Chutes & Ladders—Longtime BioMarin CEO hands baton off to Genentech chief

 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. 

Longtime BioMarin CEO hands baton off to Genentech chief


Jean-Jacques Bienaime
Jean-Jacques Bienaimé (BioMarin)

In pharma executive leadership terms, 18 years is an eternity. For comparison, that’s longer than the entire tenure of Robert Bradway at Amgen, who himself is a pharmaceutical staple. 

But such was the length of Jean-Jacques Bienaimé’s tenure at the helm of BioMarin. Still, all good things must come to an end, and Bienaimé is hanging it up. The rare disease drug developer is not looking far for a replacement. Taking over will be Genentech CEO Alexander Hardy, from a company headquartered just a few miles south of BioMarin’s Marin County campus.

BioMarin says the announcement followed a “multi-year succession planning process.” Hardy takes over a company that in the years since Bienaimé’s appointment has grown to about 3,000 employees and three commercial products. BioMarin recently reported $581.3 million in third-quarter earnings, a 15% increase compared to the same period a year ago. 

Genentech will, for now, stick with interim CEO Ashley Magargee, who leads the U.S. commercial portfolio. She’s been temporarily guiding the company since Hardy’s “recent sabbatical.” Fierce Pharma 

J&J’s cancer R&D chief to retire 

Johnson & Johnson

J&J’s oncology R&D team is transitioning from the leadership of Peter Lebowitz, M.D., Ph.D., to Yusri Elsayed, M.D., Ph.D., effective Jan. 1, 2024. The healthcare giant said Lebowitz will retire after a “remarkable career” that included overseeing a group that delivered 14 novel medicines. 

He oversaw work on therapies such as small molecules, advanced biologics, cell therapies, vaccine platforms, translational research, diagnostics and immuno-oncology therapies. Lebowitz’s efforts also helped J&J secure dozens of deals in key indications. 

Elsayed, meanwhile, will rise from his role as vice president and head of the hematologic malignancies group at J&J. He has worked at the company for more than 18 years. Prior to J&J, he briefly worked at Bristol Myers Squibb. Release

Viridian taps ex-Magenta CFO for chief executive job 

Viridian Therapeutics 

Magenta Therapeutics had a tough go of it after the death of a patient in a clinical trial halted the study and ultimately spurred the closure of the entire company. Now, one executive of the company has found a new landing spot. 

Stephen Mahoney, Magenta’s former chief financial and operating officer, has been named the CEO of Viridian Therapeutics and a member of the board. Before Magenta, Mahoney was the president and chief operating officer of Kiniksa Pharmaceuticals and led commercial work for Synageva Biopharma Corp. 

Mahoney’s hiring comes after previous CEO Scott Myers officially departed on the company Oct. 29. In addition to Mahoney’s arrival, the company unveiled a couple of new FcRn inhibitors and announced a $185 million private placement. Release

> Dren Bio has tapped Amit Mehta, Ph.D., to serve as the company’s chief operating officer and chief business officer. Mehta joins after an 18-year run at Roche’s Genentech, where he was most recently VP and head of business development. Release

> Vir Biotechnology has chosen Jennifer Towne, Ph.D., to serve as EVP and chief scientific officer starting Nov. 6. Towne joins Vir from Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen pharmaceutical arm, where she most recently held the role of SVP, immunology discovery and external innovation. Release

> Third Harmonic Bio’s chief scientific officer Adrian Ray, Ph.D., has transitioned to the role of scientific adviser, while Chief Financial Officer Robert Ho is set to exit the company Nov. 10. The inflammatory-disease-focused biotech has initiated a search for their successors. Release

> Amarin has appointed Jonathan Provoost to serve as EVP, chief legal and compliance officer starting Nov. 15. He most recently served as Tris Pharma’s VP, general counsel and chief compliance officer and has past experience at Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals' Ikaria, Kos Pharmaceuticals and Bristol Myers Squibb. Release

> Lexicon is bringing on Matthew Cullen to serve as VP of value and access as well as Lisa DeFrancesco to serve as head of investor relations and corporate strategy. Before Lexicon, Cullen was VP of value, access and policy at Apellis Pharmaceuticals, while DeFrancesco most recently served as SVP of investor relations and corporate affairs for Amarin Pharma. Release

> Medicenna Therapeutics is reducing its U.S. presence with Chief Financial Officer Jeff Caravella and Chief Business Officer Brent Meadows departing the company. Medicenna will now seek a CFO who is familiar with the Toronto Stock Exchange. Fierce Biotech

> RS BioTherapeutics has promoted Michelle Shuffett, M.D., to serve as chief medical officer. Shuffett joined the company in May as SVP of medical and scientific affairs and has previous experience at Boehringer Ingelheim. Release

> Sangamo Therapeutics is laying off 162 employees—equivalent to 40% of its U.S. workforce. As part of the restructuring, Chief Operating Officer D. Mark McClung and Chief Scientific Officer Jason Fontenot, Ph.D., will both be heading for the exit. Fierce Biotech

> Cell therapy biotech cTRL Therapeutics has chosen Derrell Porter, M.D., to helm the company. Porter most recently served as founder and CEO of Cellevolve Bio and has held past roles at Atara Bio, Gilead Sciences, AbbVie, Amgen and McKinsey & Company. Release

> Ocuphire Pharma is welcoming George Magrath, M.D., aboard as CEO. Magrath most recently led Lexitas Pharmaceutical Services through its acquisition by QHP Capital. Release

> Storm Therapeutics has selected Marguerite Hutchinson to serve as the biotech’s chief business officer. Hutchinson was previously the chief operating officer and general counsel fo Daiichi Sankyo’s Plexxikon. Release

> Myriad Genetics has chosen Sam Raha as chief operating officer, effective Dec. 11. Raha has previously served as Agilent’s president of diagnostics and genomics group and Illumina’s VP of global marketing. Release

> Gate Bioscience has exited stealth with $60 million in hand and a roster of leaders onboard, including: Jordi Mata-Fink, Ph.D., co-founder and CEO; Pat Sharp, Ph.D., scientific co-founder and VP of discovery science; Raman Talwar, co-founder and chief technology officer; and Brian Cathers, Ph.D., chief scientific officer. Release

> Seattle-based ProfoundBio is adding a couple of key hires to its executive team, naming Erin Lavelle as chief operating officer and chief financial officer and Kevin Hambly as chief business officer. Lori Kunkel, M.D., has also been tapped to lead the company's scientific advisory board. Release

> 4DMT has called on Alan Cohen, M.D., to be the therapeutic head of the pulmonary division. One of his most recent roles was as SVP and chief medical officer of gene editing biotech Metagenomi. Release

> RNA biotech Senisca is swapping executive positions, with former Chief Operating Officer Sarah Cole, Ph.D., now taking on the role of CEO, while former CEO Kirsty Semple assumes the role of COO. Semple served as launch CEO since January 2020, while Cole joined Senisca in March 2023. Release

> Endeavor BioMedicines has elected Paul Frohna, M.D., Ph.D., to serve as its chief medical officer. Frohna joins from ImCheck Therapeutics, where he was CMO and head of R&D, and has held past roles at Bioniz Therapeutics, Receptos, ProFibrix, Fibrogen and Roche’s Genentech. Release

> Cognito Therapeutics has chosen Christian Howell as chief commercial officer. Howell joins the neurotech company from Aetion’s medical device and diagnostic group, where he was SVP and general manager. Release

> Spatial multi-omics developer Stellaromics has appointed Todd Dickinson as president and CEO. Dickinson previously held technical and commercial executive roles at Illumina and Bionano Genomics and most recently served as CEO of Cantata Bio. Fierce Medtech