Chutes & Ladders—Celgene brings on Keytruda R&D executive in shake-up

Chutes and Ladders
Welcome 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 Conor Hale, and we will feature it here at the end of each week.

Celgene brings on Keytruda and Bavencio R&D executive in shake-up


Alise Reicin, M.D., was named president of global clinical development.

Reicin, who has worked for both Mercks—German and U.S.—including on the latter’s Keytruda, will take over leadership of Celgene's mid- to late-stage drug development portfolio. She will also oversee “clinical operations, biostatistics, project leadership and project management,” according to the Big Biotech, which bills the change as part of a “new organizational structure [that] enhances corporate strategy and focus on discovery, development and commercialization.” Meanwhile, President Rupert Vessey will continue leading early R&D projects. Reicin joins from EMD Serono, where she was SVP and head of global clinical development. FierceBiotech article

IBM Watson Health chief Deborah DiSanzo steps down

IBM Watson Health

General Manager Deborah DiSanzo is stepping down after three years in the position, effective immediately.

DiSanzo is moving to the strategy team for IBM Cognitive Solutions, which encompasses the company’s larger artificial intelligence and blockchain efforts. Meanwhile, Big Blue’s senior VP of cognitive solutions and IBM Research, John Kelly—who oversees the Watson program and its efforts in healthcare, financial services, education and the internet of things—will cover the vacancy for the time being. A former CEO of Philips Healthcare, DiSanzo was brought on in September 2015 to lead the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Watson Health division. FierceBiotech article

AbbVie CFO Bill Chase, who spearheaded its spinoff and Imbruvica buy, is retiring


Robert Michael was named the company's next CFO.

Bill Chase, AbbVie’s CFO since the company’s 2013 spinoff, will retire in mid-2019. Currently, Chase serves as executive VP of finance and administration, while Robert Michael takes over his position. Michael has been AbbVie's controller since March 2017, after serving as treasurer from 2015 to 2016. The move comes as AbbVie plans to launch 20 new products or new "major indications" for existing drugs before biosimilars of its Humira flagship reach the U.S. market in 2023, and after Humira biosimilars launched in the EU this week. FiercePharma article

Seres lures Kevin Horgan from AstraZeneca to fill CMO post

Seres Therapeutics
Kevin Horgan was named chief medical officer.

At AstraZeneca, Horgan spent the past few years leading the development of immuno-oncology combination programs. Now, Horgan has accepted Seres’ offer to replace Michele Trucksis, and will be in charge of a broad, advanced pipeline aimed at treating disease by altering the microbiome.

After his first industry post at Merck 20 years ago, Horgan served as VP of clinical immunology at Johnson & Johnson’s Centocor while it was developing Remicade, Stelara and Simponi. He later served as CMO of Soligenix and Coronado Biosciences before moving to AstraZeneca in 2015. Trucksis will leave the company in mid-November after three years, but will continue to provide consulting services. FierceBiotech article

> TP Therapeutics promoted Athena Countouriotis, M.D., to CEO, while raising $80 million in venture capital to move its lead candidate in drug-resistant tumors into phase 2 research next year. Countouriotis joined the company as an executive VP and CMO in May. Chairman and CEO Peter Li, Ph.D., will move to head up TP Therapeutics Asia, while its president and chief scientific officer, Jean Cui, Ph.D., will become chairman. FierceBiotech

> 89Bio has signed on Rohan Palekar to be CEO, alongside a $60 million raise to advance a stable of small molecules and biologics acquired from Teva. Palekar previously led CNS-focused Avanir Pharmaceuticals until 2017. FierceBiotech

> Ray Tabibiazar, M.D., is moving to Twist Bioscience, where he will serve as senior VP of corporate development and business strategy. He will also head up Twist’s biologics drug discovery unit as acting general manager. Tabibiazar founded Ruga, which came out of stealth in 2016 renamed as Aravive Biologics, a later member of the Fierce 15. FierceBiotech

> Shire’s Steven Zhang, M.D., Ph.D., joined Kala Pharmaceuticals to lead its medical affairs work as it begins transitioning to a commercial-stage ophthalmic company. At Shire, Zhang served as senior director, medical lead of the company’s global ophthalmic franchise and development programs, and headed its U.S. ophthalmic medical affairs. FierceBiotech

> Sangamo veteran Gary Lee, Ph.D., joined the synthetic biology outfit Senti as CSO. Lee will oversee advancement of oncology cell therapy programs into the clinic. At Sangamo, Lee worked on T-cell engineering, including CAR-T therapies for cancer and T-cell therapies for HIV, as VP of cell therapy. FierceBiotech

> Cara Therapeutics has brought on Joana Goncalves, M.D., as chief medical officer, while previous CMO Joseph Stauffer will transition to a consulting role. Most recently, Goncalves served as VP of medical affairs for dermatology and neurology at Celgene. Release 

> Medidata has named Merck KGaA's Maria Rivas to its board of directors. This marks the first public board appointment for Rivas, who currently serves as Merck's senior VP and head of global medical affairs. She is also Medidata's first female board member, as part of the company's pledge to have 20% female board membership by 2020. Release

> Stephen Mitchener, PharmD, was named Axcella Health's senior VP and chief business officer. Previously, Mitchener spent 15 years at Novartis, most recently as head of its U.S. oncology strategy, partnering and operations. Release 

> Diabetes digital health company Bigfoot Biomedical appointed Ian Hanson chief technology officer and Jyoti Palaniappan chief commercial officer. Hanson comes from Unilife, where he served as chief operating officer and helped lead development of its wearable injector platform. Palaniappan held a series of commercial roles at Abbott over the past 11 years. Release

> CMO Grand River Aseptic Manufacturing is adding a $60-million manufacturing facility along with more than 100 jobs, backed by a $1-million grant from the state of Michigan. The project is slated to be complete by 2020 and aims to boost its employment by nearly two-thirds. FiercePharmaManufacturing