After scandal, Human Longevity lets CFO/COO Nino Fanlo go, appoints interim leadership team

Human Longevity (HLI) has let top executive Nino Fanlo go, FierceBiotech has learned. The CFO/COO departed months after he was implicated in a scandal that engulfed his former employer.

HLI hired Fanlo as CFO in May 2017 and expanded his role to cover operations when other executives departed later that year. A New York Times report on a scandal at Fanlo’s former employer, online lending startup Social Finance, cast a shadow over his tenure, though. The investigation focused on the CEO of SoFi but also included reports of Fanlo’s behavior.

“[Fanlo] sometimes kicked trash cans in the office when angry. He also commented on women’s figures, including their breasts; said that women would be happier as homemakers; and once told two female employees he would give them $5,000 if they lost 30 pounds by the end of the year, according to more than a dozen people who heard the comments and witnessed the weight-loss offer,” the Times reported

Others have claimed Fanlo left another former employer following “behavior unbecoming of a senior executive.”

In the NYT report, Fanlo denied disrespecting women and he continued to work at HLI for months after. But HLI let Fanlo go in April, according to someone aware of comings and goings at the firm. 

HLI has filled Fanlo’s former COO role on an interim basis. Scott Sorensen, HLI’s chief technology officer, is the interim COO and forms part of a temporary, new look leadership team. Sorensen will work alongside interim CEO David Karow M.D., Ph.D., who previously headed up HLI’s radiogenomics operation.

The creation of the interim leadership team was necessitated by the latest in a string of executive exits. Cynthia Collins joined HLI as CEO at the start of 2017. By the end of the year, Collins was gone. That forced J. Craig Venter, who founded HLI, to return to the CEO chair. But in May he revealed plans to step down and resume research at the J. Craig Venter Institute. 

Collins and Venter’s departures were interspersed with the exits of other key executives, including HLI’s CMO, COO and head of oncology. HLI has stayed quiet about the reasons for the exits but they coincided with a period in which it increased its focus on high-end health screening service Health Nucleus.

The identities of the interim leaders are in keeping with the strategic shift. Karow has played a big role in Health Nucleus. And HLI hired Sorensen from consumer genealogy company Ancestry to help it deliver “a state-of-the-art customer experience and patient friendly products.” These activities are distinct from HLI’s focus in its early days, when it talked up the prospect of building the world’s largest database of human genetic variation and using it to make drug development breakthroughs.