Af­ter a short stint at In­ter­cept, Rachel McMinn makes the leap from biotech an­a­lyst to biotech CEO

Over a 13-year ca­reer as a biotech an­a­lyst at Piper Jaf­fray, Cowen and Bank of Amer­i­ca Mer­rill Lynch, Rachel McMinn learned a lot about the in­dus­try. Enough to think that maybe she should be the one run­ning the com­pa­ny rather than just ask­ing ques­tions — and dis­cussing op­tions — re­lat­ed to its per­for­mance.

“Over time I felt I was giv­ing a lot of com­pa­nies free ad­vice,” McMinn says. “I felt that maybe I could do it.”

Rachel McMinn

But she didn’t feel pre­pared to make the leap in one jump. In­stead, she com­plet­ed a 3.5-year stint as chief busi­ness and strat­e­gy of­fi­cer at In­ter­cept, where she was able to plunge di­rect­ly in­to the nit­ty grit­ty of biotech busi­ness.  (Af­ter she once gave the com­pa­ny $ICPT an, er, bull­ish $872 price ob­jec­tive on the stock. But she al­so had plen­ty of suc­cess­es to boast about.) And to­day she’s for­mal­ly launch­ing a new biotech of her own af­ter an im­pres­sive $68.5 mil­lion Se­ries A raise.

The broad out­lines of the com­pa­ny — Neu­ro­gene, tak­ing its place in the bur­geon­ing biotech hub of New York — will sound fa­mil­iar to any­one who’s been ob­serv­ing the biotech scene over the past decade. 

McMinn and the 20 staffers at the biotech are tack­ling rare neu­ro­log­i­cal con­di­tions with a pipeline of gene ther­a­pies us­ing AAV tech. Just a few days ago the com­pa­ny out­lined mouse da­ta from a pre­clin­i­cal study of a gene ther­a­py out of UT South­west­ern for AGU, or as­partyl­glu­cosamin­uria, a neu­rode­gen­er­a­tive dis­ease trig­gered by a rogue AGA gene. An­oth­er re­searcher from The Jack­son Lab out­lined re­sults from a mouse study of Neu­ro­gene’s pro­gram for Char­cot-Marie-Tooth dis­ease, type 4J (CMT4J) syn­drome.

Those aren’t the on­ly 2 gene ther­a­pies they’re work­ing on, McMinn tells me. Oth­ers are in the works as well. And aside from an an­nounce­ment on her new chief sci­en­tif­ic of­fi­cer, the Uni­ver­si­ty of Ed­in­burgh’s Stu­art Cobb, the new­ly mint­ed CEO starts to put the brakes on the specifics.

Not un­usu­al­ly, Neu­ro­gene wants to keep the unique as­pects of their work un­der wraps for awhile. The key to mak­ing the lat­est gene ther­a­py com­pa­ny to hit the scene a suc­cess, she adds, will re­volve around some of the new tech they’re fo­cused on re­lat­ed to vec­tors and genes. Some of these healthy genes they’re try­ing to load up for de­liv­ery aren’t easy to get in­to the tiny ve­hi­cles. And get­ting the dose and de­liv­ery right will be es­sen­tial to tack­ling the rare con­di­tions on their radar.

But the de­tails will have to wait. So will time­lines. McMinn is not in­ter­est­ed at this time in broad­cast­ing sched­ules for mov­ing in­to the clin­ic. How long is their run­way? Time will tell.

Why rare neu­ro­log­i­cal con­di­tions? 

McMinn traces her in­spi­ra­tion to Avex­is and the re­mark­able da­ta they put to­geth­er for SMA, be­fore No­var­tis bought them out. And there’s a fam­i­ly tie as well.

“I re­al­ly want­ed to re­vis­it the idea of do­ing some­thing that was mean­ing­ful for me per­son­al­ly,” says McMinn, cit­ing an old­er, autis­tic broth­er. 

What’s the goal? To build a gene ther­a­py com­pa­ny that can steer one new prod­uct to the mar­ket every year, McMinn replies.

She’s set a high mark for Neu­ro­gene. Now they be­gin.

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.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 67,000+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

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.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 67,000+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

One of Wall Street’s most high-pro­file hedge funds push­es Alex­ion's CEO to the auc­tion block — and he's not budg­ing

Fresh off buying Barnes & Noble and prodding AT&T with some heavy-handed criticism after picking up a $3.2 billion stake in the company, the activist — and supremely high profile — hedge fund Elliott Management has stepped up with some M&A advice for Alexion’s management team.
And the execs on the team $ALXN are giving them a polite — but very firm — stiff arm Friday morning.
In a release out early Friday, the big biotech said that the Elliott team had been in touch to encourage them to sell the company. But that’s not on the agenda.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 67,000+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Samantha Budd Haeberlein. Biogen via YouTube

UP­DAT­ED: Skep­tics pounce as Bio­gen de­tails pos­i­tive sub­group analy­sis on ad­u­canum­ab — and both sides are dig­ging in

“Exhilarating.” “A major advance.” “A milestone achievement.” If one had just tuned into the panel comments on Biogen’s presentation at CTAD, it would seem that the biotech had an impressive, disease-modifying Alzheimer’s drug in aducanumab.

But off the stage, reactions to their admittedly complicated dataset and the biotech’s explanation for resurrecting a drug that failed its futility analysis were a lot more mixed, with analysts continuing to question whether the evidence is substantial enough to warrant an FDA approval and raising new doubts on the safety side.

In an investor call later in the day, execs noted that they are not planning another study and stood by their intention, publicized in October to much surprise, to submit regulatory filings based on what they have.

“We don’t file willy nilly,” said Al Sandrock, head of R&D. “We only go to filing when we believe that there is a benefit-risk argument based on science, based on data. And if you look at our history, we haven’t done filings right and left without good reason.”

Biogen had a theory going into the Clinical Trials on Alzheimer’s Disease meeting.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 67,000+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

One of the 100 limited-edition framed certificates we're sending to the first group of companies that signed up for an Enterprise plan

Un­lock the full End­points ex­pe­ri­ence for your com­pa­ny — and sup­port our mis­sion of in­de­pen­dent bio­phar­ma re­port­ing

I want to give readers a quick update on the most important part of our business model — premium subscriptions. We have some crucial financial goals we hope to achieve by the end of the year, and the team here in Lawrence is ready to ship some swag to kick off this limited December promotion.

We offer two premium plans — Enterprise for companies ($1,000/year, unlimited people), and Insider for individuals ($200/year). This month of December will be the last chance to enroll at the original rates — which have remained flat since we launched them in 2017.

Jasper Ther­a­peu­tics launch­es out of Stan­ford with new ap­proach to stem cell treat­ment

The first girl in the trial came in with chronic diarrhea and the immune system of an untreated HIV patient. Born with a rare genetic disease that impeded her ability to make B and T cells, she had once been given a stem cell transplant but it didn’t take.  Back in the hospital, she was injected with a new experimental antibody and then given a new stem cell transplant. Soon, she gained weight. The diarrhea stopped.

Ex-Cel­gene ex­ec Ter­rie Cur­ran puts her Phath­om team in place; Car­away taps Mar­tin Williams as CEO

→ Gastrointestinal disease-focused Phathom Pharmaceuticals has shaken up its leadership team. The company has tapped former Celgene exec Terrie Curran as CEO, succeeding David Socks, who is transitioning to interim CFO. Curran was president of Celgene’s global inflammation and immunology franchise — helping with the sale of Otezla for $13.4 billion to Amgen — and has held a previous stint at Merck. In addition to Curran, the company also welcomed former Omeros CMO Eckhard Leifke as CMO, ex-Celgene exec Joseph Hand as chief administrative officer, and former general counsel for Cyclerion Therapeutics Larry Miller as general counsel. They also replaced Chris Slavinsky on the board with Takeda exec Asit Parikh.

UCB buffs up in block­buster pso­ri­a­sis race as bimek­izum­ab beats Hu­mi­ra in head-to-head

Just weeks after boasting head-to-head victories over first placebo and then J&J’s IL-23 contender Stelara in clearing psoriasis, the results are in for UCB’s last Phase III trial, in which bimekizumab went up against the world’s best-selling drug.

Only topline results are provided for today’s readout of the BE SURE study, so we won’t find out just how superior bimekizumab proved against Humira on the co-primary endpoints — standard scores known as PASI90 and IGA measuring the impact and severity of the disease — until a scientific conference in 2020.

With EMA re­view in progress, No­var­tis un­veils more pos­i­tive da­ta on asth­ma ther­a­py

Having made its marketing pitch to the EU regulator, Novartis on Thursday unveiled positive pivotal study data supporting the use of its inhaled asthma treatment.

The therapy, QMF149, consists of the long-acting beta-agonist, or LABA, called indacaterol acetate and the corticosteroid mometasone furoate. In the 2,216-patient, 52-week PALLADIUM study, asthma patients either received a medium or high dose of the Novartis therapy (150/160 μg; 150/320 μg) or mometasone furoate (MF) alone.