With GlaxoSmithKline in the rearview mirror, Abbas Hussain is ready to lead a biotech of his own; Doug Treco scores first CEO job since Ra Pharma buyout
→ Abbas Hussain was once considered to be a top candidate to take Andrew Witty’s place as CEO of GlaxoSmithKline in 2016. When the job was ultimately given to Emma Walmsley — who has been in her own spots of bother recently — Hussain quit as GSK’s global president of pharmaceuticals and vaccines in January 2017. Four years later, Hussain gets behind the CEO wheel at Swiss-based Vifor Pharma, which has a PDUFA date of Aug. 23 with its Cara–partnered drug Korsuva for pruritis in hemodialysis patients. Hussain officially takes over for the departing Stefan Schulze a week before that date on Aug. 16. Schulze had been in charge at Vifor since March 2020 and is leaving for personal reasons.
In between GSK and Vifor, Hussain has been a senior partner at C-Bridge Capital and held seats on the board of directors at CSL, Teva Pharmaceuticals and Cochlear.
→ What’s next for Doug Treco after UCB ponied up $2.5 billion in 2019 to buy the company he co-founded, Ra Pharmaceuticals? Another crack at leading a biotech.
Treco replaces founding CEO Alex Leech at startup Alchemab Therapeutics, which in April pulled in $82 million from a Series A round and is developing an antibody therapy for Huntington’s while teaming up with AstraZeneca on prostate cancer research. Treco co-founded Ra Pharma in 2008 with Palleon CEO Jim Broderick, and he also co-founded Transkaryotic Therapies, purchased by Shire in 2005.
→ Ben Thorner signaled on Twitter this week that he is leaving Merck:
After 7.5 years at Merck and nearly 5 years leading global BD&L for MRL, it is time for me to move on (as of early August). My time at Merck has been stellar and I would not have traded this experience for any other.
— Ben Thorner (@thorner_ben) June 21, 2021
Thorner’s departure is representative of an ongoing changing of the guard at Merck in which CEO Ken Frazier officially passes the baton to Robert Davis this coming Thursday. Dean Li has succeeded Roger Perlmutter — now the CEO of Eikon — as the pharma giant’s R&D chief, and Caroline Litchfield took Davis’ old CFO job in April. Chief marketing officer Mike Nally also broke away from Merck to become CEO of Flagship-founded Generate Biomedicines.
→ One of the 163 jobs that were slashed when Eli Lilly swooped in to buy Dermira — closing up shop at the Menlo Park, CA facility in the process — was that of CEO Andrew Hotchkiss. Getting up off the mat quickly, Hotchkiss is taking control of another company: Draupnir Bio, a Danish cardiovascular biotech focused on PCSK9. Before leading Dermira, Hotchkiss was chief commercial officer and interim predecessor of CEO Bahija Jallal at Immunocore and devoted more than two decades to Eli Lilly. The Indianapolis pharma bought Dermira for $1.1 billion with its sights set on IL-13 inhibitor lebrikizumab to compete against Dupixent.
→ CSO Piet Wigerinck is jumping ship at Galapagos months after the company axed chunks of its pipeline following a rejection for Gilead-partnered rheumatoid arthritis drug filgotinib. Wigerinck joined the company in 2008 as SVP of development and became CSO in 2012. In his role, he oversaw the discovery of novel targets through to clinical proof-of-concept studies, led the first clinical research in healthy volunteers and was responsible for two Phase II programs for filgotinib, a JAK inhibitor. Galapagos CMO Walid Abi-Saab will be taking over early-stage development activities, while Wigerinck will be staying with the company for another five months as they search for a replacement.
→ Memorial Sloan Kettering researcher Peter Bach, an outspoken tweetmaster who’s spent a decade ardently criticizing the industry over drug pricing, has nabbed a spot at liquid biopsy startup Delfi Diagnostics. Bach comes aboard as CMO of the Baltimore-based biotech, which is looking for a better way to screen the blood for cancer, after spending the last 23 years at Memorial Sloan Kettering, where he’s been director of the Center for Health Policy and Outcomes. In a note to our Zachary Brennan after the announcement, Bach joked, “In my contract I am allowed 14 tweets per week but no threads.”
→ Andrew Allen’s Gritstone bio has brought on Celia Economides as CFO. A global medical affairs veteran at BioMarin, Economides bids adieu to Kezar Life Sciences, where she was SVP, strategy and external affairs. Elsewhere in her career she’s been Aurinia’s VP, corporate and public affairs.
In other Gritstone developments, Roman Yelensky is on his way out as chief technology officer “to co-found and lead a new startup in the cancer diagnostics space, working alongside a major healthcare investor,” per the release. Yelensky had been CTO since 2015 after several years at Foundation Medicine. The Emeryville, CA biotech, which rebranded from Gritstone Oncology to its new name last month, has a second-gen Covid-19 vaccine (CORAL) in a Phase I trial that is supported by the NIAID.
→ In a state of failure-driven flux with Faheem Hasnain taking over the helm from Sheila Gujrathi and Luisa Salter-Cid off to another CSO job at Flagship’s Pioneering Medicines, the CMO position that Jakob Dupont left in May 2020 at Gossamer Bio hadn’t been filled yet. This week, it has. Gossamer has promoted Richard Aranda, who came to the San Diego biotech three years ago and has been SVP and head of clinical development since 2019. Aranda is another Receptos alum — par for the course at Gossamer — and he was global clinical lead for Orencia at Bristol Myers Squibb. During his time at Novo Nordisk from 2011-15, Aranda served as VP of medical science and inflammation.
One last Gossamer-related note: EVP of regulatory affairs Caryn Peterson has taken a board seat at Aspen Neuroscience, where Hasnain is chairman and Damien McDevitt took over as CEO in January.
→ Allogene Overland, a joint venture in China that was established by Allogene and Hillhouse-backed Overland, has installed Shuyuan Yao as CEO. Ed Zhang, Overland’s COO/CBO and Allogene Overland’s co-founder, had been in charge of the company on an interim basis. Yao, who got his start as a scientist at Sangamo, was CSO and head of research and technology development at WuXi Advanced Therapies. A similar joint venture, Overland ADCT Biopharma, is in place with ADC Therapeutics; Allogene Overland’s goal is to spur the development of CAR-T therapies for patients in China and throughout Asia, and while at WuXi, Yao was the driving force behind its cell therapy R&D business unit.
→ Gabor Veres has been pegged as CSO at ocular gene therapy outfit Vedere Bio II, the startup that Cyrus Mozayeni launched to the tune of a $77 million Series A after Novartis acquired the first Vedere Bio back in October. Since 2019, Veres was head of gene therapy research at BioMarin, which was dealt one of the more shocking CRLs last summer with its hemophilia A gene therapy. Veres was VP of pre-clinical research at bluebird bio from 2010-19, leading projects on such drugs as Zynteglo.
→ Adverum’s shares tumbled significantly in April when a patient lost vision in one eye during its gene therapy trial for diabetic macular edema. President, CFO and one-time CEO Leone Patterson resigned yesterday for the ever-popular pursuit of other opportunities, leaving Christopher DeRespino — who’s been the CBO at Adverum since February — as acting CFO. DeRespino was executive director of business development during his eight years at Amgen.
Meanwhile, Peter Soparkar has been promoted to the COO slot after joining Adverum as chief legal officer in October 2019. Soparkar was VP, associate general counsel during his 10-year tenure at Jazz Pharmaceuticals.
→ Protein degradation biotech Nurix Therapeutics, which has ongoing collaborations with Gilead and Sanofi, has appointed Stefani Wolff COO and EVP, product development. Wolff just nabbed a board seat at Rain Therapeutics and was chief development officer at Principia Biopharma before landing these dual roles. After starting her career with Eli Lilly in sales and marketing, Wolff would then spend 13 years in oncology and immunology at Genentech, and she would later be VP of development and global project team leader for Onyx Pharmaceuticals.
→ While we’re on a roll with protein degradation companies, Nello Mainolfi-led Kymera Therapeutics out of Watertown, MA, has selected Elaine Caughey as CBO. Caughey leaves Flagship-founded Cygnal Therapeutics, where she was CBO for Pearl Huang and joined the team just after its October 2019 launch. Before Cygnal, she was head of strategy and operations, global market access to close out her six-plus years at Biogen. Kymera followed up its $102 million Series C round in March 2020 with an IPO totaling nearly $200 million.
→ Glenn Reicin has taken on CFO responsibilities at food allergy player Alladapt — co-founded by Kari Nadeau and CEO Ashley Dombkowski in 2018 — in a move that comes after two years as CFO at Sigilon Therapeutics. Reicin has also been president of Greylock Biomedical Advisors and managing director at Morgan Stanley. He is the brother of Alise Reicin, the former Merck and Celgene exec who is currently president and CEO of Tectonic Therapeutic.
→ When IgGenix — another Nadeau biotech — emerged from stealth with a modest $10 million round, Bruce Hironaka told our Max Gelman that he didn’t intend to stay CEO for long. True to his word, Hironaka steps aside as Jessica Grossman takes command of the South San Francisco food allergy player. Grossman has previously been CEO at Medicines360 and she’s on the board of Daré Bioscience that’s chaired by William Rastetter, who’s also chairman of Grail, Neurocrine and Fate.
→ With Adam Walsh stepping in as CFO of Newport Beach, CA-based eye disease biotech jCyte, the crew keeps growing after Shannon Blalock hit the scene as CEO along with a new CCO, general counsel and other execs. Walsh has been CFO for the last year at Catalytic Life Sciences following nearly five years at Stifel as managing director and senior analyst, biotechnology equity research. In July 2020, jCyte unveiled positive Phase IIb data for its retinitis pigmentosa therapy, called jCell.
→ Developing a gut microbiome therapy for enteric hyperoxaluria, South San Francisco’s Novome Biotechnologies has appointed Lachy McLean CMO. Before his most recent head of research post at Travere (rebranded from the Martin Shkreli days of Retrophin), McLean had a 12-year tenure at Takeda, making the climb to VP and global head of translational clinical science immunology.
→ Back in September we mentioned that Veralox Therapeutics had named Palladio Biosciences CEO Alex Martin chairman of the board, and the Frederick, MD biotech has since added Big Pharma vet Michael Hanna to its team as CMO. From 2004-16, Hanna was involved in global clinical research at Bristol Myers, predominantly as the clinical lead for the blockbuster Eliquis. Veralox’s lead drug, VLX-1005, is geared toward those with heparin-induced thrombocytopenia (HIT).
→ We told you in December about John Maxwell leaving his CFO post at New Jersey-based Aquestive Therapeutics. His successor, Ernie Toth, has been filling the job on an interim basis, but as of this week he’s interim no more and has also been named an SVP. Toth’s CFO experience includes JHP Pharmaceuticals (now Par Sterile Products), ArisGlobal and EHE Health.
→ As of April 14, Aleksey Krylov has gotten situated as CFO of NK-focused CytoImmune Therapeutics, preceding Codiak CEO Doug Williams’ appointment as chairman. Krylov, the founder and managing director at Ftera Advisors, has been an interim or acting CFO on multiple occasions, including with Sellas Life Sciences and reVision Therapeutics.
→ Adding to the number of government officials who have filed into the firm this year, Stacy Cline Amin will co-lead the FDA regulatory and compliance practice at Morrison & Foerster as a partner in life sciences in healthcare. Before joining MoFo, Amin was the FDA’s chief counsel in the Trump administration from 2018-21 and deputy chief counsel for the HHS.
→ Kevin Schutz has jumped on board at Tiziana Life Sciences — focused on the veritable grab bag of oncology, neurology, inflammation and infectious diseases— as VP of regulatory affairs. Schutz’s involvement within the regulatory realm extends to other gigs at Ipsen, Amarin, Insmed, and more recently with Osmotica Pharmaceuticals.
→ Pennsylvania biotech Ocugen, which is working on gene therapies for eye diseases and co-developing a Covid-19 vaccine called Covaxin, has welcomed Ken Inchausti as head, investor relations & communications. From 2004-10, Inchausti held communications and media relations posts at GlaxoSmithKline, and he then rose to senior director, corporate communications during his subsequent 10+ years at Novo Nordisk.
→ With its topical roflumilast cream formulation faring well in Phase III trials for plaque psoriasis, Arcutis has ushered in Greg Sukay as VP of manufacturing and process technologies. This new door opens for Sukay after a 22-year run with Amgen that took him to Asia as plant manager and executive director of Amgen Singapore and that ended as executive director of Amgen Contract Manufacturing.
→ That’s not the only Arcutis-related news. The company’s CEO, Frank Watanabe, has been elected to the board of directors at Angie You’s Amunix. Watanabe became the chief executive at Arcutis in 2017 after being named president a year earlier.
→ Marinus Pharmaceuticals CEO Scott Braunstein is grabbing a seat on CRISPR genome-editing Caribou Biosciences‘ board of directors. Prior to his current role at Marinus, Braunstein was with Aisling Capital and Pacira Pharmaceuticals. Braunstein also sits on the boards of Trevena and Constellation Pharmaceuticals.
→ Flagship epigenetic programming startup Omega Therapeutics has a seat ready for Luke Beshar on the board of directors. The ex-CFO of NPS Pharmaceuticals, Beshar is also the chairman of Protara and is on the boards of Regenxbio and Trillium.
→ Marcio Souza has joined the board of directors at Austin, TX-based Aeglea BioTherapeutics, which is in Phase III with its lead drug for arginase-1 deficiency. Souza, the president and CEO of Praxis Precision Medicines, is formerly the COO of PTC Therapeutics.
→ Langer-backed Selecta Biosciences has opened a spot for Nishan de Silva on its board of directors. Currently, de Silva is the CEO and director of AFYX Therapeutics. Prior to that, de Silva served as COO and director of Poseida Therapeutics and CFO and VP of finance and strategy at Ligand Pharmaceuticals.
→ San Francisco-based Spruce Biosciences has reeled in Kirk Ways to its board of directors. Ways recently served as CMO of Nuvelution Pharma and prior to that role was heading drug development units at Johnson & Johnson’s pharmaceutical research and development group. In addition, Ways has had stints at BioStratum, Aventis and Lilly Research Laboratories.
→ Fort Lauderdale-based medtech Motus GI has brought on Sonja Nelson to its board of directors and as chair of the audit committee. Currently, Nelson is the SVP, finance at ImmunityBio, following the merger of the company with NantKwest — where she served as CFO for several years. Prior to Nantkwest, Nelson was with AltheaDx and Cadence Pharmaceuticals.
→ Verastem Oncology, which in May won a breakthrough nod for its combo therapy in ovarian cancer, has made the additions of Paul Bunn and Lesley Solomon to its board of directors. Bunn is a professor of medicine and James Dudley chair in cancer research, division of medical oncology at the University of Colorado School of Medicine. Previously, Bunn served in roles at the US National Cancer Institute-Navy Medical Oncology branch, University of Colorado Cancer Center and International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer (IASLC) among others.
Meanwhile, Solomon is a venture chair at Redesign Health. Prior to her role at Redesign, Solomon was the chief innovation officer at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.
→ AbbVie’s CD47 partner I-Mab has recruited Andrew Zhu to its scientific advisory board. Zhu hops aboard the Chinese biotech as a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, director emeritus of liver cancer research at Massachusetts General Hospital, CSO of Jiahui Health and director of Jiahui International Cancer Center (JICC) in Shanghai.