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Xenotransplant gene editor eGenesis snags transplant expert as CMO; John Tsai, Susanne Schaffert among the hard cuts made at Novartis

Eliezer Katz
The waitlist for an organ transplant in the US exceeds 100,000 people, but the biopharma world has long struggled to find solutions for the…



Eliezer Katz

The waitlist for an organ transplant in the US exceeds 100,000 people, but the biopharma world has long struggled to find solutions for the demand.

In comes the much-talked-about gene editing field. A Cambridge, MA biotech is attempting to use CRISPR and other gene editing tools to address the virology and immunology challenges associated with xenotransplantation, or taking organs and cells from one species and putting them in another. Pigs have often been considered the most likely route; a patient received a genetically modified pig heart transplant in January — the first attempt in decades — but tragically passed two months later.

The Boston-area company, eGenesis, thinks it can address the historical hurdles in a safe and effective path, but the biotech has yet to test its plans in humans. This week, it got one step closer to the clinic when it named Eliezer Katz its chief medical officer. Katz will lead medical operations as the biotech tees up kidney and islet cells for the clinic, with solid organ programs — heart, liver, lung — in the earlier stages of research. The company reeled in $125 million in Series C funds in March 2021.

Critically, Katz’s résumé boasts nearly two decades as a transplant surgeon, including stints as director of abdominal transplantation at Integris Baptist Medical Center and director of liver transplantation at University of Massachusetts Medical Center.

Since 2004, he’s climbed the ladder in biopharma, starting with a VP of medical affairs post at CTI Clinical Trial and Consulting Services in the mid-to-late aughts. He then moved to Pfizer in 2010, where he served as senior director of transplantation. While there, he helped plan late-stage trials for tofacitinib, marketed as Xeljanz for ulcerative colitis, rheumatoid arthritis and psoriatic arthritis. He also played a role in requesting FDA approval of rapamycin, sold as Rapamune, for the treatment of the rare and deadly lung disease known as lymphangioleiomyomatosis.

After a few years at Pfizer, he moved over to MedImmune, where he was senior director of clinical development. That post led him to serve as VP of clinical development at Viela Bio and then at its acquirer Horizon Therapeutics. At those companies, he led the clinical development of Uplizna, which is used by adults to treat neuromyelitis optica spectrum disorder, a chronic disorder in which optic nerve and spinal cords are overrun with inflammation.

Now at eGenesis, Katz said in his job unveiling that he believes his new employer “has the potential to address this shortage and radically improve how we treat organ failure.” The company has partnerships with University of Miami to evaluate human compatible islet cells in diabetes models, Duke University School of Medicine to conduct preclinical research of gene-edited kidneys that have been implanted in non-human primates and another gene-edited kidney program with Massachusetts General Hospital.

— Kyle LaHucik

Susanne Schaffert

→ Some of the most recognizable names at Novartis didn’t escape the chopping block as CEO Vas Narasimhan institutes a major reorganization that could save the Swiss pharma more than a billion dollars a year. Gone are head of development/CMO John Tsai and head of oncology Susanne Schaffert in favor of a blend of corporate strategy, R&D portfolio strategy and business development Novartis is calling Strategy & Growth, while president of customer & technology solutions Robert Weltevreden was also shown the door. Lutz Hegemann, Novartis’ president, global health, will be interim chief strategy & growth officer until a permanent successor is named.

Elsewhere at the drug giant, Novartis Pharmaceuticals president Marie-France Tschudin has been given a different set of responsibilities as president, innovative medicines international and chief commercial officer. Beginning May 16, ex-Dicerna medical chief Shreeram Aradhye will be president, global drug development and CMO. And two other Novartis vets have earned new titles: Steffen Lang (from global head of Novartis technical operations to president, operations) and Victor Bulto (from head of US pharmaceuticals to president, innovative medicines US). John Carroll has more perspective on the massive changes.


Shefali Agarwal

Agarwal has been named president and CEO of DNA Damage Response (DDR) biotech Onxeo out of Paris, succeeding interim chief Julien Miara from Invus. Judith Greciet had led the company for the last decade before Miara bridged the gap in January. Agarwal, the former clinical lead for Zejula at Tesaro, was CMO and then chief medical and development officer at Epizyme since 2018. She’s also a board member at Gritstone bio, Fate Therapeutics and ITB Med.

Guowei Fang

→ In keeping with Masters week, Legend hopes they’ve split the fairway with Guowei Fang as SVP, global head of research and early development following the March 30 resignation of founder and CSO Frank Fan, who stayed long enough to see their J&J-partnered BCMA CAR-T cilta-cel (now Carvykti) earn approval in late February. Fang will try to fill Fan’s shoes after two years as SVP, research at Zymeworks and leadership roles with AbbVie and Pharmacyclics.

John Maraganore

→ It’s been a mere four weeks since Peer Review broke out the Maraganore Meter, but we have another reason to crank it up again as Takeda proposes John Maraganore’s appointment to the board of directors. In the event of an approval, the ex-Alnylam CEO and Kimberly Reed — the former president, CEO and chair of the Export-Import Bank of the United States — will officially become board members on June 29, replacing the retiring Toshiyuki Shiga and Shiro Kuniya.

We’re not through with Maraganore: He’ll also grab a seat on the advisory board of Treg biotech Abata Therapeutics alongside co-founder and chair Diane Mathis, Charles Cooney, and Gerald Nepom.

Margo Georgiadis

Noubar Afeyan has teed up another CEO-partner in Flagship Pioneering’s stable of startups, and this time it’s Margo Georgiadis who will lead a company still in stealth mode. Georgiadis, a board member at McDonald’s since 2015, has had some irons in the fire after her departure as CEO of in 2021, serving as endurance partner-in-residence at General Catalyst and managing partner at Synetro Group. She follows in the footsteps of other CEO-partners at Flagship such as Fabrice Chouraqui (CEO of Cellarity), Diego Miralles (CEO of Laronde) and former FDA commissioner Stephen Hahn (CEO of Harbinger Health).

→ One big happy reunion is coming right up over at Vertex, as Doug Melton is gearing up to join next month on May 2 as the company’s first “Distinguished Vertex Fellow.” The move from his current job at Harvard allows Melton to get together with his former Semma collaborators: Vertex chief of cell & gene therapies Bastiano Sanna (formerly Semma’s CEO), Vertex CSO David Altshuler (who first met Melton in grad school and has kept in touch since), and Vertex disease area executive for type I diabetes Felicia Pagliuca (Semma co-founder). Melton’s new role will have him running a research group in order to develop “curative cell therapies.”

Robert Sikorski

Premal Patel has resigned as CMO of eFFECTOR Therapeutics to take the CEO job at Cellinfinity Bio, and while the search is on for his successor, ex-Five Prime CMO Robert Sikorski will take on a greater role as senior clinical development advisor. San Diego-based eFFECTOR announced in January that they were more or less starting from scratch by “halting the development of tomivosertib in non-small cell lung cancer patients who have already progressed on Keytruda monotherapy,” as our Amber Tong reported at the time. But the Phase Ib KICKSTART trial now features a new cohort for “virtually all PD-L1 positive patients,” eFFECTOR CEO Steve Worland said.

Michael Krams

→ Using AI to blaze trails in drug discovery, Exscientia kept the cash flowing and stacked up more partnerships in the last year, going public with an IPO that ended up exceeding a half billion dollars. This week CEO Andrew Hopkins has poached Michael Krams from J&J’s Janssen to be chief quantitative medicine officer. Krams, Janssen’s global head of quantitative sciences since 2013, left Wyeth to lead J&J’s neurology franchise in 2010. Among the latest alliances, Sanofi paid $100 million upfront in a January AI deal with Exscientia that could yield as many as 15 drugs.

Sef Kurstjens

Sumitovant’s urology sub Urovant has called up Sef Kurstjens from the board of directors to be CMO, replacing Cornelia Haag-Molkenteller. A board member since the summer of 2018, Kurstjens — the former CMO at Allergan and Astellas — was CEO at Bright Peak Therapeutics from 2019-21. Urovant is looking to tack on another indication with its overactive bladder drug Gemtesa, approved in late 2020, for men with benign prostatic hyperplasia.

Francois Lilienthal

MindMed CEO Robert Barrow participated in our psychedelics webinar last week with Nicole DeFeudis, and now the company focused on brain health disorders has selected Francois Lilienthal as chief commercial officer. Lilienthal had a series of roles at Bristol Myers Squibb, Janssen and Tibotec, then held multiple executive positions at Merck from 2007-21, spearheading the launches of HIV integrase inhibitor Isentress and hepatitis C drug Zepatier. In January, the FDA lifted the clinical hold placed on MindMed a month earlier for its generalized anxiety disorder candidate MM-120.

Shamik Parikh

Kathleen Sebelius-chaired Humacyte, which caught a SPAC wave last year by merging with Rajiv Shukla’s Alpha Healthcare Acquisition Corp. to the tune of $255 million, has appointed Shamik Parikh as CMO. Parikh joins CEO Laura Niklason’s human acellular vessel developer after a 17-year run at AstraZeneca, where he became global clinical lead for Farxiga and later the pharma giant’s head of Patient Safety Center of Excellence.

Adrian Ray

→ Led by former Audentes CEO Natalie Holles and nabbing a $105 million Series B in February to target chronic urticaria, Third Harmonic Bio has tapped Adrian Ray as CSO. Now running the development of THB001, Ray is a 16-year Gilead vet who was head of translational sciences at Morphic Therapeutic and later the Waltham, MA biotech’s SVP of biology and translation.

→ While we’re on the subject of Morphic Therapeutic, president and CEO Praveen Tipirneni has plugged in one new exec and promoted another: Shire and Takeda alum Brihad Abhyankar, Morphic’s VP of clinical development, is the former head of clinical development at Akari Therapeutics who was executive medical director and program team leader at Theravance Biopharma. Meanwhile, Morphic has bumped up Aaron Pelta to SVP, business and corporate development. Pelta, a Cubist Pharmaceuticals vet, began his time at Morphic in 2019 after almost three years at Arsanis, where he was VP, business development and commercialization. Morphic’s collaboration with Amgen got trimmed in February when they shut down research into the αVβ6 integrin.

Chris Carpenter

→ VC firm Sofinnova has plugged in Chris Carpenter as an executive partner. The Catamaran Bio CMO has also been medical chief at Rubius, and at GSK, Carpenter was SVP and head of the cancer epigenetics group.

Wilson Cheung

→ Now under the interim leadership of chief technology officer John Ng and delivering promising results at ASH in December with TT11 and TT11x, Singapore cell therapy biotech Tessa Therapeutics has picked up Wilson Cheung as CFO. For the last three years, Cheung was finance chief at cancer-focused Apollomics, guiding the company to its $124 million Series C financing. He’s also been CFO for KBP Biosciences and SciClone Pharmaceuticals.

Rich Kollender

Rich Kollender has been named CFO and CBO at Reaction Biology, where John Johnson just took charge as CEO a few weeks ago. Prior to joining Reaction, Kollender served as president and CFO at Johnson’s previous stop, Strongbridge Biopharma, which was acquired by Xeris Biopharma in October 2021. He has also worked in sales, marketing, and worldwide business development at GSK.

Chris Min has taken over as CMO at cell therapy biotech Longeveron. Most recently, Min served as VP and head of medical & clinical development at Enterin and has also served as head of clinical pharmacology at Cerevel Therapeutics. Min began his career in industry at Merck.

Todd Druley

→ Nearly a year to the day after Yan Zhang succeeded Charlie Silver as CEO, Mission Bio has hired a CMO familiar with its single-cell sequencing platform, named Tapestri. Todd Druley, a member of Washington University School of Medicine’s faculty from 2010-21, has also been medical chief with ANGLE Biosciences and ArcherDX. “I’ve worked with the Tapestri Platform since 2016 when testing the prototype on pediatric AML MRD samples in my research laboratory, so I’ve always been a huge fan, and am ecstatic to join the Mission Bio team,” Druley said in a statement.

Jane Huang

→ With Jecure Therapeutics vets at the controls, a Versant-led $60 million Series A and a name inspired by a San Diego area code, 858 Therapeutics has promoted Gretchen Bain to SVP of biology and brought in Sanjay Trehan as SVP of business development. Bain, the VP of biology since the startup’s official launch in September 2021, held the same post at Jecure and has previously been executive director of biology at Amira Pharmaceuticals. A Sanofi alum, Trehan spent the last two years as business development project leader at Genentech, which bought Jecure in 2018. Another important 858 note: Jane Huang, the new president and CMO at Prelude Therapeutics and the ex-CMO of hematology with BeiGene, has been elected to the board of directors.

→ UK vaccine outfit iosBio has recruited Ben Warriner as CFO. Warriner hails from Freeline Therapeutics, where he was VP of finance, and in between separate stints at EUSA Pharma, he worked at Jazz Pharmaceuticals as head of finance, international.

Kathy Scott

ARS Pharmaceuticals — the developer of the epinephrine nasal spray Neffy that bagged a $55 million Series C last summer — has welcomed Eric Karas as chief commercial officer and Kathy Scott as CFO. Karas pivots to ARS from Emergent BioSolutions, where he was VP & general manager of commercial, North America. Scott has ample experience in this particular arena, taking on the role of finance chief at numerous companies like Oncternal Therapeutics, Recros Medica and most recently, Neurana Pharmaceuticals. There’s an RA Capital connection with Scott as a former partner and Peter Kolchinsky on ARS’ board, which also includes ex-Allergan boss Brent Saunders.

→ CAR-T-focused Innovative Cellular Therapeutics is bringing in a new duo to its leadership team with the appointments of Lucy Lu as COO and Robert Dallimore as SVP of quality & compliance. Lu hops aboard after running the helm as CEO and president of Avenue Therapeutics. Previously she served as CFO and EVP of Fortress Biotech.

Meanwhile, Dallimore joins the Rockville, MD-based company after a stint as VP of quality at MacroGenics. Before that, Dallimore had gigs at Teva Pharmaceuticals (director of quality), Intercell USA (VP of quality), MedImmune, Aviron and Evans Vaccines.

→ Paris-based Biophytis is roping in Philippe Rousseau as CFO, succeeding Evelyne Nguyen, “who is leaving to pursue other projects.” Rousseau brings to the table experience from his time as COO of Pherrecydes Pharma, deputy CEO of ABCDx and CFO of Therabron Therapeutics.

OcuTerra, a new ophthalmic disease biotech chaired by Saunders that chalked up $35 million in a Series B round last fall, has installed Majid Anderesi as VP of clinical and medical affairs. Anderesi’s one year as senior medical director of TA ophthalmology at Allergan overlapped only slightly with Saunders’ reign as CEO, and from there he was group clinical director of ophthalmology at Roche and recently the global medical affairs director for the ophthalmology franchise at Novartis.

Deepika Rajesh

→ Vancouver induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) player Notch Therapeutics has bolstered its team with Deepika Rajesh as VP, stem cell biology & developmental immunology. Rajesh has an extensive iPSC background from Fujifilm Cellular Dynamics, where she was senior director, R&D and began as a senior scientist in 2008.

Michelle Mellion

→ Perennial Peer Review occupant PepGen has been living rent-free here lately — after a pair of execs joined the company last week, Michelle Mellion has signed on as SVP, head of clinical development. Mellion steps away from Fulcrum Therapeutics, where she had been head of neuromuscular clinical development. Before joining Fulcrum in 2018, she was associate medical director with Biogen and medical director at Vertex.

→ Aussie-based Microba Life Sciences is tacking on Trent Munro as SVP of therapeutics. Munro is a professor and senior group leader at the Australian Institute for bioengineering and nanotechnology at the University of Queensland and previously held a 6-year stint as executive director of Amgen.

Victor Lobanov

Victor Lobanov is now on board as head of computational sciences at Ventus Therapeutics, the biotech backed by RA Capital and SoftBank that just named Christine Ha as CFO last week. A longtime J&J vet who was director of the Big Pharma’s Informatics Center of Excellence, Lobanov has also served as VP, informatics solution development for Covance.

Tes Ignacio has gotten the call to be VP, medical affairs for Israeli presbyopia biotech Orasis Pharmaceuticals, which is in two Phase III trials for its corrective eye drop CSF-1. Earlier, Ignacio was executive medical director (dry eye/cornea/refractive) at Allergan.

Susan Franks

→ Seattle-UK startup Eliem Therapeutics has ushered in Susan Franks as SVP and head of regulatory affairs. Franks makes her way to chronic pain and CNS-focused Eliem from Braeburn, a company centered on opioid use disorder, where she held the same title. Her time at Teva Pharmaceuticals concluded as VP, global regulatory affairs in 2017. Eliem hit a Nasdaq scene that was teeming with new entries in the summer of 2021, not even two months after a $60 million Series B round.

Greg Duczynski is leaving Pfizer behind after 32 years and starting a new chapter as SVP for clinical operations at Los Angeles-based Enochian BioSciences, a developer of cell therapies for HIV and cancer. Duczynski had spent the last six years as Pfizer’s senior director, clinical development and operations and clinical study team leader.

→ Some big stars are making their way onto the board of directors of Fred Hutch-backed Affini-T Therapeutics. Michael Varney, who most recently served as Genentech’s EVP and head of research and early development, and former Mirati COO Daniel Faga are coming along for the ride as the company takes their fresh infusion of $175 million on its quest to dive deeper into KRAS. Varney currently serves as chair of R&D, SAB member and board director of Erasca and formerly had a gig on Roche’s corporate executive committee.

Faga previously served as CBO of Spark and currently serves as interim CEO of AnaptysBio.

Saurabh Saha

Centessa CEO Saurabh Saha has clinched a board seat at oncology-focused Scorpion Therapeutics, helmed by first-year CEO and GSK vet Axel Hoos. Before leading Centessa, Saha was SVP of R&D at Bristol Myers.

Perceptive’s China startup LianBio, which jumped onto Nasdaq on the strength of a $325 IPO last fall, has given a seat to Wei Wei Chen on the board of directors. Chen, the former CFO, Asia of Sanofi, left biopharma to become CFO of the China division at Yum! and, most recently, the VP and CFO for Starbucks (China).

Tonya Williams

Jose-Carlos Gutiérrez-Ramos and Tonya Williams are the newest members of the board at inflammatory disease biotech Evelo Biosciences that’s chaired by Flagship’s David Epstein. Gutiérrez-Ramos briefly led global drug discovery at AbbVie before becoming the CSO of Danaher, while Williams is head of external affairs and corporate responsibility for SoftBank Group International.

→ From one David Epstein to another — Black Diamond has made room for Wendy Dixon on the board of directors, while Versant chairman and managing partner Brad Bolzon resigns after five years as a board member. Dixon, Bristol Myers’ chief marketing officer and president, global marketing from 2001-09, holds board appointments at Alkermes, Incyte and Arvinas.

Karen Akinsanya

→ Seattle proteomics player Nautilus Biotechnology has elected Karen Akinsanya to the board of directors. Akinsanya, the president of R&D, therapeutics at Schrödinger and a 2019 Women in Biopharma R&D honoree, spent nearly 12 years at Merck and is on the scientific advisory board at Variant Bio and Thermo Fisher.

Russell Greig has been named chairman of the board at German biotech Cardior, which is using non-coding RNA (ncRNA) to develop therapies for heart disease. He succeeds Markus Hosang, who will slide into the role of vice chairman. Greig was president of SR One during a lengthy tenure at GSK that began in 1980.

→ CAR-NK cell therapy developer Catamaran Bio, which emerged from stealth back in 2020, has brought out a seat for Frank Lee as chairman of its board of directors. Lee is the CEO of Forma Therapeutics and previously served as SVP, global product strategy, and therapeutic area head for the immunology, ophthalmology and infectious diseases at Genentech. Not only that, but Lee has had stints at Novartis, Janssen and Eli Lilly.

Catherine Mackey

→ After bringing on former Onyx Pharmaceuticals founder and CSO Frank McCormick as chair for its scientific advisory board back in January, synthetic lethality player Ideaya Biosciences has appointed Catherine Mackey to its board of directors. Mackey formerly served as SVP of Pfizer worldwide R&D and as director of Pfizer’s La Jolla Laboratories.

→ Former Algeta president and CEO Thomas Ramdahl has been nominated to join the board of directors at Nordic Nanovector, now under the direction of CEO Erik Skullerud. Ramdahl joined Algeta in 2001 and saw the company through its sale to Bayer in 2014. Ramdahl is currently chairman at Precririx and a board director at Clarity Pharmaceuticals, both radiopharma outfits.

→ South San Francisco-based Applied Molecular Transport has added Charlene Banard, the freshly-minted chief technology officer at Atara Biotherapeutics, to the board of directors. Banard had previously been global head, technical operations, cell & gene therapy platform for Novartis.

Martin Mackay’s Rallybio is bringing in some fresh faces to its board of directors with the appointments of Christine Nash and Hui Liu. Nash currently serves as board chair and senior advisor to the president and CEO at The CM Group. Prior to that, Nash was CCO at Hyperion Therapeutics and held roles at Cotherix and Genesoft Pharmaceuticals.

Meanwhile, Liu currently serves as EVP, CBO and head of US at Merus. Prior to his current job, Liu was global head of business development & licensing at Novartis Oncology. Other stints included roles at Novartis Vaccines & Diagnostics and Pfizer.

Derek Graf also contributed to this edition.

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