Chutes & Ladders—Amit Munshi lands back in the biotech arena leading RNA-focused ReNAgade

 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. 

Serial exec Amit Munshi returns to biotech arena with Moderna alumni

ReNAgade Therapeutics

Amit Munshi, to no one’s surprise, has landed back on his feet and walked into a new C-suite, just over a year after Arena Pharmaceuticals was bought by Pfizer. The serial biopharma executive is taking the helm of ReNAgade Therapeutics, an all-in-one RNA shop that launched this week with $300 million from a series A. It was the largest single fundraising round of the year for a few hours, before ElevateBio took the crown the following day.

The former Arena CEO was sold on the company’s RNA delivery focus, working to expand which tissues the polymeric molecules can enter. The company plans to incorporate gene editing tech directly into the platform to widen the diseases RNA can treat. 

But arguably more valuable to the company’s early hype are the other C-suite members, including CSO Pete Smith, Ph.D., who was previously the SVP of nonclinical early development work at Moderna before moving to Alnylam. He’ll be joined by Chief Operating Officer Ciaran Lawlor, Ph.D., a principal scientist at Moderna who then worked for Boston Consulting Group. 

The company has already launched a joint venture with fellow circular RNA-focused biotech Orna Therapeutics and inked a deal with Merck for up to five targets. ReNAgade’s leadership did not disclose financial details but said they already unlocked a milestone payment for identifying a target in the vaccine space. Fierce Biotech

Larkspur launches with all-female leadership team

Larkspur Biosciences

One of the more persistent diversity trends in biotech is the lack of female executives. Data from a 2022 BIO report found that women make up 34% of biotech executives but 49% of all employees, and 37% of responding companies reported “little change” in the number of female executives in 2021 compared to 2020. 

Larkspur Biosciences is helping tip the scales toward equity. The company unveiled this week with an all-female leadership team led by CEO Catherine Sabatos-Peyton, Ph.D., a former executive director at the Novartis Institute for BioMedical Research. She’s joined by Chief Scientific Officer Krista Goodman, Ph.D., and Emily Corse, Ph.D., EVP of biology and translation.

Goodman jumps from British Big Pharma GSK where she was global head and senior director of flexible medicinal chemistry and medicine design. Corse was the executive director of cancer immunology at Boehringer Ingelheim. 

It’s a deeply experienced trio that comes equipped with experience that mirrors the biotech’s ambitions. The company is working on a slate of precision immunotherapies to target “bottlenecks” wielded by tumors against the immune system. The company is first aiming its technology at a subtype of patients with colorectal cancer. Release 

CytoDyn president takes medical leave 


CytoDyn president Cyrus Arman, Ph.D., is taking a medical leave of absence from the company, with Chief Financial Officer Antonio Migliarese replacing him in the meantime. It’s unclear how long Arman may be away from the company, and CytoDyn did not specify what’s keeping him out. Migliarese will have at his side new interim Chief Medical Officer Melissa Palmer and clinical and strategic adviser Salah Kivlighn, Ph.D., both of whom recently joined the company.

It’s a difficult time for CytoDyn as it struggles to find any kind of clinical momentum, and Arman’s absence comes just eight months after he took the helm. His first order of business was redirecting the company’s lead asset, leronlimab, away from COVID-19. Then, a month later, the company pulled an FDA approval application for leronlimab as an HIV treatment, citing “systemic issues” with the data from a CRO. 

The biotech filed a claim for damages against the CRO and said at the time that resolving the issues with the data would require “significant additional investment.” CytoDyn is now aiming leronlimab at a new, notoriously difficult-to-treat disease—nonalcoholic steatohepatits. Oh, and it’s still exploring potential partnerships. Source 

> Jeremy Chadwick, Ph.D., is leaving Takeda to become chief operating officer at Kymera. He held a variety of roles at the Japanese pharma, including SVP and head of the global development office. Release

> Talaris Therapeutics has appointed its only C-suite member left, Chief Financial Officer Mary Kay Fenton, as interim CEO and president. Fenton will also continue to serve as CFO and succeeds former CEO Scott Requadt, who left as part of a 95% workforce reduction. Release

> BioAge labs has promoted BJ Sullivan to the inaugural chief strategy officer position. He previously served as the company’s chief of staff and VP of strategy and business operations. Release

> Obsidian Therapeutics is crystalizing its top brass, naming Madan Jagasia, M.D., as the new CEO and Parameswaran Hari, M.D., as chief development officer. Both new hires come from Iovance Biotherapeutics, with Jagasia serving as the VP of medical affairs while Hari was the VP of clinical science. Release

> Ming Yang, Ph.D., has been tapped to lead life biosciences development efforts as SVP of R&D. He previously held the same role at Graybug Vision after working at Genentech. Release

> Former medtech executive and consultant Ken Mariash is joining Sinaptica Therapeutics as CEO. He was recently founder and managing partner of medtech consulting firm Rubicon Strategy Partners, a company he launched after running marketing efforts at EBT Medical. Release

> Arcutis’ chief commercial officer Ken Lock is stepping down to “attend to personal matters,” the company announced this week. He’ll be temporarily replaced by Ayisha Jeter, VP of market access. Release

> TScan Therapeutics acting CEO Gavin MacBeath, Ph.D., will be handed the keys to the car after being permanently named chief executive. He took over temporarily in May and will no longer serve as chief scientific officer. Release

> In addition to announcing the start of a new phase 2 trial testing a treatment for celiac disease, Topas Therapeutics has hired two new executives to the C-suite. The German biotech has brought on Mireia Gómez-Angelats, Ph.D., has chief business officer and Christian Schröter, Ph.D., as chief operating officer. Release

> Cancer detection company Harbinger Health has hired May Orfali, M.D., to be chief medical officer. She joins a leadership team led by former FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn, M.D., who’s CEO of the company. Release

> Rani Therapeutics has appointed Kate McKinley as chief business officer. She was previously founder and CEO of Spark Outcomes. Release