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Chutes & Ladders—Rome Therapeutics taps Celgene vet Zaller for CSO role

Welcome to this week’s Chutes & Ladders, our roundup of hirings, firings and retirings throughout the industry. Please send the good word—or the bad—from your shop to Kyle Blankenship, and we will feature it here at the end of each week.

Rome snags Merck, Celgene vet Zaller as new CSO

Rome Therapeutics
Dennis Zaller, Ph.D., will take over as CSO.

Zaller arrives from Celgene, where he spent five years overseeing partnerships with early-stage biotechs across immunology, fibrosis and immuno-oncology and ushering six new drugs into the clinic. Before Celgene, Zaller spent 25 years at Merck Research Laboratories. As he worked his way up the ranks, Zaller led drug discovery teams, helping move 28 molecules into the clinic, eight of which scored approval. As CSO, he will lead Rome’s efforts to discover and develop drugs for new targets found in parts of the human genome previously dismissed as “junk DNA.” Rome is looking beyond the 2% of the genome that codes directly for proteins and focusing on parts of the genome called the repeatome, which is made up of repeating sequences of nucleic acids, called repeats for short. Fierce Biotech

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Klick Health names new CEO, expands practice areas and adds 2 business units

Klick Health
Lori Grant will come on board as CEO. 

Grant was already president of the pharma and healthcare agency; her promotion to CEO was announced at a Klick internal town hall in December. Klick planned to announce her official appointment in May at its Klick Ideas Exchange that would have featured former President Barack Obama. But the COVID-19 pandemic intervened, forcing the event’s cancellation. Leerom Segal, co-founder of Klick Health, stepped back from the CEO role to hand the reins to Grant but remains co-founder and chairman of Klick Health and chairman and CEO of Klick Group. He said Grant has grown organically into the health group’s CEO role over her tenure as president. Fierce PharmaMarketing

Private medtech Aerin appoints Brokaw to CEO role 

Aerin Medical
Matt Brokaw will helm the privately held medical device company. 

Brokaw has a long record of commercial leadership, building successful ear, nose and throat businesses at companies including Tusker Medical, Spirox, Entellus Medical, Stryker, Acclarent, Johnson & Johnson and Smith+Nephew. Aerin provides ENT physicians with tissue-sparing solutions for the treatment of nasal conditions to improve patient quality of life. ENT physicians use the company’s platform technologies to treat patients suffering from nasal airway obstruction and chronic rhinitis—prevalent and debilitating conditions that affect tens of millions of people in the U.S. annually, the company said. Release

> Takeda is offering early retirement to employees in Japan, the company said. The so-called “Future Career Program” will be available to those on sales and administrative functions but not in R&D or manufacturing. Employees as young as 30 years of age who have worked at the company for at least three years can apply between Sept. 28 and Oct. 16, with a target retirement date set for Nov. 30. The early exits will get a severance payment as well as support for finding a new job. Fierce Pharma

> Kronos Bio has appointed Yasir Al-Wakeel as CFO and head of corporate development. Prior to Kronos, Al-Wakeel was chief financial and strategy officer at Neon Therapeutics, and he previously served as CFO and head of corporate development at Merrimack Pharmaceuticals. Release

> Belgian cancer vaccine venture Persomed has tapped Kristof Vercruysse as CEO. Vercruysse most recently served as chief development and chief medical officer of TargED Biopharmaceuticals. Release

> Bionano Genomics has appointed Alka Chaubey, Ph.D., as its first chief medical officer. 

> Sanifit has tapped Adam Levy as CFO. Levy was most recently with Brickell Biotech, where he served as chief business officer. 

> Merck has appointed Liz Henderson as regional VP of Merck Biopharma Asia Pacific. Henderson succeeds Andre Musto, who has been promoted within the organization to senior VP and head of the global cardiometabolic and endocrinology franchise. 

> Zai Lab has named F. Ty Edmondson as chief legal officer. Edmondson joins Zai from Biogen, where he served as senior VP and chief corporation counsel and assistant secretary. Release

> Orbital Research, a division of Orbital Global, has tapped Chris Bunniss as its director of real-world evidence strategy and business, effective Sept. 1. Before Orbital, Bunniss was global marketing director for Durex and Scholl and U.K. marketing director at SSL International.

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