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.

Kenji Yasukawa, Astellas CEO (Photographer: Akio Kon/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Astel­las taps chief strat­e­gy of­fi­cer as next CEO to 'go on the ag­gres­sive'

Five years into its big R&D revamp, Astellas says it’s time for a changing of the guard.

Kenji Yasukawa, who took over as president and CEO in 2018, will step down to become chairman of the board in April, making room for Naoki Okamura to take over. Okamura joined the company in 1986 and has served in a variety of finance, business and strategy roles, including most recently as chief strategy officer.

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Jean-Paul Clozel, Idorsia CEO (Patrick Straub/Keystone via AP Images)

Idor­si­a's brain bleed drug flunks PhI­II tri­al, a decade af­ter pre­vi­ous flop

Idorsia’s long journey with clazosentan came to an abrupt “unexpected result” Monday morning with a Phase III flop.

The Swiss biopharma said the drug did not meet the main goal of the late-stage REACT study, conducted in the US, Canada and Europe since early 2019.

The 409-patient trial tested the intravenous drug’s ability to prevent complications due to delayed cerebral ischemia following aneurysmal subarachnoid hemorrhage (aSAH), in which blood vessels in the brain narrow and blood accumulates around the brain’s surface, which then dials up the pressure on the brain.

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Clin­i­cal tri­al di­ver­si­ty da­ta show mis­match be­tween en­roll­ment and dis­ease preva­lence, GSK says

A lack of diversity in clinical trials has persisted despite decades of initiatives to try to turn the tide.

In a recent review of 17 years of clinical trials, drugmaker GSK found that there were some mismatches between the demographics of its US-based trials and how prevalent diseases were in those populations.

The results, the company says, will help GSK and others design studies that better represent epidemiological rates within races and ethnicities.

The Big Phar­ma dis­card pile; Lay­offs all around while some biotechs bid farewell; New Roche CEO as­sem­bles top team; and more

Welcome back to Endpoints Weekly, your review of the week’s top biopharma headlines. Want this in your inbox every Saturday morning? Current Endpoints readers can visit their reader profile to add Endpoints Weekly. New to Endpoints? Sign up here.

With earnings seasons in full swing, we’ve listened in on all the calls so you don’t have to. But news is popping up from all corners, so make sure you check out our other updates, too.

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Raymond Stevens, Structure Therapeutics CEO

Be­hind Fri­day's $161M IPO: A star sci­en­tist, GPCR drug dis­cov­ery and a plan to chal­lenge phar­ma in di­a­betes

What does it take to pull off a $161 million biotech IPO these days?

In Structure Therapeutics’ case, it means having a star scientist co-founder paired with the computational drug discovery company Schrödinger, $198 million in private funding from blue-chip investors, almost six years of research work on G protein-coupled receptors and a slate of oral, small-molecule drugs, with an eye on the huge and growing diabetes and weight-loss market.

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Simba Gill, Evelo Biosciences CEO

Sim­ba Gill stay­ing on at Evelo to weath­er lay­offs and a PhII fail

Simba Gill will be staying put as CEO of Evelo Biosciences for now.

Gill announced last year that he would be leaving the head position at Evelo to take on the role of executive partner at Flagship Pioneering. He was aiming to stay on until a successor was selected, but there’s a new course of action in the wake of a Phase II miss and a reduced headcount.

“I want to emphasize that I remain personally committed to Evelo and staying on to lead the organization. I continue to believe that Evelo is a remarkable opportunity in terms of the science, the platform, the type of products that we’re able to produce, and most importantly, the potential of millions of patients suffering from all stages of inflammatory disease,” Gill said on a conference call.

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Laurent Audoly, former Parthenon CEO

Parthenon Ther­a­peu­tics CEO ex­its weeks af­ter co-founder leaves

Parthenon Therapeutics’ CEO and co-founder Laurent Audoly is no longer steering the ship of the cancer biotech, Endpoints News has learned.

Audoly’s departure comes just weeks after co-founder and chief business and operating officer Olga Granaturova left to take on the same posts at Normunity, another privately-held immunotherapy startup. CSO Tamas Oravecz also traded in his CSO hat for the same role at Simcere last August.

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Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) (Francis Chung/E&E News/Politico via AP Images)

In­fla­tion re­bates in­com­ing: Wyden calls on CMS to move quick­ly as No­var­tis CEO pledges re­ver­sal

Senate Finance Chair Ron Wyden (D-OR) this week sent a letter to the head of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services seeking an update on how and when new inflation-linked rebates will take effect for drugs that see major price spikes.

The newly signed Inflation Reduction Act requires manufacturers to pay a rebate to Medicare when they increase drug prices faster than the rate of inflation.

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Trodelvy notch­es a win in most com­mon form of breast can­cer

Following a promise last year to go “big and fast in breast cancer,” Gilead has secured a win for Trodelvy in the most common form.

The drug was approved to treat HR-positive, HER2-negative breast cancer patients who’ve already received endocrine-based therapy and at least two other systemic therapies for metastatic cancer, Gilead announced on Friday.

Trodelvy won its first indication in metastatic triple-negative breast cancer back in 2020, and has since added urothelial cancer to the list. HR-positive HER2-negative breast cancer accounts for roughly 70% of new breast cancer cases worldwide per year, according to senior VP of oncology clinical development Bill Grossman, and many patients develop resistance to endocrine-based therapies or worsen on chemotherapy.