Startups

Power Moves: CEO Jeff Marrazzo is leaving Spark Therapeutics, 3 years after that giant acquisition

Plus, Audacy hires its first CTO, Phenom hires two key execs and University City Science Center finds a new VP of real estate.

Spark Therapeutics CEO Jeff Marrazzo (left) is leaving his role April 1. COO Ron Philip will replace him.

(Courtesy photos)

Power Moves is a column where we chart the comings and goings of talent across the region. Got a new hire, gig or promotion? Email us: philly@technical.ly.


Spark Therapeutics, home of the biggest ever venture-backed exit in Philadelphia, will name a new chief executive officer, as its current and only CEO Jeffery Marrazzo announced recently that he’ll be stepping down April 1.

The gene therapy company, a publicly traded spinout of Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, was cofounded by Marrazzo in 2013. Chief Operating Officer Ron Philip will succeed Marrazzo.

“When I think about Spark’s future, I’ve long viewed Ron as the next person to take over at the helm — not only is he a steadfast leader, he’s been instrumental in developing Spark’s gene therapy pipeline and has a deep understanding of Spark’s unique culture,” Marrazzo said in a statement. “I am incredibly proud of what we’ve built at Spark: from my first meetings in 2011, when the company was merely an idea, to now as the gene therapy center of excellence at one of the largest healthcare companies in the world.”

Marrazzo recently told the Philadelphia Business Journal that he began considering transitioning out of his role after the company was sold to Roche in 2019. He ultimately decided more recently that the leadership, tech and facilities were in place to begin the change.

“It’s an exciting time at Spark. Not only are we growing physically, we’re continuing to expand the science surrounding gene therapy and the possibilities it may offer to people living with rare diseases,” Philip said of the new role. “It’s those possibilities that fuel us daily and unite our team on the path ahead.”

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Audacy hires its first CTO

Audio content and entertainment company Audacy appointed its first ever chief technology officer in Sarah Foss, who will head the company’s efforts to differentiate its products and services in its tech sector.

Sarah Foss. (Courtesy photo)

Foss comes to the company with more than 25 years in media tech, and many as a tech executive. She previously served as SVP of strategic initiatives for FreeWheel Advertisers and held roles at Imagine Communications, YANGAROO, Inc., Encompass Digital Media, VCI Solutions and Harris Corporation. She’s also the cofounder of Tech Bae, a women-focused mentorship and networking community.

Her primary responsibilities will include managing key tech goals including software development, ad technology, business  intelligence and analytics, data solutions, and Audacy’s recently acquired live and on-demand audio streaming business, AmperWave. Rich Schmaeling, CFO and EVP of strategic initiatives said as the company continues to invest in its tech, Foss will lead critical innovative offerings for its customers.

“Audacy is in the enviable position that we have unique content, great platforms, and an appetite for transformative growth,” Foss said in a statement. “I am excited that technology is seen as an accelerant and differentiator for us at Audacy.”

Phenom adds and promotes execs

HR tech giant Phenom added two new key hires to its executive team with the appointment of Chief Financial Officer Davinder Athwal and Chief Human Resources Officer and Chief Evangelist Jess Elmquist.

Athwal joins the company with 25 years of experience building and leading finance teams, Phenom said, and will focus on scaling its financial infrastructure as it continues to expand (and looks to a TBD IPO). He was most recently with OSG, a global fintech company that provides billing and payment solutions and was also previously with Blucora, a provider of tax software and data and technology-driven solutions to the wealth management industry.

In his new role, Elmquist will lead Phenom’s global HR team as the company continues to rapidly hire, and will “train and inspire” new employees. He’s held chief culture roles at LifeTime, Inc. and TrueWell, Inc. Elmquist is also an inspirational speaker, trainer and “evangelist” for why innovation in HR is imperative, Phenom said.

Cofounder Brad Goldoor, who previously oversaw Phenom’s holistic talent management, will take on the new role of chief employee experience officer. Moving forward, he will focus exclusively on broadening Phenom’s employee experience.

“As Phenom increases headcount, customers and locations around the world, we are adding two veteran executives who will guide our pivotal finance and HR teams toward the same top-level goals,” said Mahe Bayireddi, cofounder and CEO of Phenom in a statement. “Davinder and Jess bring track records of consistent results and inspiring leadership that will enrich Phenom’s culture and better position the company for long-term success.”

Science Center brings on a new real estate chief

The University City Science Center appointed a new VP of Real Estate in Timnit Abraha, following SVP of Real Estate Curt Hess‘ retirement. Abraha has served as the director of Harvard University real estate for the last three years, where she was responsible for 3.4 million square feet across 94 buildings. She also led all Harvard commercial real estate transactions in Cambridge and in areas beyond.

Abraha is coming into the role as the Science Center works with Wexford Science & Technology and Ventas, Inc. on their work with the development of uCity Square. The 4 million-square-foot mixed-use community consists of laboratory, clinical, office, academic, retail, and residential space combined with programming that is free and accessible to the public. An additional 4 million square feet of mixed-use development is planned for the uCity Square community, the org said.

“Timnit brings the right combination of real estate expertise and passion for community engagement to this role,” Science Center President and CEO Tiffany Wilson said in a statement. “In order to power progress and further our mission of representing the communities we serve, we needed to ensure this position was filled with an experienced business leader who can think strategically about our portfolio and the role it plays in creating economic opportunities for local constituents.”

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