Chutes & Ladders—Forte taps Chen to be president, CSO amid shareholder dissent

  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.

Forte finds new president, CSO amid shareholder frustration

Forte Biosciences

Forte President Hubert Chen

Amid frustration from the company's top shareholder, Forte Biosciences' CEO Paul Wagner, Ph.D., is doubling down, tapping Hubert Chen, M.D., to be president and CSO as the company pivots to a brand-new asset. 

Chen moves over from Metacrine, where he served as chief medical officer of the liver and GI-focused biotech, which, like Forte, currently is working toward the clinic. Prior to Metacrine, Chen was chief scientific and medical officer of Pfenex (now owned by Ligand), helping oversee the development of the company's injectable treatment for osteoporosis. He's also held research and development roles at Aileron, Regulus and Amylin. 

But Chen joins at a precarious time for Forte, with frustration from the company's top shareholder becoming public in recent weeks. Brad Leonard, managing member of BML Capital Management, disclosed at the end of May that he disagreed with the company's decision to launch into a new asset after its original candidate, FB-401, failed in a phase 2 atopic dermatitis clinical trial in September 2021. Prior to his disclosure, Leonard said he spoke with Wagner and felt the company wouldn't heed his calls. With that said, the company reports having enough money to last the next two years, and, with Chen's hiring, it will plow ahead. Release

Eye disease clinical veteran Goldstein named president, CMO at Aurion

Aurion Biotech

Aurion Biotech President and CMO
(Aurion Biotech)

Aurion Biotech has tapped Michael Goldstein, M.D., as its new president and CMO, nabbing an industry veteran as the company looks to make additional clinical progress with its cell therapy to treat corneal endothelial disease. The company is on the verge of applying for approval of the med in Japan but is in earlier stage studies in the U.S. and EU. In the U.S. specifically, Aurion says it is preparing to ask regulators to launch into phase 1. 

This is not Goldstein's first time around the ocular block. Prior to joining Aurion, he was president and CMO of Ocular Therapeutix, a publicly traded company focusing on its own slate of eye meds, including two FDA-approved, post-surgical treatments. One of those treatments, Dextenza, also has the approval to treat ocular itching associated with allergic conjunctivitis. Prior to Ocular, Goldstein was CMO at Applied Genetic Technologies and Eleven Biotherapeutics.

While bouncing around the industry, he's maintained his position as co-director of cornea and external disease service at the New England Eye Center and Tufts University School of Medicine. Release 

Third Harmonic Bio hopes new CMO Connor can direct clinical concerto of its sole asset

Third Harmonic Bio

Third Harmonic Chief Medical Officer Edward Conner

Fresh off a series B round north of $100 million, Third Harmonic Bio has found its clinical leader, tapping Edward Conner, M.D., for the job. As of now, all of the company's chips are pushed toward one asset, THB001, which is being developed across of number of indications, mainly hives. The med is an oral KIT inhibitor designed to treat allergies and inflammation. 

Conner's career has woven between Big Pharmas and smaller biotechs, having held medical and clinical director roles Genentech, BioMarin and Ultragenyx. He nabbed his first executive position in 2016 after being appointed CMO at Sangamo Therapeutics before moving to Audentes Therapeutics in the same role. Audentes was ultimately bought by Astellas, which made Conner gene therapies site lead and head of gene therapy medical and development. 

Now at Third Harmonic, his first order of business will be seeing the successful development of THB001, which is currently in two phase 1b trials for chronic hives. It's a market currently dominated by Novartis’ $1.4 billion med Xolair, which is approved to treat both chronic spontaneous hives and asthma. It's a med that's familiar to Conner; he helped lead its development at Genentech, which co-developed the drug alongside Novartis. Release 

> Inozyme has nabbed Kurt Gunter, M.D., to be chief medical officer, plucking him from Athenex where he held the same role as well as head of regulatory affairs. Prior to Athenex, Gunter was CMO at Kuur Therapeutics, overseeing medical affairs and clinical developments. Release

> A pair of new executives is joining Renibus Therapeutics, with the company naming Jamie Donadio as chief financial officer and Bhupinder Singh, M.D., as chief medical officer. Both come aboard at a critical juncture for the company as the Texas-based biotech continues progressing three programs through the clinic, including one about to launch into phase 3. Release

> As was planned, Voyager Therapeutics' interim chief scientific officer Glenn Pierce, M.D., Ph.D., has stepped down. He was put in charge after the company's CMO resigned in May 2021, and his tenure was slated to end June 3. Disclosure

> Alpine Immune Sciences has tapped Andrew Sandler, M.D., as chief medical officer, hoping his 25 years of experience can help bring Alpine to the clinical mountaintop. Most recently, Sandler was CMO at Sanofi-owned Kiadis Pharma. Release

> Graphite Bio Chief Financial Officer Alethia Young has been appointed to the board of PTC Therapeutics. Prior to joining Graphite, Young was a senior biotech analyst and head of research at Cantor Fitzgerald. Release 

> Hatem Azim, M.D., Ph.D., is jumping from French pharma Pierre Fabre to become chief medical officer at Emergence Therapeutics. Emergence is working on developing antibody-drug conjugates to treat solid tumors, including its lead program, ETx-22 targeting the cell adhesion molecule Nectin-4. Release

> In a rare move, Lars Iversen, M.D., is moving directly from academia to an industry executive role, joining MC2 Therapeutics A/S as chief medical officer. To date, Iversen has been a dermatology professor at Aarhus University Hospital and Aarhus University. Release

> NRx Pharmaceuticals is hiring Seth Van Voorhees, Ph.D., as chief financial officer. Van Voorhees is joining after a stint in the same job at PDS Biotechnology following 10 years at Research Frontiers and American Pacific. Release

> Roche veteran Luca Scavo has been hired at Cytovia Therapeutics as chief financial officer. The company is also bringing aboard James Priour from Zymeworks, naming him chief product officer. Release

> Almost two months after Alberto Mas announced his retirement, diagnostic maker Becton Dickinson has named Simon Campion as his replacement. Campion moves from a similar role within the company, having formally worked as EVP and president of the company's Interventional segment. Release

> Credit Suisse is reportedly bringing aboard J&J executive Peter Kerrane as managing director of its health-care investment banking group. At J&J, Keranne was the global head of strategy and business development of the consumer health unit. Prior to that, he led M&A at Novartis. Bloomberg

> Chuhan Chung, M.D., is moving from Big Pharma to smaller biotech, leaving Gilead Sciences for liver disease-focused Inipharm. While at Gilead, Chung was executive director and global development lead overseeing studies in NASH and primary sclerosing cholangitis. Release

> After holding manufacturing leadership roles at Kite Pharma, Brian Stamper is joining Immunomic Therapeutics as vice president of cell therapy. Stampers prior experience includes stints at AstraZeneca Biologics and Eli Lilly & Company. Release

> Natural killer cell therapy developer Artiva Biotherapeutics has a new chief medical officer, naming Thorsten Graef, M.D., Ph.D., for the job. Before his most recent gig as CMO at Acepodia, Graef was VP of oncology early development at AbbVie. Release

> Arch Venture Partners has promoted a slew of its staff and appointed Olivia Zetter as strategic adviser and venture partner. Zetter was previously head  of government affairs and AI strategy at manufacturer National Resilience. Release