Af­ter jump­ing ship at Eli Lil­ly, Politi­co re­ports Alex Azar may soon land top HHS job

Back at the be­gin­ning of this year, Eli Lil­ly’s US chief Alex Azar left his post dur­ing the big ex­ec­u­tive shuf­fle as Dave Ricks re­placed John Lech­leit­er at the helm. But he may be about to line up a much bet­ter job than the one he ex­it­ed.

Politi­co re­ports that Azar is a fa­vorite in the race to re­place Tom Price, the ex­pe­ri­enced po­lit­i­cal hand who had a weak­ness for pri­vate jets. De­pend­ing on who the re­porters were talk­ing to in the ad­min­is­tra­tion, Azar had ei­ther been short­list­ed or was al­ready in­for­mal­ly tapped for the job.

The move would bring Azar back to Wash­ing­ton, where he did a stint as gen­er­al coun­sel and deputy sec­re­tary at HHS un­der George W Bush. Azar — a Yale Law School grad — was on one of my pan­els about 15 months ago and ably rep­re­sent­ed Lil­ly with a sharp and con­cise rep­re­sen­ta­tion of the kind of op­por­tu­ni­ties and pit­falls a Big Phar­ma like Lil­ly has to nav­i­gate every day.

Azar did not im­me­di­ate­ly jump to an­oth­er po­si­tion in the in­dus­try, up­ping the odds that he was pushed out rather than jumped as Ricks be­gan to re­struc­ture the com­pa­ny from top to bot­tom. Azar set up a con­sul­tan­cy called Seraphim Strate­gies in Feb­ru­ary as he “ex­plored lead­er­ship op­por­tu­ni­ties.”

What­ev­er Azar’s thoughts on Lil­ly, he’d be viewed as a de­pend­able and tal­ent­ed ad­vo­cate for the in­dus­try, some­one who isn’t like­ly to dis­com­fort the Big Phar­ma play­ers.

De­pend­ing on when he’s talk­ing, Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump has been a caus­tic crit­ic of the bio­phar­ma in­dus­try’s drug pric­ing poli­cies. Just yes­ter­day he dou­bled down on his ear­li­er crit­i­cisms, not­ing that US drug prices are a mul­ti­ple of what they cost in oth­er coun­tries with a sin­gle-pay­er sys­tem — some­thing he would nev­er abide.

“Some­times it’s a frac­tion of what we pay in this coun­try,” Trump said in pre­pared re­marks. “The drug com­pa­nies frankly are get­ting away with mur­der and we want to bring our prices down to what oth­er coun­tries pay.”

We’ve been sub­si­diz­ing oth­er coun­tries, he added, “pay­ing dou­ble, triple, quadru­ple.”

But un­like his first slap­downs, this time Trump’s at­tack bare­ly caused a rip­ple in the in­dus­try, where top ex­ecs led by Mer­ck’s Ken Fra­zier ex­it­ed the pres­i­dent’s in­dus­try ad­vi­so­ry groups in the wake of the con­tro­ver­sy over the Char­lottesvil­lle, VA con­fronta­tion by ex­trem­ist or­ga­ni­za­tions.

One oth­er hot­ly ru­mored can­di­date for this job has been FDA com­mis­sion­er Scott Got­tlieb, who’s made an im­pres­sive en­try in­to a job that calls on the fed­er­al agency to bal­ance the gold stan­dard on ef­fi­ca­cy and safe­ty drug de­vel­op­ment with the man­date to speed new ap­provals. Got­tlieb re­cent­ly said he’d pre­fer to stay at the FDA, where his tal­ents lay, with­out ac­tu­al­ly rul­ing out a quick pro­mo­tion.

It ap­pears he may get his wish.

Deputy Health and Hu­man Ser­vices Sec­re­tary Alex Azar meets re­porters at de­part­ment head­quar­ters on June 8, 2006 to an­nounce the ap­proval of Gar­dasil, the first vac­cine de­vel­oped to pro­tect women against cer­vi­cal can­cer. AP Pho­to/Evan Vuc­ci

Norbert Bischofberger. Kronos

Backed by some of the biggest names in biotech, Nor­bert Bischof­berg­er gets his megaround for plat­form tech out of MIT

A little over a year ago when I reported on Norbert Bischofberger’s jump from the CSO job at giant Gilead to a tiny upstart called Kronos, I noted that with his connections in biotech finance, that $18 million launch round he was starting off with could just as easily have been $100 million or more.

With his first anniversary now behind him, Bischofberger has that mega-round in the bank.

Endpoints News

Basic subscription required

Unlock this story instantly and join 55,000+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Francesco De Rubertis

Medicxi is rolling out its biggest fund ever to back Eu­rope's top 'sci­en­tists with strange ideas'

Francesco De Rubertis built Medicxi to be the kind of biotech venture player he would have liked to have known back when he was a full time scientist.

“When I was a scientist 20 years ago I would have loved Medicxi,’ the co-founder tells me. It’s the kind of place run by and for investigators, what the Medicxi partner calls “scientists with strange ideas — a platform for the drug hunter and scientific entrepreneur. That’s what I wanted when I was a scientist.”

Endpoints News

Basic subscription required

Unlock this story instantly and join 55,000+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Af­ter a decade, Vi­iV CSO John Pot­tage says it's time to step down — and he's hand­ing the job to long­time col­league Kim Smith

ViiV Healthcare has always been something unique in the global drug industry.

Owned by GlaxoSmithKline and Pfizer — with GSK in the lead as majority owner — it was created 10 years ago in a time of deep turmoil for the field as something independent of the pharma giants, but with access to lots of infrastructural support on demand. While R&D at the mother ship inside GSK was souring, a razor-focused ViiV provided a rare bright spot, challenging Gilead on a lucrative front in delivering new combinations that require fewer therapies with a more easily tolerated regimen.

They kept a massive number of people alive who would otherwise have been facing a death sentence. And they made money.

And throughout, John Pottage has been the chief scientific and chief medical officer.

Until now.

Endpoints News

Basic subscription required

Unlock this story instantly and join 55,000+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

On a glob­al romp, Boehringer BD team picks up its third R&D al­liance for Ju­ly — this time fo­cused on IPF with $50M up­front

Boehringer Ingelheim’s BD team is on a global deal spree. The German pharma company just wrapped its third deal in 3 weeks, going back to Korea for its latest pipeline pact — this time focused on idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.

They’re handing over $50 million to get their hands on BBT-877, an ATX inhibitor from Korea’s Bridge Biotherapeutics that was on display at a science conference in Dallas recently. There’s not a whole lot of data to evaluate the prospects here.

Endpoints News

Basic subscription required

Unlock this story instantly and join 55,000+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Novotech CRO Ex­pands Chi­na Team as Biotech De­mand for Clin­i­cal Tri­als In­creas­es up to 79%

An increase in demand of up to 79% for clinical trials in China has prompted Novotech the Asia-Pacific CRO to rapidly expand the China team, appointing expert local clinical executives to their Shanghai and Hong Kong offices. The company is planning to expand their team by 30% over the next quarter.

Novotech China has seen considerable demand recently which is borne out by research from GlobalData:
A global migration of clinical research is occurring from high-income countries to low and middle-income countries with emerging economies. Over the period 2017 to 2018, for example, the number of clinical trial sites opened by biotech companies in Asia-Pacific increased by 35% compared to 8% in the rest of the world, with growth as high as 79% in China.
Novotech CEO Dr John Moller said China offers the largest population in the world, rapid economic growth, and an increasing willingness by government to invest in research and development.
Novotech’s 23 years of experience working in the region means we are the ideal CRO partner for USA biotechs wanting to tap the research expertise and opportunities that China offers.
There are over 22,000 active investigators in Greater China, with about 5,000 investigators with experience on at least 3 studies (source GlobalData).

Servi­er scoots out of an­oth­er col­lab­o­ra­tion with Macro­Gen­ics, writ­ing off their $40M

Servier is walking out on a partnership with MacroGenics $MGNX — for the second time.

After the market closed on Wednesday MacroGenics put out word that Servier is severing a deal — inked close to 7 years ago — to collaborate on the development of flotetuzumab and other Dual-Affinity Re-Targeting (DART) drugs in its pipeline.

MacroGenics CEO Scott Koenig shrugged off the departure of Servier, which paid $20 million to kick off the alliance and $20 million to option flotetuzumab — putting a heavily back-ended $1 billion-plus in additional biobuck money on the table for the anti-CD123/CD3 bispecific and its companion therapies.

Den­mark's Gen­mab hits the jack­pot with $500M+ US IPO as small­er biotechs rake in a com­bined $147M

Danish drugmaker Genmab A/S is off to the races with perhaps one of the biggest biotech public listings in decades, having reaped over $500 million on the Nasdaq, as it positions itself as a bonafide player in antibody-based cancer therapies.

The company, which has long served as J&J’s $JNJ key partner on the blockbuster multiple myeloma therapy Darzalex, has asserted it has been looking to launch its own proprietary product — one it owns at least half of — by 2025.

FDA over­rides ad­comm opin­ions a fifth of the time, study finds — but why?

For drugmakers, FDA advisory panels are often an apprehended barometer of regulators’ final decisions. While the experts’ endorsement or criticism often translate directly to final outcomes, the FDA sometimes stun observers by diverging from recommendations.

A new paper out of Milbank Quarterly put a number on that trend by analyzing 376 voting meetings and subsequent actions from 2008 through 2015, confirming the general impression that regulators tend to agree with the adcomms most of the time — with discordances in only 22% of the cases.

UP­DAT­ED: With loom­ing ‘apoc­a­lypse of drug re­sis­tance,’ Mer­ck’s com­bi­na­tion an­tibi­ot­ic scores FDA ap­proval on two fronts

Merck — one of the last large biopharmaceuticals companies in the beleaguered field of antibiotic drug development — on Wednesday said the FDA had sanctioned the approval of its combination antibacterial for the treatment of complicated urinary tract and intra-abdominal infections.

To curb the rise of drug-resistant bacteria and maintain the efficacy of the therapy, Recarbrio (and other antibacterials) — the drug must be used to treat or prevent infections that are proven or strongly suspected to be caused by susceptible gram-negative bacteria, Merck $MRK said.

Endpoints News

Basic subscription required

Unlock this story instantly and join 55,000+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.