Chutes & Ladders—Amarin CEO abruptly resigns amid board turmoil

 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. 

Amarin CEO abruptly resigns amid investor activism


Amarin CEO Karim Mikhail abruptly resigned from the company late last week as activist investors wrestle for board control. The company said in a disclosure that it intends to dispute Mikhail’s claim to severance payments. The company did not list an interim successor and said the search was on for a permanent replacement. 

The swift exit is just the latest in what’s been a dramatic period for the European pharmaceutical. Most recently, the company has been at odds with activist investor Sarissa Capital, spurring the resignation of seven board members. Sarissa contended that the company was behind the eight ball on the launch of cardiovascular med Vascepa and that executives "weakened the cash coffers.” Ultimately, Amarin shareholders sided with the activists. 

Vascepa is also causing concern in the U.S., where Amarin is contending with generics and reeling from a patent 2020 patent loss that was ultimately appealed to the Supreme Court, which rejected Amarin’s argument. 

Mikhail joined the company in July 2020 to lead commercial efforts in Europe before being promoted to CEO in 2021. He previously had two decades of experience at Merck. Story

Fresh off CinCor sale, Marc de Garidel joins Abivax as CEO


What would you do after selling the company you lead for up to $1.8 billion? Would you go on a vacation? Sleep 10 hours a day for the next several weeks? Shop until you drop at the world’s most lavish boutiques? All of the above? 

The answer for Marc de Garidel, evidently, was to get back to work. Paris-based biotech Abivax announced that de Garidel would become the company’s new CEO, weeks after he helped orchestrate the $1.8 billion sale of CinCor to AstraZeneca. His hiring—and associated appointment to board chairman—will effective May 6. 

News of his hiring comes roughly six weeks after CinCor’s sale was complete, giving AstraZeneca a clinical leg up by adding the former’s blood pressure med baxdrostat to its cardiorenal pipeline. The British Big Pharma touted the combination potential of the clinical-stage asset with Farxiga, a treatment for Type 2 diabetes and chronic kidney disease. 

Prior to joining CinCor, de Garidel sold Corvidia Therapeutics to Novo Nordisk in a deal worth up $2.1 billion. He previously was the CEO of Ipsen for more than five years. 

The experienced exec’s track M&A track record thus begs the question: Will Abivax be next? Release

Former head of AstraZeneca’s commercial hematology efforts jumps to Arvinas


After taking the reins of AstraZeneca’s global commercial hematology efforts, Kelly Page is moving to Arvinas to build out the company’s entire oncology strategy. The company announced this week that Page was joining as SVP and global head of oncology strategy and program leadership. She’ll be a member of the company’s executive board as well.

Page previously oversaw global commercial efforts for AstraZeneca’s hematology division, specifically the approved tyrosine kinase inhibitor Calquence. The drug was developed to treat different kinds of lymphomas and leukemia. 

But the majority of Page’s career—more than 25 years—was spent at Takeda and Pfizer. She most recently was at the Japanese pharma for almost 13 years, taking on ascending roles primary involving commercialization and strategy. Her last role at Takeda was as the global head of cell therapy commercialization. Prior to that, Page spent 15 years at Pfizer, where she ultimately was in charge of worldwide marketing for the oncology division. 

Arvinas is one of a number of companies developing protein degraders to treat cancer. The science is based on the body’s natural protein waste system, with drug developers working to link problematic proteins with a ubiquition ligase that will tag the protein for destruction. Arvinas was founded by Craig Crews, Ph.D., who, along with now-Amgen exec Ray Deshaies, Ph.D., helped pioneer the field of targeted protein degradation. Release

> Bicycle Therapeutics has made two new changes to its leadership team: Santiago Arroyo, M.D., Ph.D., as chief development officer and Jennifer Perry promoted to SVP of its commercial arm. Arroyo joins Bicycle from Momenta Pharmaceuticals, which was acquired by Johnson & Johnson in 2020. Release

> Michael Bauer, Ph.D., former co-founder and CEO of Cellestia Biotech, is taking up a new post as head of Quantro Therapeutics. He will succeed Dieter Nachtigall, Ph.D., a 20-year Boehringer Ingelheim vet who led Quantro as CEO since it emerged three years ago. Release

> Biotech giant Biogen has tapped Adam Keeney, Ph.D., to serve as EVP and head of corporate development starting April 17. Most recently, Keeney led inflammatory-disease-focused biotech NodThera as CEO and held roles at Sanofi and Johnson & Johnson before that. Release

> SynAct Pharma’s chair Torbjørn Bjerke, M.D., will helm the company when current CEO Jeppe Øvlesen steps down. The transition will go into effect May 25. Release

> Oncology company AnHeart Therapeutics has selected Edward Lang Jr. to serve as chief business officer. Prior to AnHeart, Lang has held positions at Gyroscope Therapeutics (acquired by Novartis), Juno Therapeutics (acquired by Celgene) and Roche’s Genentech. Release

> Neurodegenerative-disease-focused Arkuda Therapeutics has appointed co-founder and former SVP and Head of Discovery Duane Burnett, Ph.D., to be chief technology officer. The biotech has also brought on Irena Webster to serve as VP of program strategy and development operations and promoted Raymond Hurst, Ph.D., to SVP and head of discovery. Release

> Commercial-stage biotech Heron Therapeutics has a new leader at the helm as Barry Quart steps down from his role as CEO and chair of the board. Craig Collard, who most recently served as CEO of Veloxis Pharmaceuticals (acquired by Asahi Kasei) will take Quart’s place. Release

> Prashant Kohli is Acasti's new CEO, succeeding Jan D'Alvise, who is also stepping down from her role on the board. Since last year, Kohli has served as the company’s chief commercial officer. Release

> Former Astellas Pharma Chief Medical Officer Bernhardt “Bernie” Zeiher, M.D., has joined Entrada Therapeutics’ board. The leader departed from Astellas last year. Release

> Legend Biotech has formed a new strategic advisory board and added former Biogen CEO Michel Vounatsos and founding Alnylam CEO John Maraganore, Ph.D., as advisers. The cell therapy maker nabbed approval last year for its Johnson & Johnson-partnered med Carvykti. Disclosure

> Chief Scientific Officer Jin-Long Chen, Ph.D., is resigning from NGM Bio while the company undergoes a larger restructuring. Dan Kaplan, Ph.D. vice president of immuno-oncology, will take over the role. Story

> Roel Bulthuis has been tapped as managing editor and head of investments at Syncona. Bulthuis was most recently SVP and managing director of Merck & Co.’s venture arm, M Ventures. Release