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.”

In­side Track: Be­hind the Scenes of a Ma­jor Biotech SPAC

Dr. David Hung and Michelle Doig are no strangers to the SPAC phenomenon. As Founder and CEO of Nuvation Bio, a biotech company tackling some of the greatest unmet needs in oncology, Dr. Hung recently took the company public in one of this year’s biggest SPAC related deals. And as Partner at Omega Funds, Doig not only led and syndicated Nuvation Bio’s Series A, but is now also President of the newly formed, Omega-sponsored, Omega Alpha SPAC (Nasdaq: OMEG; oversubscribed $138m IPO priced January 6, 2021).

Aduhelm OK 'bit­ter­sweet' for ALS ad­vo­cates; Con­trast­ing Covid-19 vac­cine read­outs; GSK joins TIG­IT bat­tle; and more

Welcome back to Endpoints Weekly, your review of the week’s top biopharma headlines. Want this in your inbox every Saturday morning? Current Endpoints readers can visit their reader profile to add Endpoints Weekly. New to Endpoints? Sign up here.

With the busiest days of June now behind us, we’re starting to think seriously about the second half of the year. In August, we have scheduled a special report where Endpoints will compile a list of the 20 most influential R&D executives in biopharma. Know a luminary who should definitely be included? Nominate them now.

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Who are the lu­mi­nar­ies dri­ving the biggest ad­vances in bio­phar­ma R&D? End­points News is ask­ing for your nom­i­na­tions for a spe­cial re­port

In biopharma, driving a drug to market is the ultimate goal — but none of that happens without a strong research and development program. At the most successful companies, those R&D efforts are spearheaded by true innovators in the field who are always looking for that next novel mechanism of action or breakthrough safety profile.

Now, Endpoints News is asking you to tell us who those guiding lights are.

Leen Kawas, Athira CEO

Biotech founder placed on leave as $400M Alzheimer's start­up idea comes un­der scruti­ny

Athira Pharma, the Alzheimer’s biotech that emerged out of obscurity last year and raised nearly $400 million for a dark-horse approach to treating neurodegeneration, has found itself in sudden turmoil.

On Tuesday evening, the company released a terse statement announcing that CEO and founder Leen Kawas had been placed on administrative leave while an independent review board investigated “actions stemming” from her doctoral research at Washington State University. Mark Litton, who joined the company as COO two years ago, will take over day-to-day operations, they said.

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Bris­tol My­ers breaks the bank on Ei­sai's fo­late re­cep­tor ADC drug, lay­ing out more than $3B+ for rights

For years, innovation in oncology has been a crapshoot with Big Pharma — the whales at the table — dropping the big bucks for the key to the next generation of tumor fighters. Bristol Myers Squibb hasn’t exactly made a name for being an innovator in the space, but that doesn’t mean it won’t splash in when it sees a potential winner.

Now, with a massive check in hand, the drugmaker is willing to put its intuition to the test.

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Michael Chambers (L) and John Ballantyne

Dana­her strikes deal to buy boom­ing next-gen man­u­fac­tur­er Alde­vron for $9.6B

Life sciences conglomerate Danaher Corp. $DHR has struck a deal to buy the fast-growing Aldevron, one of the world’s top manufacturers of hotly sought-after plasmid DNA, mRNA and recombinant proteins for the burgeoning world of vaccine and drugmakers pushing some game-changing technologies.

Buyout talks set the stage for Danaher to settle on a $9.6 billion cash pact to acquire the private Fargo, ND-based company — a key supplier for a disruptive new Covid vaccine as well as a host of gene and cell therapy and CRISPR gene editing players — founded by Michael Chambers and CSO John Ballantyne as a crew of 2 back in 1998.

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FDA's con­tro­ver­sial Aduhelm de­ci­sion leaves ALS pa­tients feel­ing spurned

The FDA’s controversial approval of Biogen’s Aduhelm drug for Alzheimer’s disease has been met with fierce resistance from all corners of the biopharma industry, but few seem to be as upset with the decision as ALS patients and advocacy groups.

For all that’s already been written and discussed about the agency’s announcement, from the drug’s exorbitantly high price of $56,000 per year to criticism over lowered standards, ALS patients see something more. ALS patients and associations say they largely regarded Aduhelm’s approval as a bittersweet double standard: happy that those with Alzheimer’s have a new drug available, but questioning how the FDA evaluated Biogen’s drug compared to the experimental programs being studied for their own disease.

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Jim Green­wood opens new pol­i­cy shop, with an eye on drug price con­trols; Mod­er­na, CRISPR, Mus­tang re­ceive tax breaks in Mass­a­chu­setts

Capitol Hill heavyweight Jim Greenwood is taking his decades of experience in the intertwining worlds of biopharma and Congress to the law firm DLA Piper, where he’s opening up a new policy and regulatory practice alongside former Pfizer lawyer Geoffrey Levitt.

As Congress wrangles over how to bring down drug prices, the former BIO CEO told Endpoints News in an interview that his top three priorities will be, “Price controls, price controls and price controls.”

Spring reg­u­la­to­ry agen­da: What’s com­ing soon-ish from the FDA

The FDA’s lack of a permanent commissioner does not seem to be halting its progress to propose and finalize dozens of new regulations, with the latest batch covering everything from adverse event reporting to supplemental application submissions to annual reports for INDs.

Overall, FDA expects to release more than 40 new proposed regulations and finalize another 24 in the coming months and years.

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