Chutes & Ladders—AbbVie appoints successor for CEO Rick Gonzalez

 Chutes and LaddersWelcome 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 Max Bayer or Gabrielle Masson, and we will feature it here at the end of each week.  

AbbVie names CEO successor


Look, we don’t want to say that the Chutes & Ladders team predicted AbbVie’s new CEO, but … we were onto something. The company formally announced that President and COO Robert Michael will succeed Rick Gonzalez as CEO, ending a good bit of speculation after the current leader teased plans to hand off duties months ago. In June 2023, COO duties were added to Michael’s responsibilities, prompting the C&L team to ever-so-wryly suggest he may be the one. And voila. 

Headshot of new AbbVie COO Robert Michael
Robert Michael (AbbVie)

Jokes aside, other signs seemed to point to Michael, with Gonzalez going so far as to explicitly say on the company’s latest earnings call that the board was preparing an internal candidate. 

The official handoff happens July 1, at which point Michael will also join the company’s board. Gonzalez’s departure marks the end of an 11-year tenure at the Chicago-area pharma, marked by Humira’s reign. Fierce Pharma 

Gilead CEO set to lead top pharma lobbying org 


Gilead CEO Daniel O’Day is the new chair of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), one of the leading lobbying organizations for the pharmaceutical industry. He replaces outgoing Chairman and current Novartis CEO Vas Narasimhan, M.D. Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla, Ph.D., has been named chair-elect, and Sanofi CEO Paul Hudson will be the group’s new treasurer. 

PhRMA's to-do list has grown in the last year beyond just countering the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). It’s now fending off the threat of march-in rights from the Biden administration and has a slightly shrunken roster after the departures of AbbVie, AstraZeneca and Teva. Earlier this month, PhRMA’s lawsuit against the IRA was dismissed because it “lacked subject matter jurisdiction,” according to the judge. A PhRMA spokesperson said then that the group was weighing its next steps. Fierce Pharma

Vir Biotechnology CMO steps down

Vir Biotechnology

Vir’s EVP and Chief Medical Officer Phil Pang, M.D., Ph.D., is leaving the biotech at the end of March, triggering a hunt for a successor.

Pang, who is stepping down to spend more time with his family, has been with the California-based company for more than seven years.

“I leave a very capable development team that will inform the strategy and enable a smooth transition for a new chief medical officer,” Pang said in a Feb. 20 release. 

Before joining Vir back in 2016, Pang held leadership roles at Riboscience and Gilead Sciences. Release

> After a 20-year run at the FDA, Stephen Grant, M.D., has left the federal agency to become chief regulatory officer at Saghmos Therapeutics. Previously, Grant served as the deputy director for the FDA’s division of cardiology and nephrology. Release

> Almost a year after stepping down as head of Bausch + Lomb, Joseph Papa is taking the reins at Emergent BioSolutions. Papa succeeds Haywood Miller, who transitioned from an advisory role to become interim CEO in June 2023, when Emergent’s then-leader Robert Kramer retired. Fierce Pharma

> Former Eli Lilly VP Renee Williams departed the company at the end of 2023 and launched her own consulting firm based in the Bay Area. Before joining Lilly in 2022 she led business strategy and operations for Janssen's (now Johnson & Johnson Innovative Medicine) infectious disease unit. 

> Ikena Oncology’s chief medical officer Sergio Santillana, M.D., has resigned, with Caroline Germa, M.D., taking his place. Germa joins from Transcenta Therapeutics, where she served as EVP of global medicine development and CMO, and previously held senior leadership roles at AstraZeneca, Bristol Myers Squibb and Novartis. Release

> Synthekine is shaking things up, selecting Geoff Nosrati, Ph.D., to serve as chief business officer; Martin Oft, M.D., as chief scientific officer; and Greg Yedinak to serve as chief technical officer. Before Synthekine, new CBO Nosrati held the same role at Nutcracker Therapeutics, while Oft was Synthekine’s previous chief development officer and Yedinak was Synthekine’s SVP of technical operations. Release

> James Burke, M.D., has departed newly public CG Oncology to become chief medical officer at KaliVir Immunotherapeutics. Burke has previously served as CMO for Sillajen, Jennerex and Turnstone Biologics. Release

> Bhaskar Sambasivan is Saama’s new CEO, taking the reins from Vivek Sharma, who is stepping down for personal reasons. Most recently, Sambasivan served as CitiusTech’s CEO and was chief strategy officer and president of patient services at Eversana before that. Release

> Cell therapy biotech Poltreg has picked Daniel Shelly, Ph.D., to serve as chief business development officer. Shelly joins from Prescient Therapeutics, where he was VP of business development and alliances. Release

> Women's health company Harmonia Healthcare has unveiled itself. The company is led by co-founder and president Leslie Gautam alongside Chief Scientific Officer and 2024 Time Women of the Year honoree Marlena Fejzo, Ph.D. Release