Hired and retired: Transitions at the top

By Rachel Arthur

- Last updated on GMT


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GSK, Curevac, AGC Biologics and Genezen are among the companies making new appointments this month.

Pfizer: William Pao

William Pao, M.D., Ph.D., will join Pfizer as executive vice president and chief development officer as of March 21.

Dr. Pao will become a member of Pfizer's executive leadership team, reporting to chairman and CEO Albert Bourla. He succeeds Rod MacKenzie, who is retiring after 35 years at Pfizer. 

At Pfizer, Dr. Pao will oversee the Company’s Global Product Development organization, which is responsible for the clinical development and advancement of Pfizer’s pipeline of innovative medicines in inflammation and immunology, internal medicine, hospital, oncology and rare disease, as well as regulatory affairs in support of Pfizer’s R&D pipeline and portfolio of marketed therapies.

Dr. Pao joins Pfizer from Roche, where he most recently served as the Head of Pharma Research and Early Development (pRED) and oversaw the discovery and early development of a portfolio of new molecular entities to treat diseases related to cancer, neuroscience, ophthalmology, rare diseases, immunology, infectious diseases, and rare blood disorders, across seven global sites.

Before joining Roche, Dr. Pao simultaneously held key positions as Professor of Medicine and Director of the Division of Hematology/Oncology at Vanderbilt University, and Director of Personalized Cancer Medicine at Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center.

During this time, he was co-corresponding author on the first paper to describe osimertinib (Tagrisso), a medication used to treat non-small-cell lung carcinomas with specific mutations. He also co-founded MyCancerGenome, a pioneering cancer medicine knowledge resource for physicians, patients, caregivers, and researchers. 

GlaxoSmithKline: Tony Wood

GlaxoSmithKline plc has appointed Tony Wood as Chief Scientific Officer (CSO) designate: who will assume full accountability for R&D across GSK’s portfolio and pipeline as of August.

One of the world’s pre-eminent chemists, Wood has more than 30 years of experience working across diverse disciplines of R&D to deliver innovative medicines. He joined GSK from Pfizer in 2017, as Senior Vice President, Medicinal Science and Technology, and is responsible for all science and technology platforms supporting the discovery, clinical development and delivery of new medicines across GSK.

Over his career, Wood has led large-scale global organisations in drug discovery and development in multiple therapeutic areas, including immunology, oncology and infectious diseases. He has been involved in the launch of many new medicines at GSK, including Nucala​, Blenrep​, Jemperli​, Cabenuva​ and most recently Xevudy​. Wood has also been integral to delivering the recent improvements in GSK’s R&D productivity and central to developing its R&D approach focusing on science of the immune system, human genetics and advanced technologies, notably building capabilities in functional genomics, artificial intelligence and machine learning. 

In his earlier career at Pfizer, Wood created and led its first global Medicinal Chemistry organisation, supporting all small molecule discovery output from Pfizer’s research units. Among many achievements, this group designed the antiviral molecules that led to the development of the SARS-CoV-2 medicine Paxlovid.

Wood also created and led Pfizer’s first Medicinal Sciences organisation. In this role he was accountable for the design and development of medicines including the JAK1 inhibitor abrocitinib, JAK3 inhibitor ritlecitinib, and tofacitinib follow-on medicines. He was also responsible for the structure-based design of the Pfizer RSV vaccine, which is currently in phase III development. Prior to this, Tony co-led Pfizer’s research for the antiviral therapeutic area. He invented maraviroc, a CCR5 antagonist for the treatment of HIV and Pfizer’s first successful drug derived from high-throughput screening. 

Wood will take over from current CSO, Dr Hal Barron. After this, Dr Barron will remain a member of GSK’s Board transitioning to serve as a Non-Executive Director and a member of the Board’s Science Committee for an initial period of three years. In addition to his Non-Executive responsibilities, Barron will also provide advice and support on scientific and asset development matters and will attend key R&D executive investment and advisory committees. He will also continue to engage with the scientific community, R&D partners and other companies, as required, in support of R&D and on behalf of GSK. 

Barron will assume the position of CEO and Board Co-Chair of Altos Labs effective 1 August 2022. Altos Labs is a new, private biotechnology company based in the San Francisco Bay Area, with multiple global sites, and is focused on the biology of cellular rejuvenation programming with the goal of reversing disease.

AGC Biologics: Regina Choi-Rivera

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Biopharma CDMO AGC Biologics has appointed Regina Choi-Rivera as the new General Manager of the company’s large-scale biopharmaceutical mammalian production facility in Boulder, Colorado.

AGC Biologics acquired the Boulder Facility in June 2020, giving the company additional capacity and a significantly larger production scale for mammalian-based projects in the US. The Boulder site houses two 20,000-liter stainless steel cell bioreactors and has more than twenty acres of undeveloped land, creating opportunities for future expansion, including space for up to four more 20,000-liter bioreactors. The facility’s automation and cost-effective capabilities make it well-suited for high volume commercial production and high titer antibody processes.

In her new role, Choi-Tivera assumes executive oversight and leadership and will manage strategic development and facility operations. She brings more than 25 years of experience in the biotech industry with her and joins AGC Biologics after working for Samsung Biologics for eight years. While at Samsung Biologics she most recently served as vice president, Head of Drug Product Business Unit. Prior to that Ms. Choi-Rivera was vice president, Head of the Drug Substance Contract Manufacturing Business unit. Before her time at Samsung, she spent nearly a decade with Janssen Pharmaceutical’s research and development division, supporting pilot plant operations and managing outsourcing activities.

Curevac: Changes in top scientific team

Curevac’s Chief Technology Officer, Dr. Mariola Fotin-Mleczek, will resign from CureVac at the end of this month: after nearly 16 years of scientific leadership at the company. She leaves to pursue a family business outside the biotech industry in her home country of Poland.

Fotin-Mleczek joined CureVac in May 2006 and became a member of the management board in 2013, first as Chief Scientific Officer and as Chief Technology Officer in 2018. As a scientist trained in immunology and cell biology, Mariola was responsible for the development and preclinical testing of CureVac’s mRNA technology platform across the therapeutic areas of prophylactic vaccines, oncology and molecular therapy. She is co-inventor of multiple key mRNA technology-related patents and has authored more than 30 scientific publications with a focus on mRNA technology.

Further development of CureVac’s mRNA technology platform will be led by Dr. Igor Splawski, Chief Scientific Officer of CureVac, and spearheaded by Dr. Patrick Baumhof, Senior Vice President Technology, who has a 15-year scientific tenure with the company. The consolidated scientific frontend will seamlessly integrate with the subsequent clinical development of new mRNA-based vaccines and therapeutics.

Ajinomoto Bio-Pharma Services: Tony O’Neill

Ajinomoto Bio-Pharma Services, a global provider of bio-pharmaceutical contract development and manufacturing services, has appointed Tony O’Neill as vice president of compliance, US Operations.

O’Neill brings extensive experience leading quality, manufacturing, and operational excellence teams in the pharmaceutical and bio-pharmaceutical industry. He joins Aji Bio-Pharma after 25 years at Allergan, where he held a number of quality and operational leadership positions in biologics manufacturing and development with responsibility both in Ireland and US operations. His most recent roles include Executive Director Quality Operations and Executive Director Risk Management and Compliance, where he was responsible for leading a team in developing standard policies and processes for data management and controls across a network of 14 sites.

“As we continue to expand our capacity and service offerings, including the addition of our new multi-purpose fill/finish suite, Tony’s expertise will be integral in ensuring the required sterility and regulatory standards are met for both cGMP clinical and commercial manufacturing,”​ said Nobu Shimba, President and CEO of Aji Bio-Pharma, US

Genezen: Laura Jacanin


Genezen, Inc., a cell and gene therapy CDMO focused on early-phase process development, GMP vector production and analytical testing services, has appointed Laura Jacanin as Senior Director of Business Development.

Previously with similar roles at Wuxi, Lonza, and Cytovance, Laura has over 20 years’ experience in the life science sector and has extensive cell and gene therapies (C&GTs) and biologics expertise.

Jacanin will be responsible for developing and expanding Genezen’s offering of ​lentiviral and retroviral vectors to meet the growing demands of the C&GT market and supporting the development and production of therapies.

Jacanin is the latest in a series of appointments at Genezen which has included: Natasha Rivas as Vice President of Quality Assurance and Regulatory Affairs; Raymond Kaczmarek as CEO; and Brok Weichbrodt as Vice President of Operations.

The appointments have been made to help drive the business’ growth alongside a new 75,000+ square foot cGMP-compliant lentiviral and retroviral vector production facility. The first phase, a process development and analytical lab, officially opened in late 2021. The next phase, with cGMP production suites, is currently underway and due to complete in early 2022.

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