Drug Development

Ex-Allergan CEO David Pyott backs a biotech startup alongside Takeda, PhI trial set to launch

David Pyott has a new gig to add to his post-Allergan CV. Pyott and Takeda co-led a $13 million startup round for Bioniz, an Irvine, CA-based developer which just had its first IND approved.

David Pyott

David Pyott

Bioniz is building a peptide platform based on blocking particular cytokines that can trigger disease. It has two lead programs, BNZ-1 and BNZ-2, with two completely different disease targets. BNZ-1 is aimed at HTLV-1 Associated Myelopathy (HAM), an orphan disease, and for certain T-cell leukemias. The preclinical BNZ-2 targets cytokines IL15/IL21 for celiac disease and other immuno-inflammatory disorders in the GI tract.

Pyott is taking the chairman’s post for himself while Nazli Azimi takes the CEO’s role. Azimi worked on cytokine research at the NIH and later moved on to the faculty of the prestigious Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, where she specialized in the herpes virus.

The high-profile Pyott blazed a wide trail for himself during the 17 years he helmed Allergan. But his ambitions to continue to grow the company ran into a hostile bid from Valeant. In the end, Brent Saunders appeared as the white knight in that deal, grabbing the company and integrating it into his own global network.

Small is now big in biopharma. Like a number of ex-CEOs, Pyott is finding plenty of opportunities to work with biotech startups. Ex-Genzyme CEO Henri Termeer is a key player in the Boston/Cambridge startup hub, while ex-Sanofi CEO Chris Viehbacher is running an investment group, and ex-Pfizer CEO Jeff Kindler runs his own shop.

Joe Kiani and Cota Capital contributed to the round for Bioniz.

Bioniz’s Azimi had this to say in a statement this morning:

This financing is an important step needed to drive the development of new potential treatments for patients affected by very serious cytokine-driven diseases. The acceptance of the BNZ-1 IND is a great accomplishment by our team and we are excited to collaborate with the NIH on the clinical advancement of this program.

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