Al­ler­gan vet takes the CEO’s job at Third Rock’s Re­lay; Verona Phar­ma files $86M IPO

San­jiv Pa­tel

Third Rock Ven­tures has re­cruit­ed Al­ler­gan’s chief strat­e­gy of­fi­cer, San­jiv Pa­tel, to take the helm at its start­up Re­lay Ther­a­peu­tics. As is com­mon with Third Rock cre­ations, one of the part­ners took the in­ter­im CEO po­si­tion. Now Alex­is Borisy will step up to the chair­man’s job as Pa­tel does the heavy lift­ing in man­ag­ing the com­pa­ny. Cleave CEO Lau­ra Shawver and NI­BR vet Markus War­muth are join­ing the board at Re­lay, which is build­ing a plat­form based on pro­tein mo­tion.

→ Lon­don-based Verona Phar­ma has filed to raise about $86 mil­lion in an IPO. The biotech is fo­cused on de­vel­op­ing RPL554, a dual PDE3 and PDE4 in­hibitor aimed at COPD. The com­pa­ny bills this drug as the first new class of bron­chodila­tor in more than 40 years. Re­searchers start­ed a Phase IIa study in 10 cys­tic fi­bro­sis pa­tients last month.

Patrick Soon-Sh­iong’s Nan­tK­west $NK has tak­en the lead role in sup­ply­ing an $18.4 mil­lion round to Virac­ta, which will use the mon­ey to ad­vance clin­i­cal work on VRx-3996, an ex­per­i­men­tal ther­a­py for Ep­stein Barr Virus-as­so­ci­at­ed ma­lig­nan­cies via Virac­ta’s pro­pri­etary vi­ral gene ac­ti­va­tion ther­a­peu­tic ap­proach. The biotech bil­lion­aire al­so arranged an ex­clu­sive li­cens­ing deal to match Virac­ta’s ther­a­py with Nan­tK­west’s nat­ur­al killer cells. Once one of the most cel­e­brat­ed play­ers among the rich and fa­mous in biotech, Soon-Sh­iong has come un­der close scruti­ny for some of his busi­ness deals and char­i­ta­ble con­tri­bu­tions re­cent­ly. Wick­low Cap­i­tal co-led the round while Virac­ta’s found­ing in­vestors, Lat­terell Ven­ture Part­ners and For­ward Ven­tures, al­so par­tic­i­pat­ed.

→  For­mer Vice Pres­i­dent Joe Biden turned up at AACR to de­fend NIH fund­ing from cuts pro­posed by the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion. “This is no time to un­der­cut progress, for God’s sake,” Biden told the au­di­ence, ac­cord­ing to S&P Glob­al’s Don­na Young.  “We are stand­ing on the cusp of de­liv­er­ing the promise of decades of re­search to de­vel­op new tech­nolo­gies and ther­a­pies; on the cusp of fun­da­men­tal­ly trans­form­ing the im­pact of can­cer on our so­ci­ety; on the cusp of sav­ing and ex­tend­ing the lives of Amer­i­cans. It’s time to dou­ble down, time to be sure we can de­liv­er on the promise of sci­ence and tech­nol­o­gy to ex­tend and im­prove lives.”

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.

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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.”

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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.

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Chas­ing Roche's ag­ing block­buster fran­chise, Am­gen/Al­ler­gan roll out Avastin, Her­ceptin knock­offs at dis­count

Let the long battle for biosimilars in the cancer space begin.

Amgen has launched its Avastin and Herceptin copycats — licensed from the predecessors of Allergan — almost two years after the FDA had stamped its approval on Mvasi (bevacizumab-awwb) and three months after the Kanjinti OK (trastuzumab-anns). While the biotech had been fielding biosimilars in Europe, this marks their first foray in the US — and the first oncology biosimilars in the country.

Seer adds ex-FDA chief Mark Mc­Clel­lan to the board; Her­cules Cap­i­tal makes it of­fi­cial for new CEO Scott Bluestein

→ On the same day it announced a $17.5 million Series C, life sciences and health data company Seer unveiled that it had lured former FDA commissioner and ex-CMS administrator Mark McClellan on to its board. “Mark’s deep understanding of the health care ecosystem and visionary insights on policy reform will be crucial in informing our thinking as we work to bring our liquid biopsy and life sciences products to market,” said Seer chief and founder Omid Farokhzad in a statement.

Daniel O'Day

No­var­tis hands off 3 pre­clin­i­cal pro­grams to the an­tivi­ral R&D mas­ters at Gilead

Gilead CEO Daniel O’Day’s new task hunting up a CSO for the company isn’t stopping the industry’s dominant antiviral player from doing pipeline deals.

The big biotech today snapped up 3 preclinical antiviral programs from pharma giant Novartis, with drugs promising to treat human rhinovirus, influenza and herpes viruses. We don’t know what the upfront is, but the back end has $291 million in milestones baked in.

Vas Narasimhan, AP Images

On a hot streak, No­var­tis ex­ecs run the odds on their two most im­por­tant PhI­II read­outs. Which is 0.01% more like­ly to suc­ceed?

Novartis CEO Vas Narasimhan is living in the sweet spot right now.

The numbers are running a bit better than expected, the pipeline — which he assembled as development chief — is performing and the stock popped more than 4% on Thursday as the executive team ran through their assessment of Q2 performance.

Year-to-date the stock is up 28%, so the investors will be beaming. Anyone looking for chinks in their armor — and there are plenty giving it a shot — right now focus on payer acceptance of their $2.1 million gene therapy Zolgensma, where it’s early days. And CAR-T continues to underperform, but Novartis doesn’t appear to be suffering from it.

So what could go wrong?

Actually, not much. But Tim Anderson at Wolfe pressed Narasimhan and his development chief John Tsai to pick which of two looming Phase III readouts with blockbuster implication had the better odds of success.

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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.

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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.