Changing Faces: Pharma and biotech hires from February 2024

Changing Faces

February may be the shortest month, but we got an extra day this year and that left plenty of time for personnel announcements in the pharma world. Read on for a roundup of the month’s hiring news and stay tuned for two more columns covering the agency world, investors, and pharma suppliers.

Long-time COO steps up to the big chair at AbbVie. As we reported a few weeks ago, AbbVie ended its long CEO search with an internal candidate: chief operating officer Robert Michael, who will step into departing CEO Richard Gonzalez’s shoes come 1st July. He has served in his current role since the company spun out of Abbott in 2013. Read the full story here.

Three European biotechs crown new CEOs. In France, Spain, and the UK, three different biotechs announced new senior leadership this month.

  • Barcelona’s OneChain Immunotherapeutics, which is developing new CAR-T therapies for cancers, appointed Dr Stefanos Theoharis to replace retiring CEO Jorge Alemany. Theoharis’s extensive cell and gene therapy background includes C-suite roles at Bone Therapeutics and Apceth Biopharma, and senior leadership roles at Cell Medica and Roche. He plans to focus on manufacturing, patient recruitment, and market access, according to the company.
  • Maxion Therapeutics, a Cambridge, UK outfit with a focus on antibody-based drugs, announced that Dr Arndt Schottelius will be taking the reins as part of a planned succession process. Current CEO and co-founder Dr John McCafferty will transition to chief technology officer. Schottelius previously worked as chief scientific officer at Affimed and was an EVP at Kymab, prior to its acquisition by Sanofi.
  • Immunotherapy company StromaCare, based in Lyons, France, has tapped Georges Rawadi for its CEO role. Rawadi, who previously served as CEO of Celyad Oncology and Ysopia Bioscience, plans to focus on raising funds and building partnerships for the company, which focuses on stroma modulation as a novel approach to cancer therapies.

Astellas signals priorities with digital promotion. Japan’s Astellas has named Nick Eshkenazi to the new role of chief digital and transformation officer (CTDO), the first time it has included a digital role in its top management team. Astellas said that the appointment has been made to acknowledge that “digital initiatives and investments are critical in every part of Astellas’ business for transformation and to create value […] for patients,” adding that Eshkenazi brings “experience driving complex business transformation.” Eshkenazi will take up the new role from 1st April, having been employed at Astellas since November as its first chief digital officer. He will be based in Australia. Click here for the full story.

Acumen brings in Alzheimer’s heavy hitter. Acumen Pharmaceuticals, a Charlottesville, Virginia biopharma developing a novel therapeutic for Alzheimer’s, has appointed James Doherty as president and chief development officer. Doherty’s extensive background in neuroscience research includes presiding over two FDA approvals at Sage Therapeutics and heading up various neuroscience departments at AstraZeneca. Doherty has published hundreds of peer-reviewed papers and holds a number of patents.

Scottish biopharma bolsters C-Suite. Glasgow’s EnteroBiotix, a clinical stage biopharma with a focus on the microbiome, appointed both a new chief operating officer, Dr James Barnes, and a new chief financial officer, Chris Lea, in February. Barnes comes from biotech BerGenBio and before that led regulatory affairs at Vertex Pharmaceuticals, while Lea most recently served as CFO at Cambridge Nutritional Sciences PLC.

Domain adds execs on both sides of the house. Domain Therapeutics, an immune-oncology-focused biopharma with offices in France, Canada, and the United States, also announced two executive hires in February, one on the business side and one on the scientific side. Sean A. MacDonald, a 20-year senior executive in the life sciences industry, will step into the role of chief business officer. Meanwhile, Stephan Schan, Domain’s former Vice President of Research, has been promoted to chief scientific officer. Schan has been with the company since its founding in 2008.

Three new CMOs in, across the biotech world. Next to CEO, the most common C-Suite appointment this month was chief medical officer.

  • Torino, Italy’s Resalis Therapeutics, which is working on a non-coding RNA drug for obesity, tapped Almut Nitsche as chief medical and development officer. Nitsche is a 25-year pharma vet and spent 17 of those years at Sanofi, where she led R&D in the diabetes division.
  • NodThera, a Boston outfit focused on chronic inflammatory disease welcomed Dr Thomas Jaecklin as chief medical officer. Jaecklin previously held clinical leadership roles at Galapagos NV, Mirum Pharmaceuticals, and Novartis.
  • AI-powered immunotherapy company Compugen, based in Holon, Israel, tapped Dr Michelle Mahler as CMO, succeeding Dr Henry Adewoye. Mahler is an internal hire, having joined the company in October, but prior to that served as CMO at two other small biotechs after spending nine years in R&D at Janssen.

Scancell bids goodbye to board member, hires development head. Scancell Holdings, a UK biopharma with a focus on novel immunotherapies, announced the retirement of Dr Sally Adams and her departure as both executive director of the board and chief development officer. Taking over development duties as head of development is Dr Callum Scott, who joins the company from Allergy Therapeutics. Adams will serve for six more months in a part-time capacity to smooth the transition.

Other hires: Two country leads and three VPs. A few more sub-C-Suite hires round out the month’s news before we get to the Board round-up.

  • Cambridge, Massachusetts’s Amylyx Pharmaceuticals, which focuses on neurodegenerative diseases, has tapped Andrew Caldwell to lead its UK and Ireland operations as general manager. A veteran of Alexion and Merck Serono, Caldwell has built up UK and Ireland business entities in the rare disease space before.
  • Global pharmaceutical company Ferrer, meanwhile, is looking towards its German market with the hire of Olaf Gerber as country manager. Gerber is a 30-year pharma industry vet who spent most of that career at Bayer and its subsidiaries.
  • Zurich’s Memo Therapeutics, an antibody company in the viral infection and oncology spaces, announced a pair of VP hires: Kristie B. Clemmer comes aboard as VP clinical operations, while Dr Maartje Verschuur is in as VP of CMC and supply chain management. Both come most recently from AM-Pharma.
  • Abivax, a Paris biotech working in chronic inflammatory diseases, has brought on Ann Sharma as vice president and global head of quality. No stranger to pharma quality assurance, Sharma has previously held positions at Takeda, Novartis, and Amgen.

Don’t get Board because we’ve still got board of director and advisory board appointments to go!

  • Nested Therapeutics, a Cambridge, MA group working on small molecule precision medicine therapies for cancer, added three new board members including a new board chair. John Orwin, president and CEO of Atreca, will lead the board. Dr Anna Berkenbilt, former CMO of ImmunoGen, and Tom Frohlich, former COO at Chinook Therapeutics will also serve.
  • CervoMed, a Boston biotech with a specialisation in neurodegenerative disease, made a high-profile appointment, adding Vertex founder Joshua Boger as board chair. Boger has been in the pharma space for more than 40 years and currently serves as executive chair at Alkeus Pharmaceuticals.
  • Swedish cell therapy company Anocca tapped Martin Welschof, CEO of BioInvent International, to join its board of directors.
  • The UK’s Poolbeg Pharma announced that co-founder Cathal Friel is transitioning from non-executive chair to executive chair.
  • Fort Worth, Texas-based Nacuity Pharmaceuticals made an addition to its business advisory board with Daniel Feller, chief operating officer of biotech company GEM42S and co-founder of Genetic Cures Australia, a patient advocacy group supporting gene therapy development for rare diseases.
  • AI-powered drug and drug discovery company Verseon has tapped Dr Edison Liu, president and CEO of the Jackson Laboratory for its scientific advisory board. In addition to leading the laboratory, Liu has published a number of papers and co-authored two books around genomics.
  • German biotech AATec Medical added Dr Claus Franz Vogelmeier to its scientific advisory board. Vogelmeier is a professor of medicine and head of pulmonary medicine at Phillips-University in Marburg, Germany and a leader in the German respiratory disease research community.

That’s it for this round-up. Remember, if you’ve had a recent appointment and you work in or around the pharma space, we want to hear about it. Please send your press releases to to be included in future editions of Changing Faces.