Ab­b­Vie vet John Leonard moves up to the helm at CRISPR/Cas9 pi­o­neer In­tel­lia, fo­cused on loom­ing hu­man stud­ies

John Leonard

John Leonard, the for­mer top sci­en­tist at Ab­b­Vie and found­ing chief med­ical of­fi­cer at CRISPR/Cas9 play­er In­tel­lia Ther­a­peu­tics, is be­ing kicked up to the CEO’s of­fice.

Spawned by At­las and its clin­i­cal part­ner No­var­tis, In­tel­lia $NT­LA jumped out with a quick and suc­cess­ful IPO in ear­ly 2016, when the idea of gene edit­ing aroused in­tense in­vestor in­ter­est. The hon­ey­moon phase didn’t last long, though, leav­ing In­tel­lia an­gling for the clin­ic in the race to start test­ing the tech in hu­mans as in­vestors con­sid­ered the long R&D trek ahead. And along the way the sci­en­tif­ic founders of the top com­pa­nies like CRISPR Ther­a­peu­tics and Ed­i­tas $ED­IT have been wran­gling over con­trol of the IP.

This is the sec­ond switch at the top for this group of tech rev­o­lu­tion­ar­ies. CRISPR Ther­a­peu­tics $CR­SP CEO Rodger No­vak hand­ed the reins over to chief busi­ness of­fi­cer Samarth Kulka­rn on De­cem­ber 1, an­oth­er change­up in­spired by its first loom­ing hu­man study.

Nes­san Berming­ham

Ini­tial­ly, At­las part­ner Nes­san Berming­ham helmed the biotech he had helped found. But the board de­cid­ed that some­one with Leonard’s re­sume would be bet­ter suit­ed to run the com­pa­ny as it lined up Phase I.

At Ab­b­Vie Leonard was cred­it­ed with work on HIV and HCV, while tak­ing a lead role on Hu­mi­ra — the world’s top earn­ing drug — dur­ing his 22-year tenure there. And just a few days ago the biotech high­light­ed some suc­cess­ful pre­clin­i­cal gene edit­ing work for its sick­le cell dis­ease pro­gram.

Berming­ham gra­cious­ly tipped his hat to Leonard, prep­ping his re­turn to the VC life.

“Af­ter near­ly four years of build­ing In­tel­lia and this ex­cep­tion­al team, the com­pa­ny is now poised to be­gin de­vel­op­ment of CRISPR/Cas9-based ther­a­pies. At this stage, In­tel­lia re­quires a CEO with a track record of suc­cess­ful drug de­vel­op­ment. John was the first to join me in start­ing In­tel­lia, and was an ide­al part­ner be­cause of his un­matched R&D ex­per­tise and bio­phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal lead­er­ship ex­pe­ri­ence. As I re­turn to my roots in biotech ven­ture cap­i­tal, I am con­fi­dent that In­tel­lia, the sci­ence and our em­ploy­ees are in great hands.”

Brent Saunders [Getty Photos]

UP­DAT­ED: Ab­b­Vie seals $63B deal to buy a trou­bled Al­ler­gan — spelling out $1B in R&D cuts

Brent Saunders has found his way out of the current fix he’s in at Allergan $AGN. He’s selling the company to AbbVie for $63 billion in the latest example of the hot M&A market in biopharma.

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Af­ter rais­ing $158M, this up­start's founders have star back­ers and plans to break new ground in gene ther­a­py

Back in 2014, Stephanie Tagliatela opted to take an early exit out of her PhD program after working in Mark Bear’s lab at MIT, where she specialized in the synaptic connections between neuronal cells in the brain. She never finished that PhD, but she and fellow MIT student Kartik Ramamoorthi — who was on the founding team at Voyager — came away with some ideas for a gene therapy startup.

Today, fully 5 years later, she and Ramamoorthi are taking the wraps off of a $104 million mega-round designed to take the cumulative work of their preclinical formative stage for Encoded Therapeutics into human studies. They’ve now raised $158 million since starting out in Illumina’s incubator in the Bay Area, and they believe they are firmly on track to do something unique in gene therapy.

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Novotech CEO Dr. John Moller

Novotech CRO Award­ed Frost & Sul­li­van Best Biotech CRO Asia-Pa­cif­ic 2019

Known in the in­dus­try as the Asia-Pa­cif­ic CRO, Novotech is now lead CRO ser­vices provider for the grow­ing num­ber of in­ter­na­tion­al biotechs se­lect­ing the re­gion for their stud­ies.

Re­flect­ing this Asia-Pa­cif­ic growth, Novotech staff num­bers are up 20% since De­cem­ber 2018 to 600 in-house clin­i­cal re­search peo­ple across a full range of ser­vices, across the re­gion.

Novotech’s ca­pa­bil­i­ties have been rec­og­nized by an­a­lysts like Frost & Sul­li­van, most re­cent­ly with the pres­ti­gious Asia-Pa­cif­ic CRO Biotech of the year award for best prac­tices in clin­i­cal re­search for biotechs for the fifth year. See oth­er awards here.

Richard Gonzalez testifying in front of Senate Finance Committee, February 2019 [AP Images]

Ab­b­Vie's $63B buy­out spot­lights the re­turn of ma­jor M&A deals — de­spite the back­lash

Big time M&A is back. But for how long?

Over the past 18 months we’ve now seen three major buyouts announced: Takeda/Shire; Bristol-Myers/Celgene and now AbbVie/Allergan. And with this latest deal it’s increasingly clear that the sharp fall from grace suffered by high-profile players which have seen their share prices blasted has created an opening for the growth players in big pharma to up their game — in sharp contrast to the popular bolt-on deals that have been driving the growth strategy at Novartis, Merck, Roche and others.

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Sanofi/Re­gen­eron mus­cle ahead of a ri­val No­var­tis/Roche team, win first ap­proval in key rhi­nos­i­nusi­tis field

Re­gen­eron and their part­ners at Sanofi have beat the No­var­tis/Roche team to the punch on an­oth­er key in­di­ca­tion for their block­buster an­ti-in­flam­ma­to­ry drug Dupix­ent. The drug team scored an ac­cel­er­at­ed FDA ap­proval for chron­ic rhi­nos­i­nusi­tis with nasal polyps, mak­ing this the first such NDA for the field.

An­a­lysts have been watch­ing this race for awhile now, as Sanofi/Re­gen­eron won a snap pri­or­i­ty re­view for what is now their third dis­ease in­di­ca­tion for this treat­ment. And they’re not near­ly done, build­ing up hopes for a ma­jor fran­chise.

Two biotech uni­corns swell pro­posed IPOs, eye­ing a $600M-plus wind­fall

We’ve been wait­ing for the ar­rival of Bridge­Bio’s IPO to top off the wave of new biotech of­fer­ings sweep­ing through Nas­daq at the end of H1. And now we learn that it’s been sub­stan­tial­ly up­sized.

Ini­tial­ly pen­ciled in at a uni­corn-sized $225 mil­lion, the KKR-backed biotech has spiked that to the neigh­bor­hood of $300 mil­lion, look­ing to sell 20 mil­lion shares at $14 to $16 each. That’s an added 5 mil­lion shares, re­ports Re­nais­sance Cap­i­tal, which fig­ures the pro­posed mar­ket val­u­a­tion for Neil Ku­mar’s com­pa­ny at $1.8 bil­lion.

No­var­tis holds back the copy­cat brigade's at­tack on its top drug fran­chise — for now

A fed­er­al judge has put a gener­ic chal­lenge to No­var­tis’ block­buster mul­ti­ple scle­ro­sis drug Gilenya on hold while a patent fight plays out in court.

Judge Leonard P. Stark is­sued a tem­po­rary in­junc­tion ear­li­er this week, forc­ing My­lan, Dr. Red­dy’s Lab­o­ra­to­ries and Au­robindo Phar­ma to shelve their launch plans to al­low the patent fight to pro­ceed. He ruled that al­low­ing the gener­ics in­to the mar­ket now would per­ma­nent­ly slash the price for No­var­tis, even if it pre­vails. 

Top an­a­lyst finds a sil­ver lin­ing in Ab­b­Vie’s $63B Al­ler­gan buy­out — but there’s a catch

Af­ter get­ting beat up on all sides from mar­ket ob­servers who don’t much care for the lat­est mega-deal to ar­rive in bio­phar­ma, at least one promi­nent an­a­lyst now is start­ing to like what he sees in the num­bers for Ab­b­Vie/Al­ler­gan.

But it’s go­ing to take some en­cour­age­ment if Ab­b­Vie ex­ecs want it to last.

Ab­b­Vie’s mar­ket cap de­clined $20 bil­lion on Tues­day as the stock took a 17% hit dur­ing the day. And SVB Leerink’s Ge­of­frey Porges can see a dis­tinct out­line of an up­side af­ter re­view­ing the fun­da­men­tals of the deal.

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While Ako­rn works to re­vive its for­tunes, the FDA hits it with an­oth­er warn­ing let­ter

Ako­rn just can’t dig it­self out of its hole.

The spe­cial­ty gener­ic drug­mak­er has re­ceived yet an­oth­er warn­ing let­ter from the FDA this year. With­out dis­clos­ing any specifics, the Lake For­est, Illi­nois-based drug­mak­er on Wednes­day said the US reg­u­la­tor had is­sued the let­ter, cit­ing an in­spec­tion of its Som­er­set, New Jer­sey man­u­fac­tur­ing fa­cil­i­ty in Ju­ly and Au­gust of 2018. The com­pa­ny’s shares $AKRX dipped about 1.7% to $4.65 be­fore the bell.