Chutes & Ladders—Sanofi finds John Reed replacement to lead R&D

 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. 

Sanofi finds John Reed replacement to lead R&D amid wider exec changes

Houman Ashrafian
Houman Ashrafian, Ph.D. (LinkedIn)


Some six months after now ex-Sanofi R&D chief John Reed, M.D., Ph.D., announced his jump to Johnson & Johnson, the French pharmaceutical company has found his replacement, naming Houman Ashrafian, Ph.D., for the job. The men’s respective pedigrees are quite distinct from one another, adding to the intrigue of the new hire. Reed is an institutional R&D leader, with J&J marking the third such role in a row after Sanofi and Roche. Ashrafian is a cardiologist and investor who spent more than seven years at SV Health Investors before taking the new role. He’s been a visiting professor and head of experimental therapeutics at the University of Oxford since 2014. 

Ashrafian’s appointment was one of a handful of other key exec changes made by Sanofi, with the company also parting ways with specialty care chief Bill Sibold after 12 years. Head of specialty care in North America, Brian Foard, was tapped to lead the unit on an interim basis while a search for a permanent replacement gets underway. 

But that's not all! Sanofi named Emmanuel Frenehard as its new chief digital officer and created a new role for Madeline Roach, who will be the head of business operations. Fierce Pharma 

Sage’s CSO and other execs depart amid large downsizing 

Sage Therapeutics

The writing had been on the wall for a couple of weeks that Sage would be undergoing a significant restructuring, following the FDA’s decision to greenlight Biogen-partnered lead asset zuranalone to treat postpartum depression (PPD) but not major depressive disorder (MDD). It’s a bit of quagimire in so much as the PPD approval represents the first oral treatment for people with this condition, but the MDD market had higher financial upside. In other words, the more significant breakthrough was not the more lucrative one. 

Regardless, the company is laying off 40% of its team to focus resources on the commercial launch and after pausing “certain earlier-stage programs.” As part of the move, Chief Scientific Officer Al Robichaud, Ph.D., is heading for the exits, along with development chief Jim Doherty and Senior VP of Medical Affairs Mark Pollack, M.D.

Replacing Robichaud is Mike Quirk, SVP of discovery research, while Doherty’s duties will be taken over by Chief Medical Officer Laura Gault, M.D., Ph.D. Fierce Biotech

Ex-Editas CSO takes the helm of Aprinoia


Neurodegenerative-focused biotech Aprinoia is plucking a longtime industry scientist to lead the company, hiring Mark Shearman, Ph.D., as CEO. He had chaired the company’s advisory board since 2015. 

The last eight years or so of Shearman’s career have been as a chief scientific officer, first at Applied Genetic Technologies Corporation and then Editas Medicine. He worked at the latter for less than two years before departing in March. Before the executive roles, Shearman spent almost six years at Merck KGaA’s healthcare wing, EMD Serono, ascending to senior vice president of global research and early development, leading the neurology therapeutic area. He also led a team of neuroscientists at Merck & Co. before that. 

At Aprinoia, he’ll oversee a a pipeline of antibodies aimed at treating tau protein-based neurodegenerative diseases and associated imaging agents. The latter are farther along in development, though the company does have one phase 1-stage antibody in the works. Release

> Ipsen's Howard Mayer is retiring, with Christelle Huguet set to take on his role as EVP and head of R&D on Sept. 22. Huguet has been with Ipsen since 2020, serving as SVP and head of research, external innovation and early development. Release

> Flagship Pioneering has named David Khougazian as Growth Partner, helping scale the venture creation firm and its founded companies. He joins from Sanofi where he spent more than two decades in a variety of roles, including chief of staff to the CEO. Release

> Boston-based Superluminal Medicines has emerged with $33 million and former Schrödinger executive Cony D'Cruz at the helm. D'Cruz, who previously served as Schrödinger's chief business officer, is also a co-founder of Superluminal and will be joined by co-founder and SVP, head of discovery Ajay Yekkirala, Ph.D.; SVP and head of engineering Yang-Ming Zhu; Senior Director of Biology Yamina Berchiche, Ph.D.; Director of Computational Chemistry Marek Orzechowski; and SVP and head of operations Murco Ringnalda. Release

> After acquiring Intarcia Therapeutics’ pipeline of cardiometabolic candidates, i2o Therapeutics is also snagging the biotech’s CEO Kurt Graves as its own. With previous leadership experience at Vertex Pharmaceuticals, Novartis and Merck, Graves succeeds i2o co-founder and former CEO Ravi Srinivasan, Ph.D. Release

> Almost exactly one year after taking on the top role at Evaxion Biotech, CEO Per Norlén, M.D., Ph.D., has resigned. In his place steps Christian Kanstrup, who has more than 25 years of experience in the life science industry, including the role as head of biopharma operations for Novo Nordisk. Release

> Juan Pablo Frías, M.D., is joining Biomea Fusion as the company’s chief medical officer, taking the reins from Steve Morris, M.D., who will transition to the chief development officer role. Frías has held past leadership positions at Eli Lilly, Amylin Pharmaceuticals, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson. Release

> Elicio Therapeutics has hired Thian Kheoh, Ph.D., to serve as SVP of biometrics and Megan Filoon to serve as general counsel. Kheoh joins from Mirati Therapeutics, where he was VP of biometrics, while Filoon most recently served as general counsel and corporate secretary for Molecular Templates. Release

> Apogee Therapeutics has appointed Rebecca Dabora, Ph.D., to be the biotech’s chief technical officer. Dabora has held similar positions at Invivyd, SwanBio Therapeutics, Aspyrian Therapeutics and Altus Pharmaceuticals and worked at Biogen and Merck earlier in her career. Release

> Coeptis Therapeutics has chosen Colleen Delaney, M.D., to serve as chief scientific and medical officer. Delaney is currently a clinical professor in the pediatric hematology/oncology division of the University of Washington. Release

> has launched out of stealth with Markus Gstöttner as CEO. Gstöttner joins the biotech focused on age-related diseases with experience as a co-founder of Meatable, a cultured meat company he started with’s founder Mark Kotter. Release