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