Canadian cannabis biopharma player adds CLO from Suboxone maker

Stephen Kim brings experience in-house at Bayer and Indivior to Avicanna

Listed cannabis-focused biopharma company Avicanna has added the former general counsel for commercial at Suboxone manufacturer Indivior as its new chief legal officer.

Stephen Kim will begin his new role at the Toronto-based company later this month and succeeds co-founder Setu Purohit, who stepped down from the CLO role along with the presidency last November before leaving the company at the end of last year. The company said at the time that it was continuing its plan to transition from a pre-revenue R&D stage company into an expanding bio-pharmaceutical company with global operations and sales, and announced last December it had begun to export its products into the EU.   

Kim brings more than 20 years of legal experience to Avicanna, which described him as ‘familiar with the complex overlay of corporate, commercial, IP, governance, compliance and regulatory considerations associated with development and launch of multiple pharmaceutical products’.

He spent five years as corporate counsel for Celgene, a cancer-focused biopharma company owned by Bristol Myers Squibb, before joining Indivior as assistant general counsel for new product development in 2017. Earlier he practised as an associate in the US and Canada at trial and litigation firm Sedgwick Detert Moran & Arnold, Canadian firm Gowling WLG and New York mid-sized firm Pryor Cashman, with his practice focused on tech, life sciences, pharma, corporate law and M&A. At the beginning of his career he also spent two years at Bayer completing an articling clerkship needed for bar admissions in Ontario. 

“I am delighted to be joining Avicanna at such an exciting time,” said Kim, who will oversee all legal and regulatory affairs at a global level. “With my background in domestic and cross-border transactions, as well as pharmaceutical product development, approval and launch, I am particularly excited about the company’s work in the areas of evidence-based and pharmaceutical products and global business.”

Avicanna CEO Aras Azadian said he was “thrilled to bring someone of Stephen’s calibre on board as we evolve into the next phase of commercialisation and development of our pharmaceutical pipeline,” adding that Kim’s “experience and track record coupled with his alignment of vision with the management team is precisely what the company needs to achieve its growth potential.”

Kim left Indivior at the end of December 2020, the month after the US Department of Justice announced the company was to pay $600m to resolve its civil and criminal liabilities after it admitted to making false statements to the Massachusetts Medicaid program about the safety of Suboxone Film, a version of its opioid-addiction-treatment drug Suboxone, around children.

The company’s former CEO, Shaun Thaxter, was handed a six months’ jail sentence in October 2020 along with $600,000 in criminal fines, while former its medical director Timothy Baxter was sentenced that December to six months home detention, 100 hours of community service and a $100,000 criminal fine.

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