Chutes & Ladders—Abbott CEO White out after 21 years on the job

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Chutes and Ladders
Welcome to this week's Chutes & Ladders, our roundup of hirings, firings and retirings throughout the industry. Please send the good word—or the bad—from your shop to Kyle Blankenship, and we will feature it here at the end of each week.

Longtime Abbott chief Miles White, designer of AbbVie spinoff, bows out of CEO job

Miles White 
will step down as CEO.

White will shed the CEO title next year after a 21-year run and several major transformations at the global healthcare company. White will officially step down as Abbott CEO on March 31, 2020, but remain executive chairman. Taking the day-to-day reins will be Robert Ford, another Abbott veteran whom White elevated to president and chief operating officer a year ago, in a move widely seen as a succession plan. As White puts it, he’s leaving at the perfect time. “Today, the company is the strongest it has been during my tenure, and I am confident that Robert will lead Abbott successfully into the future,” he said in a statement on Wednesday. FiercePharma

Lonza leader Marc Funk quits after just 9 months as CEO

CEO Marc Funk is moving on. 

Funk is leaving after less than a year in the top job. The Swiss CDMO and chemical company announced on Nov. 12 that Funk will depart in January. Funk led Lonza’s pharma and biotech operations before being named CEO in March. Chairman Albert Baehny will fill in until the company finds a new CEO. There were no details as to why Funk was leaving other than for personal reasons. “The Board respects Marc’s decision and would like to thank him for his service to Lonza and wish him well for his future endeavors,” Lead Independent Director Christoph Maeder said in a statement. FiercePharma 

After a bitter fight, activist boots Progenics directors—and eyes a CEO swap next

CEO Mark Baker could be out after board of directors overhaul. 

Baker, the target of activist investor Velan Capital, could be on the outs at the drugmaker now that shareholders have given their consent to remove Baker and directors David Scheinberg, M.D., Ph.D., and Nicole Williams. Five of Velan's nominees––Gérard Ber, Ph.D., David Mims, Ann MacDougall, Heinz Mäusli and Eric Ende, M.D.––were elected to take over. Two Progenics directors, Karen Ferrante, M.D., and Bradley Campbell, would stay on under the new leadership, Velan said. But the activist aims to replace Baker as CEO as well as kick him off the board. FiercePharma

> Amgen has given notice of its intent to lay off 149 people at its Cambridge, Massachusetts, operation by the end of the year. The notice comes weeks after Amgen revealed it was retreating from its East Coast neuroscience operations in a move that would threaten around 180 jobs. That plan became official on Friday when state authorities in Massachusetts revealed that Amgen had submitted a Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act note. The note formally signaled Amgen’s intent to cut 149 employees in Cambridge loose at the end of the year. Amgen will retain an operations and process development presence in Massachusetts but is consolidating research back in California. FierceBiotech

> Merck is shutting down its R&D site in Riom, France, which has seen its use lessen over the years. It has a focus on antibiotics, anti-inflammatory and vaccine work. The research center currently has 106 employees who will be let go, with another 100 going from its manufacturing side. Merck added that it may look to sell the site. FierceBiotech 

> Sung Lee, formerly of Gilead Sciences, has been named executive VP and CFO at Brisbane, California-based Sangamo Therapeutics. Lee joins Sangamo from Gilead, where he worked most recently as senior VP. Prior to that role, Lee held roles of increasing responsibility at Gilead, including head of Europe finance and head of R&D FP&A. Release

> Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Flagship Pioneering has named Prakash Raman, Ph.D., to the post of senior partner and the newly created role of chief business development officer. Raman most recently served as VP and global head of business development and licensing at the Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research. Release

> San Francisco-based Nurix Therapeutics is filling out its senior leadership team with the appointments of Christine Ring, Ph.D., as the company’s general counsel, Cristiana Guiducci, Ph.D., as VP of immunology and oncology research and Jean Chang as VP of clinical program management and asset strategy. In addition, Nurix announced the promotion of Gwenn Hansen, Ph.D., to senior VP of research. Release

> Aruna Bio has tapped Renee Boerner, Ph.D., as VP of regulatory affairs. Prior to joining Aruna, Boerner was head of U.S. regulatory affairs for Bavarian Nordic. Release

> Cambridge, Massachusetts-based X4 Pharmaceuticals has appointed Derek Meisner, J.D., as general counsel. Most recently, Meisner was general counsel at Genocea Biosciences. Prior to Genocea, he served as general counsel of RA Capital Management and was previously a partner at international law firm K&L Gates and branch chief in the division of enforcement of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Release