Chutes & Ladders—Merck loses another top exec, this time to Moderna

 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, and we will feature it here at the end of each week.

Moderna plucks Merck marketing head Garay to be new CCO


Arpa Garay

Merck continues to see top brass get poached by rivals, this time by Moderna. The Cambridge-based pharma behind one of the top COVID vaccines plucked Arpa Garay to be its new chief commercial officer. 

While at Merck, Garay was chief marketing officer of the company's human health team, a position she was promoted to just two months ago in February. In that role, she oversaw global marketing and portfolio strategy. But after nearly 16 years at the company, she's been able to try her hand at all facets of the biopharma business. Her most recent position before her promotion was as president of global oncology as digital but she's also helped run other divisions and franchises including vaccines, diabetes and migraines. She started in 2006 as an associate marketing director. 

Now at Moderna, she'll be tasked with running the young company's commercial operation as it hopes to prove it's not just a one-hit wonder with the COVID vaccine. Fierce Biotech

Wall Street vet Gal ditches market research to lead Novartis strategy unit


Ronny Gal

After more than 20 years of lending insight and research on Wall Street, Ronny Gal is jumping over to the industry to lead a newly launched business development unit at Novartis as it eyes possible M&As. The new position will oversee the recently created Growth and Strategy unit tasked with merging business development, R&D and corporate strategy. 

Gal comes after more than 20 years as an industry analyst focused on the biopharmaceutical industry, most recently at Sanford Bernstein. Novartis described him as a "thought leader" in the healthcare sector for his popular research on issues ranging from drug delivery to technology platforms. Now at Novartis, he'll be contributing his insight to help guide the company towards a more lucrative pipeline. Emblematic of the importance placed on the new role, he'll report directly to CEO Vas Narasimhan and join the company's executive team. Fierce Biotech

2 members of Nektar's C-suite depart amid pipeline shakeup, layoffs

Nektar Therapeutics

Two of Nektar Therapeutic's C-suite members, Chief Medical Officer Dimitry Nuyten, Ph.D., and Chief Commercial Officer John Northcott are headed for the exit as a company reorganization resulted in 70% of the workforce being cut. The departures were announced amid news of a larger pipeline shakeup. 

The changes are the aftermath of the company's phase 3 failure testing its most developed asset bempegaldesleukin with Bristol Myers Squibb's Opdivo. It was the last attempt for the med, nicknamed bempeg, to show its worth after proving inadequate as a monotherapy. To further heighten the stakes, bempeg was at the center of a once-historic $3.6 billion licensing deal between the two companies announced in 2018. After its most recent late-stage flop, reality set in that the partnership was unlikely to bear as much fruit as was once hoped. As a result, both companies decided to close up shop. Looking ahead, Nektar is banking on its IL-15 agonist, NKTR-255, and its autoimmune med, NKTR-358, to help salvage a commercial future. Fierce Biotech

> Amid a pipeline realignment and corporate restructure, BridgeBio's Chief Strategy Officer Cameron Turtle is departing the company. A confounding phase 3 failure announced in December 2021 prompted the company's shares to free fall and spurned two rounds of layoffs in 2022. Fierce Biotech

> Solid Biosciences Chief Operating Officer Joel Schneider, Ph.D., is heading for the exit after the company announced it would shrink its workforce by more than a third. It's the second time in as many years that Solid's COO has departed, after Alvaro Amorrortu, M.B.A. left in 2020 during an earlier round of layoffs. Fierce Biotech

> Caladrius Biosciences and Cend Therapeutics are fusing their operations and subsequently, their executive teams, to form Lisata Therapeutics. Caladrius CEO David Mazzo, Ph.D., and Chief Medical Officer Kristen Buck, M.D., will keep their same roles at the new venture, while Cend CEO David Slack will maneuver to president and chief business officer. Fierce Biotech

> Christine Berndt, Ph.D., is joining STADA as head of global development specialties and biosimilars after almost two years at MorphoSys. Prior to that, she spent six years at Sandoz Pharmaceuticals ascending to the global program head overseeing biosimilars. Release

> Former Baxter International General Counsel Sean Martin is joining Generate Biomedicines as chief legal officer and general counsel. While at Baxter, Marin oversaw legal and compliance decisions including the company's acquisition of Hillrom, its largest buy to-date. Release

> Carisma Therapeutics is handing the reins of future development over to the company's co-founder, naming Michael Klichinsky, Ph.D., as its new chief scientific officer. In 2016, Klichinsky co-founded the company based on his work developing chimeric antigen receptor macrophages. Release

> Ophthalmology-focused Vedere Bio II is trusting Anna-Maria Demetriades, M.D., Ph.D., to see out the company's clinical vision, naming her chief medical officer. Prior to joining Vedere, Demetriades was the lead clinician of Genentech's phase 3 program for Vabysmo, its now-FDA-approved treatment for neovascular age-related macular degeneration. Release

> Doug Pagán is joining Jnana Therapeutics as its new chief financial officer to steer the company's finances and capital allocation. He moves over from Dicerna Pharmaceuticals where in the same role he helped oversee the company's $3.3 billion sale to Novo Nordisk. Release

> Chimera Bioengineering has named Vlad Hogenhuis, M.D., as its CEO, hoping the former GSK oncology head will help see out the company's ambitions of expanding CAR-Ts into solid tumors. Sandwiched between his time at GSK and his new role, Hogenhuis was the chief operating officer at Ultragenyx Pharmaceuticals. Release

> Pittsburgh-based BlueSphere Bio has hired Robert Keefe, Ph.D., as chief development officer to help build and manufacture the company's first clinical asset. Before joining the early-stage biotech, Keefe led chemistry, manufacturing and controls for cell and gene therapies at AstraZeneca. Release

> Y-mAbs Therapeutics CEO and board chairman Claus Moller has stepped down effective immediately, with no reason listed for the departure. He'll be replaced on an interim basis by Y-mAbs founder, president and chairman Thomas Gad. Release

> George Diaz, M.D., Ph.D., is maneuvering from the classroom to the clinic, shedding his professor and department head roles at Mount Sinai roles to become VP and therapeutic area lead for urea cycle disorders at iECURE. In his new gig, he'll oversee clinical development of the company's UCD programs. Release

> I-Mab made two additions to its executive team, tapping Richard Yeh as chief operating officer and John Hayslip, M.D., as chief medical officer. Yeh joins after a CFO stint at Abbisko Therapeutics, while Hayslip joins after heading up clinical development at Nektar Therapeutics. Release

> Flare Therapeutics is bringing on Adrian Jubb, M.B., Ph.D., to chart the company's evolution from drug discovery to clinical development. The company hopes its bet on transcription can help with breakthrough in precision medicine. Release

> The Alliance for Regenerative Medicine is looking for a new leader after CEO Janet Lynch Lambert announced she'd be stepping down. Under her tenure, the advocacy organization's  budget and staff size tripled. Release

Homology Medicines Chief Scientific Officer Albert Seymour, Ph.D., is tacking on extra duties after being named president of the homology unit. In addition to overseeing the company's pipeline development, he'll now be responsible for commercial activities and human resources. Release