Paul Peter Tak (Candel)

Af­ter build­ing pipelines from Glax­o­SmithK­line to Flag­ship, Paul Pe­ter Tak takes the helm at an un­der-the-radar on­colyt­ic virus play­er

Paul Pe­ter Tak has done it all: From a pro­fes­sor­ship in his na­tive Nether­lands to the head of im­munoin­flam­ma­tion R&D at Glax­o­SmithK­line, from lead­ing small biotechs to more re­cent­ly join­ing the ven­ture world as a Flag­ship part­ner, he’s of­ten found him­self in roles he wouldn’t have imag­ined him­self.

His lat­est ap­point­ment as CEO of on­colyt­ic virus com­pa­ny Can­del Ther­a­peu­tics is one of them.

The pan­dem­ic might have ac­cel­er­at­ed the move, he ad­mit­ted. Hav­ing com­mut­ed be­tween the two Cam­bridges across the At­lantic dur­ing the last cou­ple years, Tak gave up his apart­ment in Mass­a­chu­setts back in March and start­ed tun­ing in re­mote­ly to meet­ings at Kin­tai Ther­a­peu­tics, the Flag­ship start­up where he was chief ex­ec­u­tive. Then he was asked to hop on Zoom to talk about Can­del — a biotech he’s nev­er heard of but works in on­colyt­ic virus­es, an in­stant­ly rec­og­niz­able modal­i­ty.

“There’s a lot of ex­cite­ment in the field and I think it’s one of the next big things in med­i­cine,” he said.

Es­tu­ar­do Aguilar-Cor­do­va

Sev­er­al months of due dili­gence lat­er, he was hooked. Pre­vi­ous­ly known as Ad­van­ta­gene, the com­pa­ny was found­ed by Es­tu­ar­do Aguilar-Cor­do­va in 2002 based on years of re­search in the gene ther­a­py space. Lever­ag­ing a non-repli­cat­ing ade­n­ovirus as a shell, he can de­liv­er an en­zyme that con­verts a com­pan­ion small mol­e­cule pro­drug in­to a can­cer killing metabo­lite.

With $65 mil­lion in ven­ture fund­ing so far, the plat­form spawned four clin­i­cal pro­grams in prostate can­cer, glioblas­toma, non-small cell lung can­cer and pan­cre­at­ic can­cer, now in mid-to-late-stage tri­als.

“I don’t know many com­pa­nies that are al­ready Phase II and Phase III but in im­munother­a­py in can­cer that has dosed more than 700 pa­tients that ba­si­cal­ly come more or less out of stealth mode,” he said.

While the first gen­er­a­tion of on­colyt­ic virus­es failed to live up to ex­pec­ta­tions — even Am­gen’s ap­proved T-Vec post­ed mod­est sales — Tak be­lieves a smarter way of go­ing about de­vel­op­ment and ap­pro­pri­ate com­bi­na­tions will re­sult in bet­ter da­ta and adop­tion.

In­tra­tu­moral ad­min­is­tra­tion, he posits, might have been a big hur­dle, and it mat­ters who’s ad­min­is­ter­ing the treat­ment. In­stead of med­ical on­col­o­gists, who may not be used to in­ject­ing tu­mors, Can­del is go­ing af­ter in­di­ca­tions where the on­colyt­ic virus would be de­liv­ered by sur­geons. In the case of prostate can­cer, it’d be urol­o­gists who are fa­mil­iar with biop­sies and sim­i­lar pro­ce­dures.

Can­del is al­so col­lab­o­rat­ing with Bris­tol My­ers Sqi­ubb to test its on­colyt­ic virus­es in com­bi­na­tion with Op­di­vo.

The first Phase III tri­al in prostate can­cer is un­der­way, and he plans to start an­oth­er for glioblas­toma in 2021.

Aguilar-Cor­do­va will now step in­to the CSO post, work­ing with a new C-suite that Tak has re­cruit­ed since start­ing in Sep­tem­ber. Nathan Caf­fo is jump­ing from ALX On­col­o­gy to be­come the chief busi­ness of­fi­cer; Fre­quen­cy alum John Canepa will be chief fi­nan­cial of­fi­cer; while Su­san Stew­art is tak­ing up the new role of chief reg­u­la­to­ry of­fi­cer.

In­ter­est­ing­ly enough, the role with Can­del will even­tu­al­ly bring Tak to Need­ham, MA, where the com­pa­ny is head­quar­tered and plot­ting a man­u­fac­tur­ing site. He is al­so in the process of set­ting up a new dis­cov­ery plat­form built on a her­pes sim­plex vi­ral vec­tor.

“We can do this again and again,” he said.

The Price of Re­lief: Ex­plor­ing So­lu­tions to the Ris­ing Costs of On­col­o­gy Drugs

In 2020, The National Cancer Institute estimated about 1.8 million new cases of cancer diagnosed in the United States, while the costs associated with treatment therapies continued to escalate. Given the current legislative climate on drug pricing, it’s never been more important to look at the evolution of drug pricing globally and control concerns of sustainable and affordable treatments in oncology.

Lat­est news on Pfiz­er's $3B+ JAK1 win; Pacts over M&A at #JPM22; 2021 by the num­bers; Bio­gen's Aduhelm reck­on­ing; The sto­ry of sotro­vimab; 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.

For those of you who attended #JPM22 in any shape or form, we hope you had a fruitful time. Regardless of how you spent the past hectic week, may your weekend be just what you need it to be.

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A $3B+ peak sales win? Pfiz­er thinks so, as FDA of­fers a tardy green light to its JAK1 drug abroc­i­tinib

Back in the fall of 2020, newly crowned Pfizer chief Albert Bourla confidently put their JAK1 inhibitor abrocitinib at the top of the list of blockbuster drugs in the late-stage pipeline with a $3 billion-plus peak sales estimate.

Since then it’s been subjected to serious criticism for the safety warnings associated with the class, held back by a cautious FDA and questioned when researchers rolled out a top-line boast that their heavyweight contender had beaten the champ in the field of atopic dermatitis — Dupixent — in a head-to-head study.

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Robert Califf, FDA commissioner nominee (Graeme Sloan/Sipa USA/Sipa via AP Images)

Rob Califf ad­vances as Biden's FDA nom­i­nee, with a close com­mit­tee vote

Rob Califf’s second confirmation process as FDA commissioner is already much more difficult than his near unanimous confirmation under the Obama administration.

The Senate Health Committee on Thursday voted 13-8 in favor of advancing Califf’s nomination to a full Senate vote. Several Democrats voted against Califf, including Sen. Bernie Sanders and Sen. Maggie Hassan. Several other Democrats who aren’t on the committee, like West Virginia’s Joe Manchin and Ed Markey of Massachusetts, also said Thursday that they would not vote for Califf. Markey, Hassan and Manchin all previously expressed reservations about the prospect of Janet Woodcock as an FDA commissioner nominee too.

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Michel Vounatsos, Biogen CEO (World Economic Forum/Ciaran McCrickard)

Bio­gen vows to fight CM­S' draft cov­er­age de­ci­sion for Aduhelm be­fore April fi­nal­iza­tion

Biogen executives made clear in an investor call Thursday they are not preparing to run a new CMS-approved clinical trial for their controversial Alzheimer’s drug anytime soon.

As requested in a draft national coverage decision from CMS earlier this week, Biogen and other anti-amyloid drugs will need to show “a meaningful improvement in health outcomes” for Alzheimer’s patients in a randomized, placebo-controlled trial to get paid for their drugs, rather than just the reduction in amyloid plaques that won Aduhelm its accelerated approval in June.

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CRO own­er pleads guilty to ob­struct­ing FDA in­ves­ti­ga­tion in­to fal­si­fied clin­i­cal tri­al da­ta

The co-owner of a Florida-based clinical research site pleaded guilty to lying to an FDA investigator during a 2017 inspection, revealing that she falsely portrayed part of a GlaxoSmithKline pediatric asthma study as legitimate, when in fact she knew that certain data had been falsified, the Department of Justice said Wednesday.

Three other employees — Yvelice Villaman Bencosme, Lisett Raventos and Maytee Lledo — previously pleaded guilty and were sentenced in connection with falsifying data associated with the trial at the CRO Unlimited Medical Research.

Susan Galbraith, AstraZeneca EVP, Oncology R&D

Can­cer pow­er­house As­traZeneca rolls the dice on a $75M cash bet on a buzzy up­start in the on­col­o­gy field

After establishing itself in the front ranks of cancer drug developers and marketers, AstraZeneca is putting its scientific shoulder — and a significant amount of cash — behind the wheel of a brash new upstart in the biotech world.

The pharma giant trumpeted news this morning that it is handing over $75 million upfront to ally itself with Scorpion Therapeutics, one of those biotechs that was newly birthed by some top scientific, venture and executive talent and bequeathed with a fortune by way of a bankroll to advance an only hazily explained drug platform. And they are still very much in the discovery and preclinical phase.

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‘Skin­ny la­bels’ on gener­ics can save pa­tients mon­ey, re­search shows, but re­cent court de­ci­sions cloud fu­ture

New research shows how generic drug companies can successfully market a limited number of approved indications for a brand name drug, prior to coming to market for all of the indications. But several recent court decisions have created a layer of uncertainty around these so-called “skinny” labels.

While courts have generally allowed generic manufacturers to use their statutorily permitted skinny-label approvals, last summer, a federal circuit court found that Teva Pharmaceuticals was liable for inducing prescribers and patients to infringe GlaxoSmithKline’s patents through advertising and marketing practices that suggested Teva’s generic, with its skinny label, could be employed for the patented uses.

A patient in Alaska receiving an antibody infusion to prevent Covid hospitalizations in September. All but one of these treatments has been rendered useless by Omicron (Rick Bowmer/AP Images)

How a tiny Swiss lab and two old blood sam­ples cre­at­ed one of the on­ly ef­fec­tive drugs against Omi­cron (and why we have so lit­tle of it)

Exactly a decade before a novel coronavirus broke out in Wuhan, Davide Corti — a newly-minted immunologist with frameless glasses and a quick laugh — walked into a cramped lab on the top floor of an office building two hours outside Zurich. He had only enough money for two technicians and the ceiling was so low in parts that short stature was a job requirement, but Corti believed it’d be enough to test an idea he thought could change medicine.

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