Chutes & Ladders—Former CVS exec Denton, responsible for Aetna merger, tapped by Pfizer for CFO role

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

Pfizer, wooed by Aetna buy, taps former CFO of CVS for same role


Wooed by his work as CFO guiding retail giant CVS through its $69 billion purchase of Aetna, Pfizer has named David Denton to the same role. 

New Pfizer CFO David Denton

Denton comes most recently from home improvement powerhouse Lowe's, although it was his work at CVS that was highlighted by one of the world's largest pharmas. While there, he "played a pivotal role" in structuring the terms of the Aetna acquisition and financing the transaction, according to Pfizer. Denton spent nearly 20 years at CVS before jumping to Lowes in 2018. He'll now be tasked with overseeing all financial aspects of a company that has seen revenue skyrocket, jumping 81% from 2019 to 2021. Outgoing CFO Frank D’Amelio is retiring after 15 years at the company. Fierce Biotech

Moderna names Gomez new CFO after Meline retires once again

New Moderna CFO Jorge Gomez


Unlike the neck-and-neck regulatory race between Pfizer and Moderna throughout the COVID-19, the dual CFO departures seem to genuinely be a coincidence. Nonetheless, Moderna has also brought on a new finance head, naming Jorge Gomez as its new CFO following the (second) retirement of David Meline

Gomez jumps aboard from Dentsply Sirona, a dental equipment manufacturer, where he held the same position. He was also in charge of leading the company's sustainability and ESG program. He'll take over Moderna at a time of jaw-dropping growth, with year-to-year growth jumping 2,000%. That's no typo. The company blew onto the scene with its COVID vaccine that's proven to be one of the most effective in the global market and now has an extensive pipeline building off the success of its mRNA platform. Meline, Gomez's predecessor, will be retiring for the second time. His first time stepping away came after 15 years at Amgen, but Moderna was able to pry him back to work to help the company commercialize its COVID jab. That decision has rewarded him handsomely, to the tune of $42 million in stock options. Fierce Biotech

Editas has a new leader in O’Neill, but CMO role remains unfilled


Gilmore O’Neill, editas, sarepta

For the third time in three years, gene-editing-focused Editas has a new face at the helm, naming Gilmore O’Neill, M.B., for the role, effective June 1. His hiring comes more than a year after Katrine Bosley departed in February 2021. 

O'Neill will be tasked with guiding Editas through a precarious time. First and foremost, he'll have to find a permanent replacement former former CMO Lisa Michaels, who was suddenly ousted in February. He'll also have to manage an ongoing patent dispute between The Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard and the University of California, Berkeley and the University of Vienna. The Broad Institute, which Editas is grouped with, nabbed a win in February after the U.S. Patent and Trademark office ruled in their favor. However, that decision was appealed. O'Neill comes to Editas after serving as CMO and VP of R&D for Sarepta, which is developing treatments for rare diseases. Fierce Biotech

> Neuron23 has its first CMO, naming Sam Jackson, M.D. for the role. He joins after a couple of other stints in the same role, most recently at Alector where he oversaw clinical teams developing the company's neurodegenerative pipeline. Release

> Sef Kurstjens, M.D., Ph.D., is hopping off Urovant's board after almost four years to become the company's chief medical officer. Prior to Urovant, Kurstjens held a number of executive roles at small biotechs and large pharmas alike, including Pfizer and Allergen. Release

> Seasoned biotech financier Wilson Cheung is joining Tessa Therapeutics as CFO. He comes following previous CFO roles at Apollomics, KBP Biosciences and SciCloneRelease. Release

> Former head of Novatis' solid tumor oncology unit Michelle Werner is joining top life science VC Flagship Pioneering as CEO-partner. Wener will also take the helm as CEO of Alltrna. Prior to joining Novaris, Wener spent five years at AstraZeneca and 10 years at Bristol Myers Squibb. Release

> Vedere Bio II has hired Gina Consylman as CFO to chart the financial course of the inherited retinal degeneration-focused biotech. Consylman comes from bluebird bio, where she oversaw the financial activities related to 2seventy bio's spinoff. Release

> Nishan de Silva, M.D. is taking over as CEO of Radionetics Oncology after leading AFYX Therapeutics. De Silva will lead the company six months after being spun off from Crinetics Pharmaceuticals to focus strictly on novel cancer treatments. Release

> Former president of Moderna's vaccine division, Michael Watson, M.B., is joining the board of Osivax as it pursues new vaccines for infectious diseases. Watson left the company before the pandemic began but rejoined as a consultant for 2020. In 2021, he moved on to new endeavors, becoming CEO of Mevox. Release

> Faeth Therapeutics is entrusting Thomas Strack, M.D., and Virginia Casadas to chart its clinical future. Strack was brought on as chief medical officer, working in tandem with Casadas who was named VP, head of clinical operations. Release

> There's movement at the top of Citius Pharma's leadership team, most notably co-founder and CEO Myron Holubiak stepping back to become executive vice chairman of the board. Holubiak will be replaced by another co-founder, Leonard Mazur. Additionally, current CFO Jaime Bartushak will be tacking on a CBO title as well. Release

> Alzheon is bolstering its VP ranks with a trio of hires. First, Susan Flint has been named VP of clinical operations after holding the same role at Wilson Therapeutics AB. Patrick Kesslak, Ph.D., is joining as VP of clinical development and medical affairs after a number of stints at biopharmas including at Amgen, Allergen and most recently, Revance Therapeutics. Last but not least, Erwan de Naurois joins as VP of finance. Release

> There's a shift among Seismic Therapeutic's team of VPs, with the company announcing two new hires. Eric Larson joins as SVP of finance after a similar stint at Pandion Therapeutics. Additionally, Heather Vital is coming aboard as VP of R&D following her work as senior director of portfolio strategy and operations at Relay Therapeutics. Release

> Melior Discovery is adding to its research and science teams with three new hires across the company. Ken Kilgore, Ph.D., joins as VP of pharmacology, Hongyan Li comes aboard as director of oncology and Vivian Cong, Ph.D., has been promoted to VP of R&D. Release

> Mikael Eliasson, M.D., Ph.D., is joining Alto Neuroscience as chief operating officer. Eliasson makes the move from Genentech/Roche where he oversaw efforts to scale new technological capabilities into drug development. Release

> Endocrine-focused Spruce Biosciences is bringing on Libbie Mansell, Ph.D., as chief regulatory and quality officer. Mansell was most recently at Asklepios BioPharmaceutical but prior to that, she ran her own biopharma consulting business that launched in 2006. Release