Chutes & Ladders—Gilman buckles in as Arrakis raises $75M, while Wotton takes over at Obsidian

Chutes & Ladders
(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 Conor Hale, and we will feature it here at the end of each week.


Gilman buckles in as Arrakis raises $75M, while Wotton takes over at Obsidian

Arrakis logo

Arrakis Therapeutics
Obsidian Therapeutics

Michael Gilman was named Arrakis' full-time CEO, as Paul Wotton takes the helm at Obsidian.

After selling Padlock Therapeutics to Bristol-Myers Squibb in early 2016, Gilman said he "failed at retirement" and found himself on not just the boards, but in the CEO chairs of two new biotechs: Arrakis and Obsidian. Now, he's moving to lead Arrakis full-time alongside a $75 million series B round the 2018 Fierce 15 winner plans to use to fund its RNA-targeting small-molecule programs aimed at undruggable targets.

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Meanwhile, Wotton will serve as the full-time CEO of synthetic biology firm Obsidian, which focuses on cell and gene therapies. Previously, Wotton led Siglion Therapeutics, as well as Ocata Therapeutics, Antares Pharma and Topigen Pharmaceuticals. 


Ex-GSK immunology chief to lead startup Kintai Therapeutics

Kintai Therapeutics 
Paul-Peter Tak was appointed CEO.

Flagship Pioneering launched Kintai to develop a new class of "precision enteric medicines," aimed at the microbiome and the body's signaling networks in autoimmune, metabolic and neurologic diseases, as well as various cancers. Tak, formerly chief immunology officer and the global R&D head for immuno-inflammation, oncology and infectious diseases at GlaxoSmithKline, said the startup's first programs are slated to enter phase 1 development as early as 2020. FierceBiotech


Struggling Insys swaps CEOs as Subsys marketing crackdown continues

Insys

Insys
CFO Andrew Long was tapped as CEO, effective immediately.

After years of litigation and investigations into its sales practices, the makers of the powerful painkiller Subsys have promoted Long to CEO. Previously Insys' chief financial officer, Long joined the company in 2017 following time at Patheon, Thermo Fisher, Cambrex and Abbott Laboratories. He takes over for Saeed Mohatari, who also came on board in 2017, from Purdue Pharma. Insys currently faces allegations that it paid doctors to prescribe Subsys through sham educational events and encouraged them to prescribe the powerful opioid for unapproved uses and higher-than-recommended doses. FiercePharma


> GlaxoSmithKline plans to lay off a small number of R&D employees at its Stevenage, U.K., site as part of a wider rethink of its drug development operations under the scientific leadership of Hal Barron, which includes a greater focus on genetics and immunology. All employees remain for now at what is considered one of GSK's two main R&D hubs, alongside its Philadelphia location. FierceBiotech

> In his first major speech as acting FDA commissioner, Ned Sharpless took the time to tell listeners he does not intend to tear up Scott Gottlieb's legacy, saying: "I assure you that I’m not acting as if this is a temporary or part-time job. I plan to maintain FDA’s current course of action in every area and proceed full speed ahead." FierceBiotech

> As it moves its lead cell therapy into phase 3, Regenerex has closed a $100 million financing and renamed itself Talaris Therapeutics—and has brought on a new CEO in Scott Requadt, who has been a venture partner at The Blackstone Group and managing director of Clarus Funds. FierceBiotech

> Aurinia Pharmaceuticals has recruited Cerecor CEO Peter Greenleaf to serve as its own chief executive. He will take the helm when Richard Glickman retires at the end of the month. Before Cerecor, Greenleaf headed up Histogenics and Sucampo, through its $1.2 billion acquisition by Mallinckrodt. FierceBiotech

> Dutch biotech Kiadis is set to buy CytoSen Therapeutics to expand into anti-cancer natural killer cell therapies, and will add CAR-T pioneer Carl June to its scientific advisory board. FierceBiotech

> Merck KGaA has promoted Zhen Su, previously chief medical officer of North America through EMD Serono, to senior VP and head of its global oncology franchise, where he will help oversee the potential launch of Bavencio in kidney cancer as well as an immunotherapy alliance with GSK.

> Roland Bürli, who headed up neuroscience medicinal chemistry at AstraZeneca, has left to join Cerevance as VP of drug discovery at the CNS-focused biotech as it advances a suite of treatments for Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases. FierceBiotech 

> KSQ Therapeutics has hired Beni Wolf as chief medical officer. Wolf joins the CRISPRomics biotech from Blueprint Medicines after stints at Merrimack Pharmaceuticals, Amgen and Genentech. FierceBiotech

> WindMIL Therapeutics, developers of marrow-infiltrating lymphocytes for cancer, has established new leadership positions, promoting Chief Scientific Officer Kimberly Noonan to executive VP and CSO, and operations VP Patrick Dougherty to VP of planning and operations. Noonan also serves as a scientific co-founder of WindMIL. Release

> WIRB-Copernicus Group has added Jonathan Zung to its site division as executive VP, where he will oversee the work of institutions and academic medical centers as well as independent clinical research sites. The group also brought on David Wynes, VP of research administration at Emory University, to serve as an expert and external adviser to the division. Zung was previously a group president at Covance. FierceCRO

> Certara announced four appointments in its Simcyp division: Covance's Rob Aspbury as chief operating officer, the French National Institute for Industrial Environment and Risks' Frederic Yves Bois as senior scientific adviser and head of mechanistic modeling,  AstraZeneca's Will Redfern as VP of quantitative systems toxicology and safety and Daiichi Sankyo's Noriko Okudaira as a senior consultant and scientific adviser focusing on Certara’s clients in Japan. Release

> Vilnius, Lithuania-based CDMO Biotechpharma will invest more than €50 million to boost its capacity, with plans to add 60 to 80 positions to its current 150 employees by the end of 2020. FiercePharmaManufacturing

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