Chutes & Ladders—Fledgling T-cell player Neogene adds Bristol Myers vet to U.S. roster

                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 Fraiser Kansteiner, and we will feature it here at the end of each week.

Next-gen T-cell player Neogene bolsters U.S. team, adding Bristol Myers vet as COO

Neogene Therapeutics
Brent Pfeiffenberger, Pharm.D., MBA, joins the fold as chief operating officer.

Pfeiffenberger signs on at next-gen T-cell player Neogene after nearly 19 years at Bristol Myers Squibb, where he most recently helmed U.S. oncology as senior vice president. Just a few months old, Neogene's quick entry into the field hasn't gone unnoticed by Pfeffeinberger: “In a very short amount of time, [Neogene] became a leader in the neoantigen-specific T-cell therapy space," he said. "I wanted to be part of that journey." The biotech is developing personalized engineered T-cell therapies for solid tumors, where CAR-T and other cell therapies have stumbled. Neogene's T cells target neoantigens, or proteins that form on cancer cells as a result of cancer-linked mutations. Pfeiffenberger joins the team at Neogene's U.S. headquarters in Santa Monica, California. Its European headquarters are in Amsterdam. The company, which emerged in September with $110 million in funding, was founded by Ton Schumacher, Ph.D., a renowned T-cell engineering expert, and CEO Crasten Linnemann, Ph.D. They're also the duo behind T-Cell Factory, which Kite Pharma acquired before it became part of Gilead Sciences. Fierce Biotech

Tectonic hires McNamara from Novartis' GNF to head up research

Tectonic Therapeutic
Peter McNamara, Ph.D., signs on as head of research.

McNamara lands at Tectonic shortly after the company's April launch, when it emerged with an $80 million series A to pursue unexplored and undruggable G-protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs). Tectonic's C-suite is already filled out with industry vets who worked on Entresto, Keytruda and Praluent, and, with McNamara, the company has now secured a leader for its research operations. He joins after a 16-year spell at the Genomics Institute of the Novartis Research Foundation (GNF), the San Diego-based group that bridges basic science and preclinical drug discovery at the Swiss Big Pharma. He ultimately rose to the title of head of biotherapeutics and biotechnology before making the Tectonic shift. During his time at GNF, McNamara had a direct hand in three FDA approved drugs, including Zykadia and Braftovi, which is now sold by Pfizer. At Tectonic, McNamara will apply his know-how to the GEODe platform, which is designed to overcome the barriers to the discovery of biologics that modulate GPCR signaling. Fierce Biotech

Genentech oncology exec moves to Guardant to address cancer even earlier through diagnostics

Guardant Health 
Craig Eagle, M.D., lands at the company as chief medical officer. 

After years in oncology drug development and medical affairs, Eagle is taking a step back in the typical cancer journey by way of a diagnostics pivot. Eagle most recently led oncology medical affairs at Roche's Genentech unit and served at Pfizer for 19 years before that, at one point as global head of its oncology medical and outcomes group. He now dons the mantle of chief medical officer at Guardant Health, a maker of liquid biopsy tests, which use blood samples to provide genetic information about tumors. Four of Guardant's tests have hit the market, including three for advanced-stage cancers and one for early-stage patients. The company has also forged pacts for its tests as companion diagnostics to treatments from Big Pharmas AstraZeneca and Amgen, and it more recently teamed up with Daiichi Sankyo to study its Guardant360 CDx assay as a companion diagnostic for Enhertu. At Pfizer, Eagle led development of several drugs, including cancer meds Aromasin and Mylotarg, plus arthritis drug Celebrex and blood thinner Fragmin. At Roche, he was involved in the development, exeuction and launch of Tecentriq, Phesgo and Erivedge. Fierce Pharma

Verseau Therapeutics has passed the reins to John Edwards, previously the executive chair of Tilos Therapeutics, who now joins the tumor attacking biotech as CEO. Edwards has a knack for moving biotechs from startup to M&A exit. He oversaw Tilos' $773 million buyout by Merck and helped build Exonics, which Vertex Pharmaceuticals snapped up for $245 million in 2019—and those are just a few examples. Verseau, for its part, is working on cancer immunotherapies that reprogram the tumor microenvironment to attack tumors. Fierce Biotech

Magenta Therapeutics is bidding adieu to chief medical officer and head of research and development John Davis, M.D., whose last day is July 30. He takes off three years after he joined the company from Pfizer, where he led early R&D. Davis' exit was “not related to any disagreements with the Company on any matter relating to its operations, policies, practices or any issues regarding financial disclosures, accounting or legal matters," the company said in an 8-K securities filing. Magenta will start the hunt for a new CMO, and Davis will become an adviser to the company. Fierce Biotech

Celmatix tapped Stephen Palmer, Ph.D., to pick up the chief scientific officer torch from CEO and founder Piraye Yurttas Beim, Ph.D., who'd been heading up the company’s scientific efforts alongside her other duties. He joins after two months on Celmatix's scientific advisory board, right as the company gears up to bring its lead women’s health program, an AMHR2 agonist, into IND-enabling studies and clinical trials. Palmer's expertise will come in handy at Celmatix: He previously led the reproductive health research group at Merck KGaA and, most recently, spearheaded a drug discovery team at Baylor College of Medicine. Fierce Biotech

> Precision oncology company Erasca has bolstered its leadership team to the tune of eight. Brian Baker, CPA, joins as SVP of finance; Rachel Cervantes, Ph.D., is now Erasca's VP of business development; Nik Chetwyn, Ph.D., comes on board as SVP of operations; Ebun Garner, J.D., has become general counsel and corporate secretary; Chandra Lovejoy entered the fold as SVP of regulatory affairs; Minli Xie, Ph.D., has signed on as VP of pharmaceutical development and operations; Dawei Xuan, Ph.D., now serves as VP of clinical pharmacology; and Jing Yi, Ph.D., has arrived as VP of data science. Release

TScan Therapeutics, working on T-cell receptor engineered T-cell therapies, has enlisted Bill Desmarais, Ph.D., MBA, as chief business officer. Desmarais most recently wore the hat of vice president of business development at Momenta Pharmaceuticals, where he helped lead the company's $6.5 billion sale to Johnson & Johnson. Before that, he spent 11 years climbing the ranks at Eli Lilly. Release

> Specialized CDMO Adare Pharma Solutions has grown its leadership team by two. Robert Muschert settles in as chief commercial officer after serving at contract manufacturing major Lonza. There, he most recently held the title of head of sales, U.S. global account management. Meanwhile, Vipan Dhall signs on as chief scientific officer. Before hopping over to Adare, Dhall was vice president of life sciences, North America at SGS. Prior to that, he held the role of VP and global head of formulations and product development R&D at CDMO Piramal Pharma Solutions. Release

Excision BioTherapeutics, developing potentially curative CRISPR antiviral therapies, has called upon infectious disease expert and clinical scientist Sumathi Sivapalasingam, M.D., to serve as head of translational medicine. Sivapalasingam comes over from Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, where she was a senior director in early clinical development and experimental sciences. Just a few days before Sivapalasingam's appointment, Excision announced the arrival of biotechnology industry development vet Franz Gerner, Ph.D., as chief technology officer and head of manufacturing. Before making the Excision decision, Gerner was VP, technical operations at Sio Gene Therapies, where he oversaw development, manufacturing, analytical and supply chain activities for early and late-stage, AAV-delivery-based programs. Release 

> Rare disease biotech VectivBio has ushered Omar Khwaja, M.D., Ph.D., into the role of chief medical officer. Meanwhile, Vectiv veteran Christian Meyer, M.D., Ph.D., has moved into the newly minted role of chief operating officer. Khwaja joins from Voyager Therapeutics, where he also wore the CMO mantle. He spent nearly eight years at Roche before that. For his part, Meyer has been with VectivBio from the start, acting in the role of chief development officer since June 2019. He was previously chief medical officer of both Therachon and uniQure. Release

ACELYRIN has opened up the role of chief medical officer and selected Paul Peloso, M.D., as its first. ACELYRIN's strategy revolves around identifying, acquiring and accelerating development and commercialization of promising drug candidates. With nearly twenty years' clinical strategy know-how in his quiver, Peloso will be in charge of the biopharma's clinical development efforts. He enters the fold from Horizon Therapeutics, where he was vice president and therapeutic area head for rheumatology. Release

Praxis Precision Medicines has summoned Tim Kelly to the role of chief financial officer, effective May 25. He joins the team from Foundation Medicine, where he held the same CFO role and also headed up corporate management. Before settling at Foundation, Kelly spent more than 15 years climbing the ladder at pharma juggernaut Roche. There, he worked in finance roles across product commercialization, pipeline development, manufacturing and strategic planning, most recently as the finance and corporate services director for Roche Pharma in the U.K. Release

Herophilus has enlisted prominent "drug hunter" Sharath Hegde, Ph.D., to train his sights on cures for complex brain diseases as the company's new chief scientific officer. At Herophilus, Hegde will plug his extensive drug discovery and clinical development expertise into the company's discovery engine, with a view to advance its pipeline of meds for neurological and psychiatric diseases. He previously worked at Therovance Biopharma as SVP and head of research and served at Syntex Corporation before that. Syntex was later gobbled up by Roche Holdings. Release

NeuBase Therapeutics, manning the front lines of the "genetic revolution" with a new class of precision genetic medicines, welcomed Kia Motesharei, Ph.D., to the cause as chief business and strategy officer on May 24. He most recently worked at Akcea Therapeutics as senior vice president, business development and corporate strategy. There, Motesharei led and executed the regional partnership of Akcea’s Tegsedi and Waylivra with Sobi in Europe and the Middle East. Before that, he helmed global licensing and business development for neurology and immunology at Merck KGaA's biopharma business EMD Serono. Release

Orum Therapeutics has added Jae Won Kim to the team as its new chief financial officer. She comes on board from the Citi Healthcare Investment Banking team based in New York, where she was a director. She joins during an inflection point for Orum, which will call upon her "deep expertise in healthcare investment banking" to drive long-term growth and "ascend to the next level," Sung Joo Lee, Ph.D., founder and CEO, said in a release. The company is leading the charge on development of technologies for precision delivery of targeted protein degraders to treat cancer. Release