Chutes & Ladders—Roche veteran James Sabry hangs up his hat

 Chutes and LaddersWelcome to this week's Chutes & Ladders, our roundup of significant leadership hirings, firings and retirings across the industry. Please send the good word—or the bad—from your shop to Gabrielle Masson and it will be featured here at the end of each week. 

Roche bids adieu to pharma BD vet Sabry


It’s the end of an era at Roche as veteran dealmaker James Sabry, Ph.D., hangs up his hat following 14 years at the company. Sabry, whose retirement was announced earlier this week, will be exiting his role as head of Roche Pharma Partnering, which he assumed in 2018. 

James Sabry, Ph.D. (Roche)

Sabry started his career at the Swiss pharma giant back in 2010 when he joined Roche’s Genentech as head of partnering.

Roche’s current head of group business development, Boris Zaïtra, will take up the baton in Sabry’s absence. July 1, Zaïtra will assume the role of head of corporate business development, a new position that weds the functions of both Roche’s pharma partnering and group business development operations. In his new post, Zaïtra will join Roche’s corporate executive committee. Zaïtra has been with Roche in his current role since 2012.

With regards to Sabry’s departure, Roche’s CEO Thomas Schinecker noted in a statement that the executive “has been instrumental in forging important deals for our Pharma R&D pipeline that have led to numerous launches of new medicines,” adding that external innovation would continue to be a critical part of Roche’s business strategy. Release 

Vir fills vacant CMO spot

Vir Biotechnology 

Just a few months after Vir Biotechnology installed Bayer’s Marianne De Backer, Ph.D., as CEO, the company has also named a new chief medical officer.

Mark Eisner, M.D., is slated to step on as Vir’s executive vice president and CMO starting June 3. He fills the spot of Phil Pang, M.D., Ph.D., who left the immunology company at the end of March to spend more time with his family.

Eisner joins from cell therapy biotech Sonoma Biotherapeutics, where he also served as CMO. The leader has also clocked in time at FibroGen and Roche’s Genentech, where he served as senior vice president and global head of product development immunology, infectious disease and ophthalmology.

Eisner’s expertise with late-stage clinical trials and immunology and infectious disease will be key to Vir’s next stage of growth, De Backer said in a May 29 announcement. Release 

Neurocrine maps out CEO succession plan

Neurocrine Biosciences

*Cue the “Succession” theme song.* Neurocrine Biosciences has selected its next leader alongside the announcement that current CEO Kevin Gorman, Ph.D., will retire after nearly 32 years at the company that he helped start in the early '90s. That tenure included shifts as Neurocrine’s chief business officer, chief operating officer and, since January 2008, president and chief executive. 

Gorman will step down Oct. 11, when he’ll be succeeded by Kyle Gano, Ph.D., who’s also put in multiple decades at Neurocrine. Since joining in 2001, Gano has held various leadership roles across the company, culminating in his appointment as chief business development officer in 2011 and the addition of the chief strategy officer title in 2020.

Gano will take the reins amid a busy time for Neurocrine. As he noted in a statement, “This is an important year for our organization, as we look to help even more patients with tardive dyskinesia and Huntington's disease through INGREZZA, while potentially bringing crinecerfont to CAH patients in 2025–all while advancing our pipeline.”

When the CEO baton is passed this fall, Gorman will remain a member of Neurocrine’s board of directors, and Gano will take a board seat of his own. Fierce Pharma 

> South San Francisco-based synthetic lethality specialist Ideaya Biosciences is getting ready to welcome a new executive into the fold later this summer. The company has appointed Daniel Simon to serve as its chief business officer starting in August. Simon comes over from Revolution Medicines, where he served in the same role from 2022 to 2024. Prior to that, he was SVP of biopharma business development at Guardant Health. Release

> Monte Rosa Therapeutics has rounded out May with a suite of leadership promotions. Sharon Townson, Ph.D., who joined the molecular glue degrader developer as chief technology officer, is being elevated to the role of chief scientific officer. Meanwhile, Monte Rosa’s current general counsel Phil Nickson, Ph.D., is being promoted to chief business and legal officer. And Jennifer Champoux, who joined the company as vice president of operations, has become chief operating officer. Release 

> As Nurix Therapeutics plows ahead with development of its small-molecule BTK degrader NX-5948, the San Francisco-based biotech is bulking up in the C-suite. Nurix has enlisted Paula O’Connor, M.D., to serve as its chief medical officer, while Pasit Phiasivongsa, Ph.D., has signed on as chief technical officer. O’Connor joined Nurix in 2022 and most recently served as VP and head of clinical development. Phiasivongsa also joined Nurix in 2022 and most recently held the role as EVP of technical operations. Release

> James Ahlers has been removed from his executive officer role at Intensity Therapeutics, a move made “solely in recognition of the reduced scope of [his] responsibilities” rather than any disagreement with the company, according to a regulatory filing. Ahlers originally joined Intensity as CFO in early 2022 before being named executive VP of corporate finance in June 2023. He’ll stay on as a senior consultant to the company. Release

> Cardiovascular gene editing company Verve Therapeutics's Chief Scientific Officer Andrew Bellinger, M.D., Ph.D., is stepping down. Starting June 21, Troy Lister, Ph.D., Verve’s senior vice president of research and early development, will take on the CSO role. Release 

> Sapreme Technologies has a new CEO: The Dutch biotech has appointed Marco Timmers, Ph.D., former CEO and CSO of Byondis, to replace Guy Hermans, Ph.D., as chief executive. Meanwhile, Sapreme also named the first four members of its newly established scientific advisory board and selected Jeanne Bolger, M.D., previously VP of venture investing for Johnson & Johnson Innovation, to serve as chair of the board of directors. Release

> Patrice Matchaba, M.D., is the new CEO of the Bill & Melinda Gates Medical Research Institute, effective June 10. Matchaba previously spent more than two decades in various leadership roles at Novartis, culminating in a term as president of the pharma’s US Foundation. He’ll take over from Emilio Emini, Ph.D., who recently announced his retirement from the institute after nearly three years as CEO following stints at Merck, Pfizer and the Gates Foundation. Release

 > Iterum Therapeutics' Chief Medical Officer Sailaja Puttagunta, M.D., is transitioning into a consulting role. Puttagunta will hold the position through the FDA's review of Iterum's resubmitted new drug application for oral sulopenem to treat uncomplicated urinary tract infections in women. A decision is expected by Oct. 25. Release 

> On May 28, Compass Therapeutics’ CEO Vered Bisker-Leib, Ph.D., resigned from his role and instead stepped into a consultant position. In his place, the board tapped Thomas Schuetz, M.D., Ph.D., R&D president and vice chair of the board of directors, as CEO and president plus principal executive officer, principal financial and principal accounting officer of Compass. Release

> mRNA-focused Omega Therapeutics has tapped Kaan Certel, Ph.D., to lead the biotech’s business development. Most recently, Certel was BioCity Biopharma’s chief business officer, and, before that, served as Sanofi’s global head of oncology external innovation. Release

> Precision medicine company Entact Bio has elected Michael Gutch, Ph.D., to serve as chief operating officer. Gutch joins Entact from Noema Pharma, and has past experience at Entasis Therapeutics and AstraZeneca, among others. Release

> Alkeus Pharmaceuticals has appointed Eric Trachtenberg as chief legal officer. The leader joins from Kala Bio, where he served as chief legal officer, chief compliance officer and corporate secretary. Release