s chief executive, pulling in a $16.5 million pay package last year — a figure that approaches some of the biggest names in pharma. It’s also the largest package for any CEO in the state of Washington, according to an Associated Press report.
Nurix, meanwhile, is continuing to charge ahead with its pipeline. The programs expected to hit Phase I studies soon comprise a small molecule degrader of BTK called NX-5948, and with it, Nurix hopes to target autoimmune diseases. There are also two ligase inhibitors where Nurix is going after an immuno-oncology target and tumor infiltrating lymphocytes, respectively.
Their lead candidate is a dual degrader of both BTK and Aiolos, a protein target of IMiD drugs, known as NX-2127. It recently began its own clinical trial, the first Nurix has launched.
In addition to Nurix’s board, Siegall also serves on the boards of Ultragenyx and Washington Roundtable, a lobbyist group comprising several executives from the state. — Max Gelman
→ Private platform company Morphimmune has selected Ronald Martell as the company’s new CEO and president. The new stint at the San Francisco-based company isn’t Martell’s first rodeo in the CEO chair. Martell was previously running gigs at Nuvelation Pharma, Achieve Life Sciences, Sevion and NeurogesX. Additionally, Martell was co-founder and executive chairman of Indapta and Orca Bio. Earlier in his career, Martell was with Genentech and ImClone Systems, where he was making deals with Bristol Myers Squibb and Merck KGaA.
→ Stefan König, the former Takeda VP and global franchise head, inflammatory bowel disease, has hopped into the CEO seat at George Medicines. In his most recent role at Takeda, König was responsible for Entyvio (vedolizumab). König’s earlier roles at Takeda included regional managing director for a cluster of countries in Central and Eastern Europe. In addition, König spent 10 years in Mexico and Latin America working in business and corporate development and marketing for Merck and Novartis.
→Decibel Therapeutics has added a new chairman as it continues a now-more-than-yearlong pivot to gene therapy and regeneration.
The Cambridge biotech named William Carson, former CEO of Otsuka Pharmaceuticals, as chair. Carson will serve as a delayed replacement for former Biogen CEO George Scangos, a longtime colleague of Steve Holtzman, Decibel’s former chief executive. Decibel quietly disclosed in their S-1 this January that Scangos had resigned from the board in June 2020, five months after Holtzman retired and the company shifted focus.
Carson, a psychiatrist, served on the board at Prevail before its buyout by Eli Lilly and is now on the boards at Saama Technologies, Annexon, Otsuka and Excision Biotherapeutics. His appointment comes amid a series of changes Decibel has made to burnish its credentials, most recently expanding its scientific advisory board with a clutch of well-regarded gene therapy and hearing experts.
→ Patrick Flanigan is hopping aboard Nancy Thornberry’s gut-brain axis biotech Kallyope as CFO. Flanigan joins the crew from Ichnos Sciences, where he also served as CFO. Flanigan jumpstarted his career at Genzyme, where he served as VP of investor relations before hopping over to Celgene as SVP.
→ Nanobiotix has ushered in a new CFO two days prior to presenting some positive early data at #ASCO21 for their tumor-shrinking tech. Bart Van Rhijn, who joins the company after a stint as CFO of Servier Pharmaceuticals, will be succeeding outgoing CFO Philippe Mauberna. Prior to his role at Servier, Van Rhijn was with PricewaterhouseCoopers, Philips and Galderma. Additionally, Van Rhijn has been appointed to the company’s executive board.
→ AI biotech Generate Biomedicines has reeled in Mike Nohaile as CSO. Nohaile hails from Flagship Pioneering, where he served as operating partner. Prior to Flagship, Nohaile was with Amgen, where he served as SVP of strategy, commercialization, and innovation.
In addition to Nohaile’s appointment, Molly Gibson — who was honored in our 2020 20 under 40 special — will be expanding her role at Generate, tacking on new responsibilities as chief strategy and innovation officer. Prior to Generate, Gibson, who is a principal of Flagship Pioneering, led computational biology at Kaleido Biosciences.
→ ValenzaBio — whose oncology island of misfit toys snared $70 million in April — has waved in Gregory Keenan as CMO. Keenan joins the Bethesda, MD-based team from Avrobio, where he served as SVP, global head of medical and drug safety. Prior to that, he served in stints at AstraZeneca, Medimmune, Human Genome Sciences and Centocor OrthoBiotech.
In addition to Keenan’s appointment, the crew has also welcomed CEO of Ribometrix Mike Solomon into the fold as part of its board of directors. Solomon was a former venture partner of SV Health Investors; COO of Decibel Therapeutics, and entrepreneur in residence at Third Rock Ventures among other stints.
→What better way to prep for an IPO than adding a well-regarded CFO to your board? Verve Therapeutics, Sekar Kathiresan’s cardiovascular gene-editing startup, announced they had named Michael MacLean, former CFO of Avidity Biosciences, to its board. In addition to Avidity, MacLean has also worked as CFO of PureTech and Ionis spinout Akcea. Verve has penciled in $100 million for their public offering, although they are widely expected to raise significantly more.
→ David Hung has recruited a supply chain expert to ensure that the cancer drugs he’s developing at Nuvation Bio will be ready whenever he needs them. As chief technical operations officer, David Hanley is tasked with overseeing everything from product development to manufacturing, while also working on commercial planning with other teams — in short, dedicated to product readiness at all stages, whether it be preclinical or marketing. He joins from Radius Health just as Nuvation is pushing a Phase I/II study of the lead candidate, which targets CDK 2/4/6, and lining up five others for the clinic.
→ While aiming for an IPO after coming off the presses with a $1 billion deal with Merck, Janux Therapeutics has selected Wayne Godfrey as CMO. Godfrey comes from IGM Biosciences, where he served as VP of clinical development. Before that, he was with Kite Pharma, Etubics, Gilead and Bavarian-Nordic.
→ Beleaguered biotech Onconova Therapeutics — which axed its high-risk MDS program after another PhIII flop — has named Mark Gelder as CMO. Gelder hops aboard from Elevar Therapeutics, where he served in the same role. Prior to Elevar, Gelder was working with Pierian Biosciences, Accelovance, Heron Therapeutics, Pfizer, Wyeth and Bayer.
→ Launched by Frazier Healthcare Partners last May with a $15 million Series A, San Diego-based oncology drug developer Lengo Therapeutics has made Diana Hausman CMO. Hausman comes aboard after a stint as CMO for Zymeworks. Prior to that, she served at ZymoGenetics, Berlex and Immunex. Hausman’s appointment comes three weeks after Lengo snagged the CEO of VelosBio Dave Johnson as chairman of the board.
→ Evelo Biosciences has appointed Mark Plinio as CCO. Plinio comes to Evelo from Ironwood Pharmaceuticals, where he was CCO and SVP, marketing and sales. Prior to his gig at Ironwood, Plinio spent nearly two decades at Novartis in a variety of roles including head of dermatology and rheumatology marketing for Cosentyx.
→ JSR Life Sciences company Selexis has named Roland Hoffmann-Hecht as CBO. Hoffmann-Hecht hails from Polpharma Biologics, where he was head of business development, CDMO Europe. Prior to that, he held roles at Halix, BIOMEVA GmbH, CMC Biologics and Rentschler Biotechnologie GmbH.
→ Blood cancer player Imago Biosciences has appointed Wan-Jen Hong as CMO. Hong hails from Genentech, where she served as group medical director. Hong previously was a clinical instructor in hematology at Stanford University School of Medicine and is the current adjunct clinical faculty member in its division of hematology.
→ After emerging from stealth mode last June with $118 million in its pocket from Redmile Group and over 10 other investors, Shattuck Labs has bagged Abhinav Shukla as chief technical officer. Shukla joins the Austin, TX-based team from Redpin Therapeutics, having served as chief technical operations officer. Prior to that, Shukla was with CRISPR Therapeutics, Shire, Bristol Myers, Amgen and KBI Biopharma.
→ A couple of months after emerging from stealth mode with a $100 million Series B round and a mission to outsmart cancer resistance, Theseus Pharmaceuticals has tapped Brad Dahms as its new CFO. The former investment banker is coming from Selecta Biosciences, where he recently led a $730 million agreement to license the company’s chronic refractory gout treatment to Sobi. Before that, Dahms was a senior VP in the healthcare group at Cantor Fitzgerald & Co., and held roles at RBC Capital Markets and JP Morgan. Theseus, backed by OrbiMed, says it will use the Series B to advance a suite of “pan-variant” TKIs, including a lead compound targeting KIT-mutant gastrointestinal stromal tumors.
→ Forge Biologics has reeled in John Maslowski into the new role of CCO. Maslowski jumps aboard from Castle Creek Biosciences, where he was president and CEO. He served in the same role at Fibrocell Science and had gigs at Wyeth, Merck and Teva. Maslowski was also the former chairman of the board of directors at Falcon Therapeutics.
→ Ovid Therapeutics is expanding CBO’s Jeffrey Rona’s responsibilities to include the role of CFO. Rona joined the company in October 2020. Prior to Ovid, Rona was heading operations at Danforth Advisors as Western region managing director. Before that, he was running gigs as an exec at GlobeImmune, AlgoRx Pharmaceuticals and Great Basin Scientific.
→ AI-based diagnostic software in pathology company Paige has appointed co-founder David Klimstra as CMO. Klimstra is currently the chair of the department of pathology at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.
→ NEXGEL, a provider of hydrogels for healthcare and consumer applications, has brought in Adam Drapczuk as CFO. Prior to his new role at NEXGEL, Drapczuk was financial controller for R-Pharm US. Drapczuk has also had stints at Inpellis, Tris Pharma and West-Ward Pharmaceuticals.
→ Merck KGaA has welcomed a fresh slate of faces with the appointments of Amy Mahery as SVP, head of the neurology and immunology global business franchise; Jan Klatt as SVP, head of the development unit neurology & immunology; and Amy Kao as head of translational innovation platform immunology.
Mahery preciously served on the global market access team at Merck KGaA and serves as the healthcare representative on the Merck diversity council. Meanwhile, Klatt comes to the team from Novartis, where he most recently served as global program head, heart failure. Finally, Kao comes aboard from Biogen, where she worked in early clinical development in immunology.
→ Irish drug developer Avadel Pharmaceuticals — which saw its stock shoot up nearly 33% on narcolepsy data last April — has made a slew of new hires with the appointments of Jeff Cruikshank as VP, sales; Denise Strauss as VP, marketing and new product strategy and Angela Woods as VP, people and culture.
Cruikshank comes to the company with experience from Ironwood Pharmaceuticals, Novartis and Janssen Pharmaceuticals under his belt. Meanwhile, Strauss brings in her own expertise from her times at Genfit, Pfizer, Schering-Plough and Boehringer Ingelheim. Last but not least, Woods formerly served as VP, human resources at Mallinckrodt.
→ Athira Pharma, going after one of pharma’s trickiest fields in Alzheimer’s disease, has a new top lawyer. The Seattle-based biotech has tapped Mark Worthington as their general counsel, where he comes after a 24-year stint at Summit Law Group. Athira went public in a $200 million-plus IPO in September 2020, and CEO Leen Kawas said in a statement that Worthington will be involved in “business growth and strategic plans.”
→ Immunic — whose lead drug failed to impress in 2 separate trials — has appointed Inderpal Singh as general counsel. Singh joins the company from Sandoz International GmbH, where he was global legal head of biopharma. Prior to Sandoz, Singh was with Merck KGaA, Biogen Idec, Pfizer Deutschland GmbH and Pfizer.
→ Healthcare investor Gilde Healthcare has snagged Joep Muijrers to the investment team of its Venture & Growth capital fund. Muijrers will be responsible for Gilde’s investments in publicly-traded companies focused on therapeutics, healthtech and medical devices in Europe and the US. Muijrers formerly served as CFO and chief of portfolio strategy at PureTech Health.
→ Medical device Co Avisa Diagnostics has added Barbara Bunger to its executive team in the newly created position of VP, clinical development. Prior to her new role, Bunger served in roles at Clinical Development and Regulatory Services, Beckton Dickinson and Medtronic Spine & Biologics among others.
→ San Francisco’s Kezar Life Sciences — which bagged an $86.3 IPO back in 2018 — has enlisted Micki Klearman to its board of directors. Klearman brings to the board her experience from her time at Genentech/Roche, where she served as group medical director in immunology.
→ Melbourne-based Opthea is bringing in Julia Haller and Judith Robertson as independent non-executive directors to its board of directors. Haller serves as professor and chair of the department of ophthalmology at Sidney Kimmel Medical College at Thomas Jefferson University. She also sits on the board of Bristol Myers and is president of the John Hopkins Medical and Surgical Association. Meanwhile, Robertson most recently served as CCO of Eleusis and was the former CCO of Aerie Pharmaceuticals. Before Arie, Robertson was serving at J&J, Janssen, BMS and Novartis.
→ Neurana Pharmaceuticals — focused on the treatment of neuromuscular conditions — has brought in Georgia Erbez and J&J vet Elizabeth (Liz) Cermak to its board of directors. Erbez is the current CFO of Harpoon Therapeutics and formerly headed leadership roles at Zosana Pharma, Asterias Biotherapeutics and Raptor Pharmaceuticals. On the other hand, Cermak currently sits on the boards of Moleculin Biotech, Que Oncology and Clarus Therapeutics. Cermak’s previous experience includes roles at SteadyMed Therapeutics and POZEN.
→ AbbVie-partnered I-Mab has tapped two experts in China’s regulatory landscape to its board of directors. Ruyi He, now CSO at RemeGen, used to be the chief scientist at the National Medical Products Administration’s Center for Drug Evaluation, while Rong Shao is a professor drug administration policies and regulations, China Pharmaceutical University.
→ Menlo Park, CA-based 180 Life Sciences has welcomed Russell Ray and Teresa DeLuca to its board of directors. This is Ray’s second board seat, he also sits on the board of Merrimack Pharmaceuticals. Ray formerly served as managing director and co-head of global health care at Credit Suisse First Boston Corporation. Meanwhile, DeLuca comes aboard with experience from GSK, Medco, Walgreens, Humana and Magellan.
→ Biocom California, the association representing the California life science industry, has recruited Juli Moran to its board of governors and Paul Mola to its board of directors. Moran is managing partner and managing director of Deloitte Consulting, while Mola is president, CEO and founder of Roswell Biotechnologies.