Chutes & Ladders—Former Merck R&D chief Perlmutter takes reins at Eikon, applying Nobel-winning tech to drug discovery

parachutes
(Pixabay)

                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.


Perlmutter named CEO of Eikon, a biotech with $148M to apply Nobel-winning tech to undruggable targets

Eikon Therapeutics
Roger Perlmutter, M.D., Ph.D., joins as CEO.

After spending almost eight years as president of Merck Research Laboratories, Perlmutter is stepping up to lead Eikon, which just raised a $148 million series A to leverage live-cell super-resolution microscopy in drug discovery. Eikon uses that tech, which won the 2014 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, to visualize the movement of proteins in living cells in real time. The company uses CRISPR gene editing to fluorescently label target proteins. It aims to use the approach to reveal novel druggable biology for hard-to-hit targets. "[I]t is inspiring to see what Eikon has already accomplished by incorporating physics and engineering along with machine learning to complement traditional drug discovery approaches," Perlmutter said in a statement. Fierce Biotech


Jaguar snags a CMO after banking $139M to propel its preclinical gene therapies

Jaguar Gene Therapy
Joe McIntosh, M.D. comes on board as chief medical officer.

After a $40 million debut in February, Jaguar Gene Therapy has snared a new CMO in McIntosh, who joins from the Roivant subsidiary Aruvant, where he led development of a gene therapy for sickle cell disease in the same role. He joins amid a second $139 million fundraising round, which Jaguar will use to get its leading assets into the clinic in the next couple of years. McIntosh signed on at Aruvant in May 2020, working as head of clinical development at PTC Therapeutics before that. Jaguar's pipeline includes gene therapies for galactosemia, autism spectrum disorder with a genetic cause and Type 1 diabetes. Meanwhile, the company's U.K. subsidiary Axovia Therapeutics is working on treatments for disorders of the cilia, starting with a subtype of Bardet-Biedel syndrome. Fierce Biotech


Novartis loses 2nd oncology R&D exec as Hammerman leaves through the door left open by Engelman

MOMA Therapeutics 
Jeff Engelman, M.D., Ph.D., signs on as chief scientific officer.

Just days after Jeff Engelman M.D., Ph.D., ex-director of cancer drug discovery at the Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research, hit the exit, Novartis has lost another oncology R&D exec. Hammerman, former global head of oncology translational research at NIBR, has jumped ship to "molecular machines" biotech MOMA Therapeutics. The startup last year bagged $86 million to systematically go after molecular machines, a family of more than 400 enzymes that others have only stumbled upon by chance. Hammerman settles in as chief scientist at MOMA. Fierce Biotech


Relay Therapeutics has tapped AstraZeneca’s Charles Ferté, M.D., Ph.D., as vice president and lead for RLY-4008, a selective and oral small-molecule inhibitor of FGFR2, a receptor tyrosine kinase that is frequently altered in certain cancers. News of Ferté's departure came last month via Twitter. RLY-4008 recently entered the clinic and has initial data expected out later this year. Fierce Biotech

KalVista Pharmaceuticals has enlisted Paul Audhya, M.D., as chief medical officer. He joins as the company works to get a clinical trial for its hereditary angioedema franchise back on track. Audhya joins from Arena Pharmaceuticals, where he was senior vice president, global medical affairs. Before that, he held roles at Vertex Pharmaceuticals, Amgen, Bristol Myers Squibb and other companies. Fierce Biotech

> Palantir, the Peter Thiel-chaired developer of analytics software, has carved out the new role of chief medical officer for William Kassler, M.D., a physician and public health expert. Kassler most recently served in the same role for government health and human services at IBM Watson Health, where he was also deputy chief health officer. Fierce Biotech

>  Guardant Health has passed the chief medical officer baton to Craig Eagle, M.D.. Eagle flew the nest from Genentech, where he was vice president of medical affairs oncology. Eagle served at Pfizer before that, where he held several positions, including global head of the oncology medical and outcomes group. Release

> WindMIL Therapeutics has lifted co-founder Kimberly Noonan, Ph.D., MPH, into the role of executive vice president, chief science and technology officer. In this role, Noonan will help expand the company's efforts in manufacturing and manufacturing science and technology (MS&T). Release

> Verge Genomics has summoned Robert Scannevin, Ph.D., to fill the chief scientific officer post. At Verge, he'll lead all aspects of R&D and serve as a scientific liaison for the company to investors, partners and the medical community. Scannevin joins from Yumanity Therapeutics, where he oversaw biology and chemistry research focused on new target discovery and therapeutic development for neurodegenerative diseases as head of research. Release

> Redx Pharma, a drug discover and development company focused on cancer and fibrosis, has tapped Peter Collum as chief financial officer. He signs on from Pharnext SA, where he has served as chief financial officer and chief business officer since July 2019. He spent more than 17 years in healthcare investment banking before that, most recently as a Partner at MTS Health Partners. Release (PDF)

> Gene therapy firm Carmine Therapeutics has handed the CEO reins to Don Haut, Ph.D.. He also joins as a member of the company's board. Haut most recently served as chief business officer at AskBio, where he played a key role in the company's $4 billion acquisition by Bayer. 

> Cognito Therapeutics has called upon Jonathan Lieber to fill the chief financial officer role. There, he'll be in charge of all investor relations, finance and administrative functions, and will lead the company’s future financing efforts. As a Chief Financial Officer, Lieber has helped raise more than $400 million of equity and debt in public and private offerings, including a $110 million IPO at Altus Pharmaceuticals. Release

Shionogi, focused on infectious diseases, has expanded executive vice president Nathan McCutcheon's role to chief operating officer, while senior vice president Gianine Esposito will join the company's executive committee. McCutcheon joined Shionogi in 2019 as chief commercial officer and a member of the executive committee, while Esposito joined the team back in 2011. Release

VistaGen Therapeutics has named Ann Cunningham chief commercial officer. She's served as a member of the company's board since January 2019 and will remain in that role as she takes up the CMO baton. Most recently, Cunningham was a managing partner of i3 Strategy Partners. Release

Intersect ENT, a global ear, nose and throat medtech firm, will welcome Mark Alley as vice president of sales on May 10. He joins from medical device specialist Levita Magnetics Corp, where he was chief commercial officer. He'll come on board with "extensive experience" in the ear, nose and throat field, Intersect said in a release. Release

Excision Bio, developing potentially curative CRISPR anti-viral therapies, has named Christine Silverstein chief financial officer. She signs on from Emendo Biotherapeutics, where she served in the same role. Emendo, a next generation gene editing company, was snapped up by AnGes in December. Release

Codagenix has tapped Johanna Kaufmann, Ph.D., as executive vice president, oncology. In her new role, Kaufmann will spearhead the development of oncolytic virus therapies targeting breast cancer, melanoma, and prostate cancer. She previously served as scientific director, immuno-oncology for GlaxoSmithKline in Waltham, Massachusetts. Release

Cell X Technologies is carving out the role of vice president, operations, for Brian Handerhan, MBA. HE will oversee sales, marketing, product development, and product management as Cell X aims to make a splash in the cell therapy market. Release

Escient Pharmaceuticals welcomed Svetlana Makhni as chief financial officer on May 3. At the company, Makhni wil oversee finance, accounting, legal, human resources, and administrative operations, Escient said in a release. She comes on board from Bierman ABA, a provider of behavioral health services for children with autism spectrum disorder. There, Mahkhni served as CFO and head of operations. Release

Synthekine has enlisted Naiyer Rizvi, M.D. as its new chief medical officer, effective immediately. At Synthekine, Rizvi will help propel the company's "maturing pipeline" through the clinic. Rizvi most recently served as the Price Family Professor of Medicine, director of thoracic oncology and co-director of cancer immunotherapy at Columbia University Medical Center. Release

> U.K.-based contract research organization Veramed has enlisted Stuart Malcom as head of standards, efficiency and automation. At Veramed, Malcom will be in charge of building an innovation roadmap to streamline work processes and software automation for Veramed's delivery teams. Over the past nine years, Malcom has led statistical programming for several oncology studies and co-led an automation workstream for the CDISC 360 project.