New Leaders Take the Helm at Three Biopharma Companies


Gene therapy company StrideBio tapped industry veteran Mark Velleca as its new chief executive officer. Velleca takes over the reins of the N.C.-based company from Sapan Shah, who is departing the company after three years at the helm to pursue other opportunities.

Velleca joins StrideBio from Hatteras Venture Partners, where he is a Venture Partner. Prior to that, he served as CEO of G1 Therapeutics, a company he took public and led to secure its first commercial asset, Cosela, which was approved last year to prevent chemotherapy damage in lung cancer patients. Prior to his time at G1, Velleca served as an executive vice president of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

Velleca is no stranger to StrideBio. Since November, he has served as an advisor to the company board of directors. He expressed his excitement at the opportunity to lead StrideBio and the continued development of its associated viral (AAV) vector engineering platform, STRIVE.

"Stride's pipeline holds enormous promise for patients in need of better treatment options. I look forward to working with the entire Stride team as we leverage our novel capsid technology and state-of-the-art manufacturing capabilities to advance our therapeutic candidates into the clinic," Velleca said in a statement.

Shah will support Velleca for a while to ensure a smooth leadership transition. 

In addition to StrideBio, other companies announced leadership changes this morning.

Chicago-based Exicure tapped Chief Scientific Officer Matthias Schroff to take over the CEO role following the resignation of Brian C. Brock, who is leaving the company for a new opportunity. Brock will continue to serve as a special advisor to the CEO to assist the transition. 

In addition to the CEO change, there were also several changes to the company's board of directors. Timothy P. Walbert, who currently serves as Exicure's chairman of the Board, Bosun Hau, Compensation Committee chairman, and Andrew Sassine, a board member and a member of the Audit Committee, are all resigning from the board of directors. Betsy Garofalo will succeed Walbert as chairman of the board and will serve on the Compensation Committee. Jeffrey L. Cleland will take over as chairman of the Compensation Committee, and Bali Muralidhar will serve on the Audit Committee following Sassine's resignation.

Syndax Pharmaceuticals also made a CEO change. Michael A. Metzger, currently serving as president and chief operating officer, will assume the CEO role. Briggs W. Morrison, who had served as CEO, will transition to the role of president and Head of Research and Development. Metzger and Morrison will remain on the company's Board of Directors. The two men both joined Syndax together in 2015.

Metzger said the transition will "better align" their roles and priorities with individual areas of expertise. 

"Briggs and I have worked very closely in partnership over the last seven years to expand Syndax's portfolio of assets through business development transactions while simultaneously building the organization, developing the pipeline, and executing on key capital raising initiatives. Going forward, I will be focused on executing on the strategic vision for the company, Briggs will continue to lead the R&D organization, with a key focus on bringing two assets to approval and helping to bring new assets into the organization," Metzger said in a statement. 

Prior to Syndax, Metzger served as president and CEO of Regado Biosciences. He has also served in senior leadership and business development roles at Mersana Therapeutics, Forest Laboratories, and other industry and investment roles. Morrison previously served in several senior leadership roles in the industry, including as chief medical officer at AstraZeneca and vice president of Clinical Sciences in Oncology at Merck.

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