Chutes & Ladders—Amgen poaches Moderna CMO Paul Burton

  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. 

Amgen poaches Moderna CMO Paul Burton  


After nearly 20 years away, Paul Burton, M.D., Ph.D., is set to return to Amgen.  

On June 26, Burton will step on as Amgen’s senior vice president and CMO, according to an internal memo sent to staff from R&D EVP David Reese

Paul Burton

The appointment comes after Amgen shook up its structure in March with the formation of a so-called chief medical office. The changes expand the CMO's oversight to include global medical, regulatory and patient safety issues as well as R&D strategy and operations. In the recently renovated role, Burton will report to Reese.

Burton will take the reins from SVP of Global Medical Darryl Sleep, M.D., who has been leading the chief medical office in an interim capacity since the organizational changes occurred. Sleep will continue to lead the global medical aspect of the office once Burton joins.

The pharma vet took up the CMO role at Moderna in July 2021, when he was poached from Johnson & Johnson. During his 16 years at J&J, Burton held various leadership positions, most recently as chief global medical affairs officer for its pharmaceutical unit Janssen.

Before J&J, Burton had actually been at Amgen, working as a global development leader from 2002 to 2005. Fierce Biotech 

Francis deSouza, wounded after Carl Icahn proxy battle, resigns from Illumina


That’s all she wrote for Francis deSouza, with the 10-year CEO of the DNA sequencing behemoth resigning this week after a weekslong proxy battle with Carl Icahn. DeSouza’s future had been murky after landing on Icahn’s chopping block, with the longtime investor calling for DeSouza’s ouster as both CEO and director on the board. Senior Vice President and General Counsel Charles Dadswell has been tapped the lead the company on an interim basis while a permanent search is underway. 

Icahn’s insurgency was launched weeks ago to protest Illumina’s planned $8 billion acquisition of cancer diagnostic company Grail. The acquisition has drawn the ire of U.S. and European regulators, and Icahn called the move “ill-advised.” 

But only one of Icahn’s board nominees, Andrew Teno, was voted on at a shareholder meeting in late May. Heading into the meeting, Icahn stuck by nominating three new directors even after Illuminia proposed a compromise that would’ve taken on one new director. Shareholders stood by deSouza at the time, electing him to the board once again. 

DeSouza’s resignation was effective immediately, but he’ll stay on as an adviser through July. Fierce Biotech

New Biogen board nomination marred by controversy 


Biogen and controversy? You don’t say. This time, the eyebrow raises are directed at departures and additions to the company’s board disclosed earlier this week. 

The company announced that Al​​ex Denner, Ph.D., 53, William Jones, 67, and Richard Mulligan, Ph.D., 68, would step down from the board and that Susan Langer, 32, would take one of the open seats after being nominated from one of the directors. 

Denner was reportedly the director behind that nomination, according to reporting from Endpoints News and Stat. The outlets also reported that Langer is Denner’s romantic partner, with Stat citing court documents showing that two share a child together. The child was born in November. Neither the relationship between the two nor the fact that they shared a child were disclosed by Biogen in the company’s initial announcement. 

The lack of transparency ahead of the company’s shareholder meeting later this month presents one of the first crises of new CEO Chris Viehbacher’s tenure. He joined Biogen as CEO and a member of the board in November 2022. Source 

> Heron Therapeutics has tapped William Forbes to serve as EVP and chief development officer, while current EVP of Drug Development Kimberly Manhard has resigned. Before Heron, Forbes served as the chief development officer at Trevi Therapeutics and has worked at Vivelix Pharmaceuticals, Salix Pharmaceuticals, Metabasis Therapeutics, Otsuka America Pharmaceuticals and Glaxo. Release

> ADC biotech Mablink Bioscience has appointed Pejvack Motlagh, M.D., to be chief medical officer. Motlagh joins the biotech from Boehringer Ingelheim, where he was head of immuno-oncology, and has worked previously at GSK, Bristol Myers Squibb and AstraZeneca. Release

> Aaron Koenig, M.D., has left Sage Therapeutics to serve as chief medical officer at Delix Therapeutics. He joins the neuroscience company to oversee clinical development as the company advances its platform for serious psychiatric, neurological and neurodegenerative disorders. Release

> Gene therapy company Beacon Therapeutics has launched with $120 million and former Nightstar Therapeutics CEO David Fellows at the helm. Fellows will be joined by Chief Medical Officer Nadia Waheed, M.D., formerly from Gyroscope Therapeutics, and Chief Scientific Officer Abraham Scaria, Ph.D., from AGTC. Release

> Reata Pharmaceuticals has chosen Rajiv Patni, M.D., to serve as EVP and chief R&D officer. Patni joins from Global Blood Therapeutics and has previously served in roles at Pfizer and Roche, among others. Release

> Black Diamond Therapeutics has promoted Melanie Morrison from SVP of development operations to chief development officer. Morrison has been with the precision oncology company since October 2022 and has more than two decades of industry experience under her belt. Release

> Starting June 20, Paul Burgess is joining Cerevel Therapeutics as chief business development and strategic operations officer. Burgess most recently served as Translate Bio’s chief operating officer and chief legal officer until it was acquired by Sanofi in 2021 and has also worked at Scholar Rock, Civitas Therapeutics, BIND Therapeutics and Transform Pharmaceuticals. Release

> Berlin Cures' co-founder Johannes Müller is shedding his CEO title to become the biotech’s chief science officer. Founder of InDex Pharmaceuticals Oliver von Stein, Ph.D., will take the reins as CEO. Release

> Simon Barnett has joined Dimension as the firm's research director, leading the charge on efforts to uncover the latest science that will drive investments. Barnett joins from ARK Investment Management where he led life science research efforts. Post

> Vivoryon Therapeutics’ CEO Ulrich Dauer, Ph.D., has chosen not to renew his contract. Dauer will step down in 2024 or when a successor has been selected. Release

> Siddharthan Chandran, a clinician-scientist and neurodegenerative disease expert, is set to become the new director of the UK Dementia Research Institute in October. Chandran is currently a group leader at the UK DRI at the University of Edinburgh, where he and his team study motor neurone disease and frontotemporal dementia. Release

> Ethypharm has chosen Xavier Lasserre to serve as the pharma’s chief commercial officer. Lasserre most recently worked as head of commercial operations at Zentiva Group. Release

> Susanne Schaffert, Ph.D., has joined Galapagos’ board as a nonexecutive independent director. Schaffert, who worked at Novartis for 27 years until retiring in 2022, is replacing Rajesh Parekh, M.D., after he stepped down June 10. Release

> Former Pfizer Chair and CEO Henry McKinnell, Jr., Ph.D., has joined the board of Immix Biopharma’s subsidiary Nexcella. McKinnell joined Pfizer in 1971 and stepped into the top role in 2001 until his retirement five years later. Release