Chutes & Ladders—David Kessler resigns from the Biden admin, marking the unofficial end of Operation Warp Speed

 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. 

David Kessler resigns from the Biden admin, marking the unofficial end of Operation Warp Speed

The White House

David Kessler, M.D.
David Kessler, M.D. (Twitter)

David Kessler, M.D., is resigning as chief scientific officer of the Biden administration’s COVID response, marking the end of Operation Warp Speed, the famed federal effort to develop and administer COVID vaccines. His departure is a tangible checkpoint in the COVID-19 pandemic, as COVID vaccinations transition from being organized and overseen by the federal government to the private sector. In an exit interview with The Wall Street Journal, Kessler said, “There has never been a successful vaccine campaign as large as this.” 

Kessler’s resignation marks the end of his latest chapter in public service, which began in 1990 when President George H.W. Bush appointed him to be commissioner of the FDA. He served in the role until 1997 when he stepped down, later becoming dean of the Yale School of Medicine. 

Kessler’s role as chief scientific officer of the pandemic response was much different than that of his predecessors in the prior administration. Whereas leaders of Operation Warp Speed worked on expediting development of COVID vaccines, Kessler was in charge of administration. And over the last three years, more than 650 million doses have been administered. And while new infections and hospitalizations have remained lower than prior highs, efforts to roll out new booster shots have proved more difficult. Tweet

Novocure shakes up C-suite as tumor-treating field pipeline expands


Cancer-treating medical device company Novocure is shaking up its executive team as the company’s chief medical officer steps down following a “review of Novocure’s future needs.” The decision by Ely Benaim, M.D., comes days after the company posted a positive readout of a phase 3 trial testing its tumor treating fields in conjunction with standard therapy as a treatment for non-small cell lung cancer. Now, the company is reorganizing its ranks.

Taking Benaim’s spot temporarily is Senior Vice President and Head of Global Medical Affairs Piet Hinoul, M.D., Ph.D. Benaim will work with the company’s executive team to help with the transition while an external search for his replacement continues. He’ll report to Pritesh Shah, who himself is transitioning from chief commercial officer to chief growth officer.

Similarly, Chief Scientific Officer Uri Weinberg, M.D., Ph.D., is set to become the new chief innovation officer, a position that’s described as looking into new ways to expand use of the tumor treating fields. Taking Weinberg’s place is SVP of preclinical research Moshe Giladi, Ph.D. Source

AstraZeneca’s Marshall takes over as Juvenescence CEO 


Richard Marshall, M.D., a longtime British Big Pharma executive, is taking the reins at aging-focused biotech Juvenescence. His move marks the end of a three-and-a-half year career at AstraZeneca where he most notably oversaw development of the company’s COVID-19 vaccine—built in collaboration with the University of Oxford—and its FDA-approved treatment, Evusheld. The work earned him a British order of chivalry. 

Prior to joining AstraZeneca in 2019, Marshall spent more than 16 years at GSK, rising through the ranks from director of clinical pharmacology to medicines development leader. He left GSK in 2019 to become chief medical officer at Galecto Biotech, a role he kept for just more than a year. 

Juvenescence dubs itself as an anti-aging therapeutics company, a broad aspiration that centers on developing therapies via a variety of modalities like regenerative medicine or metabolism revival. The company launched in 2017 and raised $100 million two years later to advance its programs. The company’s lead asset, LyGenesis, is in a phase 2 trial to treat end-stage liver disease. Source

> Margit Janát-Amsbury, M.D., Ph.D., has left her role as Amgen’s executive medical director of early oncology development to serve as Halia Therapeutics’ chief medical officer. Before making the jump from Amgen, where she was also product team lead for the Big Pharma’s prostate portfolio, Janát-Amsbury oversaw the development of several small molecules at Tolero Pharmaceuticals, which was acquired in 2017 by Sumitomo Dainippon Pharma. Release

> Kristof Van Emelen, Ph.D., is taking the scenic route, diverting from his journey at Ermium Therapeutics to forge a new path at Scenic Biotech. Van Emelen joins Scenic to serve as VP of drug discovery and will oversee development of the company’s pipeline of genetic modifier candidates. Release

> Clinical-stage biotech Dianthus Therapeutics has tapped Susan Kalled, Ph.D., to serve as the company’s first chief scientific officer. Before Dianthus, Kalled was CSO of Compass Therapeutics and VP of biology at Q32 Bio. She has also served as senior director of external sciences at Shire, which was acquired by Takeda in 2019. Release

> NeuroBo Pharmaceuticals has appointed Joseph Hooker as interim CEO and president after former leader Gil Price, M.D., retired. Hooker has served as an independent consultant in the industry, and most recently served as senior director of clinical operations and program leader for rare disease and oncology at X4 Pharmaceuticals. He also has worked in various roles across Biogen, Pierian Bioscience, MedAvante-ProPhase, Novartis’ Sandoz division and DuPont-Merck Pharmaceuticals, among others. Release

> Kevin Heller, M.D., is jumping from his role at Jasper Therapeutics, where he was EVP of R&D, to serve as Tallac Therapeutics’ chief medical officer. Heller’s leadership track record includes names such as NextCure, Incyte, AstraZeneca and Bristol Myers Squibb. Release

> Massachusetts biotech Parallel Bio has pulled in several new team leaders, including GSK vet Dwight Morrow, Ph.D., to serve as VP and head of platform. Most recently, Morrow was VP of platform innovation for Rubius Therapeutics and has also led preclinical development at Magenta Therapeutics. Before that, he held numerous positions at GSK from 2000 to 2016. Parallel has also added its first scientific advisers: Darrell Irvine, Ph.D., professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and investigator with the Howard Hughes Medical Institutes, and Nima Aghaeepour, Ph.D., associate professor and associate vice chair of research and data science at Stanford University. Release

> Immunotherapy-focused biotech Normunity has tapped Olga Granaturova to serve as both chief operating officer and chief business officer. Previously, she served as Parthenon Therapeutics’ co-founder and chief operating officer, VP of business development at Evotec, as well as founder and managing partner of life sciences consulting firm LENUS Group. Earlier on, Granaturova held roles at Big Pharmas Merck and Pfizer. Release 

> Private biotech Indapta Therapeutics has appointed Moya Daniels as SVP of regulatory, quality and clinical operations. She most recently served as SVP of regulatory and quality at Aruvant Therapeutics and has experience at several biotechs, including Orchard Therapeutics, Histogen and Fate Therapeutics. Release

> Canada’s Appili Therapeutics has tapped two new leaders to help support development for its biodefense vaccine program. Carl Gelhaus, Ph.D., will step aboard as Appili’s director of nonclinical research while Arthur Baran will become director of new product development and oversee ATI-1701, a potential first-in-class vaccine candidate for preventing infection with aerosolized Francisella tularensis, which the National Institutes of Health has classified as a category A pathogen and top-priority biothreat. Release

> Alessandro Monge, Ph.D., has joined tech company TandemAI to serve as chief business officer. Before joining TandemAI, which aims to transform drug discovery infrastructure, Monge served as SVP and head of U.S. operations at Iktos. He also served as VP of strategic business at Schrödinger and was co-founder, president and CEO for ProCeryon Biosciences. Release