Chutes & Ladders—Cerevel CEO to exit as company nears inflection point

 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. 

After 4-year run, Cerevel CEO set to step down

Cerevel Therapeutics

Cerevel CEO Tony Coles, M.D., will be handing over the reins to Bain Capital’s Ron Renaud on June 12. Renaud, who is Coles’ longtime friend, will become the neuroscience biotech’s new president, CEO and board member, while Coles will maintain his role as chair.  

Tony Coles, M.D.
Tony Coles, M.D. (Cerevel Therapeutics)

Coles took on the head role of the Pfizer spinout back in 2019, guiding Cerevel’s public market debut in 2020 and overseeing pipeline development of several neurological diseases, such as Parkinson’s, epilepsy and schizophrenia. 

Renaud, a current partner at Bain Capital—which has invested heavily in Cerevel—comes in at a critical inflection point. The company anticipates seven data readouts in the next 12 to 18 months, pinning hopes specifically on emraclidine, which is currently being evaluated in a phase 2 trial in patients with schizophrenia who experience psychosis. Renaud said Cerevel is planning for a commercial launch of the asset.

Ron Renaud
Ron Renaud (Cerevel Therapeutics)

The incoming CEO has held the top job at two biotechs over the last few decades. He led mRNA-based Translate Bio for seven years until late 2021, when the company was acquired by Sanofi for $3.2 billion. Before that, he served as president and CEO of Idenix Pharmaceuticals, which was acquired by Merck & Co. for $3.85 billion in 2014. The executive has also served as chair of several biotechs such as Atara Biotherapeutics, Ikena Oncology and Axial Biotherapeutics, among others. Fierce Biotech

Day One revamps C-suite 

Day One Pharmaceuticals

Day One’s co-founder and chief medical officer, Samuel Blackman, M.D., Ph.D., has been with the company, since, well, day one. And while he’s sticking around, he’s moving outside of the executive team to head research and development for the company, guiding earlier scientific research. He’d been Day One’s CMO since November 2022.

He’ll be replaced by Raphaël Rousseau, M.D., Ph.D., who recently served as chief medical officer at Neogene Therapeutics and Gritstone Bio. Before leading clinical development at biotechs, Rousseau was the pediatric franchise head at Genentech, creating the innovative pediatric drug development team which in part incorporated kids into all stages of the development process for new oncology treatments. 

In addition to revamping R&D leadership, Day One has named Lauren Merendino as chief commercial officer. She’s a fellow Genentech alum herself, having previously been the VP of neurological rare diseases before becoming commercial chief at Myovant Sciences. Release

Former Iovance CEO and VC partner jumps to Lassen

Lassen Therapeutics

Maria Fardis, Ph.D., evidently couldn’t resist the opportunity to return to a biotech C-suite, being named CEO of Lassen Therapeutics. She’d spent less than two years as a venture partner at Frazier Life Sciences after leading Iovance Biotherapeutics for more than five years.

While at Iovance, she helped grow the company’s market cap twentyfold, from $200 million to $4 billion, by growing the company’s pipeline of tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes. The company now has more than a half-dozen treatment combos in mid- to late-stage trials, including two ongoing pivotal trials for its lead asset, lifileucel. 

She’s also had experience developing breakthrough therapies that have caught the eye of Big Pharma, namely Imbruvica and Calquence. Fardis was chief of oncology operations and alliances at Pharmacyclics where she managed the partnership between the biotech and Janssen, which licensed what ultimately became Imbruvica. She then moved to Acerta where she oversaw the clinical development program for acalabrutinib (now Calquence) and was part of the team that conducted due diligence ahead of AstraZeneca’s $4 billion stake in the company. Release

> Founding President and CEO of AvroBio Geoff MacKay is leaving to join an early-stage venture, the company announced this week. MacKay has led the company for the last eight years and will be replaced on an interim basis by current CFO Erik Ostrowski. Release

> Women’s health-focused ObsEva has landed on a new CEO, naming Fabien de Ladonchamps for the job. He’s been a member of the company’s executive team for almost 10 years, having previously served as chief administrative officer and interim CFO. Release

> After co-founder and CEO Masoud Tavazoie, M.D., Ph.D, recently stepped down, Inspirna has named a new leader, calling on Usman “Oz” Azam, M.D., to take the chief executive reins. Azam was previously head of cell and gene therapies at Novartis before taking CEO roles at Empyrean Neuroscience and Tmunity. Release

> Ariella Kelman, M.D., is moving into the C-suite at Biora Therapeutics, accepting the chief medical officer job. She most recently was SVP of clinical development at HI-Bio after more than 15 years at Genentech. Release

> Kazia Therapeutics’ CEO and managing director James Garner has resigned after more than seven years helming the oncology biotech. Kazia’s chief medical officer John Friend, M.D., has immediately assumed the role as CEO. Release

> The Daily Wire co-founder Ben Shapiro has joined Oramed Pharmaceuticals’ board. Shapiro beneficially owns more than 4% of the company’s outstanding stock, making him a significant shareholder. Release  

> Resolution Therapeutics has tapped Novartis’ Clifford Brass, M.D., Ph.D., to serve as chief medical officer. Clifford had been with Big Pharma Novartis since 2011, most recently working as VP and head of clinical sciences for hepatology, gastroenterology and transplantation. Release

> Vera Therapeutics has tapped Kerry Cooper, M.D., to serve as SVP of medical affairs. Cooper joins Vera from ProKidney and has held leadership roles at AstraZeneca and Amgen in the past. Release

> Newron Pharmaceuticals is shaking up its senior management team with one departure and two promotions. At the end of June, longtime EVP of Business Development Marco Caremi will retire, while Director of Business Development Laura Faravelli will be promoted to VP of business development and VP of Finance Roberto Galli will become chief financial officer. Release

> Curve Therapeutics has circled up a new VP of drug discovery. Monika Ermann, Ph.D., is joining the company from Exscientia, where she was director of chemical biology. Release

> Amphista Therapeutics’ chief scientific officer Ian Churcher is taking on the new role of chief technology officer, while Louise Modis, Ph.D., is stepping into the CSO role. Modis joins from Mogrify and has experience across GSK, Boehringer Ingelheim and Millennium Pharmaceuticals. Release

> Anaphylaxis-focused Bryn Pharma has expanded with the addition of three new executives: Nurry Hong as chief strategy and business development officer, Steve Killmeyer as chief financial officer and Lisa Lucifero as VP and head of human resources. Most recently, Hong served as CEO of Pareto Bio, Killmeyer was head of finance and strategy for Nestle Health Science’s Aimmune Therapeutics and Lucifero was head of HR for DBV Technologies’ U.S. and Australian arms. Release

> Tris Pharma is welcoming Thomas Englese as chief commercial officer and Marc Lesnick, Ph.D., as chief development officer. Englese joins from Aziyo Biologics, where he was also CCO, while Lesnick joins from Park Therapeutics, where he was chief development officer and co-founder. Release

> Iulia Diaconu, Ph.D., has started as chief scientific officer at Unikum Therapeutics. The scientist has previously worked at ElevateBio and bluebird bio. Release

> Jason Slingsby, Ph.D., has left Oxford Biomedical after eight years, joining medical research charity LifeArc as chief business officer. Release