Chutes & Ladders—Hardy replaces BioMarin’s commercial chief in first big move as CEO

 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.  

Hardy replaces BioMarin’s commercial chief, his first big move as CEO 


CEO Alexander Hardy (BioMarin)

New CEO Alexander Hardy is wasting no time overhauling rare disease specialist BioMarin, with the company’s chief commercial officer now headed for the exits. Jeffrey Ajer, who’s been with the company for 18 years, will depart by the end of July. BioMarin noted in an SEC disclosure that the termination came “without cause.”   

Ajer joined in 2005 and was promoted to commercial chief in 2012. A spokesperson told Fierce Pharma that BioMarin "has begun a search for his successor and Jeff will continue to lead the organization in the interim."

The changing of the guard underscores Hardy’s top priority, which is to improve revenue from the company’s two commercial products, dwarfism drug Voxzogo and hemophilia A therapy Roctavian. Voxzogo was approved in November 2021 and generated $169 million in sales in 2022 and $324 million through the first nine months of 2023. Still, Hardy believes there’s untapped potential. 

He feels the same about Roctavian, saying at this year’s J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference that early sales have been “slower than anybody would have expected or would have wanted.” His move to replace Ajer is evidence of that discontent. Fierce Pharma 

Former FDA commissioner Gottlieb joins Comanche’s board

Comanche Biopharma

Comanche’s already-buzzy board of directors added a couple of new members this week, with former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D., among the additions. He joins alongside Atlas Venture partner David Grayzel, M.D. 

Gottlieb is a partner on New Enterprise Associates’ healthcare investment team, which participated in Comanche’s just-closed $75 million series B round. Atlas also joined the party, spurring Grayzel’s addition. Interest in Comanche centers on its lead treatment for preeclampsia, a blood pressure condition that impacts roughly 10 million pregnant patients a year that can cause premature delivery, endangering the mother and the baby. 

Already on the board is U.S. track and field star Allyson Felix, a staunch maternal health advocate, and former AstraZeneca chief medical officer Ann Taylor, M.D. Release

NextPoint taps former Moderna cancer scientist as new CSO 

NextPoint Therapeutics

Taking the reins of NextPoint’s scientific work is Tatiana Novobrantseva, Ph.D., the company announced this week. The longtime scientist was recently chief scientific officer and head of immuno-oncology research at Moderna. Though the Flagship-founded biotech gained stardom thanks to its COVID-19 vaccine, its individualized neoantigen therapy, when combined with Keytruda, could be the company’s next boon. A phase 3 trial in patients with advanced melanoma is already underway. 

Novobrantseva is also the co-founder and former chief scientific officer of Verseau Therapeutics. The biotech launched with $50 million in 2019 to develop macrophage checkpoint monitors to treat cancer, with the company’s lead asset entering the clinic in 2022. Novobrantseva remains a scientific advisor there. Release 

GSK taps Innate Pharma CEO for newly created chief patient officer role


Big Pharma GSK has appointed Mondher Mahjoubi to the company's newly formed role of chief patient officer, a spokesperson told Fierce Biotech.  

Mahjoubi joins from oncology company Innate Pharma, where he served as CEO. Before leading the biotech, he held various leadership roles across AstraZeneca, Genentech and Roche, among others. 

GSK's new role is aimed at delivering differentiated vaccines and medicines that address global unmet needs, according to the company's spokesperson. Mahjoubi will lead teams responsible for aligning business decisions with insights from patients and patient groups, providers, academic institutions and other external stakeholders. 

The newly added role is part of a larger leadership shake-up at GSK. Last fall, the company’s senior vice president and head of research John Lepore, M.D., left as the U.K. pharma reshuffled its R&D operations by dividing its research into a trio of teams: respiratory and immunology, vaccines and infectious diseases, and oncology. Senior Vice President and Global Head of Vaccines Phil Dormitzer, M.D., Ph.D., now leads the vaccine and infectious disease unit while Senior Vice President and Global Head of Oncology Development Hesham Abdullah, M.D., heads up the oncology arm.   

> After a restructuring at TransCode Therapeutics, CEO and co-founder Michael Dudley has retired with seven years of service at the biotech under his belt. In his place steps Tom Fitzgerald, TransCode chief financial officer and director, who will serve as interim CEO. Release

> Cognigenics has tapped David Pyrce to helm the gene therapy company as former CEO John Mee steps aside. Founder Mee will take on the role of president while Pyrce, the founder of biotech-focused Bear Creek Capital Management, takes the top title. Release

> HOOKIPA Pharma has snagged Mark Winderlich, Ph.D., to serve as chief development officer starting April 1. Winderlich will join from Evotec, where he has served as EVP and head of global scientific operations. Until his arrival, Malte Peters, M.D., will remain on as HOOKIPA’s ad interim senior clinical advisor. Release

> Aclaris Therapeutics’ CEO and President Douglas Manion, M.D., is stepping down as the clinical-stage company launches a strategic business review. Neal Walker, D.O., current chair of Aclaris’ board and co-founder of the company, will serve as interim CEO. Release

> Neurogene has nabbed Julie Jordan, M.D., to serve as chief medical officer. Jordan joins the genetic medicine company from Homology Medicines, where she also served as CMO. Release

> Lantern Pharma subsidiary Starlight Therapeutics has chosen Marc Chamberlain, M.D., to serve as chief medical officer. The oncologist has served as co-director of neuro-oncology programs at four cancer centers and as medical director for Cascadian Therapeutics, Seattle Genetics, SystImmune, Angiochem and Pionyr Immunotherapeutics. Release

> Neuvivo has named James Kovach, M.D., as its new chief medical affairs officer. The physician is a former NFL linebacker for the New Orleans Saints and San Francisco 49ers, and currently serves on the scientific advisory boards of the National Football League Alumni Association and Harvard Football Players Study. Release

> Immunitas Therapeutics is permanently choosing Longwood Fund venture partner Annalisa D'Andrea, Ph.D., to serve as the company’s chief scientific officer. Before becoming acting CSO in Sept. 2023, D’Andrea has held leadership roles at ImmuneID, Kiniksa Pharmaceuticals and Roche. Release

> Adial Pharmaceuticals has appointed Tony Goodman as chief operating officer. Goodman has been a member of Adial’s director board since 2017 and is also the founder and managing director of an advisory firm called The Keswick Group. Release

> AI-focused Iktos is welcoming Avirup Bose, Ph.D., aboard as chief business officer. Bose previously served as vice president of business development at Chinook Therapeutics (acquired by Novartis) and before that worked at Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research. Release

> Joanne Quan, M.D., has joined Mirum Pharmaceuticals as chief medical officer. Quan most recently served as CMO at Nuvig Therapeutics, and has held past leadership roles at Modis Therapeutics (acquired by Zogenix and subsequently UCB), Eiger Biopharmaceuticals, and Genentech, among others. Release

> Vaxcyte has selected Whitney Jones to serve as the company’s chief people officer. She joins from Sangamo Therapeutics, where she served as SVP and chief people officer. Release