Chutes & Ladders—Narasimhan to succeed Jimenez as Novartis CEO

Chutes and Ladders

Welcome to this week's Chutes and Ladders, our roundup of hirings, firings and retirings throughout the industry. Please send the good word—or the bad—from your shop to Eric Sagonowsky (email) or Angus Liu (email) and we will feature it here at the end of each week.

Novartis CEO Jimenez makes surprise exit, handing reins to CMO Narsimhan

Novartis Logo
Vas Narasimhan

Vas Narasimhan, M.D., will replace retiring Joe Jimenez as CEO.

Just a few days ago, Joe Jimenez was commenting on the breakthrough approval of the first CAR-T therapy Kymriah as Novartis' CEO. Now, he has made his departure in 2018 public, handing the top job, at which he has spent seven years, to 41-year-old R&D head Vas Narasimhan, M.D., who can count Kymriah as one of his successes.

With a bachelor’s degree in biological sciences from the University of Chicago and a medical degree from Harvard Medical School, Narasimhan joined Novartis from McKinsey in 2005. Appointing him to the CEO post “suggests the company is going to really focus on the drug and innovation part of the business,” said Medex Capital founder Bartjan van Hulten. A few challenges lie in front of the CEO-to-be, including its eye unit Alcon, which has been struggling since Novartis bought it for $39 billion in 2010. Some of the Swiss pharma’s new products have faced pricing pressure from insurers and PBMs. FiercePharma article

Stada names new CEO, its fourth in less than 2 years

Stada logo
Claudio Albrecht

Claudio Albrecht will become CEO.

Changes at Stada’s top job started in June 2016, when Hartmut Retzlaff left the CEO post he had held for 23 years due to health reasons. His successor Matthias Wiedenfels resigned this July together with then-CFO Helmut Kraft after a takeover deal with Cinven and Bain Capital fell through. Stada brought on Engelbert Coster Tjeenk Willink, a former member of the executive board of Boehringer Ingelheim, as interim CEO.

Now, the German generics giant has chosen former Actavis CEO Claudio Albrecht for the post. Under pressure from activist investor Elliott Management, Bain and Cinven jacked up their offer for the company again, from the already sweetened €66.25 per share (compared to €66 per share when the deal failed to win enough shareholder support) to €74.40 a piece. Now that the buyout deal will likely go through, the pair also plans to hire Mark Keatley for the CFO position. FiercePharma article

Vertex poaches CFO from Ironwood

Vertex logo
Tom Graney

Tom Graney
will become Vertex’s CFO.

Tom Graney, most recently Ironwood’s SVP and CFO, has jumped ship to oversee financial strategy and operations at Vertex. Before joining Ironwood in 2014, he worked at Johnson & Johnson for about 20 years, most recently as VP of finance, and CFO for Ethicon Surgical Care. The news came a few weeks after Vertex’s cystic fibrosis drugs performed well in early-phase clinical trials, pushing up the biotech’s stock price significantly. As for the post left by Graney at Ironwood, Gina Consylman, Ironwood’s VP of finance and chief accounting officer, will serve as interim CFO as the company searches for a senior business strategy and finance executive to complement its current leadership team. Release

> Vividon Therapeutics, which uses proteomics and chemistry platforms to develop novel small-molecule therapeutics, named Diego Miralles, M.D., CEO. Release

> Children's National Health System announced that it has appointed renowned immunologist Catherine “Cath” Bollard, M.D., as director of the Children's Research Institute's Center for Cancer and Immunology Research. Release

> Andreas Wallnöfer, Ph.D., previously Roche's head of cardiovascular and metabolism disease area and global head of Roche Pharma Research & Early Development, joined Certara as senior executive adviser. 

> Aeterna Zentaris' VP of Finance and Chief Accounting Officer Geneviéve Lemaire will leave the company before the end of September. Release

> Uday Baldota replaced Abhay Gandhi as Taro's CEO, and Gandhi will return to his role as CEO of the Sun Pharma North America operations. Release

> Kiadis Pharmra, which develops cell-based immunotherapy products as an adjunctive to hematopoietic stem cell transplantation to treat blood disorders, brought on AstraZeneca veteran Karl Hard as head of investor relations and communications. Release

> Stockholm-based Symcel, which offers a unique cell-based tool that measures and analyzes metabolic responses of cells in real time, hired Jesper Ericsson to succeed retiring Christer Wallin as CEO. Release

> Neurological disorders-focused Ovid Therapeutics tapped Ana C. Ward as SVP and general counsel. Release

> Eyevensys, which has a gene expression technology used in ophthalmic diseases, appointed Ronald R. Buggage, M.D., previously with Pfizer and Novartis, as its new CMO. Release

> SQZ Biotech, a Massachusetts-based company developing cell therapies, named Shefali Agarwal, M.D., its CMO. Release