Chutes & Ladders—Incyte plucks ex-Rubius CEO to lead R&D

  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. 

Incyte plucks ex-Rubius chief to lead R&D 


Pablo Cagnoni, M.D., had a 2022 to forget. The former CEO of Flagship-founded Rubius Therapeutics spent the last quarter of the year laying off virtually all remaining staff before exiting himself, departing the company in November after failing to find any clinical success. But Cagnoni was not without a job for long, if any time at all, immediately becoming CEO of another Flagship venture, Laronde.

Pablo Cagnoni
Pablo Cagnoni, M.D. (LinkedIn)

He’s now stepping outside of Flagship universe for the first time since he led Tizona Therapeutics until 2018, a biotech that Gilead Sciences secured the right to buy two years later for up to $1.5 billion. Cagnoni is headed to Delaware-based pharma Incyte to be president and head of R&D. 

It’s a newly created role that blends together chemistry, biology and development, CEO Hervé Hoppenot said in a release. Incyte has a deep roster of meds spanning oncology, hematology, dermatology and blood disorders. The company’s moneymaker is Jakafi, approved to treat myelofibrosis, polycythemia vera and graft-versus-host disease. The med accounted for 84% of the company’s total net product revenue in the first quarter of this year. Release

Farallon claims victory in Exelixis proxy battle


Exelixis is waving the white flag on at least one crucial demand from activist investor Farallon, with a third targeted board member announcing this week that he wouldn’t seek reelection. The decision tees up likely board appointments at the company’s annual meeting for all three Farallon allies.

The decision from 26-year board veteran Lance Willsey comes after Farallon upped the ante on its pressure campaign, alleging last week that Willsey hadn’t been a practicing doctor for more than 20 years and was in fact an active professional race car driver. Exelixis had previously announced support for two out of three of Farallon’s board recommendations. 

The company hopes that the board concessions will mark the end of Farallon’s tiff with the biotech’s direction, though that doesn’t appear to be the case. Farallon said in a statement that Exelixis original qualms “underscores its aversion to change.” The investors will now turn its attention toward revamping the company’s R&D strategy to prioritize approved cancer med, cabozantinib. Fierce Biotech 

Former Astellas development head jumps to new Frontier

Frontier Medicines

Andrew Krivoshik, M.D., Ph.D., is jumping to the C-suite for the first time in his career, becoming chief medical officer at Frontier Medicines. The move marks the end of a 12-year career at Astellas Pharma where he ascended to president and head of development. 

His appointment is indicative of Frontier’s nearing clinical aspirations, with the company expected to ask U.S. regulators to greenlight a phase 1 trial in the second half of the year for dual KRAS inhibitor FMC-376. The company has four other oncology targets working through preclinical development in addition to three targets tied to a partnership with AbbVie. 

As it turns out, Krivoshik previously worked at AbbVie (then Abbott) for almost seven years before jumping to Astellas. Krivoshik worked his way up the Chicago-area pharmaceutical, holding a variety of medical director positions before being named an oncology therapeutic manager and product safety lead in December 2010. He left for Astellas four months later. Release

> Vicinitas Therapeutics has chosen Christian Hofmann, Ph.D., to lead the cancer and genetic-disorder-focused biotech as CEO. Hofmann joins from Lycia Therapeutics, where he served as chief business officer, and has also worked at Roche’s Genentech. Release

> Biofrontera CEO Erica Monaco is resigning, with Executive Chair and Founder Hermann Luebbert set to take over her responsibilities. Monaco plans to pursue other professional opportunities. Release

> Radiopharmaceutical biotech Mariana Oncology has tapped Linda Bain to serve as both chief operating officer and chief financial officer. Prior to Mariana, Bain was CFO at Codiak Biosciences and has also clocked in time at bluebird bio, Genzyme and AstraZeneca, among others. Release  

> CDMO KBI Biopharma is expanding its leadership team, selecting Marykay Marchigiani to serve as chief financial officer and Sigma Mostafa, Ph.D., as chief scientific officer. Before KBI, Marchigiani was CFO for Advanced Bioscience Laboratories, while Mostafa was KBI's SVP and site head for its largest site. Release  

> Swedish company SmartCella has appointed Niklas Prager to helm the organization. Prager has previously held leadership positions at Merck and Pfizer and has served as CEO for Medivir and CellaVision. Release   

> David Howat has joined cancer biotech Ribonexus, taking on the role of chief development officer. Howat has more than three decades of industry experience and has previously served as CDO for Haoma Medica and Evgen Pharma. Release 

> AI-based Tempus is welcoming former National Cancer Institute (NCI) Director Norman "Ned" Sharpless, M.D., on as a senior strategic adviser. Sharpless was NCI’s director from 2017 to 2022 and also served as acting commissioner for food and drugs at the FDA in 2019. Release  

> U.K.-based cancer company Immodulon has chosen Gertjan Bartlema to lead as CEO; Peter Greaney, Ph.D., as chief business officer; and Richard Davies as chair of the board. Bartlema most recently served as CEO of VICO Therapeutics and Greaney previously served as head of corporate development for ADC Therapeutics, while Davies is currently deputy chair of Alvotech’s board. Release   

> Andera Partners is bringing on Stefan Keitel as a senior adviser in hopes of bulking up its presence in German, Austrian and Swiss private equity markets. Keitel most recently served as CEO of Harald Quandt Holding. Release