Boardroom

Movers & Shakers: new CEOs at 7 biopharma companies

Published: Sep 23, 2022 

By Alex Keown

BioSpace

Seven biopharma companies are under new leadership. This week’s Movers & Shakers highlights these new chief executive officers who aim to guide their companies into the future.

Gamida Cell

Abigail L. Jenkins will become the new president and chief executive officer of Boston-based Gamida Cell Ltd. She succeeds Julian Adams, who is retiring. Adams will continue to serve as a member of the board of directors.

In a brief statement, Jenkins said she will focus on bringing omidubicel to market if approved. Omidubicel is an allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell therapy for cancer patients.

“I am excited to lead Gamida Cell as we work to fulfill our mission of creating cures for blood cancers and serious hematologic diseases,” she said in a statement.

Jenkins brings more than two decades of leadership experience to her new role. Previously, she held the position of chief commercial and business officer at Lyndra Therapeutics. There, she formed and helmed commercial, business development, corporate strategy and portfolio management across multiple therapeutic areas.

Before that, Jenkins served as chief commercial officer and U.S. business head at Aquinox Pharmaceuticals. Additionally, she held senior commercial and business development positions at Relypsa, Actavis, Pfizer and Medimmune/AstraZeneca.

Adhera Therapeutics

Effective Sept. 30, Zahed Subhan will take over as CEO of Louisiana-based Adhera. Subhan will also serve as chairman of the company’s board of directors.

Subhan has been serving as a board member since 2021. He brings more than 35 years of experience in research, development and commercialization. Over the course of his career, Subhan has held roles of increasing responsibility at Sanofi, GlaxoSmithKline and Dupont Pharmaceuticals.

Current CEO Andrew Kucharchuk will transition into the role of chief operating officer. He will oversee daily operations at the company.

Viracta Therapeutics

Mark Rothera, the former CEO of Silence Therapeutics, will assume leadership of San Diego-based Viracta Therapeutics. He replaces Ivor Royston, who will remain a board of directors member. Viracta is a precision oncology company aimed at virus-associated malignancies, including Epstein-Barr-associated cancers.

Rothera has a long history in the biopharmaceutical industry. Prior to his role as CEO of RNA-focused Silence Therapeutics, he served as CEO of Orchard Therapeutics. Before Orchard, Rothera served as CCO of PTC Therapeutics, where he helped launch two rare disease therapies. Previously, he served as global president of Aegerion Pharmaceuticals Inc. and vice president and general manager of commercial operations at Shire Human Genetic Therapies.

“I am thrilled to be joining Viracta at this exciting time, as the company progresses Nana-val across multiple indications with the ambition of representing a tumor-agnostic approach to Epstein-Barr virus-associated cancers,” Rothera said in a statement.

Gain Therapeutics

Matthias Alder, currently COO of Maryland-based Gain Therapeutics, will take over as CEO. Alder succeeds Eric Richman, who has served in the role since July 2020 and led the company through its initial public offering. Richman will continue to serve as a board member and senior advisor to the company.

Since joining Gain as COO in 2021, Alder has been instrumental in building the company’s corporate and business development strategy. Before Gain, he served as chief business officer and head of U.S. business operations at Autolus Therapeutics. Before that, he held senior roles in business development, licensing, and legal affairs at Sucampo Pharmaceuticals Cytos Biotechnology AG, and Micromet, Inc.

“Gain is poised for success as we focus on our continued execution against established strategic objectives, including advancing our two lead programs in Parkinson’s and Gaucher disease and expanding the application of our proprietary computational drug discovery platform through collaborations and strategic partnerships,” Alder said in a statement.

Septerna

After serving as interim CEO, Jeffrey Finer has been tapped as the full-time head of Bay Area-based Septerna, a company that launched earlier this year with a $100 million Series A.

A co-founder of Septerna, Finer has helped create and launch multiple new biotech companies, including Maze Therapeutics and Ambys Medicines. He also held leadership roles at Theravance Biopharma, Five Prime Therapeutics, and Cytokinetics. Finer serves on the boards of Strateos, Ambys, and Maze.

NorthX Biologics

Helena Strigård was named the new CEO of Sweden’s NorthX Biologics. She joins the company from her role as director general of SwedenBio, the nation’s life science industry organization. Strigård lead NorthX’s continued expansion in developing and producing advanced biologics. She assumes her role on Sept. 30.

Ted Fjällman, the current CEO of NorthX, will continue to support the company as a member of the board.

Scholar Rock

The Scholar Rock Board of Directors appointed Jay Backstrom as CEO-elect. Backstrom will work closely with founding and Interim CEO Nagesh Mahanthappa before officially assuming the role on Oct. 20.

Backstrom most recently served as executive vice president of research and development at Acceleron Pharma, acquired by Merck last year. Prior to Acceleron, Backstrom served as the chief medical officer and head of global regulatory affairs for Celgene.

Before Celgene, he was vice president of global medical and safety at Pharmion Corporation. Early in his career, he held industry roles at Quintiles, Hoechst Marion Roussel, and Marion Merrell Dow.

“I am excited about the potential of Scholar Rock’s spinal muscular atrophy and oncology programs, where we have near-term opportunities to develop transformative therapies for patients through a highly differentiated platform targeting growth factors like TGFβ,” Backstrom said in a statement.

Source: BioSpace