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Roger Perlmutter lures Roy Baynes away from Merck; Now, Voyager: Al Sandrock becomes a CEO after break from Biogen

Roy Baynes
→ Professional sports teams cycle through free agency every year, and core veterans from championship clubs routinely splinter off in different…

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Roy Baynes

→ Professional sports teams cycle through free agency every year, and core veterans from championship clubs routinely splinter off in different directions. In a similar vein, Merck in particular has seen widespread turnover with its own nucleus of talent that helped Keytruda become one of the biggest blockbusters in the industry, whether it’s CEO Ken Frazier passing the baton to Rob Davis or chief marketing officer Mike Nally taking the helm at Flagship’s Generate Biomedicines. Another big name at the pharma giant, Merck Research Laboratories CMO Roy Baynes, has decided to move on himself — and he’ll be back with an old teammate.

Eliav Barr

Baynes retired this week to take on the CMO job at Roger Perlmutter’s biotech Eikon Therapeutics, which scored a Series B in January that crossed the half-billion-dollar mark. Perlmutter and Baynes both joined Merck in 2013. “As textbooks are updated to reflect the era of immuno-oncology, Roy’s contributions cannot be overstated, and will persist far beyond his eight years with Merck,” said Perlmutter’s successor at Merck, Dean Li.

Beginning April 1, Merck will turn to its deep bench and promote Eliav Barr to Baynes’ position. Barr, the SVP, global clinical development since 2018, has been with the company for 26 years. Baynes will then get started at Eikon on July 11.

Al Sandrock

→ It didn’t take long for Al Sandrock to jump at the chance to run a company: The former R&D chief at Biogen, and a sacrificial lamb amid the Aduhelm rollout fiasco, has ascended to CEO at Voyager, the gene therapy biotech that just took him on as a board member in February. It’s a space that Sandrock knows well from his Biogen days — Nightstar Therapeutics’ gene therapies for eye disease were enticing enough to purchase the biotech in 2019, but that particular bet has fallen flat.

Meanwhile, Voyager has regained momentum with its discovery efforts after running into choppy waters with decaying partnerships and clinical holds. Michael Higgins had been interim CEO since Andre Turenne’s departure in May 2021, leading Voyager to a $1.7 billion discovery deal with Novartis earlier this month.

Daniel Faga

→ When anti-IL-36R antibody imsidolimab airballed its Phase II trial for facial acne last week after a previous setback in severe palmoplantar pustulosis, it quickly proved to be the end of the road for Hamza Suria, the AnaptysBio CEO since 2011. Board member Daniel Faga now steps onto the court on an interim basis as AnaptysBio proceeds with imsidolimab in generalized pustular psoriasis and moderate-to-severe hidradenitis suppurativa. Faga walked away from Mirati less than two years into his tenure as COO along with CMO Joseph Leveque, shortly after David Meek took over for Charles Baum as CEO in September 2021.

Elaine Sun

→ Co-founded by CRISPR doyenne Jennifer Doudna and inking a nearly $700 million deal with Vertex last October, Mammoth Biosciences has unspooled a number of new execs: Elaine Sun (COO and CFO), who was previously the finance chief at Halozyme, has also been CFO and chief strategy officer for SutroVax; Ted Tisch has shifted to the role of “chief agility officer,” as the company is calling it, after more than two and a half years as Mammoth’s COO; Adriana Dantas Lemberg (VP, product management) spent the last 11 years with Roche in multiple product development and marketing capacities, and another seven with Becton Dickinson; and Dimitrios Zisoulis (VP, genome engineering) is the ex-VP of drug discovery at Locanabio.

Shinichi Tamura Sosei Heptares

Sosei Heptares is dealing with a lot of moving parts as it makes some changes to its leadership team. The company’s CFO, Chris Cargill will now be stepping up as CEO and president, succeeding Shinichi Tamura who is transitioning to chairman of the board. The other moves in the company include: Matt Barnes (named president of Heptares Therapeutics and head of UK R&D); Hironoshin Nomura (previously SVP, IR & corporate strategy and now CFO); Kieran Johnson (ex SVP, group financial controller and now chief accounting officer); Kazuhiko Yoshizumi (re-appointed as chief compliance officer); and Tadayoshi Yasui (re-appointed as president of Sosei Co Ltd, Japan).

→ Just as its gearing up to initiate a Phase II trial for its lead candidate, with a fresh $36 million in its coffers, Ocelot Bio is waving goodbye to its founding CEO Geoff Harris. The company has locked in Katherina Vega Stultz as Harris’ successor. Stultz makes the journey to Ocelot from Graphite Bio, where she served as COO. In addition, Stultz has experience from roles at Celgene and Eli Lilly under her belt.

Ribometrix out of the Research Triangle has promoted Manjunath Ramarao to CSO, nine months into his tenure as SVP of research with the Genentech RNA partner. Before setting off for Ribometrix, Ramarao concluded his 12 years with Bristol Myers Squibb as executive director, head of discovery and translational medicine at the Biocon-Bristol Myers Squibb R&D Center in India. Ramarao replaces John Reardon, who had been chief scientist since April 2019.

Rayne Waller

Rayne Waller has been named COO at Capsida Biotherapeutics, the southern California gene therapy outfit that will soon celebrate its one-year anniversary since Versant and Westlake Village BioPartners helped launch the company. Waller had a lengthy run at Amgen spanning 28 years, and in his last role at the pharma giant, he served as VP and site head for its largest manufacturing site in Puerto Rico. In December 2021, Peter Anastasiou replaced Bob Cuddihy as Capsida’s CEO, while co-founders Nicholas Flytzanis and Nick Goeden took C-suite positions.

Kyle Carver

→ Members of the old Dermira crew united to form Evoimmune in January 2021, followed by an $83 million Series A last September. This week the dermatology upstart has tapped Kyle Carver as CFO. Carver was chief accounting officer when the graft-versus-host disease drug Rezurock was approved at Kadmon, now part of Sanofi after a $9.8 billion buyout in the fall of 2021.

→ Treg-focused Seattle biotech Mozart Therapeutics is playing in a major key with the appointment of Jan Beck as COO, plucking him from Lyell Immunopharma. Beck had led R&D operations at Lyell, founded and chaired by Rick Klausner and one of the Endpoints 11 in 2020. He began a long association with Novo Nordisk in 2002, climbing up to president of the Novo Nordisk Research Center in Seattle. (This is also a golden opportunity for Peer Review to recommend one of Mozart’s delightful symphonies while you read this week’s edition.)

Randall Kaye

Philip Perera has announced his retirement as CMO of Longboard Pharmaceuticals, staying on as an advisor while the San Diego neuro biotech has plugged in Randall Kaye in his place. For Kaye, this is far from his first CMO gig, having held the position before at Avanir Pharmaceuticals (2006-14), Axsome Therapeutics (2014-16), Click Therapeutics (2018-19) and Neurana Pharmaceuticals (since October 2019).

Wendy Pang

→ Bay Area hematopoietic stem cell biotech Jasper Therapeutics is rejiggering its leadership since the arrival of new CEO Ronald Martell, promoting Jeet Mahal to COO and Wendy Pang to SVP of research and translational medicine. While Jasper lines up the headhunters for a new CMO, co-founder Judith Shizuru “will lead clinical development activities on an interim basis,” sending R&D chief Kevin Keller to a consulting role. Mahal, Jasper’s first ever operations chief, was previously chief finance and business officer since its late 2019 launch after 11 years at Portola as a business development and strategic marketing exec. Joining Jasper’s R&D team in January 2020, Pang was also a longtime instructor at Stanford.

→ Video game therapeutic maker Akili Interactive Labs is bringing in the brains with its new chief product officer Jon David. David is cruising his way into the Boston-based company with several gaming industry gigs under his belt. Heard of Diner Dash Adventures, Bejeweled Blitz or Plants vs. Zombies? Well, through his stints at Glu Mobile, Taunt, PopCap Games, Microsoft and Electronic Arts, David has helped develop them all and will be a welcome addition to the team over at Akili which recently revealed some hefty losses through its SEC filings.

Molly Henderson

→ NJ-based gastrointestinal disease player Phathom Pharmaceuticals has appointed Molly Henderson as chief financial and business officer, effective April 5. Prior to joining Phathom, Henderson served as CFO at UroGen and she’s held the same title at Iovance and Advaxis. Henderson also currently serves as a member of the board of directors and chair of the audit committee of Calliditas Therapeutics.

Laura Eichorn

→ Blood cancer upstart Imago BioSciences has lined up Michael Arenberg as chief operating and business officer, while co-founder Laura Eichorn will be the permanent CFO after holding dual roles as COO and interim CFO. During more than 22 years at Durect, Arenberg rose from SVP, corporate and business development to CFO. Mid-stage trials are ongoing for Imago BioSciences’ lead program, bomedemstat, in essential thrombocythemia and myelofibrosis.

Sundu Brahmasandra

Sundu Brahmasandra has taken over the COO position at Merck- and Pfizer-backed Strata Oncology, which racked up a $90 million Series C round last summer. A biotech fixture in Michigan, Brahmasandra has previously served as president and COO of NeuMoDx Molecular, and when Qiagen bought NeuMoDx, he then served as VP, president, head of operations and product development of Qiagen’s Ann Arbor operations.

→ Clinical trial software and analytics provider Cytel is picking up its first CMO with the appointment of Albert Kim. Kim most recently served as VP, clinical research head for Pfizer’s internal medicine research unit. Kim’s prior work includes roles at Novartis and at the FDA.

→ AI biotech Creyon Bio has found a CMO a couple weeks after launching with $40 million in seed and Series A funding. David Dimmock, who was recently the senior medical director of Rady Children’s Institute for Genomic Medicine in San Diego, is also on the scientific advisory board at BioMarin and Taysha Gene Therapies.

Scott Dove

→ Houston-based Stanford spinout Aravive has brought on Scott Dove as COO. Dove comes to the metastatic disease biotech — once run by Rekha Hemrajani and now helmed by Gail McIntyre since 2020 — from PPD, where he was SVP and general manager, early development services. He’s also been Allergan’s global clinical development lead for the IBS drug eluxadoline, which was first approved in 2015 and marketed as Viberzi.

→ Jumping on the radiopharma bandwagon, San Diego-based Crinetics Pharmaceuticals has made several hires in a nine-month period, and CBO Chris Robillard is the newest member of the squad. Robillard, the head of business development at Goldfinch Bio since November 2020, also led business development and corporate strategy during his four years at Karyopharm. Crinetics has also recently named Jeff Knight as COO and James Hassard as chief commercial officer while padding its board of directors with Sigilon CEO Rogerio Vivaldi and Magenta CCO Caren Deardorf.

Oliver Planz

Oliver Planz is stepping aside from his CSO post at German-based antiviral company Atriva Therapeutics after June 30, but the co-founder will still chair the scientific advisory board and lead the “Translational Immunology of Infection” group in the immunology department at the Eberhard Karl University of Tübingen. Atriva is currently studying its lead candidate zapnometinib as a possible treatment for Covid-19.

Jessica Crespo

→ Teaming up with Bharat Biotech on a Covid-19 vaccine that faced regulatory hurdles before a hold was lifted last month, Ocugen has promoted Jessica Crespo to chief accounting officer and SVP, finance. Since 2019, the Cubist Pharmaceuticals vet was VP, corporate controller and treasurer, and she was director, accounting & finance during her time at Aerie Pharmaceuticals. One more note: former Allianz Global Investors Capital CEO Marna Whittington — a board member at Macy’s and Phillips 66, among others — has been added to Ocugen’s board of directors.

Klaus Orlinger

→ Gilead-partnered immunotherapy developer Hookipa is promoting Klaus Orlinger to CSO. Orlinger joined the Vienna-based company in 2012 and started as head of virology before most recently serving as EVP, research.

Sean Gregory

Pairing up with Aetion to detect Alzheimer’s disease through the use of AI, medtech Cognito Therapeutics has appointed Sean Gregory as VP, health economics and market access. Gregory had previously been SVP, analytics & insights at Magellan Health.

→ The company that once belonged to Leen Kawas, Athira Pharma, has elected Michael Panzara to the board of directors. Panzara — the CMO, head of therapeutics discovery and development at Wave Life Sciences — joins a board that recently appointed Vaxcyte CEO Grant Pickering. Kawas, Athira’s co-founder whose reign as CEO was derailed by an investigation that revealed she manipulated images in her doctoral research and on several other occasions, has re-emerged as CEO of Propel Bio Partners.

John Young

Appearing in Peer Review last week with three new execs, Imbria Pharmaceuticals has named John Young to the board of directors. Young is closing out nearly 35 years at Pfizer as group president and special advisor to CEO Albert Bourla, and a board seat awaits for him at GSK consumer healthcare spinoff Haleon.

Sean McClain-led Absci, which docked with Merck’s dealmaking machine after locking up an AI partnership with the Keytruda maker in January, has rolled out the welcome mat for Andreas Busch on the board of directors. Busch, the CSO at Cyclerion, is the ex-CSO at Shire and the former head of drug discovery with Bayer.

Dyne Therapeutic’s former CEO and CSO Romesh Subramanian is picking up a seat on Ceptur Therapeutics board of directors. Subramanian was running the ship at Dyne from 2018-2021 and prior to that was at Alexion Pharmaceuticals. Stints earlier in his career include roles at RaNA Therapeutics (now Translate Bio), Pfizer, Thrasos Therapeutics.

Christina Coughlin

→ Chaired by F-star CEO Eliot Forster, oncology and diagnostics player Avacta out of the UK has reserved a seat for Christina Coughlin on the board of directors. Peer Review profiled Coughlin in November 2021 when she took the CEO job at CytoImmune.

→ With its lead program atrasentan in Phase III for IgA nephropathy, Chinook Therapeutics has added Mahesh Krishnan to a board of directors that includes Samsara’s Srini Akkaraju and Versant’s Jerel Davis. The Amgen vet is group VP, R&D for DaVita Venture Group.

Notch Therapeutics president and CEO David Main has joined the board of directors at Orum Therapeutics. In 2006, Main co-founded Aquinox Pharmaceuticals and has previously served as president and CEO of INEX Pharmaceuticals.

Sharon Barber-Lui

Sharon Barber-Lui has been given a spot on the board of directors at PureTech. Barber-Lui was the head of US oncology portfolio market strategy, operations and business analytics at Merck, then left after more than two decades at the Big Pharma to become SVP of global finance at EQRx earlier this year.

→ One of many biotechs that can tell you the struggle is real with tackling NASH, CymaBay has ushered in Éric Lefebvre as a member of the board of directors. An Allergan and Janssen alum, Lefebvre is CMO at Pliant Therapeutics.

Renee Tannenbaum

→ The last time we saw Renee Tannenbaum in Peer Review, she was joining the board of directors at Cardiff Oncology, and now she owns a board seat at ANI Pharmaceuticals. Formerly the VP of global partnering at Halozyme, Tannenbaum’s Big Pharma experience is plentiful, with stops at Merck, Bristol Myers, Novartis and AbbVie.

→ Dallas-based Vaxxinity is making some transitions as its EVP, development Peter Powchik is making his way onto the company’s board while retiring from his current position. Powchik has had a long line of roles spanning from Regeneron to Chugai Pharma to Novartis.

ONK Therapeutics, which recently inked a deal with Intellia last month, is signaling in Allan Reine as an independent non-executive director to its board. Reine currently serves as CFO at Foghorn Therapeutics and was previously CFO of Pieris Pharmaceuticals.

Lorenzo Galluzzi has made his way to the scientific advisory board at New York oncology biotech Phosplatin Therapeutics. Galluzzi runs his own lab at Weill Cornell Medical College and is assistant professor of cell biology in radiation oncology, while holding another faculty post at Yale.

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