Chutes & Ladders—Baselga to helm AstraZeneca’s cancer R&D

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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 Conor Hale, and we will feature it here at the end of each week.

Baselga takes helm of AstraZeneca’s cancer R&D as the new year starts with big changes


AstraZeneca
José Baselga, M.D., Ph.D., will run a newly formed cancer-focused unit.

Major changes are afoot at AstraZeneca as it shakes up its research structure with new units and new names, starting with Baselga taking the helm at arguably the Big Pharma’s largest unit. Baselga, formerly the physician-in-chief of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, stepped down from that position last fall after taking responsibility for not disclosing payments from the pharmaceutical industry, following reports from ProPublica and The New York Times. Meanwhile, AstraZeneca moved up Mene Pangalos, Ph.D., previously responsible for the company’s Innovative Medicines and Early Development Biotech Unit, to head up a new biopharmaceuticals R&D unit focused on cardiovascular, renal, metabolism and respiratory research. Both will report to CEO Pascal Soriot. FierceBiotech

Ex-Novartis Oncology CEO Liz Barrett joins UroGen


UroGen Pharma
Liz Barrett takes over as CEO.

Barrett joins the uro-oncology specialist as it works to complete a rolling NDA for UGN-101, which could lead to its first drug approval. She recently ended a 10-month stint as CEO of Novartis Oncology after deciding her family would not relocate to Switzerland. At NYC and Israel-based UroGen, Barrett will be tasked with building a small commercial organization to support the anticipated launch in 2019. FierceBiotech

JPM 2019: Roche exec jumps to Genevant, joining fellow former Big Pharma vet


Genevant
Margrit Schwarz, Ph.D., will serve as head of R&D and chief scientific officer.

RNA-focused Genevant is one of the latest “vants” from Vivek Ramaswamy, formed back in April 2018 with $37.5 million in seed funding from corporate umbrella Roivant Sciences and delivery tech from Arbutus, with plans to take five to 10 programs into the clinic by 2020. Schwarz, a former VP at Roche and global head of its external innovation work, joins Genevant President and CEO Bo Rode Hansen, Ph.D., a fellow former Roche executive who had been working on RNA therapeutics at the Big Pharma. Genevant also brought on Pete Zorn, who previously served as chief corporate officer and general counsel at Albireo Pharma, as chief operating officer. FierceBiotech

Immunocore digs into AstraZeneca’s biologics arm for new CEO

Immunocore
MedImmune President Bahija Jallal, Ph.D., was named CEO and director of the board of the 2013 Fierce 15 company.

Jallal had been at Medimmune for 12 years and joined around the same time it was bought out by AstraZeneca. Since then, she has helped oversee development of medicines including Imfinzi, Fasenra, Lumoxiti, Siliq and FluMist Quadrivalent. Immunocore originally made waves around the world in 2015 when it raised a $320 million series A round. Since then, the British biotech has taken its lead candidate IMCgp100 into a pivotal trial in uveal melanoma and advanced other internal and partnered assets. FierceBiotech

> The CEOs of Bristol-Myers Squibb and Celgene trotted out detailed cases for their planned $74 billion megadeal at the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference in San Francisco this week, saying the tie-up will create the leading immuno-oncology player in solid tumors and hematology, plus a top-five player in immunology and inflammation. The news follows brand-new severance agreements, inked just days before the deal announcement, which could reap hefty gains for top executives if they stay on through the closing of the deal.

> Roche’s senior VP of global oncology product strategy, Cindy Perettie, is jumping over to become the next CEO of Foundation Medicine, which the Big Pharma acquired last year through a $2.4 billion buyout. FierceMedTech

> Ironwood Pharmaceuticals swiped AstraZeneca’s executive VP of global product and portfolio strategy, Mark Mallon, to fill its CEO chair. Ironwood’s current CEO and founder, Peter Hecht, Ph.D., is leaving to head up Cyclerion, a company to be spun out of Ironwood’s R&D department later this year. FiercePharma

> Allergan is setting up an R&D group in Cambridge, Massachusetts’ Kendall Square neighborhood, headed by Don Frail, Ph.D., its senior VP of research, external scientific innovation, and nonclinical and translational sciences. FierceBiotech

> Once a protected witness in a bribery case involving Novartis and former Greek officials, former Greek Health Ministry consultant Nikos Maniadakis is now a suspect and accused of taking €120,000 in bribes from the drugmaker. FiercePharma

> Former Teva chairman Phillip Frost, M.D., Ph.D., agreed to settle stock “pump-and-dump” charges with the SEC by paying $5.5 million. His Miami-based biopharmaceutical and diagnostic company, Opko Health, will also pay a $100,000 fine. FiercePharma

> McCann Health has tapped Matt Eastwood, most recently the worldwide chief creative officer at consumer-focused agency J. Walter Thompson, to be its new chief creative officer. The position has been open since July, when Jeremy Perrott was fired for a code-of-conduct violation. FiercePharmaMarketing

> Selecta Biosciences is laying off more than one-third of its workforce, as it aims to conserve its cash reserves and advance a gout drug that disappointed investors in phase 2. FierceBiotech

> Pfizer is putting 1,700 jobs in jeopardy with two Hospira plant shutdowns in India, including an injectables facility in Irungattukottai and another site in Aurangabad. FiercePharmaManufacturing

> Eli Lilly & Co. is planning 250 job cuts in a €100 million revamp of a French plant that manufactures insulins, oncology drugs and injectable pens. The cuts will come through a “voluntary exit plan” negotiated with local unions through the end of 2020. FiercePharmaManufacturing