A Boston-based venture capital firm known for its investments in the life sciences sector has hired a new in-house legal chief.
Deirdre Cunnane is the first-ever general counsel at Omega Fund Management LLC, she confirmed in an email to Bloomberg Law. Cunnane, a former partner at Goodwin Procter who spent a decade as general counsel at Waltham, Mass.-based venture capital firm Advanced Technology Ventures, was most recently chief legal officer, treasurer, and company secretary at Catabasis Pharmaceuticals Inc.
Cunnane joined Catabasis as general counsel in late 2015, and left its executive ranks Oct. 11, according to a securities filing by the Cambridge, Mass.-based biopharmaceutical company. Shortly thereafter, she joined Omega Funds as its top in-house lawyer and chief operating officer.
Omega Funds announced in mid-December that it had raised $438 million for investments in the “future of medicine.” The fundraising was the largest-ever by Omega Funds, which had previously raised $300 million for another fund in 2015.
Founded in 2004 by managing director Otello Stampacchia, Omega Funds primarily pursues early- and late-stage investments in biopharmaceutical, life sciences, and medical device companies. The venture capital firm has backed startups like Editas Medicine Inc., Gossamer Bio Inc., and Juno Therapeutics Inc., a cutting-edge cancer treatment maker bought for $9 billion by Celgene Corp. in 2018. Omega Funds sold Micromet Inc., another former investment, to Amgen Inc. in 2012 for $1.2 billion.
Omega Funds also owned a 12% stake in Morphic Therapeutic Inc., a Waltham-based biopharmaceutical company that raised roughly $90 million through an initial public offering in June. Securities filings by Morphic, which earlier this year hired former Evelo Biosciences Inc. and Cubist Pharmaceuticals Inc. in-house lawyer William DeVaul as its new general counsel, show that the IPO generated $1.6 million in legal fees and expenses for its outside lawyers at Fenwick & West.
A Pharma Frenzy
Cunnane isn’t the only in-house lawyer switching jobs ahead of year’s end in the pharmaceutical space.
Acorda Therapeutics Inc. announced in mid-November that president and longtime general counsel Jane Wasman would resign and be replaced by deputy general counsel Andrew Mayer, who has spent the past decade in a variety of in-house roles at the Ardsley, N.Y.-based biopharmaceutical company.
The news of Wasman’s pending departure came a few weeks after Acorda announced a restructuring designed to shore up its bottom line by reducing staff and research and development costs.
Wasman told Bloomberg Law in an email that her departure wasn’t related to the company’s current financial struggles. She currently owns about $200,000 in Acorda stock, Bloomberg data show. Wasman said she remains optimistic about Acorda, which she joined as general counsel in 2004, and will continue to work with the company as a consultant. Earlier this year, Wasman joined the board of directors at South San Francisco-based Rigel Pharmaceuticals Inc., a clinical-stage biopharma firm.
Here are some other notable moves in the pharmaceutical industry:
- Maiken Keson-Brookes, general counsel of Cambridge-based pharmaceutical company Synlogic Inc., joined Rubius Therapeutics as chief legal officer and company secretary in November. At Rubius, which is also based in Cambridge, Keson-Brookes will work with Mark Boshar, the company’s vice president of legal affairs since 2017. Axcella Health, another Cambridge-based biotech firm, in November promoted vice president of legal Heidy King-Jones to general counsel.
- Cerevel Therapeutics LLC, a neuroscience-focused biopharma company formed last year by drug giant Pfizer Inc. and Bain Capital LP, recently tapped Bryan Phillips to serve as its new chief legal officer. Phillips joined Cerevel after 11 years as general counsel for SurModics Inc., an Eden Prairie, Minn.-based medical device company that securities filings show paid him $1 million in 2018.
- Ichnos Sciences Inc., a Paramus, N.J.-based biopharma company spun off from Switzerland’s Glenmark Holding SA in October, will see Martin Wilson become its general counsel on Jan. 7. Wilson has roughly two decades of in-house pharmaceutical expertise, having spent the past three years as general counsel for Buena, N.J.-based generic pharmaceutical company Teligent Inc.
- Phathom Pharmaceuticals Inc., a suburban Chicago-based biopharma company focused on fighting gastrointestinal diseases, announced in early December that it hired Larry Miller as its new in-house legal chief. Miller previously served three years as general counsel for pet food supplier Blue Buffalo Co. Ltd., and spent the past eight months as general counsel at Cyclerion Therapeutics Inc., a Cambridge-based biopharma firm coping with the fallout from a double clinical trial failure.
- Poxel SA, a Lyon, France-based biopharma company developing drugs for metabolic diseases, in late November tapped former Dechert associate Quentin Durand to serve as its new chief legal officer. Durand had served as Poxel’s outside counsel during his time at Dechert, whose Paris office Durand joined in 2015, according to a statement from Poxel’s CEO announcing his hire.