Chutes & Ladders—Roche's Severin Schwan to relinquish CEO chair after 14 years

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.

Roche diagnostics chief Schinecker to take over as CEO


For the first time in 14 years, Roche has a new CEO taking the reins. The Swiss pharma powerhouse has officially confirmed that Thomas Schinecker, Ph.D., will replace Severin Schwan, effective March 15 of next year. Schwan, 54, who became one of the world’s youngest Big Pharma CEOs in 2008, will step into the role as chairman at Roche.

Schinecker, 47, has led as CEO of the company’s diagnostics division for the last three years, banking in at almost 20 years total with Roche to date. One of his first successes was the $46.8 billion acquisition of California biotech Genentech in 2009. Later, he also helped Roche diversify from its dependence on Genentech’s lucrative oncology products as the company has thrived behind hemophilia drug Hemlibra and multiple sclerosis med Ocrevus.

During the pandemic, the leader continued to prove his value. Roche’s testing sales grew 29% to $19.4 billion last year, with COVID-19 diagnostics making up about a quarter of the total. The performance helped the Big Pharma recover from a drop in its oncology division, particularly in the U.S. where biosimilars have hurt sales for longtime blockbusters Rituxan, Avastin and Herceptin. Fierce Pharma

Former GSK vaccine head steps up as CEO for new rival biotech


Emmanuel Hanon, Ph.D., former R&D head of GSK’s vaccine unit, is stepping up as CEO of a new vaccine-centered biotech that is immediately challenging one of the Big Pharma’s late-stage programs.

A little more than a year after exiting GSK in June 2021, Hanon will lead Vicebio, a new venture spun out of the University of Queensland in Australia. The biotech touts a platform that aims to better stabilize proteins used in vaccines. So far, Vicebio has nabbed $18.4 million in seed funding to launch development of a respiratory syncytial virus vaccine—direct competition to GSK’s phase 3 shot—and aims to enter the clinic in the second half of 2023.

Hanon spent 20 years at GSK, rising through the ranks before leading as global R&D head for the vaccine division. He also isn’t the only GSK alum Vicebio has nabbed. The biotech has selected Giovanni Della Cioppa, M.D., to be its chief medical officer, after he led GSK’s Italy R&D unit for vaccine development. Fierce Biotech

Sanofi leader jumps to biotech, fills Editas’ empty CMO role

Editas Medicine

Editas Medicine has filled its vacant chief medical officer role, which sat open for five months after the sudden departure of Lisa Michaels, M.D. Taking over now is Baisong Mei, M.D., Ph.D., who has taken the jump from Big Pharma Sanofi to join the gene editing biotech.

At Sanofi, Mei served as senior global project head in rare disease and rare blood disorders. Before that, he was therapeutic area head for hematology clinical development at Biogen and also has experience working at Bayer.

Now, Mei will oversee Editas’ portfolio of gene editing therapies, including vision loss therapy EDIT-101. Fierce Biotech

> Tiziana Life Sciences’ CEO and CSO Kunwar Shailubhai has resigned for personal reasons after more than five years in the roles. Gabriele Cerrone, executive chairman of the company’s board, has been named interim CEO while a search for a replacement is underway. Release

> Tectonic Therapeutics has made a number of new appointments, most notably promoting Peter McNamara, Ph.D., from SVP, head of research to chief scientific officer. The company also appointed Barry Rubenstein to SVP of people and culture and Washington Alves as VP of biologics manufacturing. Release

> John Nichols is retiring as president and CEO of enzyme maker Codexis for family reasons, the company announced. He’ll be replaced by former Sierra Oncology CEO Stephen Dilly, Ph.D., effective Aug. 9. Release

> After two and a half years at the helm of Versanis Bio, co-founder Lloyd Klickstein, M.D., Ph.D., will take a step back, returning full-time to his role as chief scientific officer. He’s set to be replaced by Mark Pruzanski, M.D., founder and former CEO of Intercept Pharmaceuticals. Release

> New York-based Nuvation Bio is shoring up its C-suite, tapping David Liu, M.D., Ph.D., as chief medical officer and Kerry Wentworth as chief regulatory officer. Liu spent more than nine years at Bristol Myers Squibb, rising through the ranks to become the group director of the oncology global clinical research team. Release

> James Ahlers is leaving his post as chief financial officer for Intarcia Therapeutics for the same role at RenovoRx. Over the course of his career, Ahlers has provided financial consulting to a number of life science companies. Release 

> Joel Posener, M.D., is set to go on a clinical trip with Journey Colab, being named chief medical officer as the company develops a mescaline-based therapy to treat alcohol abuse. Mescaline is the psychedelic chemical found in peyote, a hallucinogenic cactus. Release

> Investment firm SymBiosis has named Jahan Ali, Ph.D., as VP of business development. She jumps over from academia, having been the director of the Bioventure ELab at Weill Cornell Medicine. Release 

> Meredith Cook is joining ANI Pharmaceuticals as SVP, general counsel and corporate secretary. It’s a step up for Cook, who most recently was VP and associate general counsel at Amneal Pharmaceuticals. Release

> Auron Therapeutics made a trio of appointments to its executive team, highlighted by the hiring of David Millan, Ph.D., as chief scientific officer. In addition to Millan, the company is bringing on Thomas Graeber, Ph.D., as chief data officer and Andrea Armstrong as chief people officer. Release

> Tau-targeting Oligamerix is making a couple of leadership shifts to match a companywide reorganization. Chief Medical Officer William Erhardt, M.D., is now the president and head of development and operations, while Robert Foerster is tacking on chief operating officer responsibilities in addition to his CFO duties. Release

> Patrick O’Brien has been tasked with pointing Arrowhead Pharmaceuticals' operations in the right direction, being named chief operating officer and general counsel in addition to his role as chief compliance officer. Prior to joining Arrowhead, O’Brien was group VP of law at Shire. Disclosure

> Big Pharma alum Kabir Nath is taking the reins at COMPASS Pathways, being named CEO of the psilocybin-based therapeutic developer. Nath leaves behind his role as senior managing director of global pharmaceuticals at Ostuka Pharmaceutical. Release

> James Rosenbaum, M.D. has been named SVP of research at Corvus Pharmaceuticals, leaving his academic post at Oregon Health & Science University to join industry. First up on his to-do list at Corvus will be overseeing development of the company’s lead asset, CPI-818. Release