Abrax­ane de­vel­op­er Igle­sias joins Sen­ti Bio­sciences; AB2Bio re­cruits CEO

Jose Igle­sias

→ Af­ter ac­cu­mu­lat­ing more than 30 years of bio­phar­ma ex­pe­ri­ence, Jose Igle­sias has been named CMO of Sen­ti Bio­sciences, a gene cir­cuit com­pa­ny based in the San Fran­cis­co area. Igle­sias is slat­ed to lead Sen­ti’s clin­i­cal de­vel­op­ment pro­grams with an em­pha­sis on treat­ing sol­id and liq­uid tu­mors. Igle­sias de­signed the can­cer drug Abrax­ane while he was at Abrax­is and Cel­gene, and his ex­ten­sive back­ground al­so in­cludes lead­er­ship po­si­tions at Eli Lil­ly, Apo­bi­ologix and Boston Bio­Med­ical.

Michael Sol­dan has been brought on as CEO of Swiss-based AB2Bio. Sol­dan jumps on board at the biotech af­ter a two-and-a-half-year stint as CEO of glob­al biosim­i­lars at Fre­se­nius Kabi. He al­so pre­vi­ous­ly led the biosim­i­lars busi­ness at Mer­ck and held posts at Boehringer In­gel­heim and Biotest, among oth­ers.

→ At the same time as their $105 mil­lion fi­nanc­ing round, ear gene ther­a­py play­er Ak­ou­os has wel­comed for­mer pres­i­dent of Ver­tex Vic­ki Sato and Heather Pre­ston, a man­ag­ing part­ner at Piv­otal bioven­ture Part­ners, to its board of di­rec­tors.

→ An­oth­er ex­ec is join­ing the ex­o­dus at Bio­gen. Head of ear­ly R&D Anir­van Ghosh is hit­ting the ex­it to take the helm of an­ti-ag­ing biotech Uni­ty Biotech­nol­o­gy — backed by ARCH Ven­ture and Be­zos Ex­pe­di­tions. Ghosh joined the com­pa­ny in 2017 and pre­vi­ous­ly held roles at Roche and E-Scape Bio. Ghosh is the third Bio­gen ex­ec­u­tive to de­part in the last 5 months, join­ing R&D chief Michael Ehlers and, as of last week, cor­po­rate de­vel­op­ment EVP Daniel Karp.

→ Head­ing in­to 2020, AM­AG Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals has sketched big plans to sal­vage its wob­bly op­er­a­tions — bat­tling a rev­enue squeeze and a crit­i­cal FDA re­view of its preterm birth drug — un­der a new CEO. To­day, it an­nounced that the chief med­ical of­fi­cer won’t be stay­ing, ei­ther. Julie Krop, who joined AM­AG in 2015, will de­camp by the end of the month, leav­ing a void in the biotech’s de­vel­op­ment group just as it pledges to per­suade the FDA to keep Mak­e­na on the mar­ket and ad­vance a “po­ten­tial­ly ex­cit­ing pipeline.”

Julie Krop

At­las Ven­ture-backed Unum, which once har­bored am­bi­tions to ri­val the two CAR-T ther­a­pies Kym­ri­ah and Yescar­ta, is pay­ing the price for a laun­dry list of set­backs. On Mon­day, the Cam­bridge, Mass­a­chu­setts-based com­pa­ny said it was cut­ting its work­force by 43 em­ploy­ees (rough­ly 60% of the to­tal head­count) to fo­cus its ef­forts on a pre­clin­i­cal pro­gram. It al­so dis­closed the de­par­ture of its chief sci­en­tif­ic of­fi­cer, Seth Et­ten­berg, as it ceas­es the de­vel­op­ment of tri­als har­ness­ing its maid­en tech­nol­o­gy: AC­TR.

→ In a chang­ing of the guard at bi­o­log­ics-fo­cused In­tegri­ty Bio, Michael Reil­ly has been pro­mot­ed to CEO. He re­places Byeong Chang, In­tegri­ty Bio’s founder, own­er and pre­vi­ous CEO who will stay on as CSO. Reil­ly’s tenure as In­tegri­ty Bio’s VP of busi­ness de­vel­op­ment spanned eight years, and he head­ed the Ex­celse Bio high-con­cen­tra­tion for­mu­la­tion tech­nol­o­gy di­vi­sion. His pre­vi­ous stops in­clude Bax­ter Bio­Science and Am­gen.

→ Stephen Ru­bi­no has joined Celyad as its CBO. Ru­bi­no brings more than 25 years of ex­pe­ri­ence to the Bel­gian bio­phar­ma, which fo­cus­es on de­vel­op­ing CAR-T cell-based ther­a­pies. Ru­bi­no had re­cent­ly been the chief busi­ness & strat­e­gy of­fi­cer at Omega Ther­a­peu­tics. Be­fore that, he was at No­var­tis for 17 years as its glob­al head of busi­ness de­vel­op­ment & li­cens­ing and new prod­uct mar­ket­ing, cell & gene ther­a­py unit.

Shali­ni Sharp

→ The CFO and EVP of rare and ul­tra­rare dis­ease-fo­cused Ul­tragenyx has de­cid­ed to step down. Shali­ni Sharp is hit­ting the ex­it to fo­cus more on her fam­i­ly and her board mem­ber­ships at sev­er­al oth­er biotechs — Neu­ro­crine Bio­sciences, Sutro Bio­phar­ma, Pre­ci­sion Bio­sciences and TB Al­liance.

→ AI-fo­cused twoXAR Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals has tapped Mark Eller as SVP of R&D and An­jali Pandey as SVP of non­clin­i­cal R&D and chem­istry. Eller joins the com­pa­ny from Jazz Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals, where he pre­vi­ous­ly served as SVP re­search & clin­i­cal de­vel­op­ment. Pandey pre­vi­ous­ly served as CSO at Bridge­Bio Phar­ma sub­sidiaries TheRas and Fer­ro Ther­a­peu­tics.

HEL Group — a de­vel­op­er and man­u­fac­tur­er of lab­o­ra­to­ry tools — has wooed Qing (Steven) Chen as Chi­na gen­er­al man­ag­er, aid­ing the com­pa­ny in its tran­si­tion to a whol­ly for­eign-owned en­ti­ty in Chi­na. Chen hops aboard from Nanopho­ton Cor­po­ra­tion and pre­vi­ous­ly held posts at PerkinElmer and Bruk­er Op­tics.

Steven Chen HEL Group

Rafael Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals has wel­comed San­jay Se­h­gal as its chief reg­u­la­to­ry af­fairs and qual­i­ty as­sur­ance of­fi­cer, a post that was just cre­at­ed. Pri­or to his ap­point­ment at Rafael, Se­h­gal was at Celu­lar­i­ty as its SVP of reg­u­la­to­ry af­fairs and con­for­mance.

→ Af­ter as­sum­ing the role as CFO of Im­muno­vant in No­vem­ber, Pam Yanchik Con­nealy has been added to Penn­syl­va­nia-based Or­ches­tra Bio­Med’s board of di­rec­tors as au­dit com­mit­tee chair. Yanchik Con­nealy’s pre­vi­ous roles in­clude serv­ing at Genen­tech and the Bill & Melin­da Gates Foun­da­tion.

An­ders Götzsche has been ap­point­ed to the board of di­rec­tors at Ob­sid­i­an Ther­a­peu­tics, which spe­cial­izes in con­trol­lable cell and gene ther­a­pies. The cur­rent EVP and CFO of H Lund­beck, Götzsche will be chair­ing the Cam­bridge, Mass­a­chu­setts-based biotech’s au­dit com­mit­tee.

UP­DAT­ED: A small, ob­scure biotech just won big with their IPO. In this mar­ket. Are you kid­ding me?

How could a small, largely unknown biotech that emerged from stealth mode just months ago with early-stage cancer programs jump onto Wall Street in the middle of a Category 6 financial hurricane and sail through with a $165 million IPO?

And what does that mean for the rest of the industry waiting to see just how much damage global lockdowns will wreak on clinical development?

The biotech is a company called Zentalis. The crew there nabbed an $85 million crossover round late last year — notably waiting 5 years before waving the numbers around to attract attention, according to my read of a FierceBiotech story. Perceptive joined in, but the syndicate was not in general the kind of marquee affair that gets tongues wagging.

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Bob Nelsen at the Milken Institute Global Conference on April 29, 2019 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Michael Kovac/Getty Images)

ARCH chief Bob Nelsen has $1.5B to prove 2 sim­ple points: ‘We’re in the most in­no­v­a­tive time ever’ and in­vestors are stay­ing

ARCH co-founder and managing director Bob Nelsen has a well known yen for the home run swing, betting big on potentially transformative meds and tech and the biotech teams he helps bring together. He thrives and bleeds on the cutting edge. And now Nelsen and the ARCH group have debuted 2 big funds to prove that this is the time for the best of biotech to shine — deadly pandemic be damned.

Two new funds, ARCH Venture Fund X and ARCH Venture Fund X Overage, gathered a combined $1.46 billion. And that’s a record. ARCH Venture Fund IX and ARCH Venture Fund IX Overage closed in 2016 with a combined $1.1 billion. ARCH Venture Fund VIII and ARCH Venture Fund VIII Overage closed in 2014 with a combined $560 million.

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Lil­ly Asia Ven­tures co-leads $100M+ round for Chi­nese biotech and its late-stage lu­pus drug

Can a Chinese biotech deliver the first new lupus drug in decades? A high-profile group of VCs are betting on it.

Lilly Asia Ventures and Lake Bleu Capital are the co-headliners for RemeGen’s latest raise, which brought in more than $100 million. Hudson Bay Capital and Vivo Capital — which, like LAV, also invested in a pre-IPO round for Legend Biotech unveiled today — chimed in, as did Janchor Partners and OrbiMed.

GSK's asth­ma bi­o­log­ic Nu­cala is one step clos­er to ap­proval in key chron­ic rhi­nos­i­nusi­tis pop­u­la­tion

Months after GSK’s Nucala cleared in a pivotal rare blood disorder study, the asthma biologic has scored in a late-stage trial in chronic rhinosinusitis patients with nasal polyps.

The British drugmaker on Friday disclosed data from the SYNAPSE study, which tested Nucala (also known as mepolizumab) against a placebo on top of standard-of-care in more than 400 patients, all of whom had a history of previous surgery (approximately one in three had ≥3 surgeries) and required surgery due to severe symptoms and bigger polyps.

Servi­er bags an an­ti­body spe­cial­ist in its lat­est on­col­o­gy M&A deal with plans to add the plat­form tech

Whatever Servier learned about Symphogen during their 2-year development alliance must have significantly whetted their appetite for an acquisition.

Paris-based Servier announced Friday that it has struck a deal to buy out the antibody expert. The acquisition comes 2 years after Servier acquired Shire’s cancer business for $2.4 billion. They’ve been working with Symphogen on a slate of programs, including some favs – PD-1, LAG3 and TIM3 — where they are looking to differentiate themselves from the more prominent drugs in these niches.

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Aaron Royston, venBio

In­vest­ing in the time of coro­n­avirus: the good, the bad and the hope­ful, as biotech VC firms close funds worth $3B

Apart from disrupting biopharma R&D and regulatory timelines, the coronavirus pandemic has inevitably ravaged financial markets and eroded investor risk appetite. Investing in the time of coronavirus feels reckless, but if biotech venture funds are any indication, the time is ripe.

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GSK vac­cine chief heads for AIDS vac­cine ini­tia­tive; Pfiz­er en­lists Sue Desmond-Hell­mann to its board of di­rec­tors

→ Rip Ballou, who until very recently led vaccine research and development at GlaxoSmithKline, is joining the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI) to lead its USAID-funded ADVANCE program. The program uses a network of researchers and institutions in Africa to help develop a vaccine for HIV. Ballou had worked at GSK since 2010 and has led global vaccine R&D since 2015. Prior to that he held posts at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, a different post at GSK, Medimmune, and Walter Reed Army Institute of Research.  IAVI is led by Mark Feinberg, the former CSO of Merck Vaccines. 

Ahead of US IPO, Leg­end Biotech adds $150M, top-tier in­vestors to back CAR-T pipeline

Last month Nanjing Legend Biotech revealed that it sees, and was quietly planning for, a future as a public company in the US, separate but still tied to its former parent, Chinese CRO GenScript. It’s evidently a vision that enticed investors, drawing marquee names for a pre-IPO round.

The Series A fetched a whopping $150.5 million from Hudson Bay Capital Management, Lilly Asia Ventures, Vivo Capital, RA Capital Management and JJDC, the venture arm of J&J. The pharma giant has helped fund Legend’s CAR-T work with the $350 million upfront payment it handed over to partner on the lead BCMA program.

Drug dis­cov­ery in the age of coro­n­avirus

Developing new drugs is incredibly hard. That’s why, despite superhuman efforts from the industry, we’re still looking at 12-18 months minimum before we can realistically hope for a vaccine for Covid-19, and probably months before there’s a proven viable drug treatment.

But our increasing ability to begin to industrialize the drug discovery and development process through an engineering approach means that we have more hope for speeding up this process than ever before — and not just to defeat coronavirus, but to benefit the development of all new medicines in the future.