Chutes & Ladders—Fortress-owned Urica unites around new CEO Kranzler

 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. 

Urica unites around new CEO Kranzler

Urica Therapeutics

Fortress biotech subsidiary Urica Therapeutics has found a new leader, naming Jay Kranzler, M.D., Ph.D., chairman and CEO as the company looks to replicate clinical success of its gout treatment in the U.S. The med, dotinurad, is already approved in Japan is in currently in phase 1 trials stateside. 

In Kranzler, Urica has selected a well-traveled executive with experience at large pharmas and small biotechs alike. Most recently Kranzer was the VP and global head of external innovation and worldwide R&D investments at Pfizer. He also founded Cypress Bioscience, maker of FDA-approved treatment Savella and Perception Neuroscience, which was acquired by Atai Life Sciences. Perception is currently testing ketamine in phase 2 trials as a therapy for treatment-resistant depression. Kranzer sits on the board of five companies and has been an adjunct professor at the New York University Stern School of Business. 

Urica is also adding a new board member, bringing on Vibeke Strand, M.D., an adjunct clinical professor at Stanford who’s been at the university for nearly 30 years. Strand has also led a consulting business that’s guided biotechs through clinical development and regulatory affairs, two critical aspects of Urica’s business given its mission to replicate success with dotinurad. Release

Biohaven plucks 19-year BMS vet Car to be CSO following sale to Pfizer


It’s been a whirlwind of a year for Biohaven, having been acquired by Pfizer for $11.6 billion and rebranding a version 2.0 without its migraine assets. But it’s been a bumpy ride in the months since, with the company failing two late-stage trials and delaying the readout of another by about a year. But now, with the acquisition closed and the relaunch official, the company is charting a new course.

At the center of those plans is new chief scientific officer, Bruce Car, Ph.D., whose appointment was announced this week. Car was most recently chief scientific officer at Agios Pharmaceuticals but cut his teeth over the course of a 19-year career at Bristol Myers Squibb. There, he worked a variety of executive positions moving from VP of drug discovery in 2001 to senior vice president and interim head of drug discovery. 

Now at Biohaven, Car’s first priority will be the development of the company’s recently-acquired Kv7 platform from Channel Biosciences into a slate of epilepsy meds. The company had hoped to launch into phase 1 trials in 2022 but that’s not yet happened. Fierce Biotech

Nested Therapeutics hatches with $90 million series A, taps Miles for top job

Nested Therapeutics

After being hidden in stealth mode, Nested Therapeutics has left the coop, hatching with $125 million in financing including $90 million in series A funds. The company touts its platform as being able to uncover new genetic drivers of cancer and its lead compound is a molecular glue targeting the MAPK pathway. The unveiling also included the announcement of the early executive team, led by CEO Darrin Miles

Miles was recently the chief operating officer at Agios Pharmaceuticals, where he helped oversee the project management of at least two of the company's approved precision oncology meds. Before that, he spent 14 years at Genentech doing similar commercial work. The new biotech is also bringing on co-founder Klaus Hoeflich, Ph.D., as chief scientific officer. He was most recently SVP of biology at Blueprint Medicines. Last but not least among Nested’s first personnel announcements, Yongxin Han, Ph.D. is joining to head up drug discovery. Han has spent more than 27 years at Merck Research Laboratories, which has become a hotbed for biotech recruitment as of late. Fierce Biotech

PharmaCyte CEO Kenneth Waggoner has departed, leaving amid a cost freeze on all programs. Waggoner’s exit, which comes after nine years with the biotech, is effective immediately. The board has tapped Joshua Silverman, a member of PharmaCyte’s board, to lead as interim CEO. Fierce Biotech

> LifeMine Therapeutics is expanding its leadership team with two new additions. Martin Stahl, Ph.D., has left his role as global head of lead discovery at Big Pharma Roche to serve as the biotech’s chief scientific officer. LifeMine has also selected Louis Plamondon, Ph.D., who comes from Constellation Pharmaceuticals, to serve as EVP and head of CMC. Release

> Assembly Biosciences has announced that CEO John McHutchison, M.D., will retire at the end of this year. The viral disease biotech’s board has unanimously elected Jason Okazaki, current president and chief operating officer, to serve as Assembly’s next CEO. Release

> North Carolina-based Areteia Therapeutics has two new leaders: Eric Bradford, M.D., will serve as chief medical officer and Robin Walker as chief legal officer and corporate secretary. Bradford has more than 18 years worth of experience with Big Pharma GSK, while Walker joins from Goldfinch Bio and Stoke Therapeutics. Release

> InCarda Therapeutics’ CEO and President Grace Colón, Ph.D., has stepped down, with Robert Lisicki tapped to fill her spot. Prior to InCarda, Lisicki served as Arena Pharmaceuticals’ chief commercial officer until the company was acquired by Pfizer for $6.7 billion in March. Before that, he has experience working at Regeneron, Daiichi-Sankyo and Amgen. Colón will serve as a consultant for InCarda during the transition period. Release

> T-cell therapy company BlueSphere Bio has chosen Keir Loiacono to lead as CEO. Loiacono has served as BlueSphere’s chief business officer for the past year and will now lead as the company aims to file an investigational new drug application with the FDA for its first clinical candidate. Before BlueSphere, Loiacono served as VP of business development and general counsel at OncoSec Medical. Release

> Immunotherapy company Harpoon Therapeutics has appointed Luke Walker, M.D., as chief medical officer. Walker comes to the biotech from Seagan, where he most recently served as VP of clinical development. Release

> Alongside a $28 million series B financing round, Valitor has selected Steven Lo to helm the biotech as CEO. He has over 25 years of experience in healthcare, biotech and pharma, most recently serving as Zosana Pharma’s president and CEO. Lo has also held leadership roles at Puma Biotechnology and Corcept Therapeutics, with earlier experience at Genentech Roche and AstraZeneca. Release

> Roche has named Matt Sause to lead as CEO of diagnostic efforts beginning January 1, 2023. Currently head of Roche Diagnostics’ North America region, Sause’s career at the company has spanned about two decades, with shorter stints working for Genentech and Gilead Sciences in between. Sause will take over for Thomas Schinecker, who is waiting in the wings to take over for current Roche CEO Severin Schwan next year. Fierce Biotech

> Crinetics Pharmaceuticals has appointed Dana Pizzuti, M.D., to serve as chief development officer. Previously, Pizzuti was SVP of development operations and chief medical officer for Ascendis Pharma, and was with Rigel Pharmaceuticals prior to that. She also previously led the Gilead Sciences’ global regulatory affairs unit. Release

> Clinical-stage biotech Arvinas has tapped Paul McInulty to serve as SVP of regulatory affairs. He comes from Big Pharma Bristol Myers Squibb, and has served in several positions at Celgene. Release

> After jumping ship at Big Pharma Roche, Scott Schobel, M.D., is entering biotech waters as Vico Therapeutics’ chief medical officer. With more than 10 years of experience across various roles at Roche, including serving as the clinical science leader of the tominersen program for Huntington's disease, Schobel will now lead clinical development at the neurology-focused genetic medicine company. Release 

> Jeegar Patel, Ph.D., is joining Evommune as its new chief scientific officer. Prior to the inflammatory diseases biotech, Patel served as SVP of research and nonclinical development at Sanofi’s Kadmon Holdings. Release 

> Celularity, a clinical-stage biotech focused on placental-derived allogeneic cell therapies, has chosen Adrian Kilcoyne, M.D., as EVP, chief medical officer and head of global medical affairs, patient safety and patient affairs. Most recently, Kilcoyne served as Humanigen’s CMO, and held leadership roles at AstraZeneca before that. Release

> AI biotech company Owkin has tapped ​​Alban de La Sablière, former SVP and global head of partnering at Sanofi, as chief business officer. While working at the Big Pharma, he led digital health partnerships with Owkin, among others. Release