Chutes & Ladders—Urovant brings on Astellas alum Robinson as CEO


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 Kyle Blankenship, and we will feature it here at the end of each week.

Astellas alum Robinson returns to urology as Urovant CEO

Former Alkermes COO Jim Robinson will join as CEO.

Robinson takes over from Keith Katkin, who has led Urovant since September 2017 and who will become an adviser to the company’s board of directors. Robinson spent about a year as president and COO at Paragon Biosciences. During that time, he sat on Urovant’s board and served as the CEO of Qlarity Imaging, one of Paragon’s portfolio companies. Before that, he led operations in the Americas for Astellas Pharma, overseeing the commercial launch of two overactive bladder treatments, including Myrbetriq of dancing bladder fame. Robinson arrives at Urovant weeks after the FDA accepted the company’s application for vibegron as a treatment for patients with overactive bladder who have symptoms of urge urinary incontinence, urgency and urinary frequency. The agency is expected to make a decision by Dec. 26. FierceBiotech

Cancer biotech Viracta nabs Nordic Nanovector exec as CMO

Nordic Nanovector CMO Lisa Rojkjaer will come on in the same role. 

Rojkjaer joins the San Diego biotech, which focuses on targeting virus-associated cancers, from Nordic Nanovector, where she served as its CMO. Before working at the Norwegian biotech, she had been global clinical program head, oncology global development at Swiss major Novartis. In her new role, Rojkjaer will oversee the clinical and medical affairs functions and will lead efforts to push on with Viracta's lead program toward regulatory approvals for Epstein-Barr virus-positive lymphomas. The biotech said she would also help “expand the company's pipeline into other virus-associated malignancies. FierceBiotech

Epizyme hires Kutok as CSO to find new uses for Tazverik

Jeffery Kutok will join as CSO.  

In luring Kutok away from Infinity Pharmaceuticals, Epizyme has gained a scientific leader it thinks will help find new uses for Tazverik and advance its pipeline prospects. In the three years since Robert Copeland retired, Epizyme has operated without a CSO. Those years were characterized by a focus on getting EZH2 inhibitor Tazverik to market. Epizyme achieved that goal by securing FDA approval in advanced epithelioid sarcoma in January, marking the start of a new phase in the company’s history. Now, Epizyme has revealed that its plans for the new phase include a CSO. In explaining his decision to hire Kutok as CSO, Epizyme CEO Robert Bazemore focused on the need to carry out research to expand the use of Tazverik. FierceBiotech

> Qiagen has named Thierry Bernard CEO. Bernard will be up for election as CEO and managing director at the company's annual meeting in June. Roland Sackers, Qiagen's CFO, will be up for reelection at that time. Release

> Salt Lake City-based Recursion has named Michael Secora, Ph.D., as CFO. Secora was most recently managing director and head of capital markets and venture at Laurion Capital. 

> Princeton, New Jersey-based KBP Biosciences has named Nick Hart as CFO. Hart most recenty served as CFO at Temptime Corporation and previously was CFO and acting president at HemCon Medical Technologies. 

> China-based EpimAb Biotherapeutics has named Xinyi “David” Gu, Ph.D., as CFO. Gu joins EpimAb from Millennium Management, where he oversaw investments in global pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies.