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.”

De­vel­op­ment of the Next Gen­er­a­tion NKG2D CAR T-cell Man­u­fac­tur­ing Process

Celyad’s view on developing and delivering a CAR T-cell therapy with multi-tumor specificity combined with cell manufacturing success
Transitioning potential therapeutic assets from academia into the commercial environment is an exercise that is largely underappreciated by stakeholders, except for drug developers themselves. The promise of preclinical or early clinical results drives enthusiasm, but the pragmatic delivery of a therapy outside of small, local testing is most often a major challenge for drug developers especially, including among other things, the manufacturing challenges that surround the production of just-in-time and personalized autologous cell therapy products.

Roger Perlmutter, Merck

Mer­ck bags Ar­Qule's next-gen BTK can­cer drug with $2.7B buy­out deal — pay­ing more than dou­ble last close

Just a few months after making a splash at the European Hematology Association scientific confab with an early snapshot of positive data for their BTK inhibitor ARQ 531, ArQule has won a $2.7 billion buyout deal with Merck.

The pharma giant says it is scooping up the drug — set to make a splash at ASH today — in an M&A deal for $20 a share $ARQL. That’s more than twice Friday’s $9.66 close. And Merck R&D chief Roger Perlmutter heralded a deal that nets “multiple clinical-stage oral kinase inhibitors.”

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Paul Hudson. Sanofi

New Sanofi CEO Hud­son adds next-gen can­cer drug tech to the R&D quest, buy­ing Syn­thorx for $2.5B

When Paul Hudson lays out his R&D vision for Sanofi tomorrow, he will have a new slate of interleukin therapies and a synthetic biology platform to boast about.

The French pharma giant announced early Monday that it is snagging San Diego biotech Synthorx in a $2.5 billion deal. That marks an affordable bolt-on for Sanofi but a considerable return for Synthorx backers, including Avalon, RA Capital and OrbiMed: At $68 per share, the price represents a 172% premium to Friday’s closing.

Synthorx’s take on alternative IL-2 drugs for both cancer and autoimmune disorders — enabled by a synthetic DNA base pair pioneered by Scripps professor Floyd Romesberg — “fits perfectly” with the kind of innovation that he wants at Sanofi, Hudson said.

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Jake Van Naarden, Josh Bilenker, Nisha Nanda (Credit: Loxo, Aisling Capital)

Josh Bilenker and his Loxo crew are tak­ing the reins on on­col­o­gy R&D at Eli Lil­ly, culling the weak and map­ping a new path

Josh Bilenker, Jake Van Naarden and Nisha Nanda came out of Eli Lilly’s $8 billion Loxo Oncology buyout with a bundle of cash and plenty of choices on what they could do next. Start a new company, go public. Live on the beach in 5-star luxury. Contemplate the stars — in their own observatory.

So what are they doing?

They formed a new executive team that is taking over the management of Eli Lilly’s hundreds-strong oncology R&D group — essentially using Loxo as a base for a bold new experiment in Big Pharma R&D in an attempt to create a true biotech environment with the deep pockets of a top-15 industry player. They’ve recruited David Hyman from Memorial Sloan Kettering to join the team as chief medical officer. And the mandate includes culling out the oncology pipeline, highlighting their star prospects and going after new programs wherever they can find the best prospects.

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Ob­sE­va makes case for best-in-class hor­mone sup­pres­sive ther­a­py in pos­i­tive uter­ine fi­broid study

About a month after the Swiss biotech disclosed a failed late-stage study in its IVF program, ObsEva on Monday unveiled positive pivotal data on its experimental treatment for heavy menstrual bleeding triggered by uterine fibroids.

ObsEva in-licensed the drug, linzagolix, from Japan’s Kissei Pharmaceutical in 2015. Two doses of the drug (100 mg and 200 mg) were tested against a placebo in the 535-patient Phase III study, dubbed PRIMROSE 2, in patients who were both on and off hormonal add-back therapy (ABT).

Samit Hirawat. Bristol-Myers Squibb

Bris­tol-My­ers is mak­ing a bee-line to the FDA with pos­i­tive liso-cel da­ta — but is it too late in the CAR-T game?

Bristol-Myers Squibb came to ASH this past weekend with a variety of messages on the new cancer drugs they had acquired in the big Celgene buyout, including liso-cel, the lead CAR-T program picked up in the $9 billion Juno acquisition. And one of the most important was that they had the pivotal efficacy and safety data needed to snag an approval from the FDA next year, with the BLA on track for a filing this month.

J&J team shows off 'break­through' BC­MA CAR-T da­ta, and that could cause a big headache at blue­bird and Bris­tol-My­ers

Just hours after J&J’s oncology team bragged about scoring a breakthrough therapy designation for their BCMA CAR-T drug, they pulled the wraps off of the multiple myeloma data for JNJ-4528 that impressed the FDA. And it’s easy to see why they may well be on a short path to a landmark approval — which may well be making the rival team at bluebird/Bristol-Myers more than a little nervous.

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J&J's Mathai Mammen at an Endpoints News event in Boston, June 2018 (Photo: Rob Tannenbaum for Endpoints News)

J&J fronts $750M cash to grab a failed can­cer drug that’s been re­pur­posed as a pow­er­ful an­ti-in­flam­ma­to­ry

J&J has stepped up with one of its blockbuster drug buys, agreeing to pay Austin-based XBiotech $XBIT $750 million in cash and up to $600 million more in milestones for their late stage-ready anti-inflammatory drug bermekimab — which some longtime biotech observers may recognize as a failed cancer therapy with a disaster-prone past.

The drug targets the IL-1a pathway. J&J $JNJ R&D chief Mathai Mammen is cutting a check for a drug that has produced positive mid-stage data in patients suffering from a skin condition called hidradenitis suppurativa with another mid-stage program underway for atopic dermatitis.

That puts J&J in charge of a drug on the threshold of pivotal — though pricey — R&D work for a broad patient group with other related fields to explore. And it’s a very busy development arena.

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Sangamo CEO Sandy Macrae

Pa­tient #9 has been a con­cern, but Sang­amo and Pfiz­er are bull­ish about win­ning the marathon he­mo­phil­ia A gene ther­a­py race

Patient number 9 has given Sangamo and its partners at Pfizer some heart palpitations in their high profile hemophilia A gene therapy program.

After watching his Factor VIII level rise following treatment like the rest, the crucial efficacy gauge they track saw a sudden and significant plunge. At week 13, the FVIII level had dropped below normal. Then it began to rise again.

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