Chutes & Ladders—Former Celgene CEO Alles takes the top job at TORL

 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.

TORL taps new CEO 

TORL BioTherapeutics 

Mark Alles, who’s spent the better part of the last four decades in biopharma leadership roles, has been named chairman and CEO of TORL BioTherapeutics. He’s replacing Dave Licata, who co-founded TORL and helped design its drug development framework. Licata will stick around TORL as a board member and the company’s president, while also taking on a new role as its CFO. 

Alles has been a member of TORL’s board for two years and was named its executive chair in late 2022. Before that, he spent more than a decade at Aventis Pharmaceuticals and then another 15 years at Celgene, culminating in a stint as its CEO from 2016 until its acquisition by Bristol Myers Squibb in 2019. 

He’s taking the helm as TORL plans to begin a phase 2 trial of its lead antibody-drug conjugate candidate, TORL-1-23, targeting multiple cancers. Meanwhile, the company is actively enrolling patients in phase 1 studies of a handful of other ADCs and monoclonal antibody therapies. 

“TORL has rapidly realized significant success in identifying novel cancer targets, developing first-in-class antibody-based therapies directed at these targets, and with the support of our world-class investors, has recently advanced multiple products into Phase 1 studies,” said Dennis Slamon, M.D., Ph.D., TORL’s scientific founder. “We have reached a major inflection point where our opportunity to generate value for patients, our investors and our team made it both possible and important for us to build on the great work Dave has done by adding and appointing Mark Alles as Chairman and CEO.” Release 

Insitro installs first CMO 


As Insitro inches closer to bringing its first artificial intelligence-discovered drug candidates into clinical trials, it has appointed its first-ever chief medical officer.  

In the new role, S. Michael Rothenberg, M.D., Ph.D., will take charge of the company’s clinical development work, heading up translational biology and overseeing trial design and medical and regulatory affairs. 

Rothenberg hails from Pfizer, where he spent the last four years carrying out similar responsibilities, including, most recently, as VP of early oncology development and clinical research. At the Big Pharma, he led early-phase trials of oncology and hematology therapies, including overseeing the initial first-in-human and proof-of-concept studies of the multiple myeloma drug now approved as Elrexfio. Release 

Sanofi’s interim specialty care chief lands permanent role


Brian Foard has temporarily filled the role of chief of Sanofi’s specialty care global business unit since September, when former head Bill Sibold hit the exit to lead Madrigal Pharmaceuticals as CEO. Now, Foard has claimed the title on a permanent basis and will also join Sanofi’s executive committee.

The exec has been with Sanofi since 2017 and was bumped up from his former slot as head of the specialty care business in North America and U.S. country lead. Before that, he bounced from head roles in dermatology and respiratory to immunology, among other positions.

Foard is credited with overseeing launches of Sanofi and Regeneron’s Dupixent across multiple indications and more than 50 countries worldwide, work that will “help to set our roadmap for the first- and best-in-class molecules we are preparing to launch in the coming years,” according to Sanofi CEO Paul Hudson. Release

> FDA commissioner Robert Califf has selected his next chief of staff in Elizabeth “EJ” Jungman, who will leave her current role as the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research’s associate director for policy and director of the Office of Regulatory Policy. Jungman is taking over from Julie Tierney, who recently moved to a deputy director role at the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research. Release 

> Rare disease specialist BioMarin has a new CEO in Alexander Hardy and he appears to be shaking up his commercial team as the company announced its lead Jeffrey Ajer will leave the company by July. The disclosure, made via a short SEC filing, said Ajer would "step down" as the company's executive vice president and chief commercial officer in July and that the termination was “without cause." Fierce Pharma

> Longtime Affimed CEO Adi Hoess, M.D., Ph.D., is hanging up the gloves after 13 years at the helm. The company tapped CMO Andreas Harstrick, M.D., to serve as interim CEO while it searches for a successor. Release 

> Ginkgo Bioworks selected six executives from across the industry to make up its new Biopharma Advisory Board. The board now includes Kronos Bio CEO Norbert Bischofberger, Ph.D., global head of oncology and hematology at Novartis Jeff Legos, Ph.D., founding Alnylam chief John Maraganore, Ph.D, International Therapeutic Research Centers’ chief scientific officer Paolo Martini, Ph.D., IconOVir Bio head Mark McCamish, M.D., Ph.D., and former Kite Pharma CEO Christi Shaw. Release

> PMV Pharmaceuticals is shaking up its clinical team with the appointment of two new leaders of the clinical program for its lead candidate, PC14586, which is set to begin a phase 2 study this quarter. Deepika Jalota, Pharm.D., and Marc Fellous, M.D.—PMV’s chief development officer and senior VP of clinical development and medical affairs, respectively—are taking the reins from Leila Alland, M.D., who is stepping down to pursue other opportunities but will remain an advisor to PMV. Release

> Athira Pharma is now on the hunt for a new chief medical officer after Hans Moebius, M.D., Ph.D., stepped down to retire, effective Jan. 5. Moebius, who is staying on as a senior scientific advisor to Athira, was appointed CMO in 2019, following a nearly 30-year career in biopharma that included postings at Rodin Therapeutics, Allergan, Merz Pharmaceuticals, Novartis and more. Release 

> CRISPR-focused cell therapy developer Caribou Biosciences has named its first chief technology officer: Tim Kelly, who previously served as CEO of Oxford Biomedica Solutions and COO of Homology Medicines and led technical operations at Sarepta, Shire, UCB and Biogen. Release 

> Prolific startup starter Flagship Pioneering has promoted from within to name four new origination partners: Kyle Chiang, Ph.D., Molly Gibson, Ph.D., Armen Mkrtchyan, Ph.D., and Jacob Rubens, Ph.D. In their new roles, each will oversee a team tasked with creating and growing new biotech companies. Release 

> Capstan Therapeutics tapped Ramin Farzaneh-Far, M.D., to be chief medical officer, following stints at Ra Pharmaceuticals, Akebia Therapeutics, Gilead Sciences and, most recently, RA Capital, where he’s been a venture partner since 2020. Capstan also promoted Miguel Arcinas, the biotech’s VP of corporate development since 2021, to the senior VP level. Release 

> Celia Lin, M.D., stepped down from her post as chief medical officer of Vera Therapeutics. Taking over the role is Robert Brenner, M.D., who hails from Orionis Biosciences, while William Turner, formerly of Sierra Oncology, was named Vera’s chief development officer, with both appointments effective immediately. Release 

> Maria Törnsén, most recently the chief commercial officer at Passage Bio, has been appointed president of the North America division at Calliditas Therapeutics. Her career also includes stops at Sarepta Therapeutics, Sanofi Genzyme and Shire. Release 

> Zura Bio has found a new president and chief operating officer in Robert Lisicki, whose three-decade career in biopharma spans leadership roles at the now-Pfizer-owned Arena Pharmaceuticals, Regeneron, InCarda Therapeutics, Daiichi Sankyo and Amgen. Meanwhile, Kiran Nistala, M.B.B.S., Ph.D., has been tapped as the biotech’s chief medical officer and executive VP of development. Release 

> AbbVie’s retired CMO Rob Scott has a new gig as CMO and head of R&D at Abionyx Pharma, where he will lead the team through pivotal trials for its lead sepsis candidate. Back at AbbVie, the medical chief held his role through major approvals including Skyrizi and Rinvoq. Release 

> XOMA has selected Owen Hughes as its next CEO. Hughes—who held the top job at the biotech royalty aggregator on an interim basis for all of 2023—was previously CEO of Sail Bio and Cullinan Oncology, and chief business officer at Intarcia Therapeutics. Release 

> Probiotics maker Pendulum Therapeutics tapped former Mayo Clinic medical director Adam Perlman, M.D., as chief medical officer. Now-retired CMO Orville Kolterman, M.D., led the selection of Perlman as his successor. Release

> Nutcracker Therapeutics bumped up its executive VP of early R&D, Sam Deutsch, M.D., Ph.D., to the CSO role. Deutsch has been with Nutcracker since its beginnings in 2018 and will now lead the team through trialing its lead mRNA candidate, dubbed NTX-250. Release 

> Central nervous system CRO Cognitive Research Corporation appointed Tom Zoda, M.D. Ph.D., as CEO. Zoda came from Apex Innovative Sciences and CenExel clinical research, where he served as chief operating officer. Release