Chutes & Ladders—Moderna CMO hits exit amid COVID-19 vaccine rollout

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


Moderna's CMO Zaks quits for 'next leg of his career' after swift move to commercial focus

Moderna Therapeutics
Tal Zaks, M.D., Ph.D., is stepping down as CMO.

Zaks will take his exit in September following six years with Moderna. The biotech quietly unveiled Zak's departure near the end of its recent earnings report, which focused heavily on manufacturing for the company's mRNA-based COVID-19 vaccine. The company says it's retained Russel Reynolds to “recruit for a new CMO with global and commercial experience." That commercial experience will be key, as Moderna has rapidly transitioned from an early clinical biotech to one of the few drugmakers with an authorized pandemic vaccine on the market. Fierce Biotech


Novellus becomes Fore Biotherapeutics as it completes pivot from diagnostics to precision oncology

Fore Biotherapeutics
Usama Malik signs on as CEO

Malik joins as chief executive at Fore Biotherapeutics as the company completes its transformation from NovellusDx. Novellus began its life as a diagnostics company, but has pivoted towards cancer therapeutics, courtesy of a BRAF drug it picked up from Daiichi Sankyo and a $57 million raise to shepherd it through the clinic. Malik joins from Immunomedics, where he helped orchestrate the company's $21 billion sale to Gilead. Fore also tapped Dieter Weinand, who's held posts at Bayer, Sanofi, Pfizer and Bristol Myers Squibb, as chairman of its board. Fierce Biotech


Daiichi Sankyo poaches Kite's research lead Takeshita from parent Gilead

Daiichi Sankyo
Ken Takeshita, M.D., becomes global head of R&D.

Takeshita is joining Daiichi as global head of research and development as the Japanese drugmaker looks to carve out a spot as a major cancer R&D player. Takeshita signs on after a two-year run at Gilead's Kite Pharma, where he was senior vice president and global head of development as well as its interim head of research. Daiichi's oncology star is rising, thanks to its recently approved antibody-drug conjugate cancer drug Enhertu and a pact with AstraZeneca.Takeshita will take over for Junichi Koga, Ph.D., who's retiring from the company after 12 years. Fierce Biotech


> Kira Pharma has tapped Richard Lee, M.D., as chief medical officer; Dana Zhang, M.D., as chief commercial officer; and Kathy He as chief business officer. Lee and Zhang both come over from Alexion, where Lee was head of hematology and Zhang served as Alexion's general manager for greater China. She held roles at Takeda, Merck and Abbott before starting her own biotech company and moving into venture capital. Fierce Biotech

> Intercept's chief medical officer, Jason Campagna, M.D., Ph.D., will take his leave early next month. The company didn't say why Campagna was leaving or where he might end up next. As it looks for a replacement, Gail Cawkwell, M.D., Ph.D., will serve as acting CMO. Fierce Biotech

> PYC Therapeutics has named Glenn Noronha, Ph.D., as chief development officer. With more than 20 years of research and leadership experience, Noronha joins PYC after stints at BridgeBio Pharma, Clearside Biomedical and Alcon.

> Gene therapy developer Aevitas Therapeutics named Markus Peters, Ph.D., as CEO. Most recently, Peters was the chief operating officer at Gemini Therapeutics and served as chief commercial officer of Agilis Biotherapeutics before that. The company also added Catherine Bowes Rickman, Ph.D., to its scientific advisory board to help advance its program for dry AMD. Release

> South San Francisco's Graphite Bio tapped Jerry Cacia as chief technical officer. Cacia will spearhead manufacturing strategy and technical operations for the company's gene editing programs as they advance toward the clinic. Most recently, Cacia served as head of global technical development at Roche. Release

> Paragon Biosciences signed on Jordan Dubow, M.D., as chief medical officer. Before joining the Paragon team, Dubow was chief medical officer at Avadel Pharmaceuticals. He also served as vice president of CNS therapeutic strategy at Esteve Pharmaceuticals and was vice president of clinical and medical affairs at Clintrex. Release

> Hyperfine Research tapped Khalil Salman, M.D., as the company's director of clinical informatics. Prior to joining Hyperfine, Salman served as assistant professor of medical imaging and director of medical imaging informatics at the University of Arizona and Banner Health. Release

Aro Biotherapeutics has enlisted Adam Dinerman, Ph.D., as executive director, head of chemistry, manufacturing and controls. Meanwhile, the company also tapped John Liu, Ph.D., to serve as vice president of biology. Dinerman comes over from Johnson & Johnson, working in bioprocess development at Genzyme before that. Liu most recently served as director of biology at NGM Biopharmaceuticals. Release