Chutes & Ladders—Celgene COO abruptly resigns amid immunology setbacks


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 Angus Liu (email), and we will feature it here at the end of each week.

Celgene COO resigns in wake of recent immunology setbacks

Scott Smith

COO Scott Smith stepped down. 

Celgene’s Scott Smith was promoted from head of inflammation and immunology unit to COO last April. But things haven’t been going well lately in that sector he used to manage. The FDA recently refused to review an application for the company’s much anticipated ozanimod, and that’s on top sales disappointment from psoriasis drug Otezla and the phase 3 termination of inflammatory bowel disease candidate GED-301 (mongersen). So, Smith’s departure wasn’t entirely surprising, but response to the news on the Street was mixed, as comparison with previous Biogen shakeup was drawn. The company is now “modifying its executive team,” as CEO Mark Alles takes over Smith’s responsibilities among other functions. FiercePharma

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Former Kite execs start new CAR-T firm with $300M and Pfizer drugs

Belldegrun Chang

Allogene Therapeutics
Arie Belldegrun and David Chang co-founded the CAR-T firm.

After selling Kite to Gilead for $11.9 billion, former Kite executives Arie Belldegrun and David Chang has resurfaced at Allogene, a CAR-T startup they just co-founded with a massive $300 million series A and 17 off-the-shelf CAR-T assets licensed from Pfizer. The candidates came from a partnership Pfizer formed with Cellectis in 2014 and another with Servier. Pfizer will continue to participate in the company financially through a 25% stake in Allogene. Lead candidate UCART19, an allogeneic CAR-T therapy, will enter phase 2 studies in 2019. Belldegrun, the former Kite CEO, serves executive chairman, and Chang, Kite’s former R&D chief and CMO, is CEO and president. FierceBiotech

Dermavant expands C-suite with key hires including GSK exec as CSO

David Rubenstein

David Rubenstein, M.D., Ph.D., was appointed CSO.

David Rubenstein, M.D., Ph.D., recently GlaxoSmithKline Dermatology’s VP of discovery and preclinical development, has joined Roivant’s Dermavant as CSO. Jim Lee, Ph.D., current CMO of Dermavant, once worked alongside Rubenstein at GSK’s dermatology subsidiary Stiefel as the unit’s head of clinical dermatology. Rubenstein’s hire could mean Dermavant is willing to carry out preclinical work, rather than just acquire clinical assets. Other C-suite hires were also made. Former Medicis CFO Richard Peterson joined as CFO. Ariel Jasie, former Codiak BioSciences’ CBO, joined as chief business & strategy officer, and Chris Van Tuyl became general counsel. FierceBiotech

> Carsten Thiel, Ph.D., who was most recently Alexion's CCO and served stints at Amgen and Roche, took the reins at Abeona. Former head Timothy Miller, Ph.D., stays on as president and CSO. FierceBiotech

> After bringing on Abbott alum Arthur Higgins as its CEO a year ago, Depomed has hired Stan Bukofzer, M.D., an Abbott veteran who also served in VP spots at Astellas and Hospira, as its CMO and CSO. FierceBiotech

> Luigi Costa stepped down from the CEO post at Nordic Nanovector, as the company further delayed a readout from a pivotal lymphoma trial on Betalutin. FierceBiotech

> Relay Therapeutics brought on recent Mersana CMO Don Bergstrom, M.D., Ph.D., as EVP and head of R&D. Brian Adams also joined as general counsel, and Tom Catinazzo was named VP of finance. Release

> Magenta Therapeutics' COO Bastiano Sanna, Ph.D., has left to pursue outside opportunities. Release

> Macrolide Pharma, which is working on first-in-class antibiotics, just raised $20 million and hired Novartis veteran Mahesh Karande as president and CEO. FierceBiotech

> Dermatology-focused medtech company Strata Skin Sciences reached a tentative financing deal of $17 million, and one investor, Dolev Rafaeli, will become interim CEO. FierceMedTech

> Johnson & Johnson veteran and diagnostic tests developer Alere's recent CEO, Namal Nawana, will jump to Smith & Nephew as CEO. Release

> Craig Parker, recently SVP of corporate development at Jazz Pharma, took the helm at Surrozen, which works on new therapies for human tissues regeneration. Release

> Concentric Analgesics, which develops non-opioid pain drugs, hired Susan Kramer as EVP of program management & strategy and Mike A. Royal, M.D., as CMO. Release

> MyoKardia, which focuses on heritable cardiovascular diseases, appointed Taylor C. Harris as CFO, while current finance leader Jake Bauer transitioned to CBO. Release

> Swedish CRO TFS International appointed Andrew Copestake as CCO. Release

> Prometic Life Sciences named Bruce Wendel chief business development officer. Release