Jim Burns was looking for his next post after his latest venture in biotech, a gene therapy startup known as Locanabio, shut down “due to the time and capital required to deliver clinical data.”

“I felt like there was some unfinished business from the Locanabio side, and I got a call from a couple of different sources saying you should look at Ensoma,” Burns said in an interview.

He already knew of the genomic medicines company that’s situated in Boston. He was friends with former CEO Emile Nuwaysir, who stepped down in recent months due to family reasons, and board chair Paula Soteropoulos, who had taken on the interim CEO post. Soteropoulos was a 20-year Genzyme veteran and had worked with Burns at the rare disease outfit at Sanofi.

“She’s somebody who I trusted a lot,” Burns said.

On May 13, she handed Burns the CEO baton. He’ll help turn the 90-employee biotech into a development-stage startup that seeks to enter human trials next year with its first in vivo medicine and select two more development candidates.

“The idea of in vivo gene editing of immune cells is a great idea. It’s based on really good science, too, so it could work,” Burns said. “But that’s not sufficient. You have to be able to execute” and turn that into “products that help people,” he added.

The biotech will add a chief business officer to expand the scope of its pipeline by way of partners and will likely think about its next round of financing toward early 2025, Burns said. Ensoma had worked with Takeda but was one of multiple gene therapy collaborators that the Japan-based pharma broke ties with a year or so ago amid a broader retreat in the field.

As for the shuttered Locanabio, “stay tuned,” he said. “There will be some information about that at some point in the near future.” — Kyle LaHucik


Alonzo Weems
→ Eli Lilly’s Alonzo Weems will retire at the end of the year, the Indianapolis pharma said in a Wednesday morning release. Weems succeeded Melissa Barnes as chief ethics and compliance officer after her retirement on June 27, 2021, and he’s also EVP of enterprise risk management. He got his start at Lilly as an attorney in 1997 and moved through the ranks to become VP and deputy general counsel for corporate legal before he was promoted to his current position. “Throughout his distinguished career, Alonzo has been a steadfast advocate for our company, providing strategic guidance to our global product development teams and major geographies worldwide,” Lilly CEO David Ricks said in a statement. “His commitment to winning with integrity will leave a lasting legacy, and we thank him for his many years of service.”


Florian Brand
→ There will be a temporary co-CEO structure at atai Life Sciences starting June 1, according to its Q1 report. Co-founder and CSO Srinivas Rao will share CEO duties with current chief Florian Brand, and then Brand will step aside at the mental health biotech by year’s end. Brand led atai to its 2021 IPO, and the company weathered layoffs that affected 30% of its staff last year. A Phase 2b trial is in progress for atai’s treatment-resistant depression candidate from Beckley Psytech, BPL-003, after it raised the curtain on data from the Phase 2a open-label study. Other programs are in the hopper, including its psilocybin hopeful COMP360 that’s in Phase 3.


Matthew Shields
→ Matthew Shields will take over for Eric Drapé as EVP of Teva’s manufacturing and supply unit, Teva Global Operations, on June 3. The 17-year Amgen vet comes from Merck, where he oversaw global animal health manufacturing. Earlier, Shields worked for Sanofi as VP and global head of specialty care manufacturing operations. Teva shut down three generics manufacturing sites last year and plans to close several more sites by 2027 as part of CEO Richard Francis’ “pivot to growth” strategy.

→ Sumitomo Pharma will have a new CEO and a revamped board on June 25. Toru Kimura is slated to succeed Hiroshi Nomura, who will become a corporate senior executive advisor. Kimura, 63, has been part of the Sumitomo universe since 1989 and is currently a representative director and senior managing executive officer. Tsutomu Nakagawa, who just replaced Myrtle Potter as CEO of Sumitomo Pharma America, will join Hiroshi Niinuma on the board of directors, while three members will step down: Yoshiharu Ikeda, Hiroyuki Baba and Shigeyuki Nishinaka.


Randy Schatzman
→ On Tuesday, Bolt Biotherapeutics announced that it was revamping the company, dropping its lead cancer asset and shaking up its executive team and headcount. Randy Schatzman, Bolt’s CEO since 2019, is stepping down and moving into an advisory role, making way for CFO Willie Quinn to take over the company. In addition, CMO Edith Perez, who has been with Bolt since 2020, is also stepping down. The cancer biotech also revealed several promotions: Grant Yonehiro (now COO), Dawn Colburn (SVP, clinical development) and Michael Alonso (SVP, research). Along with the C-suite shake-up, Bolt is planning to lay off half of its workforce as it focuses on advancing a Phase 1 cancer candidate.


Kemi Olugemo
→ RNA editing shop Korro Bio said in its Q1 update that it had named Kemi Olugemo as CMO. Olugemo had held the role of VP & therapeutic head, neurology global clinical development at Ultragenyx since December 2022. The Parexel and Mallinckrodt vet has also been head of neurology for Akcea Therapeutics. We have the next destination for another Ultragenyx exec further down the list.


Sandra Milligan
→ On April 1, Sandra Milligan took on a new role as president of Austin, TX-based Aspira Women’s Health, which specializes in gynecologic disease diagnostics. This week, she’s punched her ticket on the board of directors at Spyre Therapeutics, now chaired by ex-Blueprint Medicines CEO Jeff Albers. Milligan had led R&D efforts at Organon from 2020-23, and she left the Merck women’s health spinoff for good on Jan. 5.


Michael Faerm
→ Michael Faerm’s latest CFO gig is with Viracta Therapeutics, a San Diego company that is studying nana-val (nanatinostat + valganciclovir) for relapsed/refractory Epstein-Barr virus-positive lymphoid malignancies. After two years as CFO of Artiva Biotherapeutics, Faerm was the interim finance chief for Harpoon Therapeutics when Merck scooped up the cancer biotech for $680 million to kick off 2024.

→ The microRNA experts at Regulus Therapeutics have promoted Rekha Garg to CMO. The Lilly and Amgen vet had worked for Regulus as SVP, clinical development and regulatory since 2022. Regulus is in a Phase 1b trial with RGLS8429 for patients with autosomal dominant polycystic kidney disease, and Garg is familiar with the space as the former SVP, regulatory affairs and safety at Sanifit.


Matthew Moore
→ Matthew Moore previously appeared in Peer Review in 2021, when he took the CBO job at Arcutis Biotherapeutics. Moore has now left Arcutis to join Ventyx Biosciences as COO. Before his appointment at Arcutis, Moore held business development positions at Allergan, Actavis and Forest Laboratories. Ventyx’s stock $VTYX cratered when it scrapped VTX958 in plaque psoriasis last November, and the San Diego biotech would lay off 20% of its workforce a month later. Ventyx is still testing the drug in Crohn’s disease.


Jean-Claude Provost
→ Jeff Humphrey will jump on board as CMO of radiopharmaceutical biotech Lantheus on June 25. Humphrey had the same post in his short stints with Constellation Pharmaceuticals and Magenta Therapeutics, and the ex-Kyowa Kirin chief development officer has had stops at a trio of large pharmas (Pfizer, Bayer and Bristol Myers Squibb). Humphrey replaces Jean-Claude Provost, who will transition to the CSO slot.


Pejvack Motlagh
→ Paris-based T cell therapy developer Egle Therapeutics has recruited Pejvack Motlagh as CMO. His résumé overflows with big names — GSK, Bristol Myers, AstraZeneca and Boehringer Ingelheim among them — and he held the CMO post at Mablink Bioscience, an ADC biotech that Lilly purchased last year. Egle also appointed Sensei Biotherapeutics CEO John Celebi to the board of directors.


John Applegate
→ Alice Zhang’s Verge Genomics is losing its CFO. John Applegate is now jumping ship to Zephyr AI to serve in the same role. Applegate had been with Verge since October 2022. Before Verge, Applegate had a 14-year stint at Biogen, rounding out his career there in 2019 as head of R&D and finance, and he was VP of accounting & finance at Valo Health.

→ Holon, Israel-headquartered Compugen — which picked up a licensing deal with Gilead last December — is passing the CFO baton to David Silberman, who is taking over for Alberto Sessa. Silberman most recently served in the same role at Oramed Pharmaceuticals. Prior to that, he was corporate financial planning and analysis director at Teva.


Khandan Baradaran
→ Eye disease gene therapy maker Nanoscope Therapeutics has selected Khandan Baradaran as SVP of regulatory and quality. Baradaran just spent the last six and a half years with Ultragenyx, where she was elevated to VP of regulatory CMC in 2021. She’s also served as head of quality for Dimension Therapeutics and as a regulatory CMC leader for Biogen.


Jennifer Schneider
→ Vertex has raised the number of board members to 11 — and amplified the health tech representation — by bringing Homeward Health CEO Jennifer Schneider into the fold. Schneider has also been president and CMO of Livongo Health, which merged with Teladoc Health in 2020.


Jeff Kindler
→ Lupin has welcomed ex-Pfizer CEO Jeff Kindler and Alfonso “Chito” Zulueta to its board of directors. Kindler has helmed Centrexion Therapeutics since its founding in 2013, and Zulueta’s career at Lilly spanned nearly 34 years before his retirement in late 2021.

→ Dean Mitchell has been named chairman of ReCode Therapeutics, an mRNA and gene correction biotech that’s backed by several pharma giants — including the venture arms of Bayer and Pfizer. Mitchell chairs the board at Praxis Precision Medicines and is a board member at Theravance Biopharma and Precigen. He brings additional board experience from two companies that were recently acquired: Kinnate Biopharma (chairman) and ImmunoGen (director).


Paul Hastings
→ Nkarta chief Paul Hastings and Forbion general partner Wouter Joustra are the newest board members at enGene. The gene therapy company went public through a Forbion SPAC and has yet to decide on a CEO to replace Jason Hanson, who said in February he would resign “due to personal family and health reasons” but is staying until a successor is found.


Aleksandra Rizo
→ Ex-Syndax Pharmaceuticals CEO Briggs Morrison has been replaced by Vividion CEO Aleksandra Rizo on Syndax’s board of directors. Morrison passed the baton at Syndax to Michael Metzger in 2022 and is currently the top boss at Crossbow Therapeutics, an MPM-backed oncology player that raised $80 million in a Series A last summer.

→ Swiss-based Nouscom — which has been working toward advancing its pipeline of neoantigen cancer vaccines — has welcomed Syndax’s president and head of R&D Neil Gallagher to its board of directors. The ex-AbbVie CMO has also held roles at Amgen, Novartis Oncology, AstraZeneca and Astex Therapeutics.


Simona Skerjanec
→ Avidity Biosciences has added Simona Skerjanec to the board of directors. At the end of her nine-year career at Roche, Skerjanec served as global head of neuroscience and rare diseases. Lilly and Bristol Myers have made separate bets on Avidity’s antibody-oligonucleotide conjugates (AOCs).

→ There’s a ton of activity on the board of directors at Longeveron: Richard Kender, the former SVP of business development and corporate licensing at Merck, has made his way to the board. Kender retired from Merck in 2013. Also, William Blair vet Neha Motwani and ex-Ring Therapeutics R&D chief Roger Hajjar have been nominated as board candidates, while Jeffrey Pfeffer and Cathy Ross have turned in their resignations.

→ Shares $INTS of Intensity Therapeutics jumped more than 9% on Wednesday, when the cancer biotech announced it had elected former Alexion legal chief Thomas Dubin to the board of directors. Intensity made a modest debut on the Nasdaq last summer with a $16.2 million IPO.

Source: https://endpts.com/jim-burns-reunites-with-genzyme-colleague-at-ensoma-lilly-exec-to-retire-after-27-years/
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