End of Year, Change of Careers - Arena and Genentech Switch Up Execs

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Although biopharma executives leave for many reasons and at any time, there is a tendency to make shifts toward the end of the year. Today there were two high-profile announcements to start off the month of December.

At Arena: Cabell Out, Streck In

Arena Pharmaceuticals announced that Chris Cabell, the company’s executive vice president, Head of Research and Development, and chief medical officer, was retiring and resigning. He had been with the company since October 2017, but only held the EVP, head of R&D position since June 2020. He was chief medical officer as of August 2019. The change is effective today. Cabell will stay on as an advisor to the company. There are no reports on his future plans.

Cabell’s position will be filled by Paul D. Streck, who will be senior vice president, Clinical Development and chief medical officer. Most recently, Streck was chief medical officer at Alder Biopharmaceuticals, which was acquired by Lundbeck in late 2019. There, he led clinical development, clinical operations, medical affairs, regulatory and safety/pharmacovigilance.

Arena recently reported positive topline data from its Phase IIb ADVISE trial of etrasimod for atopic dermatitis, and plans to move forward into a Phase III registrational trial. It is also currently running the ELEVATE UC 52 Phase III trial of etrasimod in ulcerative colitis (UC) with expectations of completing enrollment by the end of the year. The drug is involved in quite a number of other trials, including ELEVATE UC 12, GLADIATOR UC Phase II, CULTIVATE Phase II/III in Crohn’s disease, the Phase IIb VOYAGE trial in eosinophilic esophagitis, and a Phase II trial is alopecia.

Etrasimod is a next-generation, once-daily, oral, highly selective spingosine 1-phosphate (S1P) receptor modulator discovered by Arena. It provides systemic and local effects on specific immune cells types with the potential to treat multiple immune-mediated inflammatory diseases.

Genentech’s Sandler Leaves for China’s Zai Lab; An Ongoing Exodus

Zai Lab, based in Shanghai, China and San Francisco, announced that Alan Sandler was taking on the newly created position of president, Head of Global Development, Oncology. He is leaving Genentech, where he was the senior vice president and Global Head of Product Development Oncology.

While at Genentech, a Roche company, Sandler lead teams that handled global development and regulatory approval for several drugs, most recently Tecentriq. Before joining Genentech, Sandler was professor and Chief of Hematology/Oncology at Oregon Health and Science University.

“I’m very excited to be joining Zai Lab, given its robust pipeline of innovative clinical compounds,” Sandler stated. “I look forward to accelerating the development of Zai’s extensive and differentiated pipeline of oncology compounds, guide them through regulatory review, and bring them as quickly as possible to patients in need in China and around the world. I am also excited about working to identify additional product candidates to further expand Zai’s oncology portfolio.”

Sandler is not the only top Genentech to leave the company recently. In May, Michael Varney, Head of Research and Development at Genentech, announced he was retiring after 15 years. Genentech replaced Varney with Aviv Regev of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). She was on the executive leadership team at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, as well as an investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, co-Chair of the international Human Cell Atlas project and founding Director of the Klarman Cell Observatory at Broad.

And, of course, in late 2019, Sandra Horning retired after a decade at Genentech where she was first global head of Oncology and Hematology and then chief medical officer. She was replaced October 1, 2019 by Levi Garraway, who prior to that was senior vice president of Oncology Research and Development with Eli Lilly & Co.

Around the same time, in the Fall of 2019, Merdad Parsey, senior vice president of early clinical development in the Genentech Research and Early Development (gRED) group, left Genentech to take on the role of chief medical officer at Gilead Sciences.

Although executives leave companies for many reasons—often better contracts, new challenges or promotions—many view the expertise and success of Genentech as a reason why so many other biopharma companies value their skills and want them leading their teams.

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