Chutes & Ladders—Bayer promotes Sebastian Guth to helm all US operations

  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. 

Sebastian Guth takes reins of all of Bayer’s U.S. operations


Sebastian Guth (LinkedIn)

When Bayer named former Roche pharma chief Bill Anderson as its new CEO, it was clear the company would be leaning into its pharmaceutical business as the focus moving forward. That’s been further cemented with the promotion of Sebastian Guth as head of the company’s U.S. operations. Guth previously led the company’s pharmaceutical operations in the states and will now oversee all corners of the business. 

It’s also an implicit showing that Anderson is confident in some of the company’s existing leadership, sticking by Guth, who has been at the company for 17 years. Guth will retain oversight of the region’s pharmaceutical arm, while coverage of Latin America will switch to Heike Prinz, head of commercial operations for the EMEA pharma business.

Before leading Bayer’s U.S. pharma team, Guth was chief marketing officer for the global pharmaceutical wing. Prior to that, he led Bayer’s healthcare work in Japan. He’ll formally assume his new role June 30. Release

I-Mab brings on Raj Kannan as CEO


Raj Kannan (I-Mab)

China-based I-Mab Biopharma has named Raj Kannan as its new CEO, charting a new era for the company as it anticipates filing for FDA approval for the first time.  

Kannan has bounced around over the last five years, but he’s made his presence as a chief executive known after a couple of buyouts. Most recently, he was the CEO of Aerie Pharmaceuticals, which was acquired by Alcon in November 2022. Before that, Kannan was president and CEO of Chiasma, which ultimately was scooped up by Amryt. 

He cut his teeth in Big Pharma—namely Merck & Co., Boehringer Ingelheim and Merck KGaA—where he spent the first nearly two decades of his career. He ascended positions throughout the three companies, ending as a senior vice president at Merck KGaA leading the neurology and immunology franchises. 

Andrew Zhu, who’s led I-Mab on an interim basis, will stay on at the company as president and head of research and development. Release 

New Flagship venture woos Janssen scientist 

Empress Therapeutics

Much of the biotech and pharma industries have been hand-wringing since the passing of the Inflation Reduction Act, contending that the new drug pricing reforms de-incentivize development of small molecules. It remains to be seen how much of an impact those reforms will have, but it clearly hasn’t stopped Flagship Pioneering from diving into the more accessible therapeutic type. 

J&J, Empress Therapeutics
Murray McKinnon, Ph.D. (LinkedIn)

The venture creator launched Empress Therapeutics to rapidly accelerate small-molecule drug development, with the biotech slated to file four INDs to the FDA over the next two years. The company, currently led by Jason Park, has already accrued 15 drug leads spanning a variety of therapeutic indications. 

The platform behind the rapid discovery and development engine was exciting enough to draw in Murray McKinnon, Ph.D., as chief scientific officer. McKinnon was previously the global leader of Janssen's World Without Disease Accelerator and head of immunosciences for the accelerator. All told, he spent more than 14 years at Janssen, after leading immunology discovery at Bristol Myers Squibb for eight and a half years. Fierce Biotech 

> Kyowa Kirin has named Gunnar Kaufmann, Ph.D., to serve as chief research officer. Kaufmann joins the company’s North American arm from Oncternal Therapeutics, where he was chief scientific officer. Release

> Protein degradation company C4 Therapeutics has selected industry titan Leonard Reyno, M.D., as chief medical officer, effective July 10. Reyno joins C4 from Pionyr Immunotherapeutics—where he most recently served as CMO and R&D president—and has previously worked at ORIC Pharmaceuticals, Astellas’ Agensys, Genentech and Aventis. Release

> SpliceBio is adding David Favre, Ph.D., to the team, appointing him to the role of chief development officer. Before joining the genetic medicine company, Favre has experience working at Innoskel, Asklepios Biopharmaceutical and GSK. Release

> Adcendo has snagged Lone Ottesen, M.D., Ph.D., from AstraZeneca, where she served as global clinical head in late-stage clinical development. Ottesen, who has also clocked in time at GSK and Eisai, will now take up the role of Adcendo’s chief medical officer. Release

> Newly launched Attovia Therapeutics will be helmed by co-founder Tao Fu, who has served in leadership roles at companies such as Zai Lab, Portola Pharmaceuticals, Bristol Myers Squibb and Johnson & Johnson. Petter Veiby, Ph.D., is also coming on board as chief scientific officer; Hangjun Zhan, Ph.D., will serve as chief technology officer; and Zaneta Odrowaz, Ph.D., will be chief business officer. Release

> Veralox Therapeutics has tapped Jonathan Mow to lead as CEO as the company closes a $24 million fundraise. Mow most recently served as CEO of PhaseBio Pharmaceuticals and has worked previously at Amylin Pharmaceuticals, Corus Pharma, PathoGenesis and Bristol Myers Squibb. Release

> Urologist, researcher and Professor Roger Dmochowski, M.D., is joining Versameb as chief medical officer. Dmochowski—a former member of the FDA's Bone, Reproductive and Urologic Drugs Advisory Committee—joins the preclinical company as it plans to advance its lead program to clinic. Release

> Ilise Lombardo, M.D., is taking the reins from former Noema Pharma CEO Luigi Costa, a co-founder of Noema, who has stepped down to pursue other opportunities. Lombardo is already a member of Noema’s board of directors and has held past leadership roles at Arvelle Therapeutics (acquired by Angelini Pharma), Kriya Therapeutics, Pfizer, Forum Pharmaceuticals and Axovant Sciences. Release

> Aeglea BioTherapeutics’ new acquisition of Spyre Therapeutics means the company is expanding its management team. Current leadership will be joined by Cameron Turtle, who will take on the role of chief operating officer; Janet Gunzner-Toste, Ph.D., who will serve as SVP of operations; Andy Spencer, Ph.D., will step on as SVP of preclinical R&D; and Justin LaFountaine, Ph.D., will serve as VP of corporate development. Release