Chutes & Ladders—BIO CEO resigns amid reports of dissent within organization

 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. 

BIO CEO resigns after report outlining dissent with the board

Biotechnology Innovation Organization 

Michelle McMurry-Heath (LinkedIn)

Days after reportedly going on leave, BIO CEO Michelle McMurry-Heath, M.D., Ph.D., resigned as CEO of BIO, one of the leading lobbyists for the biotech and pharma industries. The decision came after The Wall Street Journal reported that there was dissent within the organization between McMurry-Heath and members of the organization's board of directors.

According to the WSJ, members of the board wanted BIO to take a stance on more social issues, while McMurry-Heath felt the organization should stay focused on biopharma. Sources told the paper that members of the board questioned McMurry-Heath’s job performance, prompting a review. Ultimately, the brewing discord became untenable, and McMurry-Heath stepped down. Rachel King, co-founder of GlycoMimetics and former chair of BIO’s board, was named as the interim CEO. 

McMurry-Heath’s almost 30-month tenure was a tumultuous one, defined by steering the group through a number of seismic events, none more notable than the COVID-19 pandemic. And in August, the U.S. Congress passed the Inflation Reduction Act, enacting some of the strongest drug price reforms in years. BIO, among other industry stakeholders, has said the bill will stymie drug innovation. Fierce Biotech

Former Dyne CEO takes the reins at Ascidian

Ascidian Therapeutics

Romesh Subramanian, Ph.D., has found a new landing spot, becoming CEO of RNA-editing focused Ascidian Therapeutics. News of his joining came as part of an official unveiling, with the company also hauling in $50 million in series A. 

Subramanian’s hiring comes more than a year after he departed Dyne Therapeutics, a company he helped co-found and that was tackling a range of muscular diseases. After launching the company in 2017, he settled into the chief scientific offer role in January 2020. But he stepped down in June 2021 for “personal reasons,” staying on as an adviser. Prior to starting Dyne, Subramanian co-founded Translate Bio, which was sold to Sanofi in 2021. He also spent more than four and a half years as a senior scientist at Pfizer before leaving in 2011. 

Ascidian is looking to rewrite RNA exons to correct genetic malfunctions that lead to disease. The company’s lead asset is aimed at Stargardt disease and is moving toward the clinic, although the company did not include a firm timeline for entering phase 1 trials. Fierce Biotech

Palisade CEO departs after 9 years at the company 

Palisade Bio

A month after trimming a fifth of the company’s staff, Palisade Bio as bidding adieu to its CEO, with Thomas Hallam, Ph.D., electing to step aside. His departure marks the end of roughly nine years at the company, elevating from VP of therapeutic development to the top executive. Prior to joining Palisade, Hallam spent two years as director of therapeutic programs at Mesoblast.  

Hallam’s exit also marks the latest development in what’s been a top-down shake-up at the company. In September, the company cut roughly 20% of its staff to try and save as much money as possible to continue development of its top GI asset. Hallam said in a release at the time that the layoffs put the company “in a much stronger position financially." That may be so, but he won’t be there to find out. 

Palisade has tapped Chief Financial Officer JD Finley to be the interim CEO while the company looks for a permanent replacement. Finley joined in 2017, helping oversee the merger between Seneca Biopharma and Leading BioSciences, which spawned Palisade. Prior to joining Palisade, Finley was the president and CFO of software company PointAcross Inc. Release

> Former CareDx chair Peter Maag, Ph.D., will helm cell therapy company Kyverna Therapeutics as its new CEO. Maag succeeds Dominic Borie, M.D., Ph.D., who will now be head of Kyverna’s R&D. Before joining CareDx in 2012, Maag served as president of Novartis Diagnostics. Release

> Maze Therapeutics is shaking up its leadership team, tapping Harold Bernstein, M.D., Ph.D., to lead as president, head of R&D and chief medical officer, while also promoting Eric Green, M.D., Ph.D., from SVP of research and translational sciences to chief scientific officer. Bernstein joins from BioMarin, where he was SVP, CMO and head of global clinical development. He has also held past roles at Merck and Vertex. Green co-founded Maze and was with Third Rock Ventures before its inception. Release

> Patrick Genestin has joined biotech 1910 Genetics’ team, stepping into the role of chief business officer. He joins from Hikma Pharmaceuticals, where he served as VP of business development and pipeline strategy, and has also held positions at Novartis’ Sandoz, CSL Behring and Sanofi. Release

> Capstan Therapeutics is expanding its leadership team, selecting Michael Rosenzweig, Ph.D., to serve as EVP of portfolio strategy and product development. He has more than 20 years of related experience, including leadership positions at Merck Research Labs, Immunext and ToleRx. Release

> Walden Biosciences has tapped Peter Guest Linde, M.D., to fill the role as the biotech’s first chief medical officer. Linde joins from Morphic Therapeutic, where he also served as CMO. He also has past experience at Acceleron Pharma, AbbVie, FibroGen, Johnson & Johnson and founded Triaxis Medical Devices. Release

> Filippo Mulinacci, Ph.D., has left Basilea Pharmaceutical to join Araris Biotech as its chief business officer. He also has worked at Philochem, Roche and Serono SA. Release

> French biopharmaceutical Osivax has appointed Vincent Bille, Ph.D., to serve as chief manufacturing officer. Prior to joining Osivax, Bille worked for 15 years as an independent consultant for biotech and pharmaceutical companies. Release

> While awaiting top-line proof-of-concept data, Vaxcyte has tapped Jakub Simon, M.D., to serve as chief medical officer and Mark Wiggins as chief business officer. Before Vaxcyte, Simon has worked as Merck’s director of clinical research for vaccines, while Wiggins has experience at Tracon Pharmaceuticals, Biogen-Idec, Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson and Merck. Release

> George Sledge, Jr., M.D., has joined Caris Life Sciences as EVP and chief medical officer. Before Caris, Sledge was a professor at Stanford University School of Medicine. Release