Chutes & Ladders—Peter Marks has no immediate plans to leave the FDA

 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. 

FDA's Peter Marks has no "imminent plans for departure"

Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research

FDA's Peter Marks
Peter Marks (FDA)

Peter Marks, M.D., Ph.D., was forthright but understated when describing the last few years leading the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, calling the period “challenging,” in an interview. But like any good high-ranking public servant, he dolloped on some positive spin, describing a moment defined by COVID, former President Donald Trump, turnover, stress, scrutiny, variants and remote work as an “incredible learning experience.” 

Nobody is losing sleep because a really high-profile figure had to deal with a lot. But suffice to say, Marks has had plenty on his plate running an FDA center that oversees the approval of new cell and gene therapies and neurological products, among other responsibilities. And for now, he’s pressing ahead, saying he has no plans to step away. 

“Am I going to be doing this forever? Probably not,” Marks said. “On the other hand, I don't have any imminent plans for departure, in part because every day I wake up and there's some new, interesting thing to help move forward.” He added that so long as he feels like his contribution is benefiting patients, he’ll stay on.

But the 11-year veteran on the agency had a caveat, one that’s been informed by his growing number of years around politicians, saying that he knows “to not be too definitive about these kinds of things.”

UAB infectious disease division head Jeanne Marrazzo tapped to replace Anthony Fauci

National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

Hear ye, hear ye, a formal successor to Anthony Fauci, M.D., has been named! 

Months after the longtime public health official stepped down from his post leading the National Institutes of Health's (NIH’s) infectious disease division, NIH interim chief Lawrence Tabak, Ph.D., has named Jeanne Marrazzo, M.D., as the new leader. Marrazzo is currently the head of the infectious disease division at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and is expected to join in the fall.

Longevity in leadership positions within government seem like a rarity these days, as politician and polarization cripple once non-partisan posts. But Fauci was an outlier, serving 38 years as the director of National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, a tenure that spanned seven presidents, Republican and Democrat alike. But his biggest test would be his last, grappling with the rise and spread of COVID-19, advocating for mitigation policies that ultimately became a line in the sand for millions of Americans, largely on party lines. Fauci also became President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser before retiring at the end of 2022. 

Marrazzo’s research has centered on the human microbiome and how it impacts female reproductive tract infections and hormonal birth control, according to a release from the NIH, in addition to studying other sexually transmitted infections. She’s been a principal investigator on NIH grants for more than 25 years and was the presented with the American Sexually Transmitted Diseases Association’s Distinguished Career Award in 2022. Release

Former EQRx finance chief takes same role at Boundless

Boundless Bio

Jami Rubin’s two-month stint as a venture partner at ARCH is caput after the former EQRx CFO took the same role at San Diego biotech Boundless Bio. Let’s hope for her sake that she was able to make it up to Absolute Bagels off 108th Street or a slice of pizza at John’s on Bleeker during her return to New York City. (She spent years there before jumping to biotech.)

Rubin left EQRx in March 2023, right around the time that the company instituted a first round of layoffs resulting in cuts to 18% of the team. But it turns out that was only the beginning of a major overhaul for the Alexis Borisy-founded company. A couple of months later, another round of layoffs sent more than half of the company out the door, along with EQRx’s larger strategy of producing low-cost cancer treatments. This week EQRx announced it was being sold to announcer Borisy biotech, Revolution Medicines. 

It’s unknown whether Rubin saw the writing on the wall in March or whether the timing of her departure was sheer luck. But regardless, she’s onto greener pastures. Boundless is similarly focused on treating cancer, with a particular emphasis on oncogene-amplified tumors. And while EQRx was shrinking, Boundless was raising new cash, closing another nine-digit round in May. Source

> OMass Therapeutics has appointed Peter Phillips, M.D., Ph.D., to the job of SVP of clinical development and Julia Sampson, Ph.D., to serve as VP of nonclinical development. Before filling the newly created positions, Phillips was at Evelo Biosciences and has a track record at NovalGen, UCB, GSK, Novartis and Pfizer, while Sampson has worked across Kalvista Pharmaceuticals, AstraZeneca, Shire Pharmaceuticals, OSI Pharmaceuticals and GW Pharmaceuticals. Release

> Catena Biosciences is bringing on two new leaders for its executive team: Saurabh Johri to serve as chief business officer and Rick Kendall, Ph.D., to fill the role of chief scientific officer. Johri joins from Bayer, where he most recently was VP and global head of oncology strategy and early commercialization, while Kendall was most recently president and CEO of ImmPACT BIO, clocking in time before that at Kite Pharma and Amgen. Release

> ImmunoGen Chief Medical Officer and SVP Anna Berkenblit, M.D., is exiting the company for a “professional hiatus” before pursuing new opportunities outside of ImmunoGen. Berkenblit will leave at the end of August, and Michael Vasconcelles, M.D., ImmunoGen EVP of R&D and medical affairs, will take on the CMO role. Release

> TheracosBio CEO Albert Collinson, Ph.D., is handing the reins over to newcomer Brian Connelly. The new leader has practiced law for over 15 years for a law firm supporting biotech and life science companies and also co-founded IncreVet, a veterinary drug development company acquired by Theracos—TheracosBio’s parent company—last year. Release

> Incyte’s chief scientific officer Dashyant Dhanak, Ph.D., has left the pharma to pursue other opportunities. Dhanak has held the CSO position since 2018, overseeing more than 15 investigational new drug applications—or requests to bring a drug into the clinic—during that time. Release

> Zentalis Pharmaceuticals is welcoming Kimberly Freeman on as chief strategy officer. Before Zentalis, Freeman was VP, U.S. head of DDR franchise, oncology at AstraZeneca and has previously held leadership roles at Adaptimmune, Boehringer Ingelheim and GSK. Release

> Ambrx Biopharma has snagged Renu Vaish to serve as the company’s chief regulatory officer. She most recently was SVP of regulatory affairs for SpringWorks and has held leadership roles at Celgene, Merck & Co. and Kite Pharma. Release

> Viral-disease-focused Bioxytran has tapped Leslie Ajayi, M.D., Ph.D., to serve in its newly created interim chief medical officer position as well as chief of the medical advisory board. Ajayi’s clinical research efforts have resulted in the creation of a number of technical reports for Big Pharmas like Merck & Co., Servier, Bristol Myers Squibb, Roche, Pfizer and GSK. Release

> The National Pharmaceutical Council has added former Institute for Clinical and Economic Review executive Jonathan Campbell, Ph.D., as chief science officer to direct the group’s research portfolio. Release

> Numerof & Associates has brought on former Bristol Myers Squibb, Amgen senior executive Michael Ryan as an executive adviser. He will help advise pharmaceutical clients at the healthcare strategy firm with strategy and planning, market access, policy analysis and other issues. Release

> Former AdaptImmune executive Jeanette Evans will takeover as chief business officer of the Cell and Gene Therapy Catapult. The independent, U.K.-based organization works to advance cell and gene therapies through development. Release

> Playground Global is bringing on a16z vet Nate Chang to expand its life science venture capital footprint. Chang spent nearly 15 years in healthcare investment banking before joining a16z in 2019. Release

> Parisa Zamiri, M.D., is joining Complement Therapeutics as chief medical officer, jumping from Graybug Vision where she held the same role. Before Graybug, Zamiri was the ophthalmology therapeutic head at Novartis. Release

> Numerous executive changes are afoot at Molecular Templates six weeks after another round of layoffs. Gabriela Gruia, M.D., has been named interim chief medical officer, Jason Kim will be president and chief financial officer, Kristen Quigly is the new chief operating officer and Grace Kim is now chief strategy officer and head of investor relations. Release