Brian Kotzin, Nektar

Af­ter an up-and-down year, Nek­tar watch­es de­vel­op­ment head Wei Lin walk away as it pur­sues pipeline re­bound

More than any oth­er year in re­cent mem­o­ry, 2020 was a roller­coast­er of highs and lows —most­ly lows. Just ask San Fran­cis­co’s Nek­tar: De­spite ditch­ing its opi­oid pro­gram in Jan­u­ary and of­fload­ing roy­al­ties to its two US-mar­ket­ed meds, the biotech still has hopes for its pipeline to hit a re­bound this year.

But that re­bound won’t hap­pen un­der the watch of se­nior VP and head of de­vel­op­ment Wei Lin, who is step­ping down and leav­ing im­munol­o­gy head Bri­an Kotzin to step in.

Lin is “leav­ing the com­pa­ny to pur­sue an­oth­er op­por­tu­ni­ty,” Nek­tar an­nounced on Wednes­day. It’s un­clear where the Genen­tech vet is head­ed next.

Nek­tar poached Lin from Genen­tech in 2018, where he held roles such as glob­al de­vel­op­ment leader for can­cer im­munother­a­py and se­nior med­ical di­rec­tor over a sev­en-year stint. The Har­vard Med­ical School grad joined Nek­tar as se­nior VP and head of on­col­o­gy be­fore get­ting pro­mot­ed to head of de­vel­op­ment.

“Over the past two years, Wei has played a lead­er­ship role in re­cruit­ing an ex­pe­ri­enced clin­i­cal de­vel­op­ment or­ga­ni­za­tion and ex­e­cut­ing a late-stage clin­i­cal de­vel­op­ment strat­e­gy for BE­M­PEG, po­si­tion­ing it for fu­ture suc­cess,” chief R&D of­fi­cer Jonathan Za­levsky said in a state­ment. “I would like to thank him for his con­tri­bu­tions to Nek­tar, and wish him the best in his next op­por­tu­ni­ty.”

With big shoes to fill, Kotzin is step­ping up as in­ter­im CMO and head of de­vel­op­ment.  The Am­gen vet joined Nek­tar in 2017 and helped lead ear­ly de­vel­op­ment of NK­TR-255, the com­pa­ny’s IL-15 re­cep­tor ag­o­nist cur­rent­ly in two Phase II stud­ies: one for non-Hodgkin’s lym­phoma and mul­ti­ple myelo­ma in com­bo with Rit­ux­an or Darza­lex, and an­oth­er in head, neck and col­orec­tal can­cer paired with Er­bitux. He al­so spear­head­ed the Eli Lil­ly-part­nered NK­TR-358 pro­gram, which is in Phase II for sys­temic lu­pus ery­the­mato­sus and Phase Ib stud­ies for pso­ri­a­sis and atopic der­mati­tis.

At Am­gen, Kotzin served as VP of glob­al clin­i­cal de­vel­op­ment and head of in­flam­ma­tion ther­a­peu­tics, as well as VP of trans­la­tion­al sci­ences and head of med­ical sci­ences/ear­ly de­vel­op­ment.

“This is an ex­cit­ing time for the com­pa­ny with mul­ti­ple reg­is­tra­tional stud­ies un­der­way in a range of tu­mor types for BE­M­PEG, a broad­en­ing clin­i­cal pro­gram for NK­TR-358 in a num­ber of au­to-im­mune dis­or­ders, and an emerg­ing op­por­tu­ni­ty for NK­TR-255 in both hema­to­log­i­cal ma­lig­nan­cies and sol­id tu­mors,” Kotzin said.

Last month, Nek­tar sold the roy­al­ties to Adyno­vate and Movan­tik off to Health­care Roy­al­ty Man­age­ment for $150 mil­lion in cash. The biotech said it would fun­nel most of the mon­ey in­to two pro­grams: be­m­pe­galdesleukin (or NK­TR-214) and NK­TR-255. Be­m­pe­galdesleukin, Nek­tar’s lead pro­gram, is be­ing stud­ied in sev­er­al Phase III tri­als in com­bi­na­tion with Bris­tol My­ers Squibb’s Op­di­vo. The CD122-pref­er­en­tial IL-2 ag­o­nist is be­ing eval­u­at­ed in sev­er­al in­di­ca­tions, in­clud­ing metasta­t­ic melanoma, re­nal cell car­ci­no­ma and mus­cle-in­va­sive blad­der can­cer.

That news came just less than a year af­ter Nek­tar dropped its opi­oid pro­gram, NK­TR-181, which was re­buffed by an FDA ad­comm last Jan­u­ary. The pan­el vot­ed 27-0 against ap­prov­ing the drug, cit­ing con­cerns that pa­tients could abuse it and caus­ing their stock $NK­TR to fall 15%. On Wednes­day morn­ing, the com­pa­ny’s stock was down 0.61%, at $17.97 a share.

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Ron DePinho (file photo)

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Onno van de Stolpe, Galapagos CEO (Thierry Roge/Belga Mag/AFP via Getty Images)

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Stéphane Bancel, Getty

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Nick Leschly at Endpoints' JPM20 Breakfast Panel (Jeff Rumans for Endpoints News)

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Cynthia Butitta (L) and Joe Jimenez

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