Chutes & Ladders—Former J&J R&D exec rolls into FogPharma

 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. 

Former J&J research chief Mammen lands at FogPharma


headshot of Mathai Mammen

After more than six months on the job market, Mathai Mammen, M.D., Ph.D., has found a new home, taking over as CEO of FogPharma. The former head of R&D at Johnson & Johnson has been one of the most sought-after free agent executives and at one point was a finalist to lead Biogen. The neuroscience company ultimately landed on Chris Vierbacher, former CEO of Sanofi. Ironically, former Sanofi executive John Reed, M.D., Ph.D., was tapped to replace Mammen at J&J. 

He said in an interview with Fierce Biotech that he chose Fog a few months ago and has been working to get up to speed on the company’s progress while orchestrating a seamless transition at J&J. Mammen officially takes over in June and will be an adviser until then. 

The science that drew him is a platform that can produce unique helicon polypeptides, structures that can penetrate through the cell membrane and act like intracellular monoclonal antibodies. Whereas antibodies stifle disease-causing protein interactions outside the cell, FogPharma’s helicons are designed to address and inhibit intracellular protein-on-protein engagement. And the company is well financed to test the hypothesis, having just closed a $178 million series D round in November. Mammen says the company will “imminently” as the FDA to greenlight a phase 1 trial for lead asset FOG-001, with dosing beginning by the middle of the year. Story 

AMT CEO and co-founder departs after another wave of layoffs

Applied Molecular Transport

Applied Molecular Transport has an unfortunate familiarity with the punishing biotech industry as of late, an experience that was further cemented this week after the company laid off more than half of its remaining staff while it looked for an exit route. As part of the strategic overhaul, CEO and co-founder Tahir Mahmood, Ph.D., left his role while staying on the company’s board. President and Chief Operating Officer Shawn Cross will take over on an interim basis. 

The company’s latest downsizing is a demoralizing course of events after AMT laid off 40% of the team in May 2022. The hope was that the company would be able to save enough money to press ahead with the development of AMT-101, an oral, engineered IL-10 cytokine that was indicated to treat chronic pouchitis and rheumatoid arthritis. But, amid financial challenges, the company now says it's looking to wind down its ongoing rheumatoid arthritis trial. Story

Flare fills out C-suite following nine-digit financing round

Flame Therapeutics

A week after reeling in a nine-digit series B round, Flare Therapeutics is warming up the C-suite seats, announcing a handful of new executive hires. Leading off the appointments is new Chief Medical Officer Michael Meyers, M.D., Ph.D., who joins from Syndax Pharmaceuticals where he held the same role. Meyers previously held senior roles at Johnson & Johnson including as VP of GU oncology, compound and clinical leader.

Flare is also promoting CFO Daphne Karydas to president of the company. Karydas will maintain her CFO title as well. Michaela Bowden, Ph.D., is getting a boost as well, jumping from SVP of Biology & Translation to chief development officer. Before joining Flare, Bowden was executive director of translational medicine, helping to address solid tumors’ resistance to immuno-oncology treatments. 

The leadership changes come shortly after Flare closed a $123 million series B round, marking more than $200 million raised over the last two rounds. Pfizer, Novartis and Lilly all contributed to the latest round. Release

> Syndax Pharmaceuticals has tapped AbbVie’s Neil Gallagher, M.D., Ph.D., to step into the role of president and head of R&D starting April 10. The leader most recently served as chief medical officer, VP and head of development at Big Pharma AbbVie. Release

TScan Therapeutics' board has selected Chief Scientific and Operating Officer Gavin MacBeath, Ph.D., to helm the company as acting CEO. The appointment comes after David Southwell stepped down from his roles as CEO and board member on March 27. Release

> Lucy Therapeutics is welcoming Christopher Winrow, Ph.D., to its team as chief scientific officer. Before joining the neurological disease-focused biotech, Winrow served as VP and head of translational medicine for Cyclerion Therapeutics. Release

> Duke Street Bio has named Dónal Landers as its chief medical officer, according to an emailed press release from the company. Landers is managing director at DeLondra Oncology and also previously worked at AstraZeneca. 

> Julius Pryor III has joined BeiGene as its first global head of diversity and health equity. Pryor has more than 30 years of leadership roles, including positions at Johnson & Johnson, Genentech, Abbott, Takeda and Cerner. Release

> Rumi Scientific has a new head at the helm. Allen Fienberg, Ph.D., is taking the reins as CEO and chair after 20 years serving as Intra-Cellular Therapies’ VP of business development. Release

> Oncology biotech Meliora Therapeutics has appointed Claudio Chuaqui, Ph.D., as SVP and head of drug discovery. He most recently served as Syros Pharma’s SVP of research and has previously held roles at AstraZeneca, Celgene and Biogen. Release

> HanAll Biopharma has selected Su-jin Park as co-CEO, joining Sean Jeong, who has served as a co-CEO since March 2021. Jeong will lead R&D vision and strategy while Park will focus on business strategy and daily operations for the pharmaceutical business. Release

> Oncology biotech Immuneering has appointed Harold Brakewood to step into the role of chief business officer. Brakewood joins the company from Regeneron, where he most recently served as VP and business unit head for oncology, COVID-19 and new product planning. Release

> Axial Therapeutics is shaking up its leadership team, promoting Rebecca Senter, Ph.D., to VP and head of preclinical R&D; Radka Graf to director of preclinical development and operations; Chris Oalmann, Ph.D., to senior director of chemistry; and Gabriel Belfort, M.D., Ph.D., as SVP of clinical development, science and operations. Release