Chutes & Ladders—Homology taps new CEO after pipeline restructure

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. 

Homology shakes up leadership after pipeline restructure

Homology Medicines 

Homology Medicines
Albert Tzianabos (LinkedIn)

Arthur Tzianabos, Ph.D., is stepping down from his role as Homology’s CEO, handing the reins over to Albert Seymour, Ph.D., and transitioning into his new position as chair.  

Both Tzianabos and Seymour joined the genetic medicines company in 2016 as CEO/president and chief scientific officer, respectively. Now Seymour—who has previously worked at Shire and Pfizer—will take over Tzianabos' leadership roles. In conjunction with the transition, Kush Parmar, M.D., Ph.D., has stepped down as chair and member of Homology’s board. 

Homology CEO
Albert Seymour (LinkedIn)

The leadership shakeup follows several other recent changes at the biotech. A few weeks ago, Homology said it was voluntarily pausing enrollment of its phase 1/2 phenylketonuria (PKU) study of HMI-102 for financial reasons. The trial was slapped with an FDA hold earlier this year over elevated liver function tests, though the mandated pause was lifted in June.

Now, Homology is instead prioritizing the pheEDIT study of HMI-103, investigational gene editing product HMI-103 in adults with PKU. The switch is intended to extend Homology’s cash runway and produce some fresh data. 

“We expect that the multiple validating business development deals we have done and our recent pipeline prioritization will allow us to progress through several key milestones,” said Tzianabos. “The time is right to make this transition in leadership to Albert.” Release    

Photys exits stealth with $75M, new C-suite execs

Photys Therapeutics 

The Boston biotech just exited stealth mode with $75 million from a series A financing round and Brian Fenton guiding plans to advance a new class of bifunctional molecules for underserved diseases. 

This month, Fenton stepped on as Photys’ president and CEO. He previously served as chief business officer at Translate Bio and also spent several years working for Shire Pharmaceuticals (acquired by Takeda in 2019).

Before Fenton, Photys was led by founding CEO David Steinberg—a general partner at Longwood Fund, which helped fuel the biotech’s beginnings. Steinberg will remain involved as Photys’ chair. 

Co-founder Edward Holson, Ph.D., has also joined on as the biotech’s chief scientific officer. Holson has worked in drug discovery for more than 20 years across Amathus Therapeutics, Atlas Venture, KDAc Therapeutics, the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, and Merck & Co.

Beyond Holson and Steinberg, other co-founders include Amit Choudhary, Ph.D., of Brigham and Women’s Hospital and the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard; and Lizzie Ngo, Ph.D., of Longwood Fund Principal. Release

UK biotech taps new CEO in hopes of taking field by Storm 

Storm Therapeutics 

Jerry McMahon, Ph.D., is taking the lead at Storm Therapeutics and forecasts that the company could have its RNA-modifying enzyme inhibitor into the clinic soon. 

In fall 2021, the seasoned exec left Harpoon Therapeutics, where he had served as president and CEO. Prior to that, McMahon held multiple leadership positions across Kolltan Pharmaceuticals (acquired by Celldex in 2016), AstraZeneca-MedImmune and Pfizer’s Sugen.    

McMahon will take the reins from Storm’s Chief Medical Officer Josefin-Beate Holz, M.D., who has been leading the biotech since former CEO Keith Blundy departed in March. 

Now, McMahon, who has served as a strategic adviser for Storm since April, is actively seeking to fill several executive roles at the University of Cambridge spinout. The biotech aims to develop small-molecule inhibitors of RNA-modifying enzymes to treat certain cancers and awaits an FDA green light to start testing its lead candidate, STC-15, in clinical trials. Release

Nouscom has promoted Sven Gogov, M.D., to chief medical officer, succeeding Patricia Delaite, M.D., who is pursuing a new opportunity outside of Nouscom. Sven joined Nouscom in 2021 from Incyte and has held various roles across Novartis, OSI Pharmaceuticals and AstraZeneca. Nouscom also has tapped Maria Arce-Tomas, Ph.D., to serve as VP and head of regulatory affairs. Arce-Tomas joins from PharmaMar and has held numerous positions across Novo Nordisk, GE Healthcare, Takeda, Abbott, Norgine and GSK. Release

> Ray Therapeutics, a preclinical biotech aiming to restore vision for patients with blinding eye diseases, has appointed Peter Francis, M.D., Ph.D., to serve as chief scientific and medical officer, and Jenny Holt as SVP of program portfolio management. Francis joins the biotech from RetroSense Therapeutics, where he served as CMO. Francis was also CSO/CMO at 4D Molecular Therapeutics—the same company Holt joins from. Earlier in her career, Holt served in various roles at Gladstone Institute, Onyx and Novartis, and co-founded Ignite Immunotherapy. Release  

> Alice Brown has been tapped to be chief scientific officer at Purespring Therapeutics, a gene therapy company targeting kidney disease. Brown previously led the research team at GammaDelta before it was acquired by Takeda. Release  

> Zenas BioPharma has found its new clinical chief, naming Simon Lowry, M.D., chief medical officer. It’s the same role Lowry most recently had at Kinevant Science, which came after he led immunology R&D at Roivant. Release  

> GlycoMimetics hopes its last executive hire will solidify its clinical ambitions, hiring Edwin Rock, M.D., Ph.D., to be chief medical officer. The company touted Rock’s experience leading clinical development and regulatory actions as CSMO for Partner Therapeutics, work that ultimately contributed to the approval of Leukine. Release    

> Former PACT Pharma president and chief operating officer Tim Moore has landed on his feet, joining Instil Bio as chief operating officer. Prior to PACT, Moore worked as EVP of technical operations at Kite, helping oversee the launch of Yescarta. Release

> French medtech company Owkin has hired a new R&D head, naming Jean-Philippe Vert as chief research and development officer. The company uses artificial intelligence to help companies find new therapeutic targets and biomarkers. Release 

Biotech vet Andrea van Elsas, Ph.D. has been promoted to partner at the investment firm Third Rock Ventures. Elsas has been at the company since 2020 and currently is the interim chief scientific officer at Abata Therapeutics. Release

> Milan-based AAVantgarde is bringing aboard Natalia Misciattelli, Ph.D., as CEO to help chart the company’s adenovirus vector-focused future. Misciatteli was most recently chief business officer of the immuno-oncology company NovalGen. Release

> Arun Kashyap, Ph.D. is adding to his 25 years of experience in biopharma, joining Nitrase Therapeutics as senior vice president of oncology. Kashyap has overseen the development of cancer therapies at a number of different biotechs, most recently working as VP of research at Arch Oncology. Release

> SQZ Biotechnologies is giving its chief scientific officer a promotion of sorts, elevating Howard Bernstein, M.D., Ph.D., to the company’s board. His responsibilities will now be shared between Ipsita Roymoulik, Ph.D., Scott Loughhead, Ph.D., and Maisam Dadgar—three senior scientific leaders. Release 

>  A duo of new executives is joining Candel Therapeutics, with the company naming Jason Amello as chief financial officer and Garrett Nichols, M.D., as chief medical officer. The two have more than 50 years of biopharmaceutical experience. Release

> Vertex has a new legal czar, bringing on Jonathan Biller as chief legal officer. The role will operate similarly to a general counsel, overseeing the company’s legal and compliance interactions. Release

> In a bid to shore up its clinical ambitions, Alumnus has named Jörn Drappa, M.D., Ph.D., as chief medical officer and Roman Rubio, M.D., as SVP of clinical development and translational medicine. Both come equipped with experience leading development of FDA-approved medicines. Release

> CytoAgents has a new clinical leader as it hopes to bring its treatment for cytokine release syndrome to life, tapping Arthur Bertolino, M.D., Ph.D., as chief medical officer. Bertolino is an alum of Novartis’ R&D output and most recently was chief medical officer at Innovation Pharmaceuticals. Release