Chutes & Ladders—AbbVie's president tacks on COO responsibilities

 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's president tacks on COO duties after Rick Gonzalez teases succession plan


We here at Chutes & Ladders incorporated have been reading a great book lately; it's called "Tea Leaves." It has very little substance and virtually no plot line, but it's incredibly entertaining. Oh and would you look at that, AbbVie has a new chief operating officer months after Rick Gonzalez teased a potential succession plan. The company has added the responsibilities to the plate of president and finance czar Robert Michael. Much ado about nothing? Perhaps! 

Headshot of new AbbVie COO Robert Michael

All jokes aside, the company has said nothing to the effect of Michael being the next in line for the chief executive job whenever Gonzalez decides to hang it up. It was only two months ago that the longtime CEO even mentioned the prospect of departing, though he said he's had "many, many" discussions with the board about it. Using his LinkedIn profile as a guide, Michael has worked his entire career—more than 30 years—at either Abbott or AbbVie. In 2018, he was promoted from VP and corporate comptroller to chief financial officer and last year was named president. 

The company had little to add about his appointment in a Securities and Exchange Commission disclosure beyond saying that he'd be continuing to oversee the company's "global commercial and financial operations." Oh, but that's not all. 

"He will also be responsible for operations, human resources, business development and corporate strategy," the disclosure reads. Disclosure

Emergent CEO Robert Kramer retires a 2nd time after tumultuous few years


Emergent CEO
Robert Kramer (LinkedIn)

If at first you don’t like retirement, come back and work through a 1-in-100-year global emergency and retire shortly after that. We’re pretty sure that’s the saying, but don’t quote us.

Such was the last 12 years of Robert Kramer’s second stint at Emergent BioSolutions. He retired in 2010 only to be enticed back to the role a year later, becoming CEO in 2018. His second go-around leading the CDMO was pretty par for the course until the COVID pandemic spurred a wicked pendulum swing. As one of the major producers of COVID vaccines for companies, Emergent’s share price almost tripled. 

But manufacturing missteps and ruined batches sent the company into a tailspin, namely 15 million doses of J&J vaccine that had to be thrown out after an ingredient mix-up. To make matters worse, Kramer was under federal investigation after selling $10 million in stock before the company disclose the manufacturing screw-up. 

The incident puts a stain on Kramer’s tenure that was largely defined by corralling lucrative government contracts for pandemic preparedness. Over the years, Emergent has been tasked with producing medicines to defend against anthrax, smallpox and Ebola. Fierce Pharma

Deborah Dunsire retires from Lundbeck after record quarter


Deborah Dunsire (Lundbeck)

Ending on a high note is always easier said than done, as leaders regardless of industry often feel like there’s more to accomplish when the wind is in their sails. But Deborah Dunsire knows better, for now. Lundbeck’s CEO of nearly five years is retiring after the company scored record-high revenue last quarter, with 19% growth compared to the first three months of 2022. 

The company has been bolstered by antipsychotic med Rexulti, approved to treat schizophrenia and as an add-on therapy to treat major depressive disorder. The med also recently nabbed FDA approval to treat agitation in patients with Alzheimer’s disease.

Replacing Dunshire is Charl van Zyl, head of neurology solutions at UCB. He joined the Belgian pharmaceutical company in 2017 as head of corporate operations before moving to the neurology business. Fierce Pharma

> ICER founder Steve Pearson is handing over the president reins to COO Sarah Emond after 17 years at the helm. Emond has been in that role since she joined the organization as the third employee in 2009. Fierce Pharma

> Immunome and Morphimmune are coming together as one through a reverse merger, putting Clay Siegall, Ph.D.—who left his role as CEO of Seagen last year after being arrested for domestic abuse—in the chief executive chair. Fierce Biotech  

> Appia Bio has added two industry vets to its team: Sylvaine Cases, Ph.D., as chief business officer and Alex Babayan, Ph.D., as vice president and head of regulatory affairs. Cases joins the CAR-NKT biotech with a leadership track record at LynxBio, Johnson & Johnson and Sanofi, while Babayan has more than a decade of global regulatory affairs experience in cancer cell therapy, including at Gilead’s Kite. Release

> Sasha Damouni Ellis has left Marinus Pharmaceuticals to become Vir Biotechnology’s EVP and chief corporate affairs officer, starting July 10. Ellis was previously Marinus’ SVP of corporate affairs and investor relations and also served as Bayer’s U.S. director of external communications and media relations. Release

> Blueprint Medicines co-founder Alexis Borisy lost a majority vote for his directorship at the company during its annual meeting June 21. However, Borisy hangs on to the position because he still got reelected by a plurality standard. Fierce Pharma

> ABVC BioPharma has tapped Uttam Yashwant Patil, Ph.D., to lead as CEO. Patil was previously chief operating officer and chief scientific officer of BioKey, a GMP-certified facility owned by ABVC. Release

> Despite the controversy surrounding a relationship with departing director Alex Denner, Susan Langer has secured enough investor support to join Biogen’s board. Fierce Pharma

> InflaRx has tapped Camilla Chong, M.D., to serve as chief medical officer. Chong joins from Kyowa Kirin, where she was VP and global medical affairs therapy area head for immunology, and has also worked at Pfizer, GSK and Teva Pharmaceuticals. Release

> Eiger BioPharmaceuticals' interim CEO David Apelian has been promoted to the permanent role after taking the reins in December. His first order of business is tightening the company’s fiscal belt, including laying off 25% of staff. Fierce Biotech

> London-based biotech Duke Street Bio is welcoming Jeff Thompson, Ph.D., on as head of clinical operations. Thompson most recently served as a senior director of clinical programs for AstraZeneca UK. Release

> Nymox Pharmaceutical has fired both Chief Financial Officer Christopher Riley and Chief Operating Officer Randall Lanham. The Canada-based company has launched a search for a new CFO. Release

> Rivus Pharmaceuticals has tapped its executive chair Jayson Dallas, M.D., as CEO, taking the reins from Allen Cunningham, who will transition to chief operating officer. Dallas previously served as CEO of Aimmune Therapeutics and has held leadership roles at Ultragenyx Pharmaceutical, Genentech and Roche. Release

> Alloy Therapeutics is bringing on Michael Schmidt, Ph.D., as chief scientific officer, while promoting Martin Leach, Ph.D., from his role as SVP of global informatics to chief operating officer. New CSO Schmidt most recently served as CSO at Ankyra Therapeutics. Release

> Clinical-stage biotech Evommune has selected J. Mark Jackson, M.D., to serve as VP of clinical development. Jackson has previously worked as an adviser to multiple companies including Abbvie, Amgen, Bristol Myers Squibb, J&J’s Janssen, Eli Lilly, Novartis and Pfizer. Release

> Lumos Pharma’s chief medical officer David Karpf, M.D., is departing. While the company searches for a new CMO, Lumos’ SVP of global clinical development and medical affairs Pisit “Duke” Pitukcheewanont, M.D., will oversee clinical activities. Release

> Rallybio’s president, chief operating officer and co-founder Stephen Uden, M.D., is becoming the company’s CEO starting Aug. 1. He’ll succeed Martin Mackay, Ph.D., chairman of the board and co-founder, who will take on the role of executive chair. Release

> Aquestive Therapeutics has appointed Carl Kraus, M.D., as chief medical officer. Kraus joins from Aceragen and previously founded and served as the CEO of Arrevus until its sale to Aceragen in 2021. Release