Chutes & Ladders—Bausch Health's Salix loses McKenna to Prometheus

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Chutes and Ladders
Welcome 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 Kyle Blankenship, and we will feature it here at the end of each week.

Bausch loses Salix president—and turnaround architect—to precision GI company

Salix Pharmaceuticals
President Mark McKenna will exit after three years with the company.

The chief executive will step away from his post to helm a new precision medicine drug developer, Prometheus Biosciences, the revamped byproduct of Prometheus Labs’ merger with Precision IBD. And he'll leave a hole at Bausch, where he was viewed as a potential successor to CEO Joe Papa. Papa and Valeant’s board of directors brought McKenna into Salix in 2016 to helm the Salix integration and a drive for new revenue. But it was a messy time for Salix, with the company under investigation by the Department of Justice in a whistleblower lawsuit over improper sales rep behavior and marketing. FiercePharma

Bayer nabs new dealmaker—but after Monsanto, is there enough cash?

arianne De Backer, Ph.D., will take over as the new head of business development and licensing at Bayer's pharma division.

The former Johnson & Johnson business development chief joins the team after Bayer comprehensively restructured its pharmaceutical R&D and consumer health operations last year. That move was aimed at refocusing assets to its core life science businesses over the coming years. The plan included the loss of about 900 of its 8,000 R&D positions out of a total reduction of 12,000 jobs across the company. De Backer will be based out of California, the drugmaker said. FierceBiotech

On a mini hiring spree, CRO Altasciences nabs ex-Charles River exec

Lynne LeSauteur will take over as VP.  

The Canadian biopharma services company said it has hired LeSauteur as its vice president of immunochemistry and immunology. LeSauteur comes out of the Human Health Therapeutics Research Center at the National Research Council of Canada where she helped discover, biomanufacture and characterize new biologics alongside life sciences companies. FierceBiotech

> The clock is ticking for the 400 workers at a Novartis plant that was put on the block last year as the company cuts costs to finance new therapies. There is some hope, however, with half a dozen companies taking a look at the U.K. site. A Novartis spokesman Thursday confirmed that six interested parties have looked at the site since Novartis announced last year it would be put on the block. Workers have been told that one of the three main manufacturing units will close in April of next year, and layoffs will begin then. The site is slated to maintain some production through next year.  FiercePharma

> Northwest BioTherapeutics has recruited Kevin Duffy, Ph.D., as its new VP of medical affairs and external collaborations.Duffy joins Northwest from Merck, where he spent the last five years working on the anti PD-1 med Keytruda at the director level. He worked on Keytruda from its beginnings through commercialization, picking up experience with clinical trial designs and strategies and forming a “nationwide network of key opinion leaders in clinical and scientific arenas” along the way, Northwest said in a statement. FierceBiotech

> Synlogic has named Richard Riese as CMO. The arrival of the ex-Alnylam VP is one of several changes at the top of Synlogic’s medical, regulatory and financial departments. Riese spent 15 years at Alnylam, rising to the position of VP of clinical development. The roles gave Riese a hand in the advance of a clutch of rare disease drugs, including glycolate oxidase-targeting RNAi therapeutic lumasiran. Riese was part of the team that took lumasiran into phase 3 in patients with primary hyperoxaluria type 1. FierceBiotech

Lexington-based Accent Therapeutics is bolstering its executive leadership team with the appointment of Shakti Narayan, J.D., Ph.D., as CEO and a member of the board. Narayan most recently served as CBO at Tango Therapeutics. Prior to Tango, Narayan was a VP and head of transactions at Johnson & Johnson Innovation. Release

Akouos has pegged Gregory Robinson, Ph.D., as its newest CSO, and co-founder Michael McKenna, M.D., has jumped to the full-time CMO role. Robinson most recently served as CSO at Nightstar Therapeutics and was a key member of the leadership team that led Nightstar to its $800 million Biogen acquisition earlier this year. Prior to Nightstar, Robinson was CSO and has held leadership roles at Shire, where he helmed discovery research. Release

> Berlin-based Omeicos, a developer of stabilized omega-3 fatty acid derivatives, appointed Simon Russell as its next CBO. Russell has held senior commercial and brand leadership roles at both AstraZeneca and Novartis, including head of strategic marketing for biologics. In 2012, he was appointed CBO of Creabilis and in 2016 played a key role in the negotiation and sale of Creabilis to Sienna Biopharmaceuticals. Release

> San Diego-based Aristea Therapeutics has named Nihar Bhakta, M.D., as CMO. Most recently, Bhakta was project team leader at Gossamer Bio and previously worked at Ardea Biosciences, which was acquired by AstraZeneca in 2012. Bhakta also previously served in medical positions at Bristol-Myers Squibb and Roche.  Release

> John von Benecke has been tapped as Locate Bio's newest CFO, COO and member of its board. Locate also announced that Rob Quirk, a company founder and previously the acting CEO and COO, will be leaving the company. Quirk will stay on as a consultant for the biotech. Release

> Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Beam Therapeutics has named Terry-Ann Burrell as CFO. Burrell joins Beam from JPMorgan, where she was a managing director in the healthcare investment banking group. Prior to JPMorgan, Burrell worked in equity research at Citigroup. Release

> Kathie Bishop, Ph.D., has been named CSO for San Diego-based Locana. Bishop most recently served as CSO at Otonomy and also worked as CSO at Tioga Pharmaceuticals. Prior to that, she served in various leadership roles at Ionis Pharmaceuticals. Release

> Fulcrum Therapeutics has named Pamela Strode as senior VP of regulatory affairs and quality assurance. Strode comes to Fulcrum from Epizyme, where she served in the same role. Prior to Epizyme, Strode held positions at Bristol-Myers Squibb, Boehringer Ingelheim and Cerulean Pharma. Release

> Kallyope has tapped Juha Lauren, M.D., Ph.D., as its next CBO. Lauren joins Kallyope from Regeneron, where he was senior director of business development and R&D strategy. Release

> Jon Kunkle has been appointed the new CFO for Somatus. Most recently, Kunkle was the CFO and VP of finance at Kaiser Permanente Mid-Atlantic. Prior to that, he held executive leadership positions at Aetna and Coventry Health Care. Release

> The ReAlta Life Sciences board has pegged Ulrich Thienel M.D., Ph.D., as the company’s newest CEO. Most recently, Thienel served as CMO at Finch Therapeutics, Boston. Prior to Finch, Thienel had 20 years of biopharmaceutical drug development leadership at companies like Johnson & Johnson, Bristol-Myers Squibb and Takeda. Release

> Bellus Health has named Catherine Bonuccelli, M.D., as the biotech’s newest CMO. Bonuccelli previously spent 20 years at AstraZeneca in a number of senior roles, including medicines clinical VP for the inflammation, neuroscience and respiratory therapeutic areas and therapy area clinical VP of respiratory and inflammation. Bonuccelli later spent more than four years as U.S. medical affairs respiratory therapeutic area head for GlaxoSmithKline. Release

> Amnicell has named Helen Ljungdahl Round as CEO. Round has served as senior VP of global marketing and business development for GN Hearing and held multiple executive leadership positions at Merck. Release

> Azitra has appointed Mark Sampson, Ph.D., as its newest CSO. Travis Whitfill, Azitra’s co-founder, will serve as executive director of advanced technology and will chair Azitra’s scientific advisory board.

> Shine Medical Technologies has scored a major name on its board of directors with the appointment of former Speaker of the House Paul Ryan. Ryan was the 54th speaker of the House and represented the 1st Congressional District in southern Wisconsin for 20 years. Before being elected speaker, Ryan served as chairman of the House Ways and Means and Budget committees and was the GOP vice presidential nominee in 2012. Release

> Aptinyx has scored a big name on its board of directors with the appointment of Rachel Sherman, M.D., a former principal deputy commissioner with the FDA. Sherman served at the FDA for nearly 30 years until her retirement early in 2019. She served as principal deputy commissioner since 2017 and previously held the role of deputy commissioner. Release

> Grail named Rodger Currie, J.D., as VP and head of government affairs and alliance development. Currie will report to Joshua Ofman, M.D., who was recently appointed chief of corporate strategy and external affairs, the company said. Currie joins Grail from the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, where he most recently served as executive VP for advocacy. Release