Alex­ion's Hantson poach­es Bio­gen CFO Clan­cy as buzz of a loom­ing pipeline shake­up heats up

Paul Clan­cy

You can count one more top ex­ec at Bio­gen $BI­IB out the ex­it as new CEO Michel Vounatsos builds his team at the big biotech. And the de­part­ing ex­ec is head­ed straight to Alex­ion $ALXN, where Lud­wig Hantson has been build­ing his own team with an eye to strip­ping the pipeline ahead of a planned re­fur­bish­ment.

This time the ex­ec on the move is Paul Clan­cy, CFO at Bio­gen dur­ing the last event­ful decade at the big biotech.

Clan­cy sur­vived the bumpy de­par­ture of Jim Mullen in 2010 and helped steer the com­pa­ny as it launched a megablock­buster flag­ship drug in Tec­fidera un­der then CEO George Scan­gos.

Now Clan­cy is tak­ing on the top fi­nance job at Alex­ion at a time Hantson has gut­ted the old crew and brought in a whole new bunch to steer a dif­fer­ent course. Just a few weeks ago Hantson saw off R&D chief Mar­tin Mack­ay as well as CFO David An­der­son, who had been in that job on­ly six months. Clare Carmichael, the head of hu­man re­sources, left June 1 along with chief com­mer­cial of­fi­cer Carsten Thiel.

Bio­gen’s loss is Alex­ion’s gain. Bio­gen saw its shares drop 3% Wednes­day morn­ing, while Alex­ion stock surged 7%.

Alex­ion has un­der­gone a brain trans­plant af­ter the for­mer CEO and CFO came un­der scruti­ny for the way the com­pa­ny was push­ing ear­ly sales of Soliris to meet its num­bers. Now Hantson is al­so mak­ing it clear that the house clean­ing in the ex­ec­u­tive suite will be fol­lowed by a cleanup in R&D as well.

Lud­wig Hantson

Hantson — who has been open­ly com­plain­ing about the state of af­fairs at Alex­ion — re­port­ed­ly turned up at the Gold­man Sachs Health­care Con­fer­ence yes­ter­day say­ing he was think­ing of writ­ing off Kanu­ma, which quick­ly made the rounds on Twit­ter. Alex­ion ac­quired Kanu­ma in an $8.4 bil­lion buy­out of Synage­va and has lit­tle to show for it as sales fiz­zled.

ALXN1210 — an an­ti-C5 an­ti­body that in­hibits ter­mi­nal com­ple­ment for pa­tients with parox­ys­mal noc­tur­nal he­mo­glo­bin­uria (PNH) — was about the on­ly ex­per­i­men­tal prod­uct that earned much re­spect from Hantson. Hantson al­so re­cruit­ed his old R&D chief at Bax­al­ta, John Orloff, to helm the re­search crew as the com­pa­ny dumps what it doesn’t like and starts to re­tune the pipeline, just a few years be­fore its main­stay drug Soliris los­es patent pro­tec­tion in Eu­rope and the US in 2020 and 2021.

Hantson and Alex­ion, and now Clan­cy, don’t have much time if they want to turn the com­pa­ny around be­fore biosim­i­lars start to carve up its fran­chise.

Susan Galbraith, AstraZeneca EVP, oncology R&D, at EUBIO22 (Rachel Kiki for Endpoints News)

Up­dat­ed: As­traZeneca jumps deep­er in­to cell ther­a­py 2.0 space with $320M biotech M&A

Right from the start, the execs at Neogene had some lofty goals in mind when they decided to try their hand at a cell therapy that could tackle solid tumors.

Its founders have helped hone a new approach that would pack in multiple neoantigen targets to create a personalized TCR treatment that would not just make the leap from blood to solid tumors, but do it with durability. And they managed to make their way rapidly to the clinic, unveiling their first Phase I program for advanced tumors just last May.

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Catal­ent to cut about 200 jobs in Mary­land and Texas

Contract manufacturing company Catalent is cutting about 200 jobs in Maryland and Texas, according to WARN notices, trimming back some of its pandemic-era expansion.

The company will cut 77 jobs by Jan. 15 of next year at a cell therapy facility in Webster, TX, just outside of Houston. In Maryland, the company is reducing staff at two locations, with 82 jobs being eliminated at Catalent’s facility in Gaithersburg, and 53 in Rockville. The layoffs go into effect at those locations on Jan. 14.

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Ei­sai’s ex­pand­ed Alzheimer’s da­ta leave open ques­tions about safe­ty and clin­i­cal ben­e­fit

Researchers still have key questions about Eisai’s investigational Alzheimer’s drug lecanemab following the publication of more Phase III data in the New England Journal of Medicine Tuesday night.

In the paper, which was released in conjunction with presentations at an Alzheimer’s conference, trial investigators write that a definition of clinical meaningfulness “has not been established.” And the relative lack of new information, following topline data unveiled in September, left experts asking for more — setting up a potential showdown to precisely define how big a difference the drug makes in patients’ lives.

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Illustration: Assistant Editor Kathy Wong for Endpoints News

Twit­ter dis­ar­ray con­tin­ues as phar­ma ad­ver­tis­ers ex­tend paus­es and look around for op­tions, but keep tweet­ing

Pharma advertisers on Twitter are done — at least for now. Ad spending among the previous top spenders flattened even further last week, according to the latest data from ad tracker Pathmatics, amid ongoing turmoil after billionaire boss Elon Musk’s takeover now one month ago.

Among 18 top advertisers tracked for Endpoints News, only two are spending: GSK and Bayer. GSK spending for the full week through Sunday was minimal at just under $1,900. Meanwhile, German drugmaker Bayer remains the industry outlier upping its spending to $499,000 last week from $480,000 the previous week. Bayer’s spending also marks a big increase from a month ago and before the Musk takeover, when it spent $16,000 per week.

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Vi­a­tris with­draws ac­cel­er­at­ed ap­proval for top­i­cal an­timi­cro­bial 24 years lat­er

After 24 years without confirming clinical benefit, the FDA announced Tuesday morning that Viatris (formed via Mylan and Pfizer’s Upjohn) has decided to withdraw a topical antimicrobial agent, Sulfamylon (mafenide acetate), after the company said conducting a confirmatory study was not feasible.

Sulfamylon first won FDA’s accelerated nod in 1998 as a topical burn treatment, with the FDA noting that last December, Mylan told the agency that it wasn’t running the trial.

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iECURE CEO Joe Truitt and founder Jim Wilson

Jim Wil­son biotech iECURE gets fresh $65M to push pe­di­atric liv­er dis­ease gene ther­a­py in­to the clin­ic

Jim Wilson-founded biotech iECURE has wrapped a $65M Series A extension round to get its lead candidate — a gene replacement therapy for a rare inherited liver disease known as ornithine transcarbamylase deficiency, or OTC — into the clinic.

This round was co-led by Novo Holdings and LYFE Capital, followed by initial investors Versant and OrbiMed as well. In September 2021, iECURE raised a $50 million Series A led by the latter two. The new cash infusion will get iECURE through an initial in-human trial, which CEO Joe Truitt told Endpoints News iECURE hopes to read out in 2024.

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Sana, Codex­is lay off staff, reshuf­fle pipeline in bid to fo­cus cell ther­a­py, en­zyme en­gi­neer­ing work

As its market cap shrinks to a fraction of its heyday, flashy cell therapy startup Sana Biotechnology is laying off 15% of its staffers in a move to rejig the pipeline and restructure the company.

Sana is among a growing group of biotechs that, feeling the weight of a broader market downturn and seeing their shares tumble steadily, are tightening the purse strings and adjusting their focus. Also on Tuesday, Codexis, an enzyme engineering company based in California and now helmed by former Sierra Oncology CEO Stephen Dilly, announced it will reduce the workforce by 18%.

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Tim Walbert, Horizon Therapeutics CEO (via YouTube)

Hori­zon Ther­a­peu­tics in takeover talks with Am­gen, J&J, Sanofi as po­ten­tial buy­ers

Amgen, J&J’s Janssen and Sanofi are all in talks to acquire Horizon Therapeutics, the rare disease biotech disclosed late Tuesday.

Horizon confirmed “highly preliminary discussions” with those companies regarding a potential buyout offer after the Wall Street Journal reported takeover interest.

Although the company — which commands a market cap of close to $18 billion — emphasized that “there can be no certainty that any offer will be made for the Company,” shares $HZNP still surged 31% in after-hours trading to near $103, bringing it to the point where it started the year.

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Albert Bourla, Pfizer CEO (John Thys/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Pfiz­er CEO un­der fire from UK watch­dog over vac­cine com­ments — re­port

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla told the BBC last December that he had “no doubt in my mind that the benefits, completely, are in favor” of vaccinating 5- to 11-year-olds for Covid-19. Almost a year later, those comments have reportedly landed him in trouble with a UK pharma watchdog.

Children’s advocacy group UsForThem filed a complaint with the UK’s Prescription Medicines Code of Practice Authority (PMCPA) last year accusing Bourla of making “disgracefully misleading” statements during the BBC interview, including one that “Covid in schools is thriving.” At the time, UK regulators had not yet cleared the vaccine for the 5 to 11 age group, though the vaccine did have a positive opinion from the EMA’s human medicines committee.