Chutes & Ladders—BMS CEO set to leave after 8-year run

 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. 

BMS CEO retiring in November

Bristol Myers Squibb 

CEO Giovanni Caforio, M.D. (Bristol Myers Squibb)

Bristol Myers Squibb came in hot with one heck of a Thursday news bomb, announcing that CEO Giovanni Caforio, M.D., plans to retire in November after eight years at the helm. He’ll be replaced by newly named Chief Operating Officer Chris Boerner. 

Caforio’s exit comes as the seventh-largest pharmaceutical by 2022 revenue braces for the loss of exclusivity on three commercial blockbusters, including blood thinner Eliquis and cancer treatments Revlimid and Opdivo. All three are slated for patent expiration this decade. 

Under Caforio’s leadership, BMS has launched 12 new medicines, and revenue has tripled. Five of the new launches were first-in-class medicines across different disease areas. Last year alone, the company had three new product launches, including TYK2 inhibitor Sotyktu for patients with plaque psoriasis. 

Boerner was promoted to commercial chief in 2018, and, shortly thereafter, BMS scooped up Celgene for a whopping $74 billion. He was first hired to lead U.S. commercial efforts in 2015 after years at Seagen. As part of the transition announcement, BMS named Boerner COO effective immediately, calling on Adam Lenkowsky, SVP and head of major markets, to be the new commercial chief. Fierce Pharma

AbbVie is no Waystar Royco, but plots CEO succession plan


As far as we at Fierce Biotech know, there’s no lineage of Gonzalez family members lining up to take the helm of AbbVie. But, for the first time, the company teased a succession plan for CEO Rick Gonzalez as he finishes a decade as CEO. 

Richard Gonzalez

Gonzalez said during the company’s first-quarter earnings call that he’s had many conversations with the board about a succession plan, though any handing off of the corporate baton will wait until at least 2024. Gonzalez says his first priority is guiding AbbVie through one of the most significant patent losses in pharmaceutical history, as biosimilars for Humira enter the fold. Revenue for Humira fell by more than 25% in the first quarter, evidence of how quickly Humira’s reign is ending. Gonzalez said that he’s “willing to stay in any capacity that [the board] would desire,” evidence that he’s in no rush to depart. 

News of his looming, albeit time-devoid, departure comes just one quarter after Gonzalez teased potentially ambitious M&A plans. The Chicago-based pharma then shed a $2 billion dealmaking cap that had been in place since the purchase of Allergan, with Gonzalez telling investors at the time that they should expect AbbVie to act if the right M&A opportunity presented itself. Fierce Pharma

French pharma Ipsen taps new chief medical officer 


French pharma Ipsen has landed on a new clinical chief, tapping Sandra Silvestri, M.D., Ph.D., to be chief medical officer and head of global medical affairs, patient safety and patient affairs. Silvestri jumps from fellow European pharma Sanofi, where she was most recently SVP and chief medical officer of the general medicines unit. It’s but the latest high-profile departure from Sanofi after R&D chief John Reed, M.D., Ph.D., left for the same role at Johnson & Johnson. 

Headshot of incoming Ipsen CMO Sandra Silvestri

Ipsen said that current Chief Medical Officer Steven Hildemann, M.D., Ph.D., will leave to pursue other opportunities. 

Prior to joining Sanofi in 2015, Silvestri spent more than nine years at Lilly, risking the medical affairs ranks before being named senior medical director of Italy, south and central east Europe. She spent years as an endocrinologist in Italy before jumping to industry in 2005. 

Silvestri’s first order of business will be seeing Ipsen’s rare disease med palovaratone through the finish line after U.S. regulators said they’d take another look at it. The med’s topsy-turvy regulatory process resulted in a end-of-year rejection, but Ipsen has supplied additional data that it hopes can push it over the finish line following a second review. The FDA has set a a mid-August deadline to decide whether to approve palovarotene. Release

> Alongside a $53 million series E fundraise, Antiva Biosciences’ CEO Gail Maderis will shift to chair of the board. Kristine Ball, who most recently helmed Soteria Biotherapeutics as CEO, is set to take the head job at Antiva. Fierce Biotech

> BrainStorm Cell Therapeutics is tapping Kirk Taylor, M.D., to serve as EVP and chief medical officer starting May 1. Taylor joins from Merck KGaA’s EMD Serono and has held past roles at Verastem Oncology, Finch Therapeutics, Biogen, Pfizer and Sanofi-Genzyme. Release   

> Giuseppe Ciaramella- and John Maraganore-founded Orbital Therapeutics has looped in $270 million and two new executives. Niru Subramanian joins from Rheos Medicine and will serve as chief operating officer, while Jonathan Piazza joins from Silverback Therapeutics and will take on the role of chief financial officer. Fierce Biotech

> After laying off 95% of its staff in January, Finch Therapeutics’ CEO Mark Smith, Ph.D., is stepping down May 15, with Matthew Blischak exiting Roivant Sciences to take the reins. Lance Thibault is also stepping on as chief financial officer, while Marc Blaustein is set to leave his role as chief operating officer and principal financial officer. Release  

> Athenex has brought on Nick Campbell to serve as chief restructuring officer and continue the process of reviewing strategic alternatives amid an FDA clinical hold from the FDA. Campbell is the founder and managing partner of Meru, a firm focused on helping companies identify and address operational, organizational and financial matters. Release    

> Israel biotech Can-Fite has tapped its current Chief Financial Officer Motti Farbstein to double up as both CFO and CEO. Farbstein takes the place of Cab-Fite’s scientific founder Pnina Fishman, Ph.D., who will continue to serve as chief scientific officer and take on the role as executive chair of the board. Release   

> Seagen’s R&D president Roger Dansey, M.D., has joined the board of cancer company Kronos Bio. Dansey has extensive experience in oncology drug development, clocking in time at Merck, Gilead and Amgen as well. Release   

> Zevra Therapeutics CEO Richard Pascoe has been booted from the company’s board after a shareholder’s vote this week. The rare disease biotech, formerly called KemPharm, replaced two other board members with new incomers as well. Release

> Australian biotech Immutep has selected Florian Vogl, M.D., Ph.D., to serve as chief medical officer, starting May 1. Most recently, Vogl was CMO of Cellestia Biotech and has held previous leadership roles at Rainier Therapeutics, Novartis and Amgen. Release

> Kent Bondensgaard and John “Lippy” Lippincott have hopped aboard Alloy Therapeutics’ team, set to serve as SVP of antibody discovery services and SVP of therapeutic discovery strategies, respectively. Bondensgaard joins from Kiniksa Pharmaceuticals and has nearly 15 years of experience at Novo Nordisk, while Lippincott has worked across AlivaMab, Ablexis, LakePharma and Pfizer. Release

> Epsilogen is expanding, bringing on Nick Robbins-Cherry as chief financial officer, Andrew Calam as VP of clinical operations and Elizabeth Hardaker as VP of biology. Most recently, Robbins-Cherry worked at Ixaka, while Calam had been at Syneos Health and Hardaker was at AstraZeneca. Release

> FogPharma President and CEO Mathai Mammen, M.D., Ph.D., has joined private equity firm General Atlantic as a senior adviser. Before joining FogPharma earlier this month, Mammen was EVP of pharmaceuticals and R&D for Johnson & Johnson. Release