Changing Faces: Pharma and biotech hires from April 2024

Changing Faces - Pharma and biotech hires

Coming to you well over a month late, we still want to acknowledge the many comings and goings we saw in the biotech industry in April. Stay tuned for a combined May-June edition to get us back on track. As usual, in April we saw a series of high-profile executive movements signalling strategic shifts and fresh leadership perspectives. Here’s a round-up of the key appointments.

PureTech spins off its CEO with new company. Seaport Therapeutics, a recent spin-off from hub-and-spoke biotech PureTech focusing on neuropsychiatric medicines, has appointed Daphne Zohar as its new CEO. Zohar transitions from her role as CEO of PureTech to lead the new venture. Meanwhile, Bharatt Chowrira has taken the helm as CEO of PureTech. Chowrira, a 30-year biotech veteran, has been part of PureTech’s senior management team since 2017. Additionally, PureTech co-founder Eric Elenko, formerly chief innovation officer, has been named president.

More than a dozen leadership shifts. April was a month of shake-ups at the top as no fewer than 12 companies (including PureTech and Seaport) announced new CEOs or presidents.

  • Peter DiLaura now leads Initial Therapeutics, a San Francisco-based firm developing small molecule therapeutics for cancer. DiLaura brings his expertise from Sonoma Biotherapeutics, where he served as chief business and strategy officer.
  • Anthos Therapeutics, a Cambridge-based biotech focusing on cardiovascular diseases, welcomed Bill Meury as CEO. Meury’s leadership at Karuna Therapeutics led to its acquisition by Bristol Myers Squibb.
  • Dr Christina Coughlin is the new CEO of Avacta Group, replacing Dr Alistair Smith after his 19-year tenure. Coughlin’s background includes roles at Wyeth, Pfizer, and Novartis, and she previously held the CEO position at CytoImmune Therapeutics.
  • Albert Seymour is now president and CEO of Seamless Therapeutics, a Dresden-based firm aiming to establish a new paradigm in gene editing. Seymour’s experience includes leadership positions at Homology Medicines, Shire, and Pfizer.
  • Faron Pharmaceuticals, a Finland-based company specialising in immunotherapies for cancer, announced Dr Juho Jalkanen as its new CEO. He succeeds Dr Markku Jalkanen, who retires at 70, passing the baton to his son and the company’s current COO.
  • Dr Dirk Beher took over as CEO of FundaMental Pharma, a German firm focused on neurodegenerative diseases. Beher co-founded and led biotech Asceneuron for over a decade and replaces Dr Thomas Schulze, who transitions to the Board of Directors.
  • Domain Therapeutics, a global clinical-stage biopharma developing immuno-oncology candidates, promoted Sean A MacDonald from chief business officer to CEO.
  • Thomas Smart has been named CEO of Actym Therapeutics, a Berkeley-based company exploring new drug modalities for solid tumours. Smart’s 25-year career includes leadership roles at Gravitas Therapeutics and AnaptysBio.
  • Novacyt, an international molecular diagnostics company based in London, appointed Lyn Rees as CEO. Rees is an experienced healthcare executive who previously led Yourgene Health, acquired by Novacyt last fall.
  • Mark Mallon steps in as CEO and Board Director of George Medicines, a London-based biopharmaceutical company addressing cardiometabolic disease. Mallon brings a 24-year legacy from AstraZeneca, where he specialised in product and portfolio strategy.
  • Sakura Finetek Europe, a provider of advanced technology in anatomical pathology, welcomed Jaap Stuut as president and general manager. Stuut’s previous roles include CEO of Immunodiagnostics Systems and positions at Novartis and Roche Diagnostics.

Three CFOs take office. Three biotechs announced new chief financial officers.

  • Gain Therapeutics, a Bethesda-based biotech pursuing therapies for Parkinson’s disease, appointed Gene Mack. As CFO, Mack brings 25 years of experience in the pharma industry, with roles at Imcyse and OncoC4.
  • Stoke Therapeutics also announced Thomas Leggett in their CFO seat. Leggett previously served as CFO for Affinia Therapeutics, Black Diamond Therapeutics, and Axcella Health.
  • Yrjö Wichmann returns to the role of chief financial officer at Faron Pharmaceuticals, having previously held the role from 2014 to 2019. Wichmann takes over on an interim basis for James O’Brien, who is leaving for a new opportunity.

More C-Suite hires in business and development. We’re far from done with our C-Suite shake-ups for the month, as several companies also named chief business and development officers.

  • Ratio Therapeutics, a Boston-based biotech focused on targeted radiotherapeutics for oncology, appointed Bill Cupelo as chief business officer. Cupelo’s recent role was head of sales at Invicro, a drug development company in Massachusetts.
  • Doug Nissinoff joins Oral Biolife as chief business officer. Nissinoff’s impact in the investing and consulting sectors includes founding Intelligence Ventures and Renegade BioConsulting. Oral Biolife, based in Bethlehem, PA, develops products to treat periodontal disease.
  • Terns Pharmaceuticals, a clinical stage biopharma company in California, named Melita Sun Jung to the CBO role. Jung’s executive experience spans Structure Therapeutics and Sangamo Therapeutics.
  • Stoke Therapeutics, a Bedford-based biotech working on RNA-based medicines, brought on Jason Hoitt as chief commercial officer. Hoitt previously served in the same role at Provention Bio.
  • Dr Nicholas Edmunds is now chief development officer at CHARM Therapeutics, a London company using a protein-ligand prediction platform for drug development. Edmunds’ two-decade career includes drug discovery roles at Pfizer and AstraZeneca.

Medical and scientific leaders join two biotechs. We also saw a pair of high-level hires on the research side of a pair of biotechs. Dr Jonas Hannestad joined Gain Therapeutics as chief medical officer. With 25 years of experience in CNS diseases, Hannestad led clinical neuroscience research at Yale before entering the private sector. And Asklepios BioPharmaceutical (AskBio), a subsidiary of Bayer, appointed Mansuo Shannon as chief scientific officer. Shannon comes from Prevail Therapeutics, an Eli Lilly subsidiary.

Two new EVPs at Servier. Servier, an international pharma company based in France, promoted Hani Friedman Bouganim to EVP of manufacturing, quality, and supply chain. Bouganim is a 16-year veteran of Teva Pharmaceuticals. The company also named Charlotte Marmousez-Tartar EVP of corporate strategy and transformation. Marmousez-Tartar has been with the company since 2006 and most recently served as head of the Group Transformation and Programs Office.

More management hires. At the VP, EVP, and manager levels, a number of pharma and biotech companies made new appointments, filling important leadership roles on their teams.

  • Patrick Branch is the new head of business development for Japan and APAC at Nxera Pharma, a Tokyo-based biopharma company. Branch’s background includes a partnership at L.E.K. Consulting.
  • Acino, a Swiss pharma company, appointed Joel Barlan as head of the Latin American region following its acquisition of M8 Pharmaceuticals.
  • Markus Rothmaier takes charge as head of research and development at Polaroid Therapeutics, a Swiss biotech working on antimicrobial technology.
  • Calluna Pharma, an Oslo-based firm treating inflammatory and fibrotic diseases, welcomed Margrethe Sørgaard as SVP of clinical operations and pharmacovigilance.

Treading the Boards. As per tradition, we end with a round-up of Board of Director appointments and departures.

  • Harness Therapeutics named Meenu Chhabra Karson as Board Chair. Karson is an experienced board member with a 20-year career in biopharma.
  • Ratio Therapeutics added D. Scott Holbrook to its Board of Directors. Holbrook brings 25 years of experience in radiotherapeutics as the current general manager and chief strategy officer of PharmaLogic.
  • Dr John Davis joins the Board of Directors at Nucleome Therapeutics, an Oxford-based firm exploring the human genome for drug development.
  • Nacuity Pharma, a Texas company addressing ophthalmic diseases, welcomed Dr Emmett Cunningham to its Board of Directors.
  • BIAL, a centennial biopharmaceutical company focused on neurology, appointed Pierluigi Antonelli to its Board of Directors.
  • Adam Rosenberg has been named Independent Chairman at Seamless Therapeutics, a Dresden-based firm in gene editing.
  • Rinri Therapeutics, a UK company in regenerative cell therapies, appointed David Hipkiss as Independent Chairman.
  • Novacyt’s Board of Directors now includes Dr Joanne Mason as an executive director, following the retirement of Dr Andrew Heath.

And let’s not forget the scientific and advisory boards.

  • Omass Therapeutics, a UK biotech, welcomed Sarah Teichmann to its Scientific Advisory Board. Teichmann is Chair in Stem Cell Medicine at the University of Cambridge and VP of translational research at GSK.
  • Qnovia added Drs. Neal Benowitz, Ian M. Fearon, Darla E. Kendzor, and Nicole Nollen to its Scientific Advisory Board, bringing a wealth of knowledge on inhaled therapeutics and smoking cessation.
  • Nucleome Therapeutics’ Scientific Advisory Board now includes Dr Gerd A. Blobel, Craig Fox, Steve Holmes, Iain Kilty, Christopher Miller, Dr Sonia Quaratino, and Jim Hughes, a mix of private sector and academia genome experts.

I have nothing to offer but a mea culpa (and a brief nod in the direction of ASCO and BIO) as to why we’ve fallen so far behind on this series, but we’re implementing new workflows that should help us to keep it more on track in the future. In the meantime, you can keep sending your personnel news to