Chutes & Ladders—Merck KGaA's US wing names Miguel Fernández Alcalde new COO

 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. 

Side note: This extremely small photo of a parachute is emblematic of our micro column this week due to the shorter work week. Larger parachutes and a larger column returning next week. 

Merck KGaA’s U.S. wing names new COO 

Miguel Fernández Alcalde
Miguel Fernández Alcalde (LinkedIn)

EMD Serono 

Merck KGaA’s U.S. wing, EMD Serono, is shoring up its executive ranks, naming Miguel Fernández Alcalde as chief operating officer, according to an emailed announcement from a press contact. He’s a transplant from the company’s home base in Darmstadt, Germany, where he ascended to VP of global business excellence and head of CEO office healthcare over the course of nine and a half years. He joined in 2014 as a marketing manager based in Spain after holding similar roles at AstraZeneca beforehand. His first roles in the industry were at Eli Lilly and Janssen. 

His hiring comes as Merck KGaA plots a greater reliance on external innovation to bolster its pipeline. At the company’s R&D day in November 2022, execs said they’re striving for 50% of future products to come from external deals with the hopes of launching a new product every 18 months. 

But that’s meant to the pharmaceutical company “leaner,” execs said at the time. Two months later, EMD Serono confirmed it was cutting 133 jobs from a Massachusetts outpost, roughly 11% of the company’s entire U.S. workforce.

> Former ViaCyte CFO Alyssa Levin is joining Nkarta as the company’s new chief financial and business officer. She replaces Nadir Mahmood, who resigned in March to be the CEO at another private biotech, which has yet to be unveiled. Release

> FSD Pharma co-founder Zeeshan Saeed has been elevated to CEO after serving as president. He replaces fellow co-founder Anthony Durkacz who has been interim CEO for two years. Release

> Edirna unveiled its leadership team, with Christopher Kennedy as CEO steering the ship. He previously was CEO of Elixell Therapeutics for three years. Release

> Anders Månsson will take over as CEO of Norwegian biotech Oncoinvent on Sept. 1, the company announced this week. He previously was the CEO of platform tech company LIDDS. Release

> Shareholders in Alkermes have blocked a challenge from Sarissa Capital, reelecting seven board members and rejecting three nominees from the activist investor. Sarissa failed to find sufficient support from shareholders for its board nominees Alex Denner, Ph.D., Sarah Schlesinger, M.D., and Patrice Bonfiglio. Fierce Pharma

> Longeveron has chosen Nataliya Agafonova, M.D., to be the company’s chief medical officer after K. Chris Min, M.D., Ph.D., stepped down from the role June 30. Most recently, Agafonova served as clinical development lead, senior medical director and product development chair for Otsuka Pharmaceutical and before that worked at Bristol-Myers Squibb. Release

> Lyell Immunopharma has tapped Matthew Lang to serve as the cell therapy biotech’s chief business officer. Lang will be the first to take on the role at Lyell and joins from Myovant Sciences, with previous experience at Gilead. Release

> England-based Metrion Biosciences is shaking up its leadership team, promoting appointments of Robert Kirby, Ph.D., to chief operating officer and Edward Stevens, Ph.D., to chief scientific officer. Kirby was previously Metrion’s director of operations, while Stevens had been director of drug discovery. Release

> Akamis Bio has appointed Oliver Rosen, M.D., to be the oncology company’s chief medical officer, Peter Kosa, Ph.D., as chief business officer and Samantha Bailey-Bucktrout, Ph.D., as SVP and head of research. Rosen has clocked in time at DynamiCure, SQZ Biotechnologies, Deciphera Pharmaceuticals, Takeda and Roche’s Genentech; Kosa joins from the Myeloma Investment Fund and has worked at bluebird bio, Novartis and Bayer, among others; and Bailey-Bucktrout joined Akamis last year and most recently held the role of SVP and head of research after previously working at Pfizer. Release