Chutes & Ladders—David Epstein expands title at Rubius to executive chairman

Through his executive partner role at venture capital firm Flagship Pioneering, David Epstein has become Rubius Therapeutics' executive chairman.

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

David Epstein elevated to executive chairman at Rubius


Rubius Therapeutics
David Epstein became executive chairman.

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After leaving Novartis’ top post last year, David Epstein has landed as executive partner at venture capital firm Flagship Pioneering, with an initial focus on the VC’s profile company Rubius Therapeutics. He became Rubius’ chairman in early 2017 and helped Rubius complete a private financing of $120 million in June; now, he has expanded his role to become executive chairman. Epstein’s eyes are on Rubius’ Red-Cell Therapeutics platform, which develops genetically engineered, enucleated red cells as new therapies, slated for first-in-human studies in 2018. During an interview with FierceBiotech in January, Epstein said he was strongly leaning toward licensing out indications or therapeutic areas to Big Pharmas to further fund the biotech. Release

Ex-PTC exec Rothera jumps ship to Orchard as new CEO

Orchard Therapeutics
Mark Rothera

Orchard Therapeutics
Mark Rothera will serve as president and CEO.

A 30-year biopharma vet, Mark Rothera was most recently CCO of PTC Therapeutics, which he helped transition from a private company to a publicly traded one. Now, he has been named to helm Orchard, a 2016 Fierce 15 winner that was launched last May. The small biotech’s early candidate is an ex vivo autologous lentiviral stem cell gene therapy for severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID), a rare disease also known as “bubble boy syndrome.” The drug is to challenge GlaxoSmithKline’s Strimvelis, a $665,000 treatment that could be up for sale, as it failed to turn up the revenue the British pharma had hoped for. Besides Rothera, Orchard also has former GSK/Strimvelis vet Andrea Spezzi as CMO and Nicolas Koebel, who used to lead commercial activities at GSK’s rare disease unit, as SVP of business operations. FierceBiotech

Maverick taps former Pacira exec as CEO

James Scibetta

Maverick Therapeutics
James Scibetta became CEO.

Maverick Therapeutics just announced the appointment of James Scibetta as CEO, though he had already taken the job on July 5. Scibetta was previously president of Pacira Pharmaceuticals, but prior to that he joined the company as CFO in 2008 and led its 2011 IPO and subsequent debt and equity financings. He had also previously served with oncology company Bioenvision, which was later acquired by Genzyme and Merrimack Pharmaceuticals. Maverick has a T-cell redirection technology called COBRA, which Maverick says could selectively target endogenous T cells to kill tumors and spare healthy tissue. In January, the company signed a 5-year, $125 million R&D deal with Takeda to develop such therapies, with Takeda retaining the right to eventually buy out the biotech. Release

> Frank Santoro, a CRO industry veteran with more than 30 years experience and most recently CMO at Novella Clinical, joined SynteractHCR as CMO. Release

> BenevolentAI, which uses its artificial intelligence technology for drug development, opened an office in New York City and hired Keith Hall, from Google, and Daniel Neil, from the Institute of Neuroinformatics at ETH in Zurich, to lead that team. Release

> New York-based Tyme Technologies, a clinical-stage oncology biotech, hired Jonathan Eckard, Ph.D., as its chief scientific affairs officer. Release

> Cloudbreak Health, which provides telemedicine consultation services, named Eric Gombrich as EVP of partnerships. Release

> Petra Pharma, which was launched last year from life science investment and management firm Accelerator Corporation, named Brian O'Callaghan as CEO, David McElligott, Ph.D., as CSO and David Renas as CFO. Release