Swatting away a takeover attempt, Zymeworks keeps retooling staff; After Cygnal-ing her exit from Flagship, Pearl Huang starts afresh
→ Zymeworks used a poison pill maneuver a couple weeks ago as the counterpunch to a $773 million takeover bid by All Blue Falcons, and new CEO Kenneth Galbraith isn’t done piecing the staff together either.
Paul Moore will end his 14-year association with MacroGenics, where he was VP, cell biology, and immunology, and step up to the plate as CSO of Zymeworks on July 18. Tony Polverino, the chief scientist who preceded Moore, didn’t escape the sweeping changes that were enacted by Galbraith in January, when half the C-suite and 25% of the staff overall received pink slips. Neil Klompas and Neil Josephson were named COO and CMO, respectively, and Chris Astle took over as CFO a month later.
→ Pearl Huang — one of our Women in Biopharma R&D honorees from 2020 — is a CEO again, this time at Cambridge, UK, protein degradation biotech Dunad Therapeutics. Huang was Roche’s head of therapeutic modalities until 2018 and became CEO of Flagship’s exoneural biology company Cygnal Therapeutics a short time later. When Flagship combined Inzen and Cygnal to form Sonata Therapeutics in mid-May, Volker Herrmann was named chief executive, leaving Huang to explore other options. She lands at Dunad after Novartis inked a $1.3+ billion deal with the startup in November 2021.
→ Hoping to revitalize a pipeline that has yet to see an FDA approval in its 20-plus year history, Inovio has tapped Michael Sumner as CMO, joining new chief executive Jacqueline Shea. For the last nine years, Sumner was medical chief for Swedish biotech Orexo, and he’s worked in medical affairs for Shire and Novo Nordisk. A month ago, Shea took over for Joseph Kim after Inovio hit multiple potholes with its Covid-19 vaccine, leading to a different approach with INO-4800 as a heterologous booster.
→ There’s a lot to sift through at the US-Danish cancer biotech Allarity Therapeutics, starting with CEO Steve Carchedi, who has yielded the top spot to CBO James Cullem on an interim basis. Cullem had been SVP of corporate development for seven years before ascending to the role of business chief in December. CFO Jens Knudsen is also out, and Allarity has lined up director of financial reporting Joan Brown to pinch-hit. Meanwhile, Thomas Jensen — who co-founded the company in 2004 — will now be SVP of investor relations after two years as SVP, information technology. Allarity’s board “expects to name a permanent CEO and CFO in H1 2023,” according to the press release.
→ The unrelenting job cuts in the industry haven’t spared hit eye disease-focused Oyster Point Pharma, which will scrap about 50 employees as part of its new “streamlining plan.” Changes have filtered into the senior leadership too as Genentech alum John Snisarenko — the chief commercial officer since 2019 — heads into retirement, while sales and commercial operations VP Michael Campbell becomes head of commercial. Elsewhere at Oyster Point, Daniel Lochner will also tackle the role of CBO in addition to his CFO duties.
→ In October 2021, The Carlyle Group jumped on the AI bandwagon alongside the investment arms of Pfizer, Merck, Amgen and McKesson with the $430 million buyout of cloud-based Saama Technologies. Saama’s founding CEO Suresh Katta has now stepped aside after 25 years and will transition to the role of chairman emeritus as Vivek Sharma takes control at the California AI player. Sharma has been a chief executive before with Decision Resources Group, Piramal Pharma Solutions and more recently, Adare Pharma Solutions. In addition to his new title at Saama, Katta will also be an advisor for Carlyle.
→ Firing back at the FDA with a formal dispute resolution request for its epidermolysis bullosa drug Filsuvez, Amryt Pharma has promoted Tracy Cunningham to CMO. Cunningham is a Sanofi alum who had been clinical lead for selumetinib — now marketed as Koselugo — with AstraZeneca before making her way to Amryt as head of development in 2020. Earlier, Cunningham held medical affairs roles at Novartis and GSK.
→ As for Cunningham’s predecessor, he only has to switch out a few letters: Mark Sumeray has left Amryt to become CMO at Amolyt Pharma, a French-American endocrine disease biotech that filled the piggy bank with an $80 million Series B round in September 2021. Before his six years as CMO at Amryt, Sumeray was the medical chief for Aegerion Pharmaceuticals and VP, US cardiovascular and metabolic medical affairs with Bristol Myers Squibb.
→ To accommodate its entry into the clinical trial business, as reported from Cannes last week, Walgreens has lined up a string of hires, with chief clinical trials officer Ramita Tandon batting leadoff. Other appointments include: Kendal Whitlock (head of digital optimization, real world evidence clinical trials), John Campbell (head of decentralized clinical trials), Liam Wood (head of product, clinical trials) and Adam Samson (head of clinical delivery operations, clinical trials).
→ Thierry Guillaudeux has been promoted to CSO of Seattle-based Kineta, which merged with Tony Coles’ Parkinson’s play Yumanity in early June. A longtime professor at the University of Rennes 1 in France, Guillaudeux came to Kineta as SVP, immuno-oncology in 2019 and has helped develop its immunotherapy candidate KVA12.1, an IgG1 monoclonal antibody.
→ Cambridge, MA-based GV20 Therapeutics is locking in Shirley Liu as CEO and bringing in duo Steven Landau and Ying Gong as CMO and CBO, respectively. Liu co-founded GV20 in 2016, having previously served as professor of biostatistics and computational biology at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health. Meanwhile, Landau formerly ran operations as CMO at Shape Pharmaceuticals and Tensha Therapeutics, while Gong most recently served as project team leader for oncology at Genentech.
→ Eric Sullivan has been appointed CFO at next-gen T cell outfit TCR² Therapeutics. Sullivan, a bluebird and Merrimack vet, served as president, CFO and COO at Triplet Therapeutics, and has also served as SVP at Gemini Therapeutics and Oncorus prior to joining TCR², which is developing its lead program gavo-cel in several indications.
→ Hematologic disease biotech Forma Therapeutics will gain two execs on July 11: Agustín Melián (head of R&D) left AlloVir at the end of 2021 and was the Diana Brainard-led biotech’s first CMO. Prior to this, he spent 13 years at Merck and was SVP in global clinical development and medical sciences. Linea Aspesi (chief human resources officer) is a Sanofi Genzyme alum who held the same position at Saniona and led HR at Sobi.
→ Paradigm Biopharmaceuticals has handed over the CEO hat to Marco Polizzi. Prior to his new role, Polizzi was the founder and CEO of Oakrum Pharma. Polizzi has had a long career spanning roles at Casper Pharma (EVP commercial operations and business development), Sandoz (head of sales and marketing institutional), Mallinckrodt (VP/GM) and Teva.
→ San Diego-based RNA player DTx Pharma has locked in Peter Condon as CBO. From 2018-21, Condon was head of business development and alliance management at Gossamer Bio, and after 10 years at Genentech, he held the role of executive director, business development at Alexion and Google’s anti-aging upstart Calico.
→ Sosei Heptares CBO James Taylor has left to fill the same position at Achilles Therapeutics, a T cell player that went public on the strength of a $175.5 million IPO in the spring of 2021. (Remember those?) Taylor was also a senior director of business development at GSK and held posts at AstraZeneca, Summit Therapeutics and Cellzome. Achilles has also added Cassian Yee, a professor at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, to its scientific advisory board.
→ We told you about Jotin Marango leaving Aptose for Ikena Oncology in April, and this week Fletcher Payne has replaced Marango as CFO. Payne heads to Aptose after nearly three years as finance chief at Syapse, and he’s also been CFO at Plexxikon, CytomX and the now-shuttered Catalyst Biosciences. Aptose’s lead asset, HM43239, is in a Phase I/II trial for relapsed or refractory acute myeloid leukemia.
→ Now focused on indications like rheumatoid arthritis and hidradenitis suppurativa with zunsemetinib after misfiring in alopecia areata with ATI-502, Aclaris Therapeutics has selected Gail Cawkwell as CMO. Cawkwell, the ex-CMO and special advisor to the board of directors at Purdue Pharma, spent the last four years as the SVP, medical affairs, safety & pharmacovigilance for Intercept, and she also worked on Xeljanz in her 14 years with Pfizer. Cawkwell’s predecessor, David Gordon, stepped aside at Aclaris on Jan. 7.
→ Cellino’s “GMP-in-a-box” idea made a believer out of Leaps by Bayer, leading the $80 million Series A in January. Fast forward to this week, where Cellino has named Abhijit Kulkarni as COO and Paulette Dillon as CBO. Kulkarni had led the Neuromodulation Technology Development Center at Medtronic, while Dillon co-founded and was SVP of corporate development at recently downsized Atreca. “Their vision is to be a cell manufacturing foundry, where you can produce targeted cells at a fraction of the cost,” Jürgen Eckhardt, the head of Leaps by Bayer, said of Cellino.
→ NGM Biopharmaceuticals — which has collaborated with Merck — has announced that its CFO Siobhan Nolan Mangini will be taking over as president on top of her current duties. Mangini joined NGM in July 2016 and hailed from Castlight Health, where she was president and CFO. Additionally, William Rieflin, NGM’s executive chairman and former CEO, is transitioning to the role of chairman on NGM’s board of directors.
→ Peer Review has learned that 64x Bio, the George Church gene therapy manufacturing startup run by a 20 under 40 honoree from this year (Lex Rovner), has installed Christopher Hoppe as head of operations. Hoppe joins from Nektar, where he was clinical, operational, and strategic advancement lead for the biotech’s cytokine portfolio.
→ Scott Batty has joined autoimmune disease biotech Artax Biopharma as CMO. Batty, the ex-global director of medical affairs for the belatacept immunosuppression program at Bristol Myers, had previously been VP of regulatory and scientific affairs for CTI. He has also served as VP of global medical affairs for Genzyme’s transplant and oncology group.
→ Launa Aspeslet is settling in as COO of Hepion Pharmaceuticals, a New Jersey biotech using AI to develop therapies for NASH and hepatocellular carcinoma. Aspeslet had helmed Translational Research in Oncology, a clinical research organization out of Edmonton with offices in Paris and Montevideo, Uruguay, since 2015. She vaulted to COO of another Edmonton-based company, Isotechnika Pharma, before it was sold to Aurinia nine years ago.
In other Hepion news, corporate strategy execs Anand Reddi (Adverum) and Kaouthar Lbiati (Cytovia) have earned their seats on the board of directors.
→ Dermira vet Luis Peña and his crew at Evommune have welcomed Greg Moss as chief corporate strategy and legal officer; he’ll also juggle the roles of corporate secretary and chief compliance officer at the inflammatory disease biotech. Moss comes to Evommune after a decade at Sanofi subsidiary Kadmon, where he was general counsel & corporate secretary, chief compliance officer. This isn’t the first Kadmon alum to become part of Evommune’s leadership: Ex-chief accounting officer Kyle Carver has been CFO at Evommune since March.
→ Person to Person: Natalie Holles is gradually fleshing out her team at Third Harmonic Bio with a new CFO (Robert Ho), CSO (Adrian Ray) and CMO (Edward Conner). This week Julie Person, who comes from ARCH’s “Really Big Neuroscience Company” named Neumora, is on board as chief administrative officer. Person spent a year as VP of human resources at Sangamo after her time as global head of talent management at Shire, and then had a brief run at Holles’ former company, Audentes, prior to her appointment as Neumora’s chief people officer.
→ Peter Leddy has made his way to San Diego-based Maravai LifeSciences as chief administrative officer. Prior to joining Maravai, Leddy had such roles as chief human resources officer at Berkeley Lights, chief people officer at dosist and EVP, global human resources and corporate integrity at Nuvasive.
→ The leadership changes at Zentalis haven’t decelerated as the Pfizer partner brings in Andrea Paul as general counsel and corporate secretary on Aug. 1. Paul, who filled legal roles at Momenta and Akebia Therapeutics, had recently been general counsel and corporate secretary for a year at LogicBio. Back in May, Kimberly Blackwell succeeded Anthony Sun as Zentalis’ CEO, while co-founder Cam Gallagher was elevated to president.
→ Synthetic biology player and Roche IBD partner Synlogic has promoted Brendan St. Amant to general counsel and corporate secretary. Named VP, head of legal at Synlogic in July 2021, St. Amant was senior counsel at Vertex before moving to the now-defunct Flagship company Ohana Biosciences as VP of legal in 2019.
→ What’s new at NeuBase? COO William Mann is tacking on the title of president to his current duties. Prior to his current stint, Mann was CEO and president of Helsinn Therapeutics and held roles at Sapphire Therapeutics and Novartis.
→ London-based Resolution Therapeutics is bringing aboard Amol Ketkar as chief development officer. Ketkar had a 21-year gig at GSK, most recently serving as VP, product development and supply for the company’s cell and gene therapy CMC group.
→ Elevar Therapeutics out of Salt Lake City is bringing in some new faces with the appointments of Jan Van Tornout as CMO and Gordon Schooley as chief regulatory officer. Van Tornout previously served as CMO of Tyme Technologies while Schooley jumps aboard after a seven-year run with BeyondSpring.
→ Peer Review has been informed that Cambridge, MA medtech Cognito Therapeutics has enlisted Steven Maxim as director of manufacturing. Maxim owned the same title at Avedro (purchased by Glaukos in 2019) and has further manufacturing experience from IPG Medical and Palomar Medical Technologies.
→ Gossamer Bio founder, CEO and chairman Faheem Hasnain is adding another board appointment to his résumé with his latest chairman stint at Sling Therapeutics. Currently, Hasnain sits on the board of Kura Oncology and serves as chairman of the board for Aspen Neuroscience, Mirati Therapeutics and SENTÉ.
→ With its NDA for vamorolone getting shelved for four to six months because of contract manufacturing hurdles, Swiss biotech Santhera has named Thomas Meier chairman of the board, replacing Elmar Schnee on Thursday. Meier, the chief executive at Santhera from 2011-19, has been a board member since 2017 and is managing partner at Viopas Venture Consulting in Zurich.
→ Former HHS Secretary and Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson has been named Covid-19 special consultant to CEO Henry Ji at Sorrento Therapeutics. The 80-year-old Thompson was recently at his alma mater as interim president of the University of Wisconsin System from July 2020 to March 2022.
→ Striking a $1.25 billion Gavreto deal with Royalty Pharma and a separate pact with Sixth Street, Blueprint Medicines has reserved space for Habib Dable on to the board of directors. Dable had a 22-year career at Bayer before his CEO stint at Acceleron, which was sold to Merck last fall for $11.5 billion.
→ Meenu Karson has succeeded Kenneth Fong as chair of the board at Apexigen, which is merging with Brookline Capital Acquisition Corp. despite a battered market. The ex-Proteostasis Therapeutics chief is also on the board of directors at Fore Biotherapeutics.
→ Surface Oncology is welcoming Carsten Brunn to its ranks by pulling out a seat for the Selecta CEO and president on its board of directors. Brunn formerly served in leadership roles at Bayer (president of pharmaceuticals for the Americas region), Eli Lilly, Novartis, Basilea and Bausch + Lomb. Brunn currently sits on the board of BIO.
→ Led by GSK alum Jack Bailey, Cosela maker G1 Therapeutics has added Jacks Lee to the board of directors. After 19 years at Sanofi, Lee has been with Merck since 2007 and is the pharma giant’s SVP, manufacturing & supply.
→ Chaired by former HHS Secretary and ex-Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, Laura Niklason-led Humacyte has added Biopharma Excellence co-founder and former CEO Diane Seimetz to the board of directors. Seimetz also serves on the board at Cumulus Oncology.
→ Axel-Sven Malkomes and Donald Bergstrom are the newest additions to the board of directors at Cellectis. Malkomes, a Barclays vet, was CFO and CBO of Medigene from 2019 until the end of March. Bergstorm has been a board observer at Cellectis since November and is head of R&D at Relay Therapeutics, which took the cover off its interim data for RLY-4008 in patients with bile duct cancer this week.
→ UK-based Genflow Biosciences is swapping out some of its board members and trading them in for Tamara Joseph (chief legal officer at Spero Therapeutics) and Guy-Charles Fanneau de la Horie (former chief executive at Euronext Growth). Joseph and Fanneau de la Horie succeed Gabrielle Silver and Andrew Scott, who are stepping down.
→ Aytu BioPharma is pulling Vivian Liu onto its board of directors. Liu currently serves as head of corporate affairs for PREMIA Holdings and previously held the titles of president, CEO and CFO of Innovus Pharmaceuticals. Earlier in her career, Liu was president and CEO of FasTrack Pharmaceuticals and NexMed.
→ Calidi Biotherapeutics has brought on WK Alfred Yung to its medical advisory board. Yung is a professor, neuro-oncology at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center and advised President Biden’s Cancer Moonshot initiative.