Chutes & Ladders—Longtime J&J exec retiring after 17 years

 Chutes and LaddersWelcome to this week's Chutes & Ladders, our roundup of significant leadership hirings, firings and retirings across the industry. Please send the good word—or the bad—from your shop to Gabrielle Masson and it will be featured here at the end of each week. 

Longtime J&J exec set to retire after 17 years 

Johnson & Johnson

Longtime J&J exec Willaim Hait, M.D., Ph.D., is set to retire this fall after a 17-year run with the Big Pharma. 

william hait
William Hait, M.D., Ph.D. (Johnson & Johnson)

Hait, who currently serves as executive vice president and chief external innovation and medical officer, plans to exit J&J this September.  

The CMO joined back in 2007 as senior vice president and therapeutic area head of hematology and oncology for J&J’s Janssen arm. From 2011 to 2018, Hait also served as global head of innovative medicine R&D, taking up the role again as interim head between 2022 and 2023. Under his leadership, the pharma’s innovative medicine unit launched more than 20 new products, including Imbruvica, Tremfya and Zytiga.

Before J&J, Hait was the founding director of the Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey, the state’s first and only National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center. He also served as a professor and associate dean for oncology programs at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School.

When asked about a succession plan, J&J told Fierce Biotech that it didn't have any further information to share. Fierce Biotech 

Bayer’s top biotech leader leaves


Jens Vogel
Jens Vogel, Ph.D. (Bayer Fund)

Amid Bayer’s wide-scale restructure, SVP and Global Head of Biotech Jens Vogel, Ph.D., has departed. 

Vogel joined Bayer in March 2020, clocking in almost 11 years at Boehringer Ingelheim before that.  

The company generally doesn’t comment on colleagues’ departure decisions, a Bayer spokesperson told Fierce Biotech. However, Bayer’s new Global Head of Biologics Manufacturing Tina Self confirmed in an interview that the head biotech role no longer exists amid Bayer’s redesign. 

The organizational redesign includes regrouping teams into “clusters,” with Self helming the “biologics manufacturing capability cluster.”  

Tina Self
Tina Self (Bayer)

Self, who stepped into her new role June 1, was most recently vice president and site manager of Bayer Berkeley, a 46-acre site in California. She also now serves as the Berkeley campus’s site head, the first female leader to ever take on that role at Bayer. Fierce Biotech 

Former Kite exec takes the reins at new Versant-founded biotech  

Santa Ana Bio

Versant Ventures-founded biotech Santa Ana has publicly emerged with $168 million and Peter Emtage, Ph.D., as CEO. 

Emtage, who is also a Versant partner, previously served as the global head of cell therapy research at Gilead Sciences' Kite Pharma. Before that, he was chief scientific officer at Cell Design Labs, which was acquired by Gilead.

The biotech, which is going after inflammatory disease, also has several big names on board as scientific founders, such as internationally renowned immunologist Alexander Rudensky, Ph.D.; the top cited American immunologist Richard Flavell, Ph.D.; British researcher and professor Graham Lord, M.D., Ph.D.; and founding director of the Stanford Center for Immunotherapy Design Ansu Satpathy, M.D., Ph.D. Fierce Biotech 

> Regenxbio co-founder Kenneth Mills is stepping down from his spot as CEO and president after 15 years. Chief Operating Officer Curran Simpson, who has been with Regenxbio since January 2023, will take the top spot starting July 1. Release

> Doug Williamson, M.D., has been appointed chief medical officer of neurodegenerative disease biotech QurAlis, replacing Angela Genge, M.D., who will stay on at QurAlis in a consultant role. Williamson’s nearly 30 years of biopharma experience includes stops at Eli Lilly, Parexel, Lundbeck and, most recently, Acadia Pharmaceuticals. Release

> In yet another CMO switch-up, ocular gene therapy developer Adverum Biotechnologies tapped Rabia Gurses Ozden, M.D., to serve as its medical chief. Ozden previously held the CMO title at Ocular Therapeutix and Nightstar Therapeutics, as well as other leadership roles at GSK, Bausch & Lomb, Carl Zeiss Meditec and more. She snagged a spot on Adverum’s board in 2022, from which she’ll now step down to take on the CMO role. Release

> Barry Quart, Pharm.D., who most recently spent a decade as CEO of Heron Therapeutics, has been named chief executive of Connect Biopharma. He replaces Zheng Wei, Ph.D., co-founder of the company, who will stay on in an advisory role throughout the transition and will also remain a member of Connect’s board. Meanwhile, the company selected another Heron alum, David Szekeres, to serve as president. Release

> In a twist of fate, J. Scott Wolchko will resume his previous role as chief financial officer of Fate Therapeutics, in addition to his current title of president and CEO. Wolchko initially joined Fate at its founding in 2007 as chief operating and financial officer, then took on the president-CEO role in late 2015, though he held onto the CFO title until 2020. He’ll tack the title back on without any changes to his compensation, per an SEC filing, following Edward Dulac’s resignation from the CFO role, effective June 14. Release

> As Triveni Bio gears up to send its lead asset to the clinic next year, the immunology and dermatology biotech has appointed Bhaskar Srivastava, M.D., Ph.D., as chief medical officer. Srivastava previously spent about three years at Nimbus Therapeutics and, before that, logged five years in leadership roles on the clinical development team at Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen. Release

> RenovoRx is expanding its leadership team with the appointment of Ryan Witt to the newly created role of head of corporate strategy and partnerships, making him a senior VP of the company. Witt previously held leadership roles at Spinogenix, Immix Biopharma and the UCLA Biodesign’s Medtech & Digital Health Innovation Hub, among others. For the last year, he’d also served as a consultant to RenovoRx. Release

> Nucleome Therapeutics’ CEO, Danuta Jeziorska, has stepped down after more than six years at the head of the company, according to a LinkedIn post. Under Jeziorska’s leadership, the University of Oxford spinout developed a portfolio of first-in-class targets, the most advanced of which is now “set on a path to enter drug discovery stage in the near future,” she said in her post. Jeziorska also led the company through two investment rounds. Release

> Oligonucleotide specialist PepGen is rounding out the week with a pair of promotions. Michelle Mellion, M.D., has been elevated to the role of chief medical officer, while Hayley Parker, Ph.D., has been named the company’s new SVP of global regulatory affairs. Mellion joined PepGen as SVP and head of clinical development. Parker, for her part, started at the company as VP of regulatory affairs. Release

> Deep Genomics is adding a slew of talent to its executive roster. Radu Dobrin, Ph.D., will join in the role of chief technology officer, coming over from Pathos AI. Gregg Hoffman, Ph.D., who hails from Arbor Biotechnologies, will don the mantle of chief scientific officer. Joel Shor, who comes from Alphabet’s Verily Life Sciences, is set to become VP and head of machine learning. And, lastly, Clive Bertrarm, formerly the chief commercial officer at ObsEva, is filling the role of chief business officer. Release

> Plus Therapeutics is bidding adieu to its chief medical officer, Norman LaFrance, M.D., who tendered his resignation on June 5. LaFrance’s departure went into effect on June 12, Plus said in a securities filing. Release

> Cybin, which is developing psychedelic-based treatments for mental health, has tapped Atul Mahableshwarkar, M.D., as its senior vice president of clinical development. In his role, Mahableshwarkar will lead development of CYB003, the company’s deuterated psilocybin analog for major depressive disorder. Mahableshwarker is a board certified psychiatrist and has served as site principal investigator for industry-sponsored trials. Release

> Drug discovery partner Newcells Biotech is shaking things up in the C-suite and within its commercial team. Valeria Chichagova—previously the company’s associate director of iPSC technology and head of retina—has been promoted to director of technology. Meanwhile, the company’s chief innovation officer, Colin Brown, is moving up to the role of chief scientific officer. Plus, Newcells’ co-founder, Lyle Armstrong, is set to become the company’s scientific advisor. Newcells also announced new commercial appointments within its U.S. team. Release

> Leerink Partners has tapped Evan Karp to serve as senior managing director of derivatives. Karp joins the healthcare investor from Cowen and Company, where he was the managing director of equity derivatives for the past four years. Release