Chutes & Ladders—Merck scouts for CEO replacements after scrapping retirement rule


Chutes and Ladders
Welcome 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 Conor Hale, and we will feature it here at the end of each week.

Merck scouts CEO replacement less than a year after scrapping retirement rule

Ken Frazier

According to reports, the company is looking for a replacement for CEO Ken Frazier. 

Less than a year ago, Merck’s board scrapped a company policy that CEOs must retire at the age of 65, a move designed to keep long-term helmsman Frazier on board. But now, the Big Pharma is preparing for his exit and is searching for potential replacements with a preference for an internal candidate, according to Bloomberg. Chief Commercial Officer Frank Clyburn, Chief Financial Officer Robert Davis and Chief Marketing Officer Michael Nally are seen as potential replacements. The drugmaker is also getting ready for the departure of R&D head Roger Perlmutter, according to the report. FiercePharma

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After losing its CMO to the FDA, Flatiron Health nabs biopharma vet

Flatiron Health
Michael Vasconcelles joins the company as chief medical officer.

Following its $2 billion buyout by Roche last winter, Flatiron Health's new CMO will help oversee the company's vision for bringing real-world evidence to clinical research as well as its partnerships with stakeholders and government agencies to enable its use in regulatory submissions. Vasconcelles joins just a few months after former CMO Amy Abernethy jumped ship to become a deputy commissioner at the FDA. He is a cancer researcher and former executive at Unum Therapeutics, Takeda and Genzyme. FierceMedTech

Ex-Medicines Company exec lands at Scynexis

Scynexis logo

Nkechi Azie will be VP of clinical development.

Formerly the infectious disease head at The Medicines Company, Azie joins the antifungal specialist biotech just a few months after Scynexis posted new data from its phase 3 trial of ibrexafungerp, which aims to be a first-in-class oral drug, in invasive yeast infections among high-risk patients. Ibrexafungerp is a glucan synthase inhibitor but has a novel structure that Scynexis says combines high antifungal activity with the potential to be delivered both intravenously and orally. FierceBiotech

> Robert Forrester resigned as CEO of Verastem, and COO Dan Paterson will lead the company in the interim while it looks for a permanent successor with commercial chops. Forrester had replaced Christoph Westphal as CEO of Verastem in 2013, guiding the company through a turbulent period defined by the failure of its lead candidate and subsequent regrouping around an AbbVie castoff, the PI3K inhibitor duvelisib, which won FDA approval last year in leukemia and lymphoma indications. FierceBiotech

> To move its assets closer to the clinic, Schrödinger has hired Merck's Duncan Hamish Wright as VP of translational science and Eisai's W. George Lai to lead its PK/PD and drug metabolism group. The moves come weeks after Schrödinger pulled in $110 million to fund its evolution into a biotech with an internal pipeline. Wright spent more than 15 years at Merck, rising from clinical monitor to executive director for business development and licensing. Lai spent more than a decade at Eisai heading up the DMPK department after nine years at Boehringer Ingelheim. FierceBiotech

> Becton Dickinson appointed Puneet Sarin as worldwide president of BD Biosciences, makers of clinical and research instruments and analyzers, as well as custom and bulk reagents. Sarin was previously senior VP and general manager of the chemistry and immunoassay unit at Danaher's Beckman Coulter arm. Release

> Metabolic disease-focused Comet Therapeutics debuted with $28.5 million and biopharma veteran David De Graaf as CEO. De Graaf was previously president and CEO of Syntimmune, which was purchased by Alexion Pharmaceuticals last year. FierceBiotech

> Sanofi plans to cut 466 jobs in France and Germany as part of the reorganization of its R&D group in a pivot away from cardiovascular diseases and toward immuno-oncology drugs and gene therapies while retaining its diabetes pipeline. FierceBiotech

> John Conway, formerly head of AstraZeneca MedImmune's research and development IT and informatics work, has joined Riffyn to serve as chief commercial officer of the cloud software and data analytics company. He also previously was global director of R&D innovation and thought leadership at Accenture, and global director of strategy at LabAnswer. Release

> Cofactor Genomics appointed Steven Daniel as VP of business development. Daniel joins from ArcherDX where he was senior director of applied sciences and business development. Release

> F-star Therapeutics hired Darlene Deptula-Hicks as CFO to take the place of Tolga Hassan, who was promoted to COO. Previously, Deptula-Hicks held finance roles at Northern Biologics, Pieris Pharmaceuticals, Microline Surgical and T2 Biosystems. Last week, F-star poached Louis Kayitalire, Bristol-Myers Squibb's VP of immuno-oncology, to serve as CMO. Release

> Maze Therapeutics promoted Jason Coloma from COO to CEO, succeeding interim head Charles Homcy, who now will take on the role of chairman of the board of directors. Additionally, the company brought on Matt Krause from Global Blood Therapeutics as senior VP of human resources. Release

> Ultragenyx Pharmaceutical promoted Erik Harris to executive VP and chief commercial officer. Harris joined the company in 2017 as senior VP and head of North American commercial operations. In his new role, he will be responsible for all commercial operations in North America, Europe and Latin America. Release

> Motus GI Holdings named Steven Bosrock as VP of global marketing and strategy and George Peters as VP of quality and regulatory affairs following a recent FDA clearance of its colonoscopy prep regimen. Bosrock previously served as VP of marketing at Torax Medical, while Peters was VP of quality systems at Flowonix Medical. Release

> Veravas hired Joshua Soldo as chief scientific officer and Carmen Wiley as chief clinical officer. Soldo held roles in cardiac-focused medical and scientific affairs at Roche Diagnostics and also was VP of scientific affairs at Anteo Diagnostics, while Wiley was a regional manager of scientific affairs at Roche Diagnostics. She is also currently the president of the American Association for Clinical Chemistry. Release

> Women In Bio selected Shehnaaz Suliman and Melanie Kleinschek as co-chairs for its Executive Women In Bio program and Kelly Huang and Elese Hanson as co-chairs for its Boardroom Ready program. Suliman serves on the boards of Ultragenyx and Parvus Therapeutics and previously held leadership positions at Gilead Sciences, Genentech, Roche and Theravance, where Kleinschek currently serves as VP of biology and pharmacology. Huang began in sales and marketing at IBM and moved to business development at Monsanto Greater China. Hanson, meanwhile, is a founding leader of Boardroom Ready and helped establish the program in 2016. Release (PDF)

> John Crowley, chairman and CEO of Amicus Therapeutics, joined Entrada Therapeutics as an independent board member. Crowley also co-founded Novazyme Pharmaceuticals and served as president and CEO until it was acquired by Genzyme in 2001. Release 

> Boehringer Ingelheim opened a new inhaler plant in Spain soon after adding production lines to its plants in Germany, bringing its recent investments in the Respimat inhaler to about €225 million. The €120 million facility in Barcelona has a capacity of up to 25 million Respimat inhalers and comes with 200 new jobs. FiercePharmaManufacturing

> Catalent's buying spree continues with the purchase of Bristol-Myers Squibb's biologics site in Italy with a long history in solid-dose production. The plant and its 700 employees make a wide variety of products including cancer and cardiology drugs, which Catalent will continue to produce for Bristol-Myers. FiercePharmaManufacturing

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