Chutes & Ladders—Mirati CEO steps down after Krazati's hot and cold spell

 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. 

Mirati CEO Meek steps down after Krazati’s hot and cold spell

Mirati Therapeutics

David Meek

A topsy-turvy year for Mirati Therapeutics has taken its latest turn, with CEO David Meek stepping down this week effective immediately. The move has forced outgoing president Charles Baum, M.D., Ph.D., to place his own departure plans on hold, taking the CEO reins on an interim basis. Meek will stay on as a consultant for the next two months.

No explanation was provided for Meek's departure, though fellow colleagues lauded him in a press release. Mirati Chairman Faheem Hasnain thanked Meek for his “significant impact” to growing the business and overseeing the development and FDA approval of Krazati and Baum said peers “extend our sincere gratitude to David.” 

Mirati was the talk of the town earlier this year, fresh off accelerated approval of KRAS-targeting Krazati in December, setting up a showdown with Amgen’s Lumakras. The approval potential had spurred potential takeover interest at the tail end of the year. The company reported that the med raked in $13.4 million in revenue in the second quarter, above investor expectations. 

But European regulators set the company back last month when they declined to greenlight the treatment, also known as adagrasib. The company has since said that they plan to formally ask the European Medicines Agency to reconsider. A little more than two weeks later, Meek's resignation was announced. Fierce Pharma 

2 more Illumina execs depart amid sinking projections, SEC investigation


Illumina announced during its latest earnings presentation that two more execs are set to leave the company while simultaneously cutting the earnings forecast for this year. The testing giant now expects earnings from its business to roughly stay the same compared to 2022, growing about 1%. The company previously projected growth of 7% to 10%. A subsequent regulatory filing included a potentially even larger concern—Illumina says the US Security and Exchanges Commission reached out in July to let them know they were under investigation and that officials requested documents and communications related to the acquisition of GRAIL. Gulp! 

Illumina will navigate these treacherous waters without Chief Medical Officer Phil Febbo, M.D., and Chief Technology Officer Alex Aravanis, M.D., Ph.D., who are both leaving the company. 

Illumina made no mention of who will replace Febbo but announced Steven Barnard, Ph.D., will replace Aravanis. Barnard was previously VP and head of global advanced science and he’s been a fixture at the company since joining in 1998, notably the fourth employee and first scientist hired. While leading the global advanced science team, Barnard helped launch the NovaSeq X, a state-of-the-art unit that can perform whole genome sequencing, whole exome sequencing and whole transcriptome sequencing. Earnings presentation 

Foghorn to switch up CMO in September after clinical holds stymie progress

Foghorn Therapeutics

Foghorn is making a switch at chief medical officer, with existing exec Sam Agresta, M.D., set to be replaced by Alfonso Quintás-Cardama, M.D., in September. Agresta will provide consulting services through the remainder of the year. 

CEO Adrian Gottschalk thanked Agresta in a release for his contributions over his four-year tenure, during which the company launched its first clinical assets. Foghorn’s lead asset, FHD-286, is in a phase 1 trial though it dealt with a significant clinical hold that last 10 months. The company announced in June that it’d no longer advance the asset as a treatment for uveal melanoma and instead focus on launching a phase 1 combination study in patients with relapsed or refractory acute myeloid leukemia.

Getting that trial off the ground will likely be one of the top priorities for Quintás-Cardama when he takes over. But he’ll also have to work with the FDA to lift a second clinical hold on cancer med FHD-609, which had the clamps placed down in April. The company made no mention of the asset in its second-quarter earnings report earlier this month. Release

> Voyager Therapeutics is welcoming aboard Beth Shafer, Ph.D., to serve as chief business officer. Shafer joins the gene therapy biotech from Takeda, where she most recently held the role of VP and head of R&D business development, gastrointestinal and inflammation, neuroscience, drug discovery sciences, externalizations. Release

> Vivoryon Therapeutics Chief Medical Officer Frank Weber, M.D., is set to take the reins from CEO Ulrich Dauer, Ph.D., on Aug. 14. Weber joined Vivoryon in 2010 and will be supported by the company’s current head of investor relations, Anne Doering, who will step into the newly created position of chief strategy and investor relations officer. Release

> Viracta Therapeutics has tapped Darrel Cohen, M.D., Ph.D., to take on the role of chief medical officer. Before joining the oncology company, Cohen most recently served as CMO of cell therapy at Athenex and has past experience at Biosight Pharmaceuticals, EUSA Pharma, Pharmacia, Sanofi-Aventis and Pfizer. Release

> It’s the week of executive moves for biotechs that start with the letter “V,” and Vigil Neuroscience is no exception. The neurodegenerative-disease-focused company is welcoming Christopher Silber, M.D., on as chief medical officer. The leader joins from Nocion Therapeutics, where he also served as CMO, and before that served as Sage Therapeutics’ SVP of clinical development. Release

Tango Therapeutics Chief Scientific Officer Alan Huang, Ph.D., is ending his dance with the cancer company in October. In his place steps Jannik Andersen, Ph.D., Tango’s current head of biology. Release

> Avalyn Pharma has appointed Howard Lazarus, M.D., to breathe life into its team in the newly formed role of chief medical officer. Lazarus most recently served as CMO for Altavant Sciences (acquired by Enzyvant), and earlier worked at Boehringer Ingelheim and Gilead Sciences. Release

> As Ankyra Therapeutics prepares to bring its first asset to the clinic, the cancer company is welcoming Robert Tighe on as chief scientific officer. He started off his career as a research assistant in the lab of Robert Weinberg, Ph.D., at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and has worked at EMD Serono, Compass Therapeutics and TCR2 Therapeutics since. Release

> Indaptus Therapeutics has tapped Roger Waltzman, M.D., to be the biotech’s chief medical officer. Waltzman joins from Molecular Templates, and has previously held leadership roles at Rgenix (now Inspirna), Jaguar Health and Novartis. Release

> Kytopen has signed on Michael Chiu, Ph.D., to succeed company co-founder Paulo Garcia, Ph.D., as the biotech’s CEO. Prior to Kytopen, Chiu was CEO of Erbi Biosystems, which was acquired by Merck KGaA last year. Release

> Processa Pharmaceuticals has picked George Ng to lead the company as CEO and director of the board. Ng is currently a partner at PENG Life Science Ventures joins Processa from Calidi Biotherapeutics, where he served as president and chief operating officer. Release

> England-based Dunad Therapeutics has selected Jonathan Garen to serve as chief business officer. Before Dunad, Garen was CBO for Nocion Therapeutics and uniQure. Release

> Platform company Auron Therapeutics has hired Christopher Guiffre to serve as president and chief operating officer. Guiffre joins from Pear Therapeutics, where he was chief financial officer and chief operating officer since 2017. Release

> Christophe Arbet-Engels, M.D., Ph.D., is set to join X4 Pharmaceuticals as chief medical officer. He previously held the CMO spot at several other biopharmas and also held a range of senior positions at Biogen, Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals, Hoffmann-La Roche, Merck Research Laboratories, Aventis Pharmaceuticals and Ligand Pharmaceuticals. Release

> AI Proteins Chief Operating Officer Noah Beerman is taking the lead as CEO of the biotech. Former CEO Drew Dennison has stepped down but will continue to chair the nominating and governance committee and serve as a board director. Release

> Deciphera Pharmaceuticals founder, EVP and Chief Scientific Officer Daniel Flynn, Ph.D., is set to retire Sept. 5. Dashyant Dhanak, Ph.D., Incyte’s EVP and CSO, will take Flynn’s place. Release