Movers & Shakers: New C-Suites for Assembly Biosciences, Urica Therapeutics, BlueSphere Bio and More

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Life sciences and biopharma companies added new chief executive officers, chief medical officers and scientific officers to guide their companies into the future and oversee developmental programs.

New CEOs

Assembly Biosciences

John G. McHutchison will retire as chief executive officer of Bay Area-based Assembly Biosciences at the end of this year. He will continue to serve on the company's board of directors. Taking over the reins is Jason A. Okazaki, the company's current president and chief operating officer.

Okazaki joined Assembly Bio as chief legal and business officer in 2020. In 2021, he was promoted to chief operating officer. His duties included an expanded focus on investor relations, facilities and information technology. This year, he was elevated to president and became responsible for all general and administrative functions.

Prior to joining Assembly Bio, Okazaki was senior vice president, legal and assistant secretary at Gilead Sciences, Inc., a company where he spent 14 years.

Urica Therapeutics

Jay D. Kranzler was appointed chairman and CEO of Urica Therapeutics, a subsidiary of Fortress Biotech. Kranzler will guide the development of the company's lead candidate, dotinurad, a potential best-in-class urate transporter inhibitor currently in Phase I clinical trials for gout.

Kranzler has served in operational and consulting capacities for multiple pharmaceutical companies. He currently served as an adjunct professor at New York University Stern School of Business and at the New York University Langone School of Medicine. 

Kranzler previously served as global head of external R&D innovation and worldwide R&D strategic investments at Pfizer and was the CEO of Cytel Corporation.

He is currently a board member of multiple companies. He sits on the boards of Avenue Therapeutics, Baergic Bio, Pastorus, Navitas and ImmunoBrain Checkpoint.

Evaxion Biotech A/S

Denmark-based Evaxion also named a new CEO. Per Norlén, a board-certified physician joined the company at the beginning of the month. He has served in executive leadership roles for life sciences companies across Europe.

BlueSphere Bio

Pittsburgh-based BlueSphere also named a new CEO. Chief Business Officer Keir Loiacono was tapped to take over the company's reins. The transition comes as BlueSphere aims to an IND for its first clinical candidate, a TCR T-cell therapy directed against the minor histocompatibility antigen HA-1 for the treatment of high-risk leukemia in the setting of allogeneic stem cell transplant.

Before BlueSphere, Loiacano served as vice president of business development and general counsel of OncoSec Medical Inc. He also worked as a senior director for Advaxis, Inc. and before that, was an attorney with Lerner David Littenberg Krumholz & Mentlik.

New Chief Medical Officers

Celularity, Inc.

Adrian Kilcoyne was appointed CMO and head of global medical affairs, patient safety and patient affairs of Celularity.

Kilcoyne joins from Humanigen, where he also held the role of CMO. Before that, he was head of global oncology evidence generation and external alliances at AstraZeneca.


Ottavio V. Vitolo was named CMO of privately-held Cerevance. He will lead the company's global clinical development and regulatory operations.

Vitolo recently served as CMO and global head of R&D at Alcyone Therapeutics. Prior to that role, Vitolo served as senior vice president, head of R&D and CMO at Relmada Therapeutics Inc. Earlier in his career, Vitolo was vice president of clinical development at Homology Medicines and held positions of increasing responsibilities at Pfizer.

Vico Therapeutics

Netherlands-based Vico has a new CMO. Scott Schobel joined the company as CMO after spending 10 years at Roche, where he led the development of small molecules, monoclonal antibodies, and antisense oligonucleotides.

At Roche, Schobel was group medical director and, most recently, clinical science leader of the Roche tominersen and gantenerumab clinical development programs. Before Roche, Schobel was an assistant professor of clinical psychiatry at Columbia University Medical Center.

Harpoon Therapeutics

Luke Walker was named CMO of Bay Area-based Harpoon Therapeutics. He will lead the company's clinical development strategy.

Walker joins Harpoon from Seagen, where he served as vice president of clinical development. He came to Seagen through that company's acquisition of Cascadian Therapeutics, where he led clinical development.

New Chief Scientific Officers

Evommune, Inc.

Jeegar Patel was appointed CSO of Palo Alto-based Evommune.

Patel recently served as SVP of research and nonclinical development at Kadmon Holdings, Inc., a Sanofi Company. Prior to joining Kadmon, Patel was a nonclinical development project leader at ImClone Systems, now an Eli Lilly company. Patel began his career as a nonclinical development project toxicologist at Abbott Laboratories and Aventis

Maat Pharma

Nathalie Corvaïa takes on the role of CSO at France-based Maat Pharma. She will oversee MaaT Pharma's non-clinical research and development strategies.

Prior to joining MaaT Pharma, Corvaïa was the head of immuno-oncology research at The Pierre Fabre Immunology Center in France.

LifeMine Therapeutics

Martin Stahl was named CSO of LifeMine. Stahl joins LifeMine Therapeutics from Roche, where he held various scientific leadership roles over 25 years, including positions in medicinal chemistry, immunology, portfolio management and research technologies. Most recently, he served as global head of lead discovery, an organization comprising biophysics, biostructure, biochemistry, cell engineering, assay development and screening capabilities. Stahl will lead LifeMine's operations at its European offices in Basel, Switzerland.

Additionally, the company named Louis Plamondon executive vice president and head of CMC. Plamondon was previously senior vice president and head of CMC at Constellation Pharmaceuticals.

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