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.

Biotech in­vestors and CEOs see two paths to growth, but are they equal­ly vi­able?

The dynamic in the biotech market has been highly volatile in the last few years, from the high peaks immediately after the COVID vaccine in 2021, to the lowest downturns of the last 20 years in 2022. This uncertainty makes calling the exact timing of the market’s turn something of a fool’s errand, according to Dr. Chen Yu, Founder and Managing Partner of TCG Crossover (TCG X). He speaks with RBC’s Noël Brown, Head of US Biotechnology Investment Banking, about the market’s road ahead and two possible paths for growth.

Casey McPherson shows his daughters Rose (left) and Weston around Everlum Bio, a lab that he co-founded to spark a treatment for Rose and others with ultra-rare conditions. (Ilana Panich-Linsman)

Fa­ther starts lab af­ter in­tel­lec­tu­al prop­er­ty is­sues stymie rare dis­ease drug de­vel­op­ment

Under bright lab lights, Casey McPherson holds his 6-year-old daughter, Rose. His free hand directs Rose’s gaze toward a computer screen with potential clues in treating her one-of-a kind genetic condition.

Gray specks on the screen show her cells that scientists reprogrammed with the goal of zeroing in on a custom medicine. McPherson co-founded the lab, Everlum Bio, to spark a treatment for Rose — and others like her. A regarded singer-songwriter, McPherson never imagined going into drug development.

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Fireside chat between Hal Barron and John Carroll, UKBIO19

It’s time we talked about bio­phar­ma — live in Lon­don next week

Zoom can only go so far. And I think at this stage, we’ve all tested the limits of staying in touch — virtually. So I’m particularly happy now that we’ve revved up the travel machine to point myself to London for the first time in several years.

Whatever events we have lined up, we’ve always built in plenty of opportunities for all of us to get together and talk. For London, live, I plan to be right out front, meeting with and chatting with the small crowd of biopharma people we are hosting on October 12 at Silicon Valley Bank’s London headquarters. And there’s a lengthy mixer at the end I’m most looking forward to, with several networking openings between sessions.

Car­olyn Bertozzi (Illustration: Assistant editor Kathy Wong for Endpoints News)

Car­olyn Bertozzi, re­peat biotech founder and launch­er of a field, shares in chem­istry No­bel win

Carolyn Bertozzi, predicted by some to become a Nobel laureate, clinched one of the world’s top awards in the wee hours of Wednesday, winning the Nobel Prize in Chemistry alongside a repeat winner and a Copenhagen researcher.

The Stanford professor, Morten Meldal of University of Copenhagen and 2001-awardee K. Barry Sharpless of Scripps shared the prize equally. The Nobel is sometimes split in quarters and/or halves.

Take­da to pull key hy­poparathy­roidism drug from the mar­ket af­ter years of man­u­fac­tur­ing woes

Takeda on Tuesday morning made an announcement that almost 3,000 people with the rare disease known as hypoparathyroidism were fearing.

Due to unresolved supply issues and manufacturing woes, Takeda said it will cut its losses and discontinue its hypoparathyroidism drug, known as Natpara (parathyroid hormone), halting all manufacturing of the drug by the end of 2024, but the entire inventory will be available until depleted or expired, a company spokesperson said via email.

Pfizer and BioNTech's original Marvel comic book links evolving Covid vaccine science to Avengers' evolving villain-fighting tools.(Source: Pfizer LinkedIn post)

Pfiz­er, BioN­Tech part­ner with Mar­vel for Avengers and Covid-fight­ing com­ic book

Pfizer and BioNTech are collaborating with Marvel to celebrate “everyday” people getting Covid-19 vaccines in a custom comic book.

In the “Everyday Heroes” digital comic book, an evolving Ultron, one of the Avengers’ leading villains, is defeated by Captain America, Ironman and others. The plotline and history of Ultron is explained by a grandfather who is waiting with his family at a clinic for Covid-19 vaccinations.

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Kaile Zagger, Infinant Health CEO

UC Davis mi­cro­bio­me spin­out re­brands in­fant sup­ple­ment busi­ness with na­ture fo­cus

When Kaile Zagger took the helm of UC Davis spinout Evolve Biosystems several months ago, the company billed itself as a probiotic maker.

However, she believes the company’s Evivo supplement designed to help infants develop a healthy gut microbiome is “so much more” — and that, she said, calls for a rebrand.

Evolve has, well, evolved into Infinant Health, the company announced on Monday. The new name is a mash-up of the words “infant” and “infinite,” representing the company’s goal of expanding beyond infant care. While its sole product, Evivo, is intended for newborns, Infinant is “quickly developing” an option for kids through the age of two.

Robert Arch, OncoSec Medical CEO

Pen­ny stock, Mer­ck part­ner lays off 45% of staff to reach PhII read­out by ear­ly 2023

Another biotech is feeling the chill of the bear market, laying off staff in an effort to preserve cash.

Cancer immunotherapy startup OncoSec Medical announced Tuesday evening it would lay off about 45% of its workforce, or 18 employees, it estimated in an SEC filing. OncoSec made the move to better position the company to complete a Phase II trial for its sole program in melanoma, CEO Robert Arch said in a statement.

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FDA+ roundup: Ad­comm date set for Cy­to­ki­net­ics heart drug; New gener­ic drug guid­ance to re­duce fa­cil­i­ty de­lays

The FDA has set Dec. 13 as the day that its Cardiovascular and Renal Drugs Advisory Committee will review Cytokinetics’ potential heart drug, setting up a key vote ahead of a Feb. 28, 2023 PDUFA date.

The drug, known as omecamtiv mecarbil, read out its first Phase III in November 2020, hitting the primary endpoint of reducing the odds of hospitalization or other urgent care for heart failure by 8%. But it also missed a key secondary endpoint analysts had pegged as the key to breaking into the market, failing to significantly differ in reducing cardiovascular death from placebo.

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