Chutes & Ladders—Cell Medica names Kite’s European chief as CEO

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.


CAR-T maker Cell Medica names Kite’s European chief as CEO

Cell Medica
Chris Nowers was appointed CEO.

Nowers joins the London-based company from Gilead’s Kite Pharma, while Cell Medica aims to push its handful of CAR and TCR candidates through clinical development, after acquiring assets and teaming up with Houston's Baylor College of Medicine. He takes over for founder and CEO Gregg Sando. FierceBiotech

Oncorus poaches Moderna cancer executive as CEO

Moderna's head of oncology development, Ted Ashburn, M.D., Ph.D., was named chief executive and president.

The oncolytic virus biotech and 2016 Fierce 15 winner said its former CEO and co-founder, Mitchell Finer, Ph.D., will become executive chairman, succeeding MPM Capital co-founder Luke Evnin, Ph.D., who will continue to serve on Oncorus’ board. FierceBiotech

Achaogen axes R&D, C-suite as antibiotic launch looms


R&D President Kenneth Hillan, M.B., Ch.B.; Chief Scientific Officer Lee Swem, Ph.D.; and Chief Financial Officer Tobin Schilke will exit the company this fall.

Following a narrower-than-expected FDA approval for its antibiotic Zemdri, Achaogen slashed 28% of its staff and all but two R&D programs. Hillan will maintain a seat on the board and plans to leave in October, while Swem and Schilke will leave before the end of September. Chief of staff Zeryn Sarpangal will take over the CFO role, while Chief Business Officer Liz Bhatt becomes chief operating officer. FierceBiotech

Sanofi diabetes exec makes jump to become Omeros' CMO

Eckhard Leifke, M.D., will become CMO and VP of clinical development.

In keeping with the trend of top R&D executives moving to smaller biotechs, Sanofi's former global head of diabetes late-stage development will take over the clinical VP role at Omeros from J. Steven Whitaker, M.D., J.D. Leifke also led Sanofi’s global early project and external opportunity work in cardiovascular and metabolic diseases. Whitaker will stay on to help guide Omeros' midphase clinical work for its lead antibody. FierceBiotech

> Pfizer announced that Seng Hing Cheng, Ph.D., was named senior VP and chief scientific officer of its rare disease research unit. Cheng joins from Sanofi Genzyme, where he served as global head of rare disease research. Release (PDF)

> Beijing’s CANbridge Life Sciences, developing Western drug candidates in China and Asia, brought on Pfizer’s May Orfali, M.D., to be its new chief medical officer. Orfali recently served as the big biotech’s executive director of global product development in rare diseases. FierceBiotech

> Tenaya Therapeutics appointed Faraz Ali as CEO. Previously, Ali was chief business officer at Regenxbio and VP at Bluebird Bio, and also held roles at Genzyme and GE Healthcare. Release

> Sublimity Therapeutics brought on Jesse Hall, M.D., as chief medical officer. Hall joined the company, formerly known as Sigmoid Pharma, from Ardea Biosciences, where he was an executive medical director. FierceBiotech

> Retrophin named Noah Rosenberg, M.D., as its new chief medical officer. He previously served as CMO at Medimetriks Pharmaceuticals and Esperion Therapeutics, and has also held roles at Sanofi Aventis and Pfizer. Release

> Mark Rigby, M.D., Ph.D., joined Provention as VP of clinical development. Most recently, he served as director of immunology early development and translational medicine at Janssen Pharmaceuticals. Release 

> Enzyvant brought on Alex Tracy, Ph.D., as VP of pharmaceutical development and manufacturing and Andrew Dawson as senior VP of human resources. Tracy hails from Bayer Biologics, KBI Biopharma, Novartis Vaccines, Hospira and Pfizer, while Dawson joins from Shire, Roche and Eli Lilly. Release 

> Kura Oncology hired Marc Grasso, M.D., to be CFO and chief business officer, effective Aug. 21. He succeeds Heidi Henson, who served as CFO since the company’s inception in 2014. Grasso joins from Stifel, where he managed the investment firm's West Coast life sciences and biotechnology business. Release

> Hologic’s CFO, Bob McMahon, plans to leave the company after four years to become the CFO of Agilent Technologies. Chief Accounting Officer Karleen Oberton will take his place. FierceBiotech

> A former Biogen senior business manager, Danita Erickson, sued the company for discrimination and retaliation, claiming she was fired after raising concerns about off-label promotion of Zinbryta. FiercePharma

> Orchard Therapeutics named Jon Ellis, Ph.D., as GSK’s designated representative to its board of directors, after GSK signed over its gene therapy portfolio to the company in April. Ellis is currently VP and head of science & technology licensing at GSK. Release

> Amgen broke ground on a $200 million, next-generation manufacturing plant at its Rhode Island campus, expected to be completed by 2020 and support about 150 new jobs. FiercePharma

> GlaxoSmithKline is shuttering a 60-year-old plant in Bangladesh and plans to lay off 1,000 manufacturing and commercial operations employees by the end of the year. FiercePharma

> Wockhardt built a $40 million manufacturing and R&D facility in Dubai to produce antimicrobials against drug-resistant infections. FiercePharma