Chutes & Ladders—Biogen names Stelios Papadopoulos' successor

 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. 

Biogen names Papadopoulos successor


biogen chair

Less than a month after longtime Biogen Chairman Stelios Papadopoulos, Ph.D., announced his planned retirement, the company has found a successor, naming Caroline Dorsa for the job. 

Papadopoulos disclosed his plans as he approaches 75, the mandatory retirement age for the company’s board. Dorsa takes the lead role after 13 years on the board, a tenure that’s included leading the audit committee. 

Dorsa joined the board in 2010 while she was CFO of New Jersey energy company Public Service Enterprise Group. But she cut her teeth over 21 years at Merck & Co., working different executive positions including SVP of global human health, strategy and integration and treasurer. She’s also a board member of Intellia Therapeutics and testing behemoth Illumina. 

The changing of the guard atop the company’s director team comes during a larger transition moment for the company. It recently ushered in new CEO Chris Viehbacher, and the company is clinging to its manufacturing role for its Eisai-partnered Alzheimer’s med, Leqembi. The company is also awaiting a decision from the FDA on its Ionis-partnered med tofersen, which is targeting a subgroup of patients with ALS. Release

Sarissa takes over Amarin board after 7 members depart


Right after Amarin’s shareholders sided with investor Sarissa Capital, outing Chairman Per Wold-Olsen and bringing on seven new board members, seven of the pharma’s holdover members have resigned. 

Adam Berger, Erin Enright, Geraldine Murphy, Kristine Peterson, Murray Stewart, Jan van Heek and Alfonso “Chito” Zulueta have left Amarin’s board to avoid any “further proxy contests,” according to an 8-K filing.

“Amarin shareholders have strongly backed Sarissa and its slate of directors and we are stepping down to allow Sarissa, as it has requested, to gain immediate control of the company,” the departing members said. 

The disagreement between activist investor and the Irish pharma become increasingly public in the last year after Sarissa became Amarin’s top shareholder and tried to obtain seats on the board. Amarin tried to resist this attempt and used an independent search firm to add six new board members, a move Sarissa dubbed a “sham.” Fierce Pharma

Former Cerevel pres to lead new Third Rock, J&J spinout

Rapport Therapeutics

Rapport Therapeutics was born this week, spun out of Third Rock Ventures and Johnson & Johnson’s investment arm with $100 million. Leading the neuroscience-focused biotech is Abraham Ceesay, an industry veteran who most recently was president of Cerevel Therapeutics. 

Ceesay’s hiring provides an immediate burst of legitimacy to the new company as it takes off. Joining him is Chief Scientific Officer David Bredt, M.D., Ph.D., who previously led neuroscience research at Lilly and J&J. Bredt was a critical figure in the discovery of  receptor-associated proteins, and he’s leveraging the research to develop Rapport’s treatment-identifying platform. 

The company is hitting the ground running with a phase 1 asset to treat drug-resistant seizures. Few details were added regarding the trial, including endpoints or recruitment goals. In its announcement, Rapport says it’s advancing a “portfolio of clinical and preclinical compounds.”  Fierce Biotech

> Just months after laying off 40% of staff, Neoleukin Therapeutics is cutting down its workforce by 70% and sending CEO Jonathan Drachman, M.D., packing. Drachman will be stepping down after a “short transition” period. Fierce Biotech

An R&D rethink at Olema Oncology has triggered a restructuring that will reduce head count by 25%.Two members of the C-suite, Chief Business Officer Kinney Horn and Chief Research Officer Cyrus Harmon, Ph.D., are among the departing staffers. Harmon co-founded Olema and will stay on the board of directors. Fierce Biotech

> Precision medicine company Allorion Therapeutics has brought on Gregory Berk, M.D., to serve as the company's first chief medical officer. Before Allorion, Berk has clocked in over 30 years of experience in drug development, holding senior management positions across Abraxis BioScience, Intellikine, BIND BioSciences, Sideris Pharmaceuticals and GT Biopharma. Release

> MitoRx Therapeutics is bringing on Christine Charman to serve as chief development officer. Charman joins the preclinical platform company from Takeda, where she was senior global program lead for rare diseases, respiratory and immunology, and neuroscience areas. Before that, she held several roles at Novartis. Release   

> VarmX, a biotech aiming to reverse anticoagulation, has tapped Jeffrey Lawson, M.D., Ph.D., to serve as its new chief scientific officer. Lawson will take the reins from current CSO and founder Pieter Reitsma, who will stay on as a special advisor. Prior to VarmX, Lawson served as president and CEO of regenerative medicine company Humacyte. Release  

> EyeBio is bringing on several new faces, including co-founder Anthony Adamis, M.D., as chief scientific officer. Adamis, who also helped found Eyetech in 2002 with EyeBio’s CEO David Guyer, M.D., previously served as SVP of product development and development innovation at Roche’s Genentech. EyeBio has also tapped several others to join its leadership team, such as Loni Da Silva, who joins from Oyster Point Pharma and will serve as chief regulatory officer. Frances Betts, who has previously worked at Eyetech and Roche, will serve as global head of clinical operations, while Mike Davies from F-Star Therapeutics will lead chemistry, manufacturing and control for drug development. Eric Ng, Ph.D., will step into the role of SVP of biology after developing animal models in ophthalmology as an assistant professor at Harvard University. Release   

> Keith Wilcoxen, Ph.D., has left Zenas BioPharma for Rome Therapeutics, where he will serve as EVP of early development. Before serving as Zenas’ SVP of global research, Wilcoxen has held roles at Boston Pharmaceuticals, Tesaro, Eisai, Neurocrine Biosciences and Pfizer. Release   

> Homology Medicines has promoted Julie Jordan, M.D., to the role of chief medical officer. Previously, she served as the gene medicine company’s SVP and head of clinical development and operations. Before joining Homology, Jordan held roles at Cerevel Therapeutics, Avanir Pharmaceuticals, Teva Pharmaceutical Industries and Medpace. Release  

> Gene therapy tech company ElevateBio has added Heidi Wagner to its team. After years working at AstraZeneca's Alexion Pharmaceuticals, Roche's Genentech and Global Blood Therapeutics, Wagner will now serve as ElevateBio's global head of government affairs. Release