Atara seeks new CEO as Isaac Ciechanover ex­its; As­traZeneca's Mark Mal­lon tapped to re­place Pe­ter Hecht at Iron­wood

→ In an abrupt de­par­ture, Isaac Ciechanover is step­ping down from Atara Bio­ther­a­peu­tics $ATRA, the T cell ther­a­py com­pa­ny that he found­ed in 2012 in hon­or of his moth­er. The South San Fran­cis­co biotech gave no rea­son for this change, which will take place by June 30, of­fer­ing on­ly the stan­dard thank you and the vi­sion for its pipeline of off-the-shelf CAR-T pro­grams, al­lied with promi­nent in­ves­ti­ga­tors around the coun­try.

Bahi­ja Jal­lal isn’t the on­ly se­nior As­traZeneca ex­ec head­ing to new biotech fields. Mark Mal­lon — cur­rent EVP in charge of port­fo­lio strat­e­gy — is on his way to take the CEO job at Iron­wood $IR­WD, as that com­pa­ny splits up un­der pres­sure and Pe­ter Hecht leaves to run the R&D spin­out.

→ Hav­ing been groomed for the helm at Al­lena Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals $AL­NA — el­e­vat­ed to the pres­i­dent role with­in two years of join­ing the com­pa­ny as COO — Louis Bren­ner is of­fi­ciall tak­ing over from founder Alex­ey Mar­golin, who is tran­si­tion­ing to the chair­man role. The New­ton, MA-based biotech is de­vel­op­ing oral en­zyme ther­a­peu­tics to treat meta­bol­ic and kid­ney dis­or­ders, with the lead pro­gram relox­aliase set to be­gin Phase III.

→ Spe­cial­ty phar­ma Avadel Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals $AVDL is part­ing ways with Michael An­der­son and putting Gre­go­ry Di­vis in charge as the in­ter­im CEO. The tem­po­rary pro­mo­tion comes months af­ter Di­vis as­cend­ed from chief com­mer­cial of­fi­cer to the COO post. Avadel’s port­fo­lio cov­ers urol­o­gy, cen­tral ner­vous sys­tem and sleep drugs.

→ Like a long line of No­var­tis ex­ecs be­fore her, Liz Bar­rett has switched to the biotech side of the in­dus­try — helm­ing Uro­Gen, a com­pa­ny she didn’t know un­til ex­ec­u­tive chair­man Arie Bellde­grun con­vinced her to pay a vis­it to its New York City head­quar­ters. Bar­rett takes over from Ron Bentsur just as the com­pa­ny is an­tic­i­pat­ing fi­nal Phase III da­ta for UGN-101, a spe­cial gel for up­per tract urothe­lial can­cer.

Cash rich and poised to be­gin Phase III with a pso­ri­a­sis drug, Der­ma­vant has scooped Philip Brown from Nestlé’s Gal­der­ma to be­come its CMO. Tap­inarof, a top­i­cal cream de­signed to ac­ti­vate the aryl hy­dro­car­bon re­cep­tor, is al­so be­ing ex­plored for atopic der­mati­tis.

Marie Kosco-Vil­bois has left her lengthy tenure at Novim­mune to take up the CSO po­si­tion at AC Im­mune $ACIU, where she will lever­age a deep back­ground in im­munol­o­gy to di­rect the com­pa­ny’s re­search work in neu­rode­gen­er­a­tive dis­eases — in­clud­ing ef­forts in Alzheimer’s, Down syn­drome and Parkin­son’s.

→ As Lon­don’s Verona Phar­ma gears up for a piv­otal COPD tri­al, it’s tapped a pair of Glax­o­SmithK­line vets to lead its clin­i­cal de­vel­op­ment team. Kath­leen Rickard is com­ing on board as CMO while Tara Rheault has been named VP of R&D op­er­a­tions and glob­al project man­age­ment. Both will di­rect R&D ac­tiv­i­ties from the biotech’s US of­fices. The in­haled treat­ment RPL554 showed promise in both COPD and cys­tic fi­bro­sis, trig­ger­ing a ral­ly for the biotech’s stock $VR­NA last March.

→ Fol­low­ing CFO David Grys­ka’s re­tire­ment, In­cyte $IN­CY has found his re­place­ment in Chris­tiana Sta­moulis, a for­mer in­vest­ment banker who’s tak­en a front seat in biotech at Ver­tex and, more re­cent­ly, Unum Ther­a­peu­tics.  

Nim­bus Ther­a­peu­tics is ready to bring a third pro­gram to the clin­ic in 2019, and it’s of­fi­cial­ly hir­ing Big Phar­ma vet Alan Col­lis get the IND in place. Bring­ing ex­pe­ri­ence from Pfiz­er, No­var­tis and For­ma Ther­a­peu­tics, Collins has worked on the ty­ro­sine ki­nase 2 (Tyk2) pro­gram — part­nered with Cel­gene — since Oc­to­ber. He joins as Hol­ly Whittmore and Ab­bas Kaz­i­mi get pro­mot­ed to CFO and VP of busi­ness de­vel­op­ment, re­spec­tive­ly.

→ Af­ter a stint as chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer at Ori­gin Bio­sciences, Er­ic Mos­brook­er is re­turn­ing to the com­mer­cial side of things at fel­low rare dis­ease com­pa­ny Au­dentes Ther­a­peu­tics $BOLD. As CCO, the Alex­ion alum will be in charge of de­vis­ing a strat­e­gy and build­ing out a team for the even­tu­al launch of Au­dentes’ gene ther­a­pies, the most ad­vanced of which is still in Phase I/II.

→ Months af­ter nab­bing rights to de­vel­op and sell a home­grown PD-L1 to sell out­side of Chi­na, Shang­hai-based Har­bour Bio­Med is spread­ing its wings in the US, where it has an out­post in Boston. At­ul Desh­pande, who man­aged the Dupix­ent fran­chise for Sanofi’s Gen­zyme, has been tapped to spear­head this ef­fort as chief strat­e­gy of­fi­cer and head of US op­er­a­tions along­side new­ly pro­mot­ed chief de­vel­op­ment of­fi­cer Xi­aox­i­ang Chen and chief busi­ness of­fi­cer Mai-Jing Liao.

→ As Roche-part­nered SQZ Biotech pre­pares to take its first cell ther­a­py in­to the clin­ic, it’s re­cruit­ed Oliv­er Rosen to over­see the clin­i­cal op­er­a­tion as CMO. Most re­cent­ly serv­ing the same role at De­ci­phera Phar­ma, Rosen’s re­sume spans roles at Mil­len­ni­um, Genen­tech, Am­gen and Roche.

DBV Tech­nolo­gies $DB­VT is reshuf­fling its lead­er­ship fol­low­ing an un­ex­pect­ed an­nounce­ment that it’s re­scind­ing the mar­ket­ing ap­pli­ca­tion for its peanut al­ler­gy drug. With Lu­cia Sep­tien-Velez leav­ing for oth­er op­por­tu­ni­ties, CSO Hugh Samp­son will dou­ble as the in­ter­im CMO. Mean­while, CEO Daniel Tassé will now be get­ting ad­vice from Julie O’Neill, a cur­rent board di­rec­tor for­mer­ly of Alex­ion, on prod­uct de­vel­op­ment, man­u­fac­tur­ing, qual­i­ty as­sur­ance, and end-to-end process op­ti­miza­tion in an ef­fort to re­file its BLA for Vi­askin Peanut.

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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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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Novotech CRO Ex­pands Chi­na Team as Biotech De­mand for Clin­i­cal Tri­als In­creas­es up to 79%

An increase in demand of up to 79% for clinical trials in China has prompted Novotech the Asia-Pacific CRO to rapidly expand the China team, appointing expert local clinical executives to their Shanghai and Hong Kong offices. The company is planning to expand their team by 30% over the next quarter.

Novotech China has seen considerable demand recently which is borne out by research from GlobalData:
A global migration of clinical research is occurring from high-income countries to low and middle-income countries with emerging economies. Over the period 2017 to 2018, for example, the number of clinical trial sites opened by biotech companies in Asia-Pacific increased by 35% compared to 8% in the rest of the world, with growth as high as 79% in China.
Novotech CEO Dr John Moller said China offers the largest population in the world, rapid economic growth, and an increasing willingness by government to invest in research and development.
Novotech’s 23 years of experience working in the region means we are the ideal CRO partner for USA biotechs wanting to tap the research expertise and opportunities that China offers.
There are over 22,000 active investigators in Greater China, with about 5,000 investigators with experience on at least 3 studies (source GlobalData).

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.

Den­mark's Gen­mab hits the jack­pot with $500M+ US IPO as small­er biotechs rake in a com­bined $147M

Danish drugmaker Genmab A/S is off to the races with perhaps one of the biggest biotech public listings in decades, having reaped over $500 million on the Nasdaq, as it positions itself as a bonafide player in antibody-based cancer therapies.

The company, which has long served as J&J’s $JNJ key partner on the blockbuster multiple myeloma therapy Darzalex, has asserted it has been looking to launch its own proprietary product — one it owns at least half of — by 2025.