Robert LaCaze, incoming CEO of Mnemo Therapeutics

Bay­er on­col­o­gy vet Robert La­Caze has his eyes on next steps — land­ing his first gig as CEO of Sade­lain co-found­ed biotech

Three weeks af­ter Bay­er put out word that Robert La­Caze, its head of their on­col­o­gy strate­gic busi­ness unit, was jump­ing ship, we now know where he’s head­ed: the transat­lantic T-cell biotech Mnemo Ther­a­peu­tics, where La­Caze will be tak­ing up the helm and mov­ing for­ward as CEO on May 1.

Alain Maiore

Found­ing CEO Alain Maiore is stay­ing with the com­pa­ny, but is piv­ot­ing his role from CEO to COO.

Michel Sade­lain, the CAR-T re­searcher and Juno co-founder at Memo­r­i­al Sloan Ket­ter­ing, had put his name and cell en­gi­neer­ing tech­nol­o­gy be­hind the start­up when it of­fi­cial­ly launched back in June — and he’s list­ed as a sci­en­tif­ic co-founder. Maiore said at the time that they as a com­pa­ny were ready to bring on the next gen­er­a­tion of cell ther­a­pies in what­ev­er fla­vor they come.

About this time last year, the French biotech, which set a record last year for the high­est Se­ries A out of a French biotech at $90 mil­lion, had on­ly 7 em­ploy­ees. As of this week, they are now at 45 em­ploy­ees — with of­fices and labs in Paris, New York and now Prince­ton, where La­Caze and some re­searchers will be work­ing out of.

La­Caze told End­points News this morn­ing that he had helped pick Chris­tine Roth as his re­place­ment at Bay­er, where he had been work­ing for the last six years. La­Caze and Roth are for­mer col­leagues — they did their front­line man­ag­er train­ing to­geth­er while they both worked at Bris­tol My­ers Squibb back in the 1990s. So when Roth takes over his role on March 1, he will be­gin his tran­si­tion out of Bay­er and bring her up to speed on his now-for­mer job while en­gag­ing more with Mnemo.

“But at some point in time, when I was look­ing at my ca­reer and what I want­ed to do, you know… It’s a nat­ur­al tran­si­tion for me to tran­si­tion to a CEO type of role. But I want­ed to be very care­ful which type of com­pa­ny I went to,” La­Caze said.

And one night, La­Caze got a call, where he and Mnemo got con­nect­ed.

In bring­ing La­Caze aboard the biotech, Maiore told End­points:

What I re­al­ly want­ed to avoid as a founder is a pit­fall of many Eu­ro­pean biotech com­pa­nies where the founders are glued to their chairs and they don’t know when to bring the right tal­ent to pro­pel the com­pa­ny for­ward. I re­al­ly want­ed to avoid that mis­take. And you know, it’s been re­al­ly a pleas­ant jour­ney. The more we spoke with and talked with Robert, the more we felt that we could work well to­geth­er. And so the board and in­vestors share that per­spec­tive that Robert can make a huge con­tri­bu­tion in putting this com­pa­ny on the map.

What’s next for the com­pa­ny? Ac­cord­ing to Maiore, one of the big goals is to raise a Se­ries B — which he and La­Caze will do to­geth­er. When the biotech raised the Se­ries A last year, Mnemo ex­pect­ed it would last the biotech three years, through 2024. How­ev­er, Maiore says that they are ahead of sched­ule in terms of re­search, and spar­ing some of the de­tails, they are look­ing at rais­ing the Se­ries B be­fore the three years are up.

And on the re­search and pipeline side, the com­pa­ny has a few pre­clin­i­cal as­sets in play, Maiore told End­points — and the biotech hopes to have com­plet­ed INDs by the end of 2023.

Illustration: Assistant Editor Kathy Wong for Endpoints News

As mon­ey pours in­to dig­i­tal ther­a­peu­tics, in­sur­ance cov­er­age crawls



Talk therapy didn’t help Lily with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD. But a video game did.

As the 10-year-old zooms through icy waters and targets flying creatures on the snow-capped planet Frigidus, she builds attention skills, thanks to Akili Interactive Labs’ video game EndeavorRx. She’s now less anxious and scattered, allowing her to stay on a low dose of ADHD medication, according to her mom Violet Vu.

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Up­dat­ed: FDA re­mains silent on or­phan drug ex­clu­siv­i­ty af­ter last year's court loss

Since losing a controversial court case over orphan drug exclusivity last year, the FDA’s Office of Orphan Products Development has remained entirely silent on orphan exclusivity for any product approved since last November, leaving many sponsors in limbo on what to expect.

That silence means that for more than 70 orphan-designated indications for more than 60 products, OOPD has issued no public determination on the seven-year orphan exclusivity in the Orange Book, and no new listings of orphan exclusivity appear in OOPD’s searchable database, as highlighted recently by George O’Brien, a partner in Mayer Brown’s Washington, DC office.

Eli Lil­ly’s Alzheimer’s drug clears more amy­loid ear­ly than Aduhelm in first-ever head-to-head. Will it mat­ter?

Ahead of the FDA’s decision on Eli Lilly’s Alzheimer’s drug donanemab in February, the Big Pharma is dropping a first cut of data from one of the more interesting trials — but less important in a regulatory sense — at an Alzheimer’s conference in San Francisco.

In the unblinded 148-person study, Eli Lilly pitted its drug against Aduhelm, Biogen’s drug that won FDA approval but lost Medicare coverage outside of clinical trials. Notably, the study didn’t look at clinical outcomes, but rather the clearance of amyloid, a protein whose buildup is associated with Alzheimer’s disease, in the brain.

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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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SQZ Biotech slash­es head­count by 60% as founder/CEO hits ex­it — while Syn­log­ic lays off 25%

It’s a tough time for early-stage companies developing highly promising, but largely unproven, new technologies.

Just ask SQZ Biotechnologies and Synlogic. The former is bidding farewell to its founder and CEO and slashing the headcount by 60% as it pivots from its original cell therapy platform to a next-gen approach; the latter — a synthetic biology play founded by MIT’s Jim Collins and Tim Lu — is similarly “optimizing” the company to focus on lead programs. The resulting realignment means 25% of the staffers will be laid off.

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Matt Gline, Roivant Sciences CEO (Photo by John Sciulli/Getty Images for GLG)

Pfiz­er and Roivant team up again for an­oth­er 'Van­t', set­ting up an­ti-in­flam­ma­to­ry show­down with Prometheus

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Roche HQ in Basel, Switzerland. (Image credit: Kyle LaHucik/Endpoints News)

As com­peti­tors near FDA goal­post, Roche spells out its re­peat Alzheimer's set­back

Before Roche can turn all eyes on a new version of its more-than-once-failed Alzheimer’s drug gantenerumab, the Big Pharma had to flesh out data on the November topline failure at an annual conference buzzier than in years past thanks to hotly watched rivals in the field: Eisai and Biogen’s lecanemab, and Eli Lilly’s donanemab.

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Lynn Baxter, Viiv Healthcare's head of North America

Vi­iV dri­ves new cor­po­rate coali­tion in­clud­ing Uber, Tin­der and Wal­mart, aimed at end­ing HIV

ViiV Healthcare is pulling together an eclectic coalition of consumer businesses in a new White House-endorsed effort to end HIV by the end of the decade.

The new US Business Action to End HIV includes pharma and health companies — Gilead Sciences, CVS Health and Walgreens — but extends to a wide range of consumer companies that includes Tinder, Uber and Walmart.

ViiV is the catalyst for the group, plunking down more than half a million dollars in seed money and taking on ringmaster duties for launch today on World AIDS Day, but co-creator Health Action Alliance will organize joint activities going forward. ViiV and the alliance want and expect more companies to not only join the effort, but also pitch in funding.

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AbCellera founder and CEO Carl Hansen (L) and Rallybio CEO Martin Mackay

Rally­bio, Ab­Cellera form new part­ner­ship around an­ti­bod­ies for rare dis­ease

Two biotechs that have been working heavily on different stages of antibody candidate development over the past several years are looking to work together to find potential candidates for rare diseases.

Canadian-based AbCellera and Connecticut-based Rallybio have entered a strategic partnership to find, develop and commercialize antibodies primarily for rare diseases. The multi-year, multi-target deal will seek to combine AbCellera’s antibody “discovery engine” with Rallybio’s expertise in rare diseases. However, the dollar amount for the deal was not disclosed.