With drug discovery ambitions, 23andMe recruits Genentech vet Scheller

Chutes and Ladders

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

With drug discovery ambitions, 23andMe recruits Genentech vet Scheller

Richard Scheller was named CSO. 

23andMe recruited ex-Genentech luminary Richard Scheller to lead its search for drug targets from its database of genetic information on more than 850,000 people. Scheller retired from Roche's ($RHHBY) Genentech in December, but will begin as chief science officer and head of therapeutic development at 23andMe in April. At the Mountain View, CA, outfit, he'll recruit a team to analyze the database the company has collected since 2006 from its $99 spit test for potential targets, looking for treatments for common and rare diseases alike. "I have dedicated my life to research aimed at fulfilling unmet needs for very sick people," Scheller said in a statement. "I believe that human genetics has a very important role to play in finding new treatments for disease. I am excited about the potential for what may be possible through 23andMe's database. It is unlike any other." Story | Release

Acadia CEO Uli Hacksell retires with key drug delay

Acadia Pharmaceuticals
Uli Hacksell retired.

On Wednesday, Acadia Pharmaceuticals ($ACAD) simultaneously announced another NDA delay of pimavanserin and the retirement of CEO Uli Hacksell. The company had been the topic of takeover rumors before the announcements, and the news brought shares down more than 20%. Hacksell was replaced on an interim basis by CFO Steve Davis but will receive $580,000 over 18 months as he is designated a consultant, in addition to a $36,000 lump-sum payment. The company's board will initiate a search for a permanent CEO. Board chairman Leslie Iverson thanked Hacksell for his contributions during his 16 years at the company, saying under his leadership "ACADIA has grown from a small startup to a fast growing biopharmaceutical company with innovative drug candidates such as NUPLAZIDTM that has the potential to transform the treatment of psychosis in a range of neurological and psychiatric disorders." Story | Release

Pfizer, Merck vet appointed new Innovate UK CEO

Innovate UK
Ruth McKernan was named CEO.

On Thursday, U.K. business secretary Vince Cable announced the appointment of Ruth McKernan as CEO of the nation's innovation agency, Innovate UK. Beginning on May 1, she'll lead the agency's efforts to accelerate economic growth by stimulating business-led growth. McKernan has spent 25 years in the pharmaceutical industry, heading sites for Merck ($MRK) and Pfizer ($PFE) on both sides of the Atlantic. Most recently, she created two research units in Cambridge: Pfizer Regenerative Medicine and Neusentis, which discovers and develops medicines for pain and sensory disorders. "I look forward to doing all I can to ensure that we create and grow science and technology-based companies in the U.K. and encourage partnership right across the innovation ecosystem," she said. As a scientist, McKernan is best known for her research on ligand-gated ion channels and has over 120 publications and 15 patents, according to a statement. Release

Merck is shuttering its Cubist unit in May, axing most of its 128 R&D positions. Story

GlaxoSmithKline is sacking more than 100 workers in China after a bribery scandal. Story

Amgen is canning 300 Onyx staffers and a campus. Story


> Derma Sciences ($DSCI) named Dr. John Caminis its chief medical officer. Release

Lycera hired Dr. H. Jeffrey Wilkins as its chief medical officer. Release

Thomas Beck joined Recipharm as the company's vice president of quality management. Release

Presbia promoted Dumitra Nela Gonzales to vice president of regulatory affairs and quality assurance. Release

> Huya Bioscience International names Alain Rolland as executive vice president and chief scientific officer. Release

> Anavex adds Dr. Jacqueline French to its scientific advisory board. Release

> Crown Bioscience appoints Sebastian Dempe as business development manager for central Europe. Release

> Arcadia Biosciences appoints Thomas O'Neil as chief financial officer. Release

> Camargo names Jason Moore as vice president of global program management. Release

> Anita Chawla joins CytRx's ($CYTR) board of directors. Release

> Keryx Biopharma ($KERX) appoints Greg Madison to its board of directors. Release

> Neovacs (Alternext Paris: $ALNEV) names Dr. Therese Croughs as chief medical officer and Géraldine Grouard-Vogel as chief scientific officer. Release

> Bind Therapeutics ($BIND) names Andrew Hirsch as acting president and chief executive officer, replacing Scott Minick. Release

> Kamada ($KMDA) appoints Dr. Eran Schenker as vice president-medical director. Release

> Pathway Genomics appoints Dr. Glenn Braunstein as chief medical officer. Release

> Reviva Pharma has added Brian Atwood, Sarvajna Dwivedi and Peder Jensen to its board of directors. Release

Envisia Therapeutics named Benjamin Yerxa its president. Release

Genkyotex appointed Elias Papatheodorou as its chief business officer. Release

Tom Kent joined Maverix Biomics as vice president of R&D. Release


> Novavax ($NVAX) appoints Brian Rosen as vice president, government affairs. Release

Biotech Research

Charles Ryan joined Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory as general counsel. Release