Biotech Movers and Shakers for Aug. 13

Executive Jump
GlaxoSmithKline’s Hal Barron and former Juno Therapeutics Chief Executive Officer Hans Bishop have another accolade to add to their already impressive resumes – board members. Both men have been appointed to the board of directors of Bay Area-based GRAIL, Inc.

GRAIL has been making some serious moves as it continues to drive forward in developing early cancer testing products. At the American Society of Clinical Oncology meeting earlier this summer, GRAIL presented data from its Circulating Cell-free Genome Atlas (CCGA) study. As BioSpace reported at the time the company’s three prototype genome-sequencing assays showed detection rates from about 38 to 51 percent in patients with early-stage lung cancer and 87 to 79 percent in patients with late-stage lung cancers.

In addition to the positive moves with its detection technology, GRAIL hired a new chief executive officer and secured a whopping $300 million in an oversubscribed Series C financing round. That follows last year’s merger with Hong Kong-based Cirina, Ltd., a privately-held company also focused on early cancer screening technology. In the two years since GRAIL launched with a dream of developing a “pan-cancer” screening test, the company has raised more than $1.5 billion in three rounds of equity financing.

Now the company has added two biopharma powerhouses to its board as GRAIL moves forward. GRAIL CEO Jennifer Cook said the company will benefit from Baron’s and Bishop’s “significant scientific and corporate experience as we continue on our path to develop early detection products and alleviate the global cancer burden.”

Prior to his tenure at GSK, Baron served as head of R&D at Calico, the Google life sciences company. He also served as chief medical officer for Genentech.

Bishop currently serves on the Board of Directors of Celgene and Agilent Technologies. He served as CEO of Juno until that company was acquired by Celgene earlier this year. He previously served as chief operating officer for Dendreon, Inc.

Baron isn’t the only GSK hiring news this week:

GlaxoSmithKline – CEO Emma Walmsley added another big name to her leadership team. Walmsley named HSBC banking veteran Iain Mackay as the company’s new chief financial officer. Mackay will replace outgoing CFO Simon Dingemans, who announced his intention to retire from GSK earlier this year. At HSBC Mackay has been group finance director and has worked in global markets for that banking institution. Prior to HSBC, Mackay worked with General Electric, Schlumberger Dowell and Price Waterhouse.

Neuralstem, Inc. – Jim Scully has been named interim chief executive officer of Germantown, Md.-based Neuralstem, Inc. Scully assumed his role this week. He replaced Rich Daly, who served as president and CEO since February 2016. Scully said he looks forward to unlocking the “full potential” of the company’s pipeline candidates, NSI-566 and NSI-189, treatments for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) and major depressive order, respectively. Prior to Neuralstem, Scully spent 10 years at Takeda Pharmaceuticals, where he held roles of increasing responsibility, including financial planning, global business development, business analytics and corporate project management. Scully also held key positions at Astellas Pharmaceuticals, Abbott Labs, GE Healthcare and Walgreens.

In addition to Scully’s appointment, William Oldaker was named chairman of the board of directors at Neuralstem.

BriaCell – Vancouver-based BriaCell hired Vivek Sunkari as a senior scientist. Trained in molecular medicine at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, Sunkari identified new pathogenic mechanisms involved in chronic tissue repair and regeneration processes. Prior to BriaCell, Sunkari was an immunology scientist at Lake Pharma Inc., where he was involved in discovering antibodies for the treatment of immune disorders including immuno-oncology and autoimmune diseases. Additionally, Sunkari is a co-founder of LymeTek Inc., a startup company that focuses on Lyme disease treatment and prevention.

biOasis – John E. Curran and David M. Wurzer were both named to the Bioasis board of directors, filling two of the current vacancies on the board. Additionally, director Maha Radhakrishnan has resigned from the British Columbia-based company’s board due to personal reasons.

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