Chutes & Ladders—Ginkgo Bioworks CEO to lead federal biotech commission

 Chutes and LaddersWelcome to this week's (and last 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. 

Ginkgo Bioworks CEO, ex-Google head plucked for federal biotech commission 

The National Security Commission on Emerging Biotechnology  

Ginkgo Bioworks
Jason Kelly, Ph.D. (LinkedIn)

Ginkgo Bioworks CEO and co-founder Jason Kelly, Ph.D., has been selected to lead a 12-member group assessing emerging biotech innovation for the U.S. Department of Defense. The commission’s main focus will be reviewing how biotech advancements and related tech can help shape department activities. After one year, the commission is meant to produce an interim report for the U.S. President Joe Biden and the Armed Services Committees. The end goal is providing a final, unclassified report within two years, including recommendations for action by Congress and the federal government.

Michelle Rozo, Ph.D., was chosen to serve as vice chair for the commission. She was previously Director of Technology and National Security at the National Security Council, where she advised the president on biotech and national security policy. 

federal biotech commission
Michelle Rozo, Ph.D. (LinkedIn)

Google’s former CEO Eric Schmidt, Ph.D., who serves as a strategic adviser and founding nonmanaging partner for VC First Spark Ventures, has also been appointed to the commission. However, members of the newly formed group don’t have to divest their own personal biotech investments, which could potentially allow members to profit if their companies receive new federal biotech spending, according to a CNBC report

The other appointed commissioners are: national security expert Paul Arcangeli; Oklahoma's 5th Congressional District Representative Stephanie Bice; materials scientist and biological engineer Angela Belcher, Ph.D.; California’s 17th Congressional District Representative Ro Khanna; former CIA executive Dawn Meyerriecks; California Senator Alex Padilla; former Assistant Director for Biotechnology in the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Research & Engineering Alexander Titus, Ph.D.; Indiana Senator Todd Young; and senior adviser and defense expert Dov Zakheim, Ph.D. Release

BMS exec set to depart this summer 

Bristol Myers Squibb

BMS, Bristol Myers Squibb
Rupert Vessey (BMS)

Rupert Vessey, who came into the Bristol Myers Squibb orbit with the 2019 acquisition of Celgene, is set to retire effective July 3.

BMS CEO Giovanni Caforio, M.D., announced the departure at the top of the company’s fourth-quarter earnings call Thursday.

Vessey is executive vice president and president of research and early development. He joined Celgene in 2015, serving as president of the research and early development organization. Prior to that, he held roles at Merck & Co. and GSK.

“Rupert led the successful integration of research and the development of a strong pipeline across all stages of development,” Caforio said.

Vessey’s name has cropped up in a number of BMS’ recent transactions, including the $905 million licensing deal with BridgeBio and the third collaboration with immunotherapy drug discovery biotech Immatics that could be worth as much as $4.2 billion down the line.

Taking over for Vessey as executive vice president and chief research officer will be Robert Plenge, M.D., Ph.D., who has served as head of the Immunology, Cardiovascular and Fibrosis Thematic Research Center and head of translational medicine. Webcast

Roche picks insider for top pharma job


Teresa Graham (LinkedIn)

The Big Pharma is mixing up its leadership team, selecting current Head of Global Product Strategy Teresa Graham to helm Roche’s pharma group as CEO. Starting next month, Graham will replace Thomas Schinecker, who has served as interim leader since Bill Anderson’s departure at the end of 2022. For his part, Schinecker is set to become CEO of the entire Roche group this March.

Graham has been with Roche for nearly four years and will take over as COVID product sales across pharma and diagnostics drop due to declining demand. Before Roche, Graham spent more than 14 years at Genentech until the company was acquired by Roche. 

At the same time, Roche is promoting Levi Garraway, M.D., Ph.D., chief medical officer, to the executive committee. Fierce Pharma

> T-cell therapy company BlueSphere Bio has tapped former Takeda exec Erkut Bahceci, M.D., to serve as the company’s chief medical officer. Before serving as Takeda’s SVP and head of oncology development, he worked at Astellas for a decade in roles of increasing responsibility up to the head of clinical science of hematologic malignancies. Before Astellas, Bahceci worked at Bristol Myers Squibb and Bayer. Release  

> Wilson Bryan, M.D., the FDA’s director of the office of tissues and advanced therapies at the Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, will be retiring in March of this year, the FDA confirmed with Fierce Biotech.   

> Texas-based Taysha Gene Therapies is parting with another executive, this time the company’s chief medical officer Suyash Prasad. Prasad’s exit came only a week or so after RA Session II resigned, though Session still holds on to his founder and board member titles. Before Taysha, Prasad held roles at BioMarin Pharmaceuticals, Genzyme and Eli Lilly, among others. Release     

> Merck’s Joseph Eid, M.D., has left the Big Pharma for biotech, joining Dragonfly Therapeutics as president of R&D. While at Merck, he helped lead the development of pembrolizumab, also known as Keytruda. Before Merck, Eid also worked at BMS and Roche. Release

> Nadège Pelletier, Ph.D., will be taking the chief scientific officer reins from Tom Evans, Ph.D., at Vaccitech. Evans is retiring after six years with the clinical-stage company. As for Pelletier, she joins from the Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research and has also worked at Roche in its research and early development arm. Release

> Kevin D’Amour, Ph.D., has joined Stemson Therapeutics as the cell therapy company’s chief scientific officer. Before joining Stemson, D’Amour spent nearly two decades at ViaCyte, which was acquired by Vertex in 2022. Release 

> Athira Pharma’s Kevin Church, Ph.D., has been promoted to serve as the clinical-stage company’s chief scientific officer. Church joined the company focused on neurodegeneration diseases in 2016 and most recently served as EVP of research. Release 

> Starting April 1, Anton (Tony) Hoos, M.D., Ph.D., will head up R&D and medical affairs and also serve as chief medical officer for Swedish Orphan Biovitrum (Sobi). Hoos will replace Anders Ullman, M.D., Ph.D. who is set to retire. The incoming CMO carries more than three decades of industry experience, including positions at Amgen, GSK and Aventis. Release

> Hansa Biopharma has started the hunt for a new chief scientific officer after CSO and Chief Operating Officer Christian Kjellman announced plans to leave in 2024. Kjellman has been with the company since 2008, taking on the dual leadership role in 2020. Release

> Oncology biotech Ariceum Therapeutics has brought on Germo Gericke, M.D., to serve as the company’s chief medical officer. Germo joins from Novartis’ Advanced Accelerator Applications, where he held positions of chief medical officer and head of R&D. Release

> vTv Therapeutics is welcoming Elizabeth Keiley as EVP and general counsel. She most recently served as general counsel for Entasis Therapeutics. Before that, she also held leadership positions at Oxford Immunotec and Zimmer. Release

> Will Kane is leaving his spot as EVP and chief commercial officer at BioXcel Therapeutics for Karuna Therapeutics, a clinical-stage company aiming to develop medicines for psychiatric and neurological conditions. Kane will take on the role starting Feb. 6. The leader has held senior level commercial positions at Allergan, Pfizer, and Sepracor (now Sunovion Pharmaceuticals) and helped launch several successful brands including Namzaric‎ for Alzheimer’s disease, Vraylar for schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, and Ubrelvy for migraines. Release

> Ring Therapeutics has called on Christopher Wright, M.D., Ph.D., to serve as chief medical officer and head of translational research, starting Feb. 7. Before Ring, Wright was CMO at AavantiBio, which was recently acquired by Solid Biosciences. He has also held leadership roles at Cyclerion, Ironwood Pharmaceuticals, Axcella Health and Vertex Pharmaceuticals. Release

> Clinical-stage Adrenomed has tapped Stephan Witte, M.D., to serve as the company’s chief medical officer. Before Adrenomed, Witte was VP of clinical science and operations at Atriva Therapeutics and has also held positions at Breath Therapeutics, Inotrem and Helion Pharma. Release

> Ambrx Biopharma has appointed Sandra Aung, Ph.D., to serve as the company’s EVP and head of clinical development. Aung most recently served as OncoSec’s SVP and has years of experience across Fate Therapeutics, HUYA Bioscience International, Nektar Therapeutics, Prometheus Laboratories, UbiVac and Cell Genesys, among others. Release

> Roger Sidhu, M.D., has hopped aboard Treadwell Therapeutics, joining the team as chief medical officer. Sidhu was most recently CMO at Brooklyn (now Eterna) ImmunoTherapeutics and has held past roles at Roivant Sciences, Cell Design Labs (acquired by Gilead subsidiary Kite) and Amgen. Release

> Two decades after founding Know Labs—then known as Visualant—Ron Erickson is once again stepping into the role of CEO. He’s replacing Phil Bosua, who had served as CEO of the tech developer since early 2018. Though Bosua stepped down, he’ll stick around as a technology adviser and consultant. As for Erickson, he helmed Know Labs between 2003 and 2004 and took on the top job once again at the end of 2009 until Bosua replaced him. The company also announced a handful of other executive changes, including Masanori King Takee, who has been at Know Labs since 2018, was named chief technology officer. Leo Trautwein, meanwhile, is transitioning from his previous title of chief marketing officer to serve as chief commercial officer. He’s been replaced as marketing head by Jessica English, previously the VP of brand at health-tracking ring maker Oura. Fierce Biotech

> Clinical-stage biotech TC BioPharm has hired Bree Harlin to serve as chief clinical officer. Harlin most recently worked at Eli Lilly’s Loxo Oncology, where she helped with the clinical development of targeted therapies for various types of solid and hematologic cancers. Release 

> Poseida Therapeutics’ executive chair Eric Ostertag, M.D., Ph.D., is resigning. The founding Poseida CEO helped lead the company, alongside spinout Transposagen, for nearly 20 years. Release

> Aprea Therapeutics’ former president and CEO Christian Schade has joined Flagship Pioneering as a growth partner to help scale and grow Flagship-founded companies. Release