Chutes & Ladders—GlaxoSmithKline's CEO Walmsley joins Microsoft's board

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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 Kyle Blankenship, and we will feature it here at the end of each week.

GSK CEO Walmsley to join Microsoft board as tech giant wades deeper into healthcare

CEO Emma Walmsley will join Microsoft's board of directors.

The software giant has nominated Walmsley to its board of directors, and her appointment could be confirmed at the company’s annual shareholders meeting Dec. 4. In a statement Thursday, John Thompson, Microsoft’s independent board chair, described Walmsley as “a valuable addition to the board” and “an accomplished business leader who led major advances in research and development at GSK and will bring her significant insights and global experience to Microsoft.” FiercePharma

20-year GSK veteran takes up CSO role at metabolic startup HemoShear

Brian Johns, M.D., will take over as CSO. 

The co-creator of Tivicay will join the biotech after 20 years at GlaxoSmithKline. Johns worked most recently at GSK-owned HIV specialist unit ViiV Healthcare. He was also heavily involved in the discovery and work on the next-gen HIV hopeful cabotegravir (now under FDA review). At ViiV, he was focused on grabbing external collaborations to help bolster the company’s work in infectious disease. Now, he’s taking a different track, working as CSO at a much smaller outfit with a focus on rare metabolic diseases and, via recent research pacts with the likes of Takeda and Horizon, fatty liver disease. FierceBiotech

Ionis CBO takes over Akcea as CEO, CBO and COO head out the door

Akcea Therapeutics
Ionis CBO Damien McDevitt will join as interim CEO. 

McDevitt will take over after CEO Paula Soteropoulos, Chief Business Officer Sarah Boyce and Chief Operating Officer Jeff Goldberg have all packed their bags and left. The moves come nearly a year after Akcea’s first FDA nod, for the hereditary transthyretin-mediated amyloidosis treatment Tegsedi. Its second drug, Waylivra (volanesorsen) scored EU approval earlier this year, but hasn’t fared quite as well stateside. It squeaked past an FDA advisory panel in a 12-8 vote in May 2018 only to receive a Complete Response Letter from the agency three months later. FierceBiotech

> Less than two years after taking the reins from founding chief Rusty Williams, Five Prime Therapeutics CEO Aron Knickerbocker is exiting the company.Knickerbocker, who had been the COO before substituting an E in that acronym in 2018 when Williams stepped down, has “resigned from the company to pursue new challenges and opportunities,” according to a statement from the South San Francisco biotech. FierceBiotech

> Tariq Sethi is set to leave AstraZeneca to join Oncimmune as CSO at the start of next month. Sethi spent the past four years at AstraZeneca, rising to the post of chief physician scientist at its clinical discovery unit. AstraZeneca hired Sethi in 2015 to work at a translational medicine unit that handled respiratory, immunology and autoimmune programs. Sethi took on the chief physician scientist title two years later, giving him a role in target validation, patient segmentation, asset repurposing and a search for drivers of lung cancer. FierceBiotech

> Mere weeks after getting off a major $110 million series B round, well-funded Passage Bio has raided Janssen’s exec team, nabbing Gary Romano, M.D., Ph.D., as its CMO. Romano comes off a six-year stint as the J&J biotech unit’s head of clinical development for neurodegenerative disease and the deputy leader of the neurodegenerative disease therapeutic area. Before this, he headed up Merck’s central nervous system unit. FierceBiotech

After a mini M&A spree and new hires last year, CRO Synteract has hired Derek Ansel, who becomes the services company’s new director of rare and orphan disease drug development. Ansel comes from rival CRO PRA Health, having also spent time at Icon and PPD, with a short stint at Shire back in 2017. Joining him will be Hassan Aly, M.D., Ph.D., who becomes senior medical director, specifically working on Synteract’s oncology center of development. Aly, a certified hematologist, comes to the company from AstraZeneca, having also served stints at Boehringer Ingelheim and several CROs including Quintiles. FierceBiotech

> Biocon already has a wide pipeline of biosim molecules and partnerships with global drugmakers. Now, it’s picked up a 60,000-square-foot R&D site from Pfizer to advance on its ambitions in biosimilars. The site at the TICEL Bio Park in Chennai, India, will house 250 scientists and will allow the company to “fast-forward development of our biosimilars from lab to pilot scale,” Biocon Biologics CEO Christiane Hamacher said in a statement. FiercePharma

> Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Thrive Earlier Detection has named Seema Singh Bhan as senior VP of public policy and external affairs. Bhan previously served as VP and head of public policy for Foundation Medicine and prior to that served as senior counsel to Sen. Arlen Specter. Release

> Beam Therapeutics, a Cambridge, Massachusetts-based biotech, has pegged Brian Riley as senior VP of technical operations.  Riley joins Beam from Catalent Pharma Solutions, where he led the company’s biologics business over the past five years. Prior to Catalent, he served as the site director of Durham, North Carolina, operations at bioMerieux. Release

> San Franciso-based Carrum Health has named Dan Nardi as COO and Robert Stillwell as VP of enterprise sales. Nardio previously served at Livongo and Stillwell handled national sales at Color Genomics.

> New York City-based Neurogene has tapped Christine Mikail as president of the company. Mikael, the founder of Ferndale Advisors, previously served as chief administrative officer and head of external business development/alliance management and general counsel at Axovant Sciences.

> Jon Stelzmiller has been named New Jersey-based Lupin's president of its U.S. specialty business. Stelzmiller previously worked as seniore VP and general manager at Bayer and prior to that spent 12 years at Pfizer. 

> Israel medtech Check-Cap has appointed Vardit Segal, Ph.D., as VP of clinical affairs. Segal joins Check-Cap from Allium Medical Solutions,  where she served as VP of clinical and regulatory affairs since 2014.