Alex Ar­faei trades his an­a­lyst's post for a new role as biotech VC; Sanofi vet heads to Vi­for

Too of­ten, Alex Ar­faei ar­rived too late. 

An an­a­lyst at BMO Cap­i­tal Mar­kets, he’d meet with biotech or phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal heads for their IPO or sec­ondary fund­ing and his brain, trained on a bi­ol­o­gy de­gree and six years at Mer­ck and En­do, would spring with ques­tions: Why this bio­mark­er? Why this de­sign? Why not this end­point? Not that he could do any­thing about it. These ex­ecs were com­ing for clin­i­cal mon­ey; their de­ci­sions had been made and fi­nal­ized long ago.

“There were so many times where I would be puz­zled at the course of de­vel­op­ment,” Ar­faei told End­points News. “More re­cent­ly what a lot of com­pa­nies would do is seek out my guid­ance and pri­or­i­tize their projects ac­cord­ing­ly. 

“And that’s when I re­al­ized, maybe I should get in­volved at these com­pa­nies at an ear­li­er stage.”

Ar­faei will now join life sci­ences ven­ture firm Pap­pas Cap­i­tal as a part­ner, where he will work on iden­ti­fy­ing com­pa­nies and en­sur­ing those ques­tions have good an­swers from an ear­ly stage. He said his role will be to con­vert the sci­ence to num­bers and un­der­stand the risk-re­ward. 

Pap­pas’s re­cent suc­cess­es in­clude the mi­graine drug Colu­cid and the neu­ro start­up Af­fer­ent Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals. Ar­faei said he al­ready sees one prospect for a treat­ment of a sys­temic dis­ease with­out good op­tions that has stymied the larg­er com­pa­nies. 

“I don’t want to call it a holy grail, but cer­tain­ly we do see in­vest­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties,” he said. 

Dis­cussing the in­creased rev­enue stress in the in­dus­try and pric­ing pres­sure from law­mak­ers and pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates — briefly on dis­play again at last night’s De­mo­c­ra­t­ic de­bate — Ar­faei in­di­cat­ed his role in the com­pa­ny will dove­tail with in­dus­try trends. He ar­gued those two fac­tors will push the in­dus­try to find drugs that have good “val­ue” for the in­dus­try and pa­tients. Which is the kind of dis­cern­ing stance he will be tak­ing as an in­vestor.

Those fac­tors, he said, would com­pound with the in­dus­try’s grow­ing un­der­stand­ing of the mol­e­c­u­lar caus­es of dis­ease to make treat­ment more ef­fi­cient. 

“With the greater em­pha­sis on the cost — hope­ful­ly with the greater em­pha­sis on cost — there should be greater fo­cus on drugs that meet un­met needs and specif­i­cal­ly low­er the over­all cost bur­den for so­ci­ety,” Ar­faei said. 

Of course, that leaves open ques­tions about drugs that meet un­met needs but don’t nec­es­sar­i­ly low­er the over­all cost bur­den and it may not quite square with rhetoric from the White House and the cam­paign stage fo­cused pri­mar­i­ly on the stick­er price. 

By Ja­son Mast


Klaus Hen­ning Jensen Sanofi

→ Swiss-based Vi­for Phar­ma — the com­pa­ny that paid $1.5 bil­lion back in 2016 for Re­lyp­sa — has wooed Sanofi ex­ec Klaus Hen­ning Jensen as CMO. Jensen was the glob­al ther­a­peu­tic area head at Sanofi be­fore his switch. Pri­or to that, he held sev­er­al roles at No­vo Nordisk. In ad­di­tion, the com­pa­ny an­nounced the de­par­ture of chief com­mer­cial of­fi­cer Dario Ek­lund, who will leave by the end of Sep­tem­ber for oth­er op­por­tu­ni­ties. The com­pa­ny has ini­ti­at­ed a search for a suc­ces­sor. 

 

A week af­ter Gen­fit CEO Jean-François Mouney hand­ed the reins to his suc­ces­sor Pas­cal Prignet, the com­pa­ny has an­nounced that Car­ol Ad­dy is set to join as CMO. Ad­dy most re­cent­ly served in the same role at Mer­ck sub­sidiary Health Man­age­ment Re­sources and as the as­so­ciate di­rec­tor, di­rec­tor and se­nior prin­ci­pal sci­en­tist at Mer­ck Re­search Lab­o­ra­to­ries

Brain­Storm — a de­vel­op­er of au­tol­o­gous adult stem cell ther­a­peu­tics for neu­rode­gen­er­a­tive dis­eases — has wel­comed Pree­tam Shah as CFO. Shah was the di­rec­tor of health­care in­vest­ment bank­ing at Bar­clays Cap­i­tal, where he was in­volved in clos­ing more than $3.5 bil­lion in M&A and eq­ui­ty trans­ac­tions. Pri­or to that, Shah served as vice pres­i­dent of health­care in­vest­ment and bank­ing at Canac­cord Ge­nu­ity and held a stint at Re­liance Cap­i­tal USA Ven­tures. Shah found­ed and served as the man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of health­care fi­nan­cial con­sult­ing firm Sais­ar­va

Ay­ala Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals brings on Gary Gor­don as the com­pa­ny’s CMO, just as their lead prod­uct can­di­date, AL101 — a gam­ma sec­re­tase in­hibitor — goes through Phase II for ade­noid cys­tic car­ci­no­ma pa­tients with tu­mor-bear­ing Notch ac­ti­vat­ing mu­ta­tions. Gor­don joins from a stint at Ab­b­Vie as vice pres­i­dent of on­col­o­gy de­vel­op­ment. His oth­er roles in­clude serv­ing at Ab­bott Lab­o­ra­to­ries and as CSO and vice pres­i­dent of clin­i­cal af­fairs at Ova­tion Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals.

Bio­gen vet Jane Rhodes has joined Verge Ge­nomics — a com­pa­ny fo­cused on the de­vel­op­ment of new drugs for CNS dis­eases — as CBO af­ter a stint as vice pres­i­dent of busi­ness de­vel­op­ment and cor­po­rate strat­e­gy at FOR­MA Ther­a­peu­tics. While at Bio­gen, Rhodes found­ed the Val­ue Based Med­i­cine (VBM) In­no­va­tion Hub. Rhodes al­so co-found­ed soft­ware de­vel­op­ment com­pa­ny Qr8 Health

Xen­cor — best known for its bis­pe­cif­ic an­ti­bod­ies — has ap­point­ed Celia Eck­ert as vice pres­i­dent, gen­er­al coun­sel and cor­po­rate sec­re­tary of the com­pa­ny. Eck­ert joins the com­pa­ny from Syn­thet­ic Ge­nomics, where she served as vice pres­i­dent, cor­po­rate le­gal. Pri­or to that, she held stints at Se­quenom, Prometheus Lab­o­ra­to­ries and Pills­bury Winthrop Shaw Pittman and Jones Day

Ur­vashi Pa­tel Wind­MIL Ther­a­peu­tics

Wind­MIL Ther­a­peu­tics has reeled in Ur­vashi Pa­tel as vice pres­i­dent of reg­u­la­to­ry and qual­i­ty sys­tems, bol­ster­ing their ef­fort to ad­vance mar­row-in­fil­trat­ing lym­pho­cytes for can­cer im­munother­a­py. Most re­cent­ly, Pa­tel served as se­nior di­rec­tor, reg­u­la­to­ry af­fairs at Pre­ci­sion for Med­i­cine and held roles at Janssen and Elan Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals

David Ep­stein-led can­cer start­up Black Di­a­mond Ther­a­peu­tics has made the ad­di­tion of Thomas (Tom­my) Leggett as CFO. Leggett joins the com­pa­ny af­ter hold­ing the same po­si­tion at Ax­cel­la Health, where he helped in rais­ing $156 mil­lion across three fi­nanc­ings. Pri­or to his time at Ax­cel­la, Leggett was trea­sur­er and head of busi­ness de­vel­op­ment fi­nance at Pur­due Phar­ma. Leggett’s oth­er stints in­clude serv­ing as an in­vest­ment banker for JP Mor­gan Se­cu­ri­ties, Lazard Frères & Com­pa­ny and UBS Se­cu­ri­ties

Thomas Leggett Black Di­a­mond

Onc­ter­nal Ther­a­peu­tics has wel­comed Gun­nar Kauf­mann as CSO and Ig­or Bilin­sky as CBO. Kauff­man comes on board af­ter a stint as SVP, im­munother­a­py, head of re­search and glob­al part­ner­ships at Sor­ren­to Ther­a­peu­tics. He was pre­vi­ous­ly a fac­ul­ty mem­ber at Scripps Re­search and still serves as ad­junct as­sis­tant pro­fes­sor in the de­part­ments of chem­istry and im­munol­o­gy and mi­cro­bial sci­ence. Bilin­sky was COO of Am­pliPhi Bio­sciences Cor­po­ra­tion be­fore tak­ing on this new role. His ca­reer has al­so spanned Igny­ta, Vi­cal, Halozyme Ther­a­peu­tics and An­dro­clus.

→ Swedish com­pa­ny Be­ac­ti­ca Ther­a­peu­tics made sev­er­al new ad­di­tions to its team. Vendela Par­row, the new head of pre­clin­i­cal de­vel­op­ment, brings ex­pe­ri­ence from pre­vi­ous po­si­tions at Akin­ion Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals, Ax­e­lar and Phar­ma­cia Biovit­rum. Join­ing the board of di­rec­tors are Maarten de Chateau, cur­rent CEO of Six­era Phar­ma and Buz­zard Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals, and Håkan Wick­holm, present­ly a board mem­ber of Gen­o­vis. Fi­nal­ly, Jo­han Har­men­berg, CMO of On­copep­tides, has been brought on as a clin­i­cal ad­vi­sor. 

MaaT Phar­ma — fo­cused on mi­cro­bio­me-based drug prod­ucts — an­nounced two new ap­point­ments: Jean-Marc Re­nard as CBO and Em­manuel Pre­stat as com­pu­ta­tion­al bi­ol­o­gy man­ag­er. Re­nard was pre­vi­ous­ly the vice pres­i­dent of cor­po­rate de­vel­op­ment at Sanofi Pas­teur, where he was re­spon­si­ble for the $750 mil­lion ac­qui­si­tion of Pro­tein Sci­ences. Pre­stat was the as­so­ciate di­rec­tor of re­search and de­vel­op­ment at HalioDx and held a stint with­in the in vit­ro di­ag­nos­tics de­part­ment at QI­A­GEN.

Joel Smith has joined as the gen­er­al coun­sel and EVP of cor­po­rate de­vel­op­ment of Epic Sci­ences — a com­pa­ny part­nered with Ge­nom­ic Health to com­mer­cial­ize the On­co­type DX AR-V7 nu­cle­us de­tect test. Smith comes from Qual­comm Life, where he served as man­ag­ing coun­sel of the com­pa­ny. He has al­so held stints as gen­er­al coun­sel at BioQ, Tri­ad Ther­a­peu­tics and Sien­tra

Pe­ter-Paul Tak-led gut-fo­cused com­pa­ny Kin­tai Ther­a­peu­tics has ush­ered in Mark Nut­tall as CBO. Nut­tall hails from Kymera Ther­a­peu­tics, where he served in the same role. His pre­vi­ous stints in­clude roles at Sanofi Gen­zyme, John­son & John­son, GSK and As­traZeneca

→ Copen­hagen, Den­mark-based Xel­lia Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals has ap­point­ed Pe­ter Bak­er as CMO, Xel­lia North Amer­i­ca. Bak­er brings ex­pe­ri­ence from his time at Ab­bott Lab­o­ra­to­ries, Hos­pi­ra and Pfiz­er. His ap­point­ment comes at a time when the com­pa­ny is prepar­ing to ex­pand its pro­pri­etary liq­uid fran­chise, which in­cludes the first and on­ly room tem­per­a­ture Van­comycin in­jec­tion pre­mix. 

→ At the end of Au­gust, Soli­genix an­nounced that it had up­dat­ed the late-stage pro­gram for its ex­per­i­men­tal drug, SGX942, by in­creas­ing en­roll­ment by 70 pa­tients to 260 sub­jects. Now, Jonathan Guar­i­no has hopped on board to Soli­genix as their se­nior vice pres­i­dent and CFO — suc­ceed­ing Karen Krume­ich, who will be pur­su­ing new op­por­tu­ni­ties. Guar­i­no most re­cent­ly served as cor­po­rate con­troller for He­p­i­on Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals and held stints at Co­v­ance, Black­Rock and Barnes & No­ble

Pe­ter Butera PR

CuraSen Ther­a­peu­tics — a com­pa­ny kick­start­ed by Kath­leen Sere­da Glaub and An­tho­ny Ford out of the lab of Stan­ford’s Mehrdad Sham­loo, fo­cused on the treat­ment of neu­rode­gen­er­a­tive dis­eases, such as Parkin­son’s and Alzheimer’s — has re­cruit­ed Pe­ter Butera to the team as SVP, op­er­a­tions. Be­fore CuraSen, Butera ran the bradan­i­cline pro­gram in chron­ic cough through Phase II at At­ten­ua as their vice pres­i­dent of clin­i­cal op­er­a­tions. Butera al­so held the same role at Af­fer­ent (be­fore its $1.25 bil­lion ac­qui­si­tion by Mer­ck) and Pain Ther­a­peu­tics.  

→ Hav­ing plot­ted com­mer­cial plans at In­ter­cept Phar­ma for the past five years, Kei­th White is bring­ing his mar­ket ac­cess acu­men to Cor­bus. As it en­ters the fi­nal reg­u­la­to­ry stretch with its lead drug, lenaba­sum, Cor­bus is prepar­ing for an in­ti­tal launch in sys­temic scle­ro­sis, close­ly fol­lowed by a pro­gram in der­mato­myosi­tis.

CRO PHAS­TAR has named Jen­nifer Brad­ford as the lead to the com­pa­ny’s da­ta sci­ence group — which is fo­cused on ap­ply­ing AI and ma­chine learn­ing to max­i­mize the val­ue of clin­i­cal tri­al da­ta. Brad­ford’s pre­vi­ous stints in­clude roles at As­traZeneca and Can­cer Re­search UK.

Mar­tin Mack­ay, Stephen Uden and Jef­frey Fry­er have scooped up a for­mer col­league at Alex­ion to beef up the R&D team at Rally­bio, their rare dis­ease start­up. Dou­glas Sheri­dan was a co-in­ven­tor of five clin­i­cal drug can­di­dates, in­clud­ing Alex­ion’s lat­est block­buster hope­ful Ul­tomiris (ap­proved by the FDA in 2018). His lat­est ti­tle at Alex­ion was ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor, glob­al pro­gram team leader.

→ For nine months, Tony Coles has been watch­ing close­ly as Adam Kop­pel and Bain’s life sci­ences team built Cerev­el from the ground up, of­fer­ing in­sights in­to its neu­ro­science pur­suit as ex­ec­u­tive chair­man while stay­ing at the helm of his own biotech. But now that he has passed the reins at Yu­man­i­ty to Richard Pe­ters, Coles is com­plet­ing the flip — and the top team puz­zle — by tak­ing the chief ex­ec­u­tive role at Cerev­el.

Tony Coles Yu­man­i­ty

“I’m ex­cit­ed be­cause I get dou­ble the op­por­tu­ni­ty to play a role in two im­por­tant com­pa­nies,” Coles not­ed in an in­ter­view with End­points News.

Coles — a four-time CEO who had a no­table tenure at Onyx Phar­ma, a biotech that was ul­ti­mate­ly sold to Am­gen — has got­ten to know Bain well. 

Most re­cent­ly Or­ly Mis­han, a Bio­gen vet, moved from Bain to be­come chief busi­ness of­fi­cer, join­ing CSO John Renger (who cut his teeth at Mer­ck), CMO Ray Sanchez (Ot­su­ka vet), CFO Kathy Yi (from Sang­amo) and Ken Dipetro, chief hu­man re­sources of­fi­cer.

Coles is still in­volved in Yu­man­i­ty as ex­ec­u­tive chair­man and an in­vestor — an­oth­er part of his grand ef­fort to make a dent in what he calls the next fron­tier in med­i­cine.

Stu­art Levy, co-founder of Paratek Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals, passed away last week.

“Stu­art was a dis­tin­guished physi­cian who was the fore­front of an­tibi­ot­ic de­vel­op­ment and a ded­i­cat­ed cham­pi­on for the pru­dent use of an­tibi­otics,” said Evan Loh, Paratek CEO. “More im­por­tant­ly, he was a dear friend and men­tor to so many and his pas­sion lives on in each of us as we work to con­tin­ue his mis­sion of com­bat­ing the dai­ly threat of life-threat­en­ing in­fec­tions. We will great­ly miss him.”

Levy co-found­ed Paratek more than 20 years ago along with Wal­ter Gilbert. He was in­stru­men­tal in the de­vel­op­ment of the com­pa­ny’s lead an­tibi­otics, Nuzyra and Seysara. Levy dis­cov­ered the ef­flux mech­a­nism for drug (tetra­cy­cline) re­sis­tance and was among the first sci­en­tists to doc­u­ment the trans­fer of re­sis­tant bac­te­ria from an­i­mals to farm­work­ers. His 1992 book, The An­tibi­ot­ic Para­dox: How Mir­a­cle Drugs Are De­stroy­ing the Mir­a­cle, has been cit­ed wide­ly and trans­lat­ed in­to four lan­guages.

The news comes a few weeks af­ter the com­pa­ny pub­lished pos­i­tive Phase III da­ta for Nuzyra for pa­tients with AB­SS­SI.

John Furey

Im­vax has wooed John Furey, for­mer COO of Spark Ther­a­peu­tics, to the helm as CEO and to its board of di­rec­tors. Furey suc­ceeds in­ter­im CEO David An­drews, the com­pa­ny’s co-founder and CMO. Dur­ing his time at Spark, Furey led the US launch of pi­o­neer­ing gene ther­a­py Lux­tur­na. Pri­or to Spark, Furey served as SCP and head of glob­al op­er­a­tions at Bax­al­ta. He al­so held a stint at Pfiz­er, where he ini­ti­at­ed the re­struc­tur­ing and di­vesti­ture of Bax­ter In­ter­na­tion­al’s vac­cines fran­chise to Pfiz­er.

In his new role, Furey will steer Philadel­phia-based Im­vax through a Phase II for its au­tol­o­gous tu­mor cell vac­cine for glioblas­toma mul­ti­forme, a no­to­ri­ous­ly hard-to-treat can­cer.

Lisa M. DeAn­ge­lis MSKCC

It’s of­fi­cial. Memo­r­i­al Sloan Ket­ter­ing has picked a brain can­cer ex­pert as its new physi­cian-in-chief and CMO, re­plac­ing José Basel­ga, who left un­der a cloud af­ter be­ing sin­gled out by The New York Times and ProP­ub­li­ca for fail­ing to prop­er­ly air his lu­cra­tive in­dus­try ties. His re­place­ment, who now will be in charge of MSK’s cut­ting-edge re­search work as well as the can­cer care de­liv­ered by hun­dreds of prac­ti­tion­ers, is Lisa M. DeAn­ge­lis. DeAn­ge­lis had been chair of the neu­rol­o­gy de­part­ment and co-founder of MSK’s brain tu­mor cen­ter and was moved in­to the act­ing CMO role in the wake of Basel­ga’s de­par­ture.

→ Af­ter wel­com­ing J&J deal­mak­er Mar­i­anne De Backer to their team as BD chief a lit­tle more than a week ago, Bay­er an­nounced that it will be re­duc­ing the size of the com­pa­ny’s board of man­age­ment. Hart­mut Klusik and Ke­mal Ma­lik will be hit­ting the ex­it and the com­pa­ny doesn’t plan on re­tain­ing those po­si­tions — tak­ing the board from sev­en to five mem­bers.

Ac­cord­ing to the com­pa­ny, as of Jan­u­ary 1, 2020, the board of man­age­ment will con­sist of chair­man Wern­er Bau­mann, CFO Wolf­gang Nickl and di­vi­sion pres­i­dents Liam Con­don (Crop Sci­ence), Ste­fan Oel­rich (Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals) and Heiko Schip­per (Con­sumer Health).

→ Months af­ter UK-based Mo­gri­fy re­lo­cat­ed to the Bio-In­no­va­tion Cen­tre at the Cam­bridge Sci­ence Park and added 15 new staff mem­bers to its sci­en­tif­ic and man­age­ment teams, the com­pa­ny has wooed a high-pro­file leader to chair their board. Jane Os­bourn, a bio­phar­ma vet, was vice pres­i­dent for re­search and de­vel­op­ment and site leader at Med­Im­mune (for­mer­ly Cam­bridge An­ti­body Tech­nol­o­gy). She is a rec­og­nized ex­pert in an­ti­body en­gi­neer­ing cred­it­ed for the dis­cov­ery and de­vel­op­ment of eight mar­ket­ed drugs, such as Hu­mi­ra and Benlysta.

UP­DAT­ED: In a stun­ning turn­around, Bio­gen says that ad­u­canum­ab does work for Alzheimer's — but da­ta min­ing in­cites con­tro­ver­sy and ques­tions

Biogen has confounded the biotech world one more time.

In a stunning about-face, the company and its partners at Eisai say that a new analysis of a larger dataset on aducanumab has restored its faith in the drug as a game-changer for Alzheimer’s and, after talking it over with the FDA, they’ll now be filing for an approval of a drug that had been given up for dead.

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Vas Narasimhan. Getty Images

UP­DAT­ED: Failed PhI­II fe­vip­iprant tri­als pour more cold wa­ter on No­var­tis' block­buster R&D en­gine — and briefly spread the chill to a high-pro­file biotech

Back in July, during an investor call where Novartis execs ran through an upbeat assessment of their Q2 performance, CEO Vas Narasimhan and development chief John Tsai were pressed to predict which of the two looming Phase III readouts — involving cardio drug Entresto and asthma therapy fevipiprant, respectively — had a higher likelihood of success. Tsai gave the PARAGON-HF study with Entresto minimally better odds, but Narasimhan emphasized that their strategy of giving fevipiprant to more severe patients gave them confidence.

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UP­DAT­ED: The FDA sets a reg­u­la­to­ry speed record, pro­vid­ing a snap OK for Ver­tex's break­through triplet for cys­tic fi­bro­sis

The FDA has approved Vertex’s new triplet for cystic fibrosis at a record-setting speed.

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IM­brave150: Roche’s reg­u­la­to­ry crew plans a glob­al roll­out of Tecen­triq com­bo for liv­er can­cer as PhI­II scores a hit

Just weeks after Bristol-Myers Squibb defended its failed pivotal study pitting Opdivo against Nexavar in liver cancer, Roche says it’s beat the frontline challenge with a combination of their PD-L1 Tecentriq with Avastin. And now they’re rolling their regulatory teams in the US, Europe and China in search of a new approval — badly needed to boost a trailing franchise effort.
Given their breakthrough and Big Pharma status as well as the use of two approved drugs, FDA approval may well prove to be something of a formality. And the Chinese have been clear that they want new drugs for liver cancer, where lethal disease rates are particularly high.
Researchers at their big biotech sub, Genentech, say that the combo beat Bayer’s Nexavar on both progression-free survival as well as overall survival — the first advance in this field in more than a decade. We won’t get the breakdown in months of life gained, but it’s a big win for Roche, which has lagged far, far behind Keytruda and Opdivo, the dominant PD-1s that have captured the bulk of the checkpoint market so far.
Researchers recruited hepatocellular carcinoma — the most common form of liver cancer — patients for the IMbrave150 study who weren’t eligible for surgery ahead of any systemic treatment of the disease.
Roche has a fairly low bar to beat, with modest survival benefit for Nexavar, approved for this indication 12 years ago. But they also plan to offer a combo therapy that could have significantly less toxicity, offering patients a much easier treatment regimen.
Cowen’s Steven Scala recently sized up the importance of IMbrave150, noting:

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UP­DAT­ED: Clay Sie­gall’s $614M wa­ger on tu­ca­tinib pays off with solid­ly pos­i­tive piv­otal da­ta and a date with the FDA

Back at the beginning of 2018, Clay Siegall snagged a cancer drug called tucatinib with a $614 million cash deal to buy Cascadian. It paid off today with a solid set of mid-stage data for HER2 positive breast cancer that will in turn serve as the pivotal win Siegall needs to seek an accelerated approval in the push for a new triplet therapy.

And if all the cards keep falling in its favor, they’ll move from 1 drug on the market to 3 in 2020, which is shaping up as a landmark year as Seattle Genetics prepares for its 23rd anniversary on July 15.

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David Liu, Liu Group

David Liu un­veils newest ad­vance­ment in CRISPR tech: Prime edit­ing

The researcher behind base-editing is out with what some scientists are hailing as the biggest advancement in CRISPR technology since that 2016 breakthrough: “prime editing.” The new molecular gadget is capable of erasing any base pair and stenciling in another and cutting or adding long segments of DNA without breaking both strands of the helix.

David Liu, base editing pioneer and founder of Beam Therapeutics, published the findings in Nature alongside Andrew Anzalone. They estimated that the breakthrough “in principle” puts 89% of human diseases in purview — although experts cautioned that human therapies were a long way off.

Bhaskar Chaudhuri. Frazier Healthcare Partners

Fra­zier Health­care Part­ner­s' der­ma­tol­ogy up­start at­tracts a mar­quee syn­di­cate, $94M+ for 'in-be­tween' top­i­cal drug

For the past three years Frazier Healthcare Partners’ Bhaskar Chaudhuri has been carefully and quietly grooming Arcutis Therapeutics, a new dermatology play he co-founded to deliver topical formulations of well-known drugs. Now that the biotech is poised to enter Phase III, he’s being joined by a marquee syndicate for its $94.5 million Series C.

HBM Healthcare Investments, Vivo Capital, BlackRock, Omega Funds, Pivotal BioVentures, and Goldman Sachs jumped on board, joining Bain Capital Life Sciences, OrbiMed and RA Capital Management in backing Arcutis’ lead topical cream for plaque psoriasis.

A new com­pa­ny en­ters the Tec­fidera fight, of­fer­ing to kill two birds

The remedy for the most common side effect for one of the most common multiple sclerosis drugs is simple: aspirin.

Taking aspirin with Biogen’s Tecfidera will reduce the flush, a sometimes painful form of red skin irritation, many patients experiences. The problem is that the aspirin has to be taken at least 30 minutes before Tecfidera, turning a simple twice-a-day, one-dose oral drug into a staggered two-drug regimen.

UP­DAT­ED: Bris­tol-My­ers makes Op­di­vo pitch for front­line lung can­cer with open la­bel PhI­II study

Despite a head start, when Bristol-Myers Squibb and its pioneering checkpoint inhibitor Opdivo suffered a key lung cancer setback in 2016, they found themselves relegated to the backseat as Merck’s Keytruda seized the wheel on the road to immunotherapy stardom. Bristol-Myers has since suffered blow after blow in its quest to take a big slice of the lucrative market, peppered with some small successes. On Tuesday, the New Jersey drugmaker touted positive data from a Phase III open-label study in a bid to carve itself a piece of the frontline lung cancer market.