Chutes & Ladders—Roivant's Ramaswamy pegs CFO Gline for chief executive role

                Chutes and Ladders
Welcome 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 Fraiser Kansteiner, and we will feature it here at the end of each week.

CNS-focused Karuna snags BMS vet to spearhead clinical pipeline

Karuna Pharmaceuticals
Ronald Marcus, M.D., signs on as SVP of medical.

Neuroscience veteran Marcus is joining the team at Karuna responsible for its clinical-stage pipeline, just as the company begins the phase 3 program for KarXT. The company is developing KarXT as a main treatment and add-on treatment for psychosis associated with schizophrenia, plus other cognitive and so-called negative symptoms of the disorder. The treatment combines Eli Lilly castoff xanomeline—which the company tested in Alzheimer’s disease and schizophrenia but shelved due to side effects—and trospium chloride. Marcus joins the team with 30 years of neuroscience drug development under his belt. He had a 23-year run at Bristol Myers Squibb’s neuroscience unit, where he held various roles including executive director of neuroscience global clinical research. Fierce Biotech

After selling off a clutch of Vants, Roivant CEO Ramaswamy moves upstairs to executive chair

Roivant Sciences
Vivek Ramaswamy jumps to executive chair.

Ramaswamy, the CEO and founder of Roivant, will become executive chairman at the company as he passes the chief executive mantle to CFO Matt Gline. The company in December 2019 sold off five Vants— Myovant, Urovant, Enzyvant, Altavant and Spirovant—to Sumitomo Dainippon, which now runs them under a new company, Sumitovant. Alongside a 10% stake in Roivant, the Japanese Pharma has the chance to buy six more Vants—and option that last until 2024. Since that deal, Ramaswamy’s role has “evolved to overseeing key strategic decisions,” he wrote in his annual update email. Gline, meanwhile, has worked with Roivant’s senior management team on running day-to-day business and managing the Vants. Fierce Biotech

Faze Medicines nabs ex-Northern Biologics chief, Shire alum as new CEO 

Faze Medicines 
Philip Vickers, Ph.D., will take over as CEO.

Vickers takes the reins from interim CEO Cary Pfeffer, M.D. The move comes just six weeks after Faze emerged with $81 million to pursue medicines targeting biomolecular condensates—membraneless organelles made up of molecules like proteins and nucleic acids that perform various jobs in the cell. The company is currently pushing programs in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and the muscle-wasting disorder myotonic dystrophy type 1 toward the clinic. Vickers signs on from Northern Biologics. Before that, Vickers worked at Shire, where he was head of R&D. Prior to that he had stints at Merck, Pfizer and Boehringer Ingelheim. Fierce Biotech

Hand-held ultrasound developer Butterfly Network named Todd Fruchterman as president and CEO, starting Feb. 1. Fruchterman is the former president and general manager of 3M’s $4.8 billion medical solutions business. Before that, he held positions at Acelity, Johnson & Johnson, Schering-Plough and Response Genetics. Since last fall, he’s been group president of reliability solutions at contract manufacturer Flex. Fierce Biotech

Nkarta Therapeutics has promoted Ralph Brandenberger, Ph.D., to senior vice president, technical operations. Brandenberger joined the Nkarta team in 2018 and oversees the company's cell therapy manufacturing operations. 

Asklepios Biopharmaceutical tapped Tracy Dowling as general counsel starting Jan. 25. Dowling will help manage and advise on corporate governance, business development transactions, license agreements, employment law and more. Most recently, Dowling served as associate general counsel at Spark Therapeutics. 

> Precision oncology specialist OncoDNA signed on Bernard Courtieu as CEO. Courtieu previously joined IntegraGen as CEO in 2007. Eduardo Bravo, OncoDNA's interim CEO since July 2020, will remain a consultant to the company's board. Release

Abingdon Health named Melanie Ross as chief financial officer, effective immediately. Ross will also serve on the company's board. Most recently, she was group finance director at GVO-B1; prior to that, Ross was chief financial officer and chief operating officer at Surgical Innovations Group. Release

MedPharm's chief scientific officer Marc Brown, Ph.D., is stepping down from his role to helm the company's new scientific advisory committee. Former Chief Technology Officer Jon Lenn, Ph.D., is taking up the CSO mantle. Release

Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute tapped Ze'ev Ronai, Ph.D., as director of its National Cancer Institute-designated Cancer Center. Ronai most recently served as interim director of the Cancer Center. In his time at the institute, he's also served in roles including program director, scientific director, chief scientific adviser and deputy director of the center. Release

Cambridge, Massachusetts-based biotech KSQ Therapeutics named Qasim Rizvi as CEO, effective immediately. Rizvi also signs on as a member of the company's board of directors. Before joining KSQ, Rizvi was senior vice president of operations and chief commercial officer at Kiniksa Pharmaceuticals. Release

Boston-based Atea Pharmaceuticals tapped Jayanthi Wolf, Ph.D., as SVP of regulatory affairs and Jonae Barnes as SVP of investor relations and corporate communications. Wolf previously served at Merck for 19 years, where she held roles ranging from scientific to safety assessment and regulatory. Barnes has held a number of senior leadership roles at several biotechnology companies including Idenix Pharmaceuticals, Agenus and, most recently, Poxel SA. Release

Mersana Therapeutics signed on Carla Poulson as chief human resources officer. Most recently, she held the same position at Akcea Therapeutics. Prior to that, Poulson worked in numerous roles at Vertex for more than 10 years, including as head of international human resources. Release

Connect Biopharma has enlisted Selwyn Ho as chief business officer starting Jan. 20. Ho has served as an adviser to the company since January 2020. Most recently, he was VP, head of market access and VP and head of strategic marketing at dermatology specialist Dermira. Release

San Diego's ViaCyte has named Michael Yang as president and CEO. Yang will also serve as a member of the company's board of directors. The company also appointed Steve White as chief technology officer and promoted chief financial officer Brittany Bradrick to chief operating officer and CFO. Yang most recently served as executive vice president and chief commercial officer of Acadia Pharmaceuticals. Release

Cognito Therapeutics—working on a new class of disease-modifying digital therapeutics for neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer's disease—has tapped Mark Day, Ph.D., as chief business officer. Before joining the Cognito team, Day was vice president, head of the McQuade Centre for Research and Development & Early-Stage Life Science Investment (MSRD) at Otsuka U.S. Prior to that, Day was CEO of Bioasis Technologies. He has also served in senior roles at Alexion Pharmaceuticals, Wyeth and Abbott. Release 

Editor's Note: This story was updated with comments from Cognito Therapeutics