Chutes & Ladders: Theranos COO Sunny Balwani makes an exit


Chutes and Ladders

Welcome to this week's Chutes and Ladders, our roundup of hirings, firings and retirings throughout the industry. Please send the good word--or the bad--from your shop to Eric Sagonowsky (email) or Amirah Al Idrus (email | Twitter), and we will feature it here at the end of each week.

Theranos COO Sunny Balwani makes an exit











COO Sunny Balwani stepped down.

Theranos lost a top exec this week in Sunny Balwani, marking another in a series of setbacks for the Palo Alto, CA, blood testing company since things started rolling downhill in the fall. Balwani spent more than 5 years at Theranos, working with CEO Elizabeth Holmes to build it into a one-time $9 billion company. Balwani steps out as Theranos is under pressure from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the SEC and a federal attorney over its testing procedures. The departing exec has also been criticized for his leadership credentials, with an October Wall Street Journal report noting that he was overseeing Theranos’ lab in Newark despite not having a medical or scientific background before joining the company. Along with Balwani’s departure, Theranos is adding former Amgen SVP Fabrizio Bonanni, epidemiologist William Foege and former Wells Fargo CEO Richard Kovacevich to its board. Story

Arena taps Dr. Amit Munshi to lead its next chapter











Amit Munshi was named CEO.

Amid its struggles to grow sales for obesity drug Belviq, Arena Pharmaceuticals has selected former Epirus Biopharmaceuticals CEO Dr. Amit Munshi for its top post. The move comes following CEO Jack Lief’s departure last October. Arena’s betting that Munshi’s 25 years of experience in biopharma management and development can help it right the course for Belviq, a therapy that has seen its place in the obesity market diminish. Before Epirus, Munshi served as CEO of Percivia and chief business officer of Kythera and held several leadership roles at Amgen. "With a strong research platform, a marketed drug and three compounds currently in Phase 2 development, I believe Arena has the potential to deliver significant value while positively impacting the lives of patients,” Munshi said in a statement. “I look forward to working with Arena's executive team and Board to advance the company." Release

Former Kraft exec Kehoe takes up CFO post at Takeda











James Kehoe
was named CFO.

James Kehoe joined Takeda this week as its CFO, bringing the financial experience he has developed over more than 20 years at posts in Germany, Switzerland and Italy. He most recently served as CFO at consumer foods giant Kraft. Kehoe, an Irishman, will be based in Tokyo and report directly to the company’s first non-Japanese CEO, Christophe Weber. Kehoe joins Takeda amid a reorganization, with the Japanese pharma announcing this week that it was able to swing to a profit. For the year ended March 2016, it reported operating profit of ¥130.8 billion, climbing out of a ¥129.3 billion hole from the last year. It even outperformed its own guidance of ¥120 billion. “James Kehoe’s passion for transforming large organizations to achieve higher performance will hold him in good stead as he leads the Global Finance team to further elevate the company’s business performance and help Takeda deliver its growth ambitions,” Weber said in a statement. Release

Endo plans to slash 740 jobs at sites in Alabama and North Carolina. Story


> Highland Therapeutics appointed Craig Lewis as president. Release

> Dr. Isaac Bright joined Synthetic Biologics as vice president of corporate development. Release

> Opko Health ($OPK) named Douglass Laidlaw as vice president of medical affairs. Release

> Acasti Pharma appointed Jan D’Alvise as president and CEO, effective June 1. Release

Arsanis promoted Rene Russo to its CEO position. Release

> Hansa Medical named Henk Doude Van Troostwijk as vice president of commercial operations. Release

> Medicure fired its president and chief operating officer, Dawson Reimer. Release

Spark Therapeutics named Daniel Faga its chief business officer. Release

> Lexicon Pharma named Praveen Tyle its executive vice president of research and development. Release

> Rodolfo Savitsky succeeded Toralf Haag as CFO of Lonza Group. Release

> Leonard Blum joined Omeros to lead its business and commercial activities. Release

> AMRI appointed Louis Yu as its senior vice president of quality and compliance. Release

> Synthetic Biologics appointed Deb Matthews as its vice president of medical affairs. Release

> Castle Biosciences brought on Bernhard Spiess as its chief operating officer. Release


> Vodis Pharma named Sean Côté as CEO. Release

Medical Devices

> Adam Staelin joined BioElectronics as executive vice president of sales and marketing. Release


> Agendia appointed Dr. M. William Audeh as chief medical officer. Release

> Personal Genome Diagnostics named Douglas Ward as its CEO. Release

Blue Earth Diagnostics set up a U.S. office and named Michael Heslop the president of its U.S. subsidiary. Release


> Bioanalytical Systems appointed Jill Blumhoff as chief financial officer. Release


> Compugen brought on Steven Holtzman as its strategic business adviser. Release