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 Max Bayer, and we will feature it here at the end of each week.
Fierce Biotech launches layoff tracker amid dizzying number of job cuts
Please excuse the shameless self-promotion but we, the Fierce Biotech team, have news of our own. This week, we launched the Fierce Biotech Layoff Tracker to document all news regarding industry job cuts since the start of the year. Our goal is to maintain a useful resource to track which companies are downsizing and by how much.
With that said, Fierce Biotech has confirmed at least four companies that announced job cuts this week, including a couple of Big Pharmas. At the end of last week, Sanofi disclosed in a WARN report that it planned to cut 25 employees following its $1.9 billion acquisition of Kadmon. Bluebird bio announced it was trimming 30% of its workforce weeks after acknowledging it was running low on cash. Akebia says it plans to ax 42% of its workforce across “all areas of the company," a share that jumps to 47% when you include closed job openings. Lastly, as part of a corporate restructure that resulted in multiple executive departures, Novartis is planning broader job cuts, although details have been sparse. Fierce Biotech
Novartis says bye to CMO John Tsai amid corporate restructure
John Tsai, M.D., chief medical officer of Novartis, is leaving the company in May after four years amid a corporate restructuring that's sent a number of executives head to the exits. Joining him are Susanne Schaffert, Ph.D., president of the oncology division, and Robert Weltevreden, president of customer and technology solutions. Their departures came as Novartis announced changes to its structure particularly on the business side. It also plans to combine separate strategy teams into one overarching Strategy & Growth unit.
Replacing Tsai is Shreeram Aradhye, M.D., who used to work at Novartis for 20 years until 2019 when he left to become chief development officer at Axcella. He then jumped to become CMO at Dicerna Pharmaceuticals but left late last year after it was acquired by Novo Nordisk. Fierce Biotech
CSO of J&J-partnered Legend Biotech departs company a month after nabbing FDA approval
Legend Biotech CSO Frank Fan, M.D., Ph.D., is abruptly leaving the company he co-founded just a month after nabbing FDA approval for its CAR-T treatment in partnership with J&J. In an email to Fierce Biotech, Fan said that it was a "difficult decision" and that "without reasons, no company founder is truly willing to leave his company at this highlight moment." His comments hint at a potential power struggle that resulted in his ouster. To replace him, Legend has tapped Zymeworks' SVP of research, Guowei Fang, Ph.D., to be senior vice president and global head of research and early development.
Fan helped launch Legend alongside partner Fangliang “Frank” Zhang, Ph.D., back in 2015. But five years later, Zhang had to step down from his post after being arrested by Chinese authorities for "the suspected offense of smuggling goods prohibited by the import and export regulations." As part of his statement to Fierce, Fan says he will "take some time off" before planning to "start over again.” Fierce Biotech
> Harpoon Therapeutics CMO Natalie Sacks, M.D., is departing in June, but will stay on as a consultant for the company through the rest of the year. While it looks for a new replacement, Harpoon is tapping medical team leaders Yifah Yaron, M.D., Ph.D., and Mark Sayles, M.D., Ph.D. to oversee clinical work. Release
> Matthew Spear, M.D. is stepping down as chief medical officer of Poseida Therapeutics after almost six years at the company. In an SEC disclosure, the company says Spear's decision was not due to any disagreement with the company. Disclosure
> Lauded stem cell researcher Doug Melton, Ph.D. is jumping from Harvard to Vertex Pharmaceuticals to continue exploring stem cell biology in pursuit of new therapies. In his new role as a "Distinguished Vertex Fellow", he'll lead a team that will be focused on fundamental human biology and innovations in stem cell biology that could result in new therapies. Stat
> After 14 years, Matt Whitaker is stepping down as CEO of chronic endocrine-focused biopharma Diurnal effective immediately. Whitaker is also leaving his position on the company's board. CFO Richard Bungay has been tapped as interim CEO while the board looks for a permanent replacement. Release
> Lance Baldo, M.D. is moving over to Freenome as chief medical officer, the same role he's held at Adaptive Biotechnologies. At Freenome, he'll be tasked with overseeing the expansion of the company's oncology program beyond just colectoral cancer. Release
> Gene editing and genome engineering company eGenesis named Eliezer Katz, M.D., as chief medical officer. Katz moves over from Horizon Therapeutics where he helped lead clinical development and ultimately, regulatory approval of Uplizna (inebilizumab) for adults with neuromyelitis optica spectrum disorder. Release
> OcuTerra Therapeutiics hopes Majid Anderesi, M.D., can bring fresh vision to the company's ophthalmology portfolio, naming him VP of clinical and medical affairs. Anderesi comes from Novartis where he was the global medical affairs director of the company's ophthalmology program. Release
> Monica Tellado is jumping from pharmaceuticals to medical technology after taking over as CFO of heart care-focused company HeartFlow. Tellado's move comes after spending more than 18 years at Gilead, most recently as SVP of finance. Release
> Mission Bio has nabbed Todd Druley, M.D., Ph.D., as chief medical officer, the same role he's held ANGLE Biosciences. Druley, in search of a new quest, says he's worked with Mission's Tapestri platform to help analyze single-cell DNA since 2016. Release
> Looking to expand beyond drug discovery and towards drug development, Exscientia has brought on Michael Krams, M.D., as chief quantitative medicine officer. In this position, Krams will spearhead clinical development strategy for the company's investigational meds. Release
> North Carolina-based Humacyte is bringing on Shamik Parikh, M.D. as chief medical officer, prying the clinical vet from AstraZeneca after more than 16 years with the Big Pharma. Parikh most recently served as VP, head of of patient safety center and excellence, which included among other responsibilities leading enterprise-wide patient safety efforts. Release
> Global CRO Bionical Emas has named Ian Fraser EVP of clinical development. Fraser's move comes after spending a decade in a similar role at Chiltern as VP of clinical operations. Release
> Nautilus Biotechnology has appointed Karen Akinsanya, Ph.D., R&D exec at Schrödinger, to its board of directors. Prior to joining Schrödinger, Akinsanya spent more than 10 years at Merch Research Laboratories. Release
> Onxeo has named a new leader after a roughly three month search, tapping Shefali Agarwal, M.D., as its president and CEO. Agarwal will now oversee the company's DDR-targeting oncology portfolio after leaving her position as CMO at Epizyme. Release
> Less than two years after overseeing Freeline Therapeutics' listing on Wall Street, Ben Warriner is departing the gene therapy company to become CFO at iosBio, a U.K.-based biotech focused on developing oral vaccines. Release
> Aptose Biosciences made two new C-suite changes, first bringing on Philippe Ledru as chief commercial officer after a stint leading Merck & Co's new oncology products. The company also announced that CFO and CBO Jotin Marango was leaving for an unnamed new opportunity. Release
> Raffaele Baffa, M.D., Ph.D., is joining Carsgen Therapeutics as chief medical officer as the company puruses CAR-T therapies for hematological malignancies and solid tumors. Before taking the new gig, Baffa held the same position, in addition to being EVP of R&D, at Alaunos, which was formally known as Ziopharm Oncology. Release
> Clinical trial technology company Suvoda has brought on Steve DeSantis as CFO, marking the eighth company that's hired him in the position. DeSantis' previous stops have included Mavenlink, DATAllegro, Predixion Software, and TCI Solutions. Release
> Medical diagnostic vet Karen Davies is jumping aboard Sherlock Biosciences as chief development officer after more than 10 years at Quidel. While there she ascended from director of program management to VP of business transformation. Release
> Former Ancestry.com CEO Margo Georgiadis is joining biotech-focused VC Flagship Pioneering as a CEO-Partner. Georgiadis has already been tapped as CEO of an unnamed Flagship-funded company still in stealth mode. Release
> Cancer Research UK alum Kris Frese is joining CellCentric as director of cancer biology. While at the independent oncology research organization, Frese co-led the cancer biomarker centre preclinical pharmacology team. Release
> Avidity Biosciences has tacked on another title for CFO Michael MacLean, naming him chief business officer as well. The additional title means Maclean's responsibilities now include finance, business development, supply chain and investor relations. Release
> Reaction Biology is bringing aboard Richard Kollender has both CFO and CBO. Prior to joining Reaction, Kollender was president and CFO of Strongbridge BioPharma. Release