Chutes & Ladders—Biogen lures Novartis exec to lead U.S. marketing activities

Biogen poached a Novartis vet to help further boost Spinraza sales and to lead the company's future marketing activities.

Chutes and Ladders

Welcome to this week's Chutes and Ladders, our roundup of hirings, firings and retirings throughout the industry. Please send the good word—or the bad—from your shop to Eric Sagonowsky (email) or Angus Liu (email) and we will feature it here at the end of each week.

Biogen taps Novartis vet to help further boost Spinraza sales

Biogen Logo
Alisha Alaimo

Alisha Alaimo becomes SVP of U.S. therapeutic operations.

Sponsored By Syneos Health

Blazing a Trail to Clinical Trial Diversity: Four-Part Webinar Series from Syneos Health, Featuring Pharma, Clinical Research and Community Health Leaders

This series will identify obstacles that stifle appropriate patient diversity in trials; unpack the organizational overhaul needed; share how sponsors, patients & investigators have come together to overcome hurdles; and explore how policy innovations can move the industry forward.

Biogen just hired a new female exec, Alisha Alaimo, as its SVP of U.S. therapeutic operations, a position that reports directly to CEO Michel Vounatsos. She will oversee sales and marketing, patient services and commercial activities, and a major element of that includes increasing the uptake of spinal muscular atrophy med Spinraza. She will also work to prepare for future approvals of the company’s new neurologic therapies. Spinraza, approved by the U.S. FDA last December, turned in a surprisingly high $203 million in the second quarter, nearly triple what analysts had predicted, prompting Biogen to raise its full-year earnings forecast. Alaimo joins Biogen from Novartis, where she spent over 17 years, most recently as VP and head of the cardiovascular business unit; before that, she oversaw Novartis’ neuroscience business unit. Release | Read more at FiercePharma

Aeterna Zentaris CEO Dodd exits as FDA reconsiders its lead candidate

Aeterna Zentaris logo
David Dodd

Aeterna Zentaris
David Dodd stepped down as CEO.

Aeterna’s four-year CEO David Dodd is stepping down, right after the FDA had agreed to review the company’s marketing application for its lead candidate, adult growth hormone deficiency diagnostic Macrilen, for the second time. Although the drug was rejected in 2014 and results from a new phase 3 trial didn’t look promising at first glance, Aeterna believes a subsequent analysis can overcome that. The company recently took a hit as its second pipeline drug—Zoptrex for endometrial cancer—failed in a phase 3 trial. Replacing Dodd is Michael Ward, a 30-year pharma veteran who used to serve as chief compliance and legal officer with Sagent Pharmaceuticals. Ward led the generic drugmaker’s sale to Nichi-Iko for $736 million last year. Aeterna is currently rethinking its strategy. FierceBiotech

New CBO will help design Merrimack’s business strategy

Tom Needham

Thomas Needham was named CBO.

Merrimack poached Thomas Needham from C4 Therapeutics as its new CBO. With 25 years of experience in corporate strategy and finance in the biotech industry, Needham has a track record of driving strategic transactions, including in- and out-licensing, and R&D collaborations, and he’ll help design the strategic path for Merrimack’s pipeline. Merrimack just recently sold several assets, including cancer drug Onivyde, to Ipsen for $575 million, steering itself back to a smaller, clinical-stage company. It has also made several C-suite changes this year, having welcomed former Sanofi Genzyme exec Richard Peters, M.D., Ph.D., as its CEO, named former Ariad CMO Sergio Santillana, M.D., as its new CMO, made Daryl Drummond, Ph.D., head of research, and bid farewell to former CFO Yasir Al-Wakeel. Release

> Marc Becker, SVP and CFO of CRISPR Therapeutics, who took a family and medical leave of absence, will not resume his position and will be leaving the company at the end of September. SEC filing

> Abeona Therapeutics, which focuses on developing gene therapies for rare diseases, named Juan Ruiz, M.D., Ph.D., as CMO. Release

> Deborah Palestrant, Ph.D., who led the business development team at Editas since its inception, joined Relay Therapeutics as VP of corporate development and strategy. Release

> Oxford Immunotec, which develops tests for the management of immune-regulated conditions, appointed Richard Wenstrup, M.D., as CMO. Release

> Andrea van Elsas, Ph.D., will be promoted to Aduro Biotech's CSO, replacing Thomas Dubensky, Jr., Ph.D., who resigned to focus on his own R&D company. Release

> Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Cue Biopharma tapped Mary Simcox, Ph.D., as VP of translational biology. Release

> Medical device company OrthoAccel Technologies named orthodontic and dental industry vet David Josza as CEO. Release

> BioreclamationIVT appointed Karen Sasse to the newly created position of VP of global quality and compliance. Release

> French company Adocia, developing formulations of approved proteins to fight diabetes, brought on Stanislav Glezer, M.D., as CMO. Release