Chutes & Ladders—Apnimed, unafraid of solo commercial mission, brings on Nurtec ODT architect

 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. 

Apnimed brings on Biohaven and Pfizer’s commercial migraine leader


If you need any more evidence that Apnimed is keeping all of its options open, look no further than the biotech’s latest hire. The company is bringing on Graham Goodrich as chief commercial officer, one of the key architects of Biohaven’s migraine medication Nurtec ODT. He was the senior vice president of brand marketing at the Connecticut biotech before Biohaven sold the franchise to Pfizer for $11.6 billion in 2022. 

Graham Goodrich headshot

Goodrich stayed on after the sale, becoming senior vice president of the migraine market at Pfizer. The drug raked in $646 million for Pfizer through the first nine months of 2023, including $233 million in the third quarter. 

Apnimed’s prize possession is an oral pill to treat sleep apnea, upending a market that’s largely dominated by CPAP machines and devices. That med, AD109, is currently in the middle of its phase 3 program with data expected in the first half of 2025 and an NDA expected shortly after, assuming the data are positive. In an interview with Fierce Biotech, Goodrich says he’s often gravitated toward working on treating large, common diseases with stagnant innovation. 

“I think that's probably been the red thread throughout my career is to look for large, common diseases that have the conditions that are ripe for disruption,” he said. 

Chief Business Officer Barry Wohl said as part of the joint interview that the company has mulled a number of different strategic routes, from an IPO to potential business development. But Goodrich’s hire was meant to solidify that should Apnimed still be the sole owners of AD109 by the time of a potential approval, they’ll be ready to market it without issue. 

“We wouldn't be bringing on someone of Graham's caliber and setting up our commercial organization if we didn't think that there was a reasonable chance that we will be marketing AD109 one day,” he said. Release

Lilly’s EVP of global quality retires after 34 years

Eli Lilly

Sometimes when executives “retire,” it’s code for “you’ll be seeing me at a new job soon.” That’s less likely to be the case for Johna Norton, who’s wrapping up a 34-year career at Eli Lilly. The executive vice president of global quality will officially leave at the end of July. 

A search is already underway for her replacement, but she’ll continue in a full capacity both as head of quality and as a member of the executive team until her departure date. Lilly CEO David Ricks lauded her tenure and commitment to top-tier manufacturing standards in the company’s press release.

“By ensuring our company, manufacturing sites, production lines, team members and collaborators share this commitment, she has had a profound and positive impact on patients and our company," he said. 

Norton joined the company in 1990—more than five years before the authors of this column were born—as an analytical chemist before moving into quality control and quality assurance. She led work on the manufacturing of Lilly’s first monoclonal antibodies and the quality checklist for the company’s first monoclonal production facility in Ireland. Release

Neumora brings on Cerevel’s commercial head fresh off AbbVie buy


Last year, Neumora dipped into AbbVie’s C-suite to pluck Chief Strategy Officer Henry Gosebruch as its new leader. It’s been a busy six months since, marked by the company jumping onto NASDAQ in September. 

Now, the AbbVie connection is being revisited again, with Gosebruch making one of his biggest hires to date. The biotech is bringing on Kaya Pai-Panandiker as its chief commercial officer after she was head of commercial at Cerevel. Less than two months ago, AbbVie bought the neuroscience biotech for $8.7 billion. Before joining Cerevel, Pai-Panandiker was the general manager of neuroscience at Lundbeck, helping lead that therapeutic area’s commercial strategy. 

Atop Neumora’s list of potential commercial products is major depression med navacaprant, which plans to be in three phase 3 studies by the end of the first quarter of 2024. Topline data from the first of those studies, KOASTAL-1, is expected in the second half of the year. Release

> BenevolentAI has a new CEO in Joerg Moeller, M.D., Ph.D., who joins from LEO Pharma, where he led R&D since 2021. Before that, Moeller spent almost 20 years at Bayer, moving up from the head of strategic development of the cardiovascular unit to chief of global R&D for the pharma giant. Fierce Biotech

> Bayer has picked Nelson Ambrogio to head up the pharmaceuticals’ radiology division. Ambrogio, who most recently served SVP and general manager of Bayer’s oncology business in the U.S., takes the spot of Gerd Krueger, who has led the radiology arm for eight years. Release

> Biotech investor Third Rock Ventures is welcoming new venture partners, including former Karuna CEO Steve Paul, M.D.; Courtney Wallace, former chief business officer at Beam Therapeutics; and TESARO co-founder Mary Lynne Hedley, Ph.D. The investment firm has also promoted Jigar Raythatha from venture partner to partner and elevated Vyas Ramanan, Ph.D., from principal to venture partner. Fierce Biotech

> PDS Biotech has picked Kirk Shepard, M.D., to serve as chief medical officer as former CMO Lauren Wood, M.D., retires after five years in the position. Before joining PDS, Shepard was CMO, SVP and head of the global medical affairs oncology business group at Eisai. Release

> Enthera Pharmaceuticals has elected Lisa Olson, Ph.D., to helm the antibody-focused biotech. Olson most recently served as chief scientific officer for Magenta Therapeutics, and held various leadership positions at AbbVie and Abbott Laboratories before that. Release

> Immorta Bio is welcoming Vlad Bykoriz, M.D., Ph.D., aboard as chief medical officer. Bykoriz has more than two decades of industry experience, holding roles at Abbott and Pfizer. Release 

> Alkeus Pharmaceuticals has chosen Seemi Khan, M.D., to serve as the company’s chief medical officer. Khan most recently served as CMO for Reata Pharmaceuticals through its acquisition by Biogen. Release

> Diem Nguyen, Ph.D., is taking up the top spot at SIGA Technologies as CEO Phillip Gomez, Ph.D., retires. Nguyen joins from Xalud Therapeutics, an inflammatory disease-focused biotech where she served as CEO. Release

> ImmunoBrain Checkpoint has elected Sanjay Keswani, M.D., to lead the neurodegenerative biotech as president and CEO. Previously, the physician-scientist has held leadership roles at Hoffman La Roche, Bristol-Myers Squibb and Annexon, among others. Release

> Apellis Pharmaceuticals has appointed Chief Commercial Officer Adam Townsend to serve as the company’s chief operating officer. Townsend has served as Apellis’ CCO since 2018 and, before that, held a variety of leadership roles at Biogen. Release

> DiaMedica Therapeutics has tapped neurologist Lorianne Masuoka, M.D., to serve as the company’s chief medical officer. Previously, Masuoka held the top medical spot at Epygenix Therapeutics, Marinus Pharmaceuticals, Cubist Pharmaceuticals (acquired by Merck & Co.), and Nektar Therapeutics. Release

> Oncology biotech Transgene has chosen James Wentworth, Ph.D., to take up spot as chief business officer. Most recently, Wentworth served as Adaptimmune’s director of business development and strategy. Release

> NMD Pharma has selected Morten Bull to serve as SVP, general counsel and head of people & business services. The lawyer worked with the pharma last year on a consultancy basis, and previously served as executive director and global head of IP and R&D legal at LEO Pharma. Release

> Former Bayer HealthCare and Sanofi CEO Olivier Brandicourt, M.D., has joined BeiGene’s board of directors. Since retiring from the French pharma in 2019, Brandicourt has picked up director roles at Alnylam Pharmaceuticals, BenevolentAI, Dewpoint Therapeutics and AvenCell Therapeutics, and is also a senior advisor at Blackstone Life Sciences. Release

> Actio Biosciences selected Samuel Collins, Ph.D., to be its chief medical officer. Prior to joining the San Diego biotech, Collins’ two-decade career included stops at Therachon, Pfizer and, most recently, Edgewise Therapeutics, where he was VP of clinical development. Release

> Nicola Groth, M.D., Ph.D., is Osivax’s new chief medical officer, taking the reins from Paul Willems, M.D. Groth joins the French vaccine maker after spending the better part of the last decade heading up safety evaluation and risk management at GSK. Release

> Zentalis Pharmaceuticals has found a new chief medical officer in one of its board members: Diana Hausman, M.D., who previously held CMO roles at Link Immunotherapeutics, Lengo Therapeutics, Zymeworks and Oncothyreon. Hausman, who has relinquished her spot on the board, is replacing Carrie Brownstein, M.D., who is stepping down from the CMO post for personal reasons. Meanwhile, Kyle Rasbach, Ph.D., Pharm.D., formerly of Eventide Asset Management, was tapped as Zentalis’ chief business officer. Release

> Following a round of layoffs and a pipeline pare-down, Kronos Bio is now trimming its C-suite: The positions of Chief Medical Officer Jorge DiMartino, M.D., Chief Scientific Officer Christopher Dinsmore, Ph.D., and Chief Operating Officer and General Counsel Barbara Kosacz have all been eliminated, making way for a “streamlined leadership structure designed to focus on pipeline advancement and align with Kronos Bio’s current operating needs.” Fierce Biotech