Akrevia scoops ex-Arsanis chief René Russo as CEO; Scott Gottlieb jumps back into industry; Seattle Genetics raids AstraZeneca for CCO
→ Months after resigning from Arsanis — now relegated to biotech history books after a reverse merger with X4 Pharma — René Russo has landed her next CEO gig at Akrevia Therapeutics. The new role will shift her attention from anti-infectives to immuno-oncology, but she will lean on her experience scaling up biotech operations from an early stage. Backed by F-Prime Capital and Atlas Venture, Akrevia employs platform tech that packages a CTLA4 inhibitor in a way that the antibody would be inactive until it reaches the tumor microenvironment.
→ Just a little more than a month after his surprise exit from the FDA — suggesting he wanted to spend more time with his family in Connecticut, Scott Gottlieb is jumping back into the money side of the industry and rejoining Washington DC-based New Enterprise Associates as a full-time investing partner, where he expects to start backing biotech startups and sitting on boards again.
→ Seattle Genetics $SGEN has raided the top ranks of AstraZeneca $AZN for its first chief commercial officer, Robin Taylor. Taylor’s stint at AstraZeneca lasted 7 months, and prior to jumping to the company, he led the cancer immunotherapy franchise at Roche’s Genentech for close to 18 years.
“Robin will play a key role in extending our commercial execution across six Adcetris lymphoma indications, while preparing for the potential launch of enfortumab vedotin and leading our global commercialization strategy for possible future products, such as tucatinib,” noted Seattle Genetics CEO Clay Siegall.
→ Current COO and executive medical officer of late-stage Eiger BioPharmaceuticals, David Apelian, will be stepping down effective June 14, 2019. Apelian will join a private biotech as its CEO. Apelian’s departure is happening while the company’s Phase III program for ionafarnib — a prenylation inhibitor for the treatment of Hepatitis Delta Virus (HDV) infection — is being prepped for an NDA and MAA to treat Hutchinson-Gilford Progeria Syndrome (HGPS or Progeria) and Progeroid Laminopathies, with plans to file in 2019. Apelian will continue to serve on the company’s board of directors.
→ The drug development arm of Scripps Research, Calibr, has named Pamela Garzone as its CMO. Garzone has previously served as vice president within the early oncology development at Pfizer $PFE as well as other leadership roles. Calibr is currently developing multiple drug candidates, such as KA34 — a potential osteoarthritis therapy that is currently in a Phase I human clinical trial stage, and later this year the company plans to submit IND applications for two cancer therapies.
→ Affimed $AFMD has parted ways with CSO Martin Treder just as the German biotech executes a pipeline cleanup and narrows its focus. Its AFM11 program got into trouble with the FDA last October due to a patient death and two life-threatening episodes, and regulators recently informed them that the Phase I trial cannot resume without more data. CEO Adi Hoess notes that he has a strong team and is in no rush, if ever, to replace Treder — who remains as a consultant. In the meantime, COO Wolfgang Fischer will oversee the discovery and preclinical efforts.
→ Cambridge, Massachusetts-based clinical-stage gene company, Voyager Therapeutics announced the retirement of its CSO Dinah Sah and the expansion of Omar Khwaja’s current role as CMO to now include head of R&D. Both changes will be effective on June 28, 2019. Sah will continue to serve as a consultant to the company and will also join its scientific advisory board.
→ Morgan Sheng is returning to academia following a decade at Roche’s Genentech. As VP of neuroscience, he spearheaded research projects digging into new treatments for neurodegenerative diseases and pain. He now takes that back to MIT, albeit in somewhat different positions than when he left — core member at the Broad Institute, and co-director of the Stanley Center for Psychiatric Research — with a clear aim to advance new ways to study, diagnose and treat mental illness.
→ Well on its way in the clinic, anti-CD47 player Arch Oncology is ready to look beyond its lead asset for opportunities to grow. Kirk Christoffersen has been tapped for the newly-created chief business officer role, responsible for corporate strategy. Jumping from Compugen (preceded by a 10-year run at GlobeImmune) Christoffersen joins Arch shortly after it banked $50 million in Series B cash, allowing it to expand both the corporate/clinical development team in the Bay Area and the research group at St. Louis.
→ Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Celsius Therapeutics — started in 2018 and backed by Third Rock Ventures and GV (formerly Google Ventures) — announced its first key leadership appointments. Greg Ryslik has joined the company as its chief data officer, and Michael Boretti has joined as its CBO.
“Over the past year, we have been building our team and assembling an integrated, industrial-scale platform that combines single-cell genomics, machine learning, deep biology and drug discovery, which has enabled Celsius to advance its understanding of the specific cells and genetic drivers that could play a key role in autoimmune diseases and cancer,” said Alexis Borisy, chairman of Celsius.
→ After announcing that it had entered the biomechanics market launching operation in Minneapolis, Minnesota, SubioMed has now made additions to its management team. Patrick Kullmann joins the company as CEO and board member after his recent stint as COO and president for Medovex Corp.
Kullmann has also served leadership position at J&J, Boston Scientific and Medtronic and multiple start-up medical technology companies. Brian Bowen joins the company as executive VP and board member with 32 years of experience in marketing strategy and leadership. Additionally, John Deedrick — co-founder and executive chairman of ActivOrtho, co-founder and director of DyaMX, co-Founder and director of CHIP II and President of CHIP Solutions — and Martin Emerson — president and CEO of Monteris Medical — have joined the company’s board.
→ UK- based company Mogrify has relocated to the Bio-Innovation Centre at the Cambridge Science Park, after adding 15 new staff members to its scientific and management teams, including Karin Schmitt as CBO and Joe Foster as COO. The company says that “these new hires and facilities will aid Mogrify in building a scalable infrastructure to generate IP around novel cell conversion to power the development and manufacture of new cell therapies across multiple therapeutic areas.”
→ Ramping up preparations for the potential launch of RHB-105 — or Talicia as it’s already calling the anti-infective combatting H. Pylori — RedHill Biopharma has added three seasoned exec to its commercial team. Rob Jackson, VP of marketing, joins from Bioventus; Synergy Pharma’s former VP of market access, Robert Gilkin, assumes the same role at RedHill; Steven Thomasian brings experience from Kala and Cempra to his role as VP of supply chain.
→ Amgen $AMGN vet Jeremy Grunstein is the new VP of business development at Xencor $XNCR, tasked with scouting new collaborations and deals for its antibody tech, with several potential applications including in bispecific — recently enticing Genentech to sign up for an alliance.