Chutes & Ladders—3 Flagship-backed biotechs make key exec hires

 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. 

A trio of Flagship-founded companies make key exec hires

Flagship Pioneering

This column usually lists Flagship-founded companies individually. But all good things come in threes, right? So, onward! 

First and foremost, former Magenta CEO Jason Gardner has joined the firm as CEO-partner, with his first assignment to lead Ampersand Biosciences. The new biotech is loosely described as working on new programmable medicines that have improved specificity with limited off-target effects. The company is clearly banking on better results than Magenta, which took the exit hatch earlier this year via a reverse merger with Dianthus. Magenta’s days were numbered after the death of a patient in a phase1/2 trial earlier this year sparked a sell-off and mass layoffs. Prior to joining Magenta, Gardner worked in a variety of roles at GSK. Release

Elsewhere in the Flagship universe, tRNA-focused biotech Alltrna has hired Chris Henderson, Ph.D., as chief scientific officer and Will Kiesman, Ph.D., as chief technology officer. Henderson joins from Biogen where he was head of research while Kiesman is being promoted from head of CMC and medicinal chemistry. Release

Last but not least, recently launched Empress Therapeutics has hired Dawn Thompson, Ph.D., as SVP and head of platform development. Thompson previously worked at LifeMine Therapeutics and Ginkgo Bioworks. Release

Ex-Novartis cell and gene therapy chief takes over as Resolution chief

Resolution Therapeutics

Who says New Year’s resolutions can’t be made in August? Such is the case for London biotech Resolution Medicines, and its executive search has landed on Amir Hefni as the new CEO. 

It’s a considerable hire, with Hefni most recently leading cell and gene therapy work at Novartis for a year. He was the worldwide commercial head and European region leader for cell and gene therapy prior to commanding the whole unit. Hefni replaces Edward Hodgkin, a managing partner at Syncona Investment Management who’s led the company the last three years. 

Resolution is hoping that Hefni’s Big Pharma pedigree will be the exact right formula to help guide further development of its marcrophage cell therapies to treat liver disease. The company was formed around an autologous macrophage therapy developed by Scottish researchers that was previously found to be safe and tolerated in patients with liver cirrhosis in a phase 1 trial. Resolution says a placebo-controlled phase 2 trial is now underway. Release

Cidara snags leader from Roche’s Genentech

Cidara Therapeutics

Nicole Davarpanah, M.D., has left her role as clinical and translational lead in oncology at Roche’s Genentech for a spot at Cidara Therapeutics. 

Davarpanah is stepping on as SVP of translational R&D, a role in which she’ll lead the biotech’s oncology efforts, with particular focus on identifying and advancing candidates through human proof-of-concept studies. Currently, all four of the biotech’s oncology programs are in discovery or preclinical development. On the approved side, the company touts antifungal Rezafungin for candidemia and invasive candidiasis—a bloodstream infection and severe candida infection, respectively.

Before holding her most recent Roche/Genentech position, Davarpanah served as the company’s senior medical director of genitourinary immuno-oncology and medical affairs, where she helped launch products and form industry partnerships related to the indication. Before that, the medical oncologist worked as a research fellow at the National Cancer Institute and as a faculty member at Georgetown University. Release

A month after unveiling a pair of phase 3 trial fails, Kodiak Sciences' Chief Medical Officer Jason Ehrlich, M.D., Ph.D., is resigning, effective Aug. 25. Ehrlich, who also serves as the company's chief development officer, will be departing both roles, of which he had taken on in 2018 after serving as the global head of clinical ophthalmology at Roche’s Genentech unit. Fierce Biotech

> NewAmsterdam Pharma has snagged William “BJ” Jones from Biohaven, which was acquired by Pfizer for $11.6 billion last year. The executive—who has also held roles at Takeda Pharmaceuticals, AstraZeneca, Bristol Myers Squibb, Boehringer Ingelheim and NitroMed—will serve as NewAmsterdam’s first chief commercial officer. Release

> NeuroBo Pharmaceuticals has selected Hyung Heon “HH” Kim to lead the biotech, succeeding interim CEO Joseph Hooker. Before his new leadership role, Kim served as general counsel and SVP of Dong-A ST Co Ltd.—NeuroBo’s largest stakeholder and partner on two recently in-licensed assets. Release

> Carrie Ann Cook will be departing Cerevance for Sitryx Therapeutics, where she’ll serve as chief business officer. Over her career, Cook has held positions of increasing responsibility at EMD Serono, Merck Serono, Novartis Pharma and Baxter Healthcare. Release

> Life Science Cares Boston has tapped Yvonne Spicer to lead as the organization’s new executive director. Spicer recently served as the mayor of Framingham, Massachusetts, and serves as a lecturer at several universities. LinkedIn

> VintaBio has chosen Jennifer Kingsley as its first chief commercial officer. Kingsley joins from Cytiva, where she worked for the past decade, most recently as commercial zone leader. Release