Chutes & Ladders—Frazier departs Merck after 30 years

 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. 

Frazier departs Merck after 30 years, leaving the executive chairman role for CEO Davis


Ken Frazier

After 30 years at Merck & Co., Ken Frazier is calling it a tenure at the New Jersey Big Pharma. It’s a career that began in 1992, with Frazier elevating himself up the corporate ladder, including positions as general counsel at the company. This culminated in his being named president and CEO in 2011, a position he held for 10 years before handing the baton over to Rob Davis. But since then Frazier has remained executive chairman of the company’s board. Now, that too will be handed over to Davis, effective Dec. 1. 

In addition to his position at Merck, Frazier sits or has sat on the board of a number of other companies and organizations including Exxon, the National Constitution Center, General Catalyst and the College of Physicians of Philadelphia. He founded OneTen, an organization aimed at hiring Black employees without college degrees. Earlier this year, he joined the board of Eikon Therapeutics, a biotech startup in the Bay Area that’s poached a lot of top talent from Merck.

On Thursday's earnings call, Davis thanked Frazier for his contributions to Merck and its employees.

“Speaking personally, I'm deeply grateful for the inspiration, mentorship and support Ken has provided to me,” he said. Release

GSK vaccine chief leaves amid reorganization of the medicines team


Former GSK vaccine chief Roger Connor

Gone from GSK is Hal Barron, M.D., the company’s longtime R&D chief. Joining him will be the company’s president of vaccines and global health Roger Connor. The company announced this week that Connor would be departing to seek a new role in healthcare outside of biopharma. The move comes as the company is bridging together its “medicines and vaccines manufacturing networks” and their associated commercial operations. The commercial strategy of the vaccines unit will now be headed by Chief Commercial Officer Luke Miels. 

In recent years, GSK has worked to distinguish itself in the vaccines world, namely with its winning jab Shingrix to treat shingles as well as its meningococcal program. But the company is also in a neck-and-neck race with Pfizer to bring an RSV shot to market, with GSK recently boasting positive phase 3 results. 

Regis Simard, president of the global supply chain, will now oversee the supply of both vaccines and other drugs while ViiV's CEO will take over the global health unit. Fierce Pharma

Klein bolts CRISPR after almost 7 years

CRISPR Therapeutics

Headshot of former CRISPR chief development officer Lawrence Klein

CRISPR Therapeutics is in the market for a new development chief with Lawrence Klein, Ph.D., headed elsewhere after nearly seven years at the company. The company says Klein is leaving to pursue external opportunities in the field but will remain on through the end of the year. Klein joined the company after more than five years at consulting behemoth McKinsey & Co., where he was an associate principal. He’s also a member of the board of Jasper Therapeutics and Dyne Therapeutics. As this column is authored by a pair of University of Wisconsin – Madison alums, we’d be remiss if we didn’t note that Klein is as well, with a degree in biochemistry and physics (go Badgers). 

Klein’s departure comes at a critical moment for CRISPR Therapeutics, as it's slated to begin the approval application process with the FDA for its lead program, exa-cel, in November. The company expects to complete the filing by the end of the first quarter in 2023. It also has five other clinical-stage programs and others nearing clinical trials. CRISPR says a search is underway to find Klein’s replacement. Release

Acadia Pharmaceuticals President Srdjan (Serge) Stankovic, M.D., will be retiring at the end of the year. Stankovic has been with the company for seven years, leading R&D, and medical and scientific efforts. A search for his successor is ongoing. Release

> Arturo Molina, M.D., is stepping down from his role as chief medical officer at Sutro Biopharma, effective Nov. 4. Molina will be pursuing other opportunities, according to Sutro, and CEO Bill Newell will oversee all clinical activities while the biotech searches for a replacement. Release

> Jens Würthner, M.D., Ph.D., is changing direction, leaving ADC Therapeutics to take up a post at Scenic Biotech as chief medical officer. Before that, Würthner also led clinical development programs at Novartis, GSK and AstraZeneca. Release

> Edward Fang, M.D., will be joining Adaptive Phage Therapeutics as the infectious disease biotech’s chief medical officer. Fang has previously served as chief medical officer at MicuRx Pharmaceuticals and Adenium Biotech, and before that held roles at Trius Therapeutics and Cerexa. Release

> Enveda Biosciences has selected Mark Deeg, M.D., Ph.D., to serve as its chief medical officer. Deeg joins the biotech from Cullgen, where he was EVP and head of global clinical development. He also spent more than a decade with Big Pharma Eli Lilly. Release

> Nathalie Franchimont, M.D., Ph.D., is leaving Biogen to serve as Nimbus Therapeutics’ chief medical officer. At the Big Pharma, Franchimont most recently served as SVP and head of the multiple sclerosis and immunology development unit. Before Biogen, she held roles at Amgen. Release

> New biotech Normunity has emerged with $65 million and Rachel Humphrey, M.D., at the helm. Humphrey is the company’s founding CEO, with more than 25 years of experience, including leading the development of Bristol Myers Squibb’s Yervoy, AstraZeneca’s Imfinzi and Bayer’s Nexavar. Her biotech leadership roles include chief medical officer at Black Diamond Therapeutics, CytomX and Mirati. Fierce Biotech

> Clinical-stage biotech Anokion is shaking up its team with several new executive appointments. Alison Long, M.D., Ph.D., who most recently served as Kaleido BioSciences’ chief medical officer, will fill the same role at Anokion. Stephanie Ann Haller has been appointed SVP of clinical operations after departing from her role as senior director of clinical operations and therapeutic area lead of nephrology at AstraZeneca’s Alexion. Glenn Booma, who has spent nearly 10 years serving as a consultant for life sciences companies, has been appointed chief strategy officer, while Kristie Grebe, Ph.D., has been promoted to SVP of immunology and translational medicine from her former role as VP of clinical and translational development. Release

> Health tech company Element Science has tapped Trish Howell to fill the company’s newly created chief operating officer spot. Howell joins from Avail Medsystems, where she served as VP of operations. Release

> Cassava Sciences is expanding its leadership team, adding Christopher Cook to its team in the newly created role of SVP and general counsel. Cook joins the neurodegenerative disease biotech from eye care company Alcon. Release

> Triumvira Immunologics has appointed Robert Williamson to be president and chief business officer. Most recently, Williamson served as president and CEO of BioTheryx, and has also held leadership roles at PharmAkea, ATXCo, Arriva Pharmaceuticals, Eos Biotechnology and DoubleTwist. Release

> George Kemble, Ph.D., will be stepping down from his CEO position at Sagimet Biosciences, transitioning to executive chair of the board as David Happel takes the head role. Happel joins from AI-tech company Cognoa, where he led as president and CEO  Release

> PaxMedica has tapped Stefan Schwabe, M.D., Ph.D., as chief medical officer to oversee its development of antipurinergic drug therapies. Schwabe joins from Supernus Pharmaceuticals, where he was also chief medical officer, along with EVP of R&D. Release