Bel­gian up­start Rewind taps Ian Reynolds as CEO; Robert Fos­ter takes the reins at Con­traVir

Ian Reynolds

→ With $17 mil­lion of Se­ries A mon­ey in tow, Bel­gian biotech Rewind Ther­a­peu­tics has found a new leader in Ian Reynolds, a “tal­ent­ed drug-hunter” in neu­ro­science who trad­ed a tenured pro­fes­sor­ship for dis­cov­ery roles in bio­phar­ma, most re­cent­ly VP and head of dis­cov­ery re­search at Te­va’s US unit. As CEO, Reynolds will lead Rewind to ad­vance treat­ments for myelin-re­lat­ed dis­eases to the clin­ic in close col­lab­o­ra­tion with their founders at KU Leu­ven’s Cen­tre for Drug De­sign and Dis­cov­ery and Axxam. Boehringer In­gel­heim and Mer­ck’s ven­ture arms are back­ing the com­pa­ny along­side Flem­ish in­vest­ment com­pa­ny PMV.

Robert Fos­ter

→ As James Sapirstein steps down from Con­traVir Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals, sea­soned CEO Robert Fos­ter has once again found him­self at the helm of a biotech — on a tem­po­rary ba­sis. Fos­ter has been serv­ing as CSO since Con­travir merged with Ci­clofil­in Phar­ma, a com­pa­ny he co-found­ed and led, in 2016. His first pri­or­i­ty: to con­duct a full re­view of the pipeline and cor­po­rate strat­e­gy. “There is no ques­tion in my mind that Con­traVir has great sci­ence, as­sets and peo­ple,” he said in a state­ment. “How­ev­er, it’s al­so clear there is a gap be­tween that and how the in­vest­ment com­mu­ni­ty sees and val­ues the com­pa­ny’s po­ten­tial. […] I am in­cred­i­bly en­er­gized by this op­por­tu­ni­ty, and look for­ward to up­dat­ing our stake­hold­ers as we progress.”

NGM Bio will start its first day as a pub­lic com­pa­ny with new­ly pro­mot­ed ex­ecs at the top. For­mer CFO David Wood­house is tak­ing William Rieflin’s place in the CEO of­fice as Rieflin as­sumes the ex­ec­u­tive chair­man role, three years af­ter Wood­house first joined the biotech from Gold­man Sachs. On his side will be COO Aet­na Wun Tromb­ley, who will now dou­ble as the pres­i­dent of the com­pa­ny in light of Jeff Jonker’s de­par­ture. NGM Bio has filed for a $75 mil­lion IPO on the promise of its NASH ther­a­py as well as re­search deal with Mer­ck worth up to $450 mil­lion.

Jack Mc­Gov­ern has been named in­ter­im CEO at Nov­aBay Phar­ma $NBY, where he will now over­see dai­ly op­er­a­tions in ad­di­tion to his CFO du­ties. His pro­mo­tion frees up his pre­de­ces­sor, Mark Sieczkarek, to scout deals that will beef up the com­pa­ny’s com­mer­cial and late-stage oph­thalmic prod­ucts.  

Jeb Keiper is mov­ing up to the CEO post at Nim­bus. The high-pro­file biotech says Keiper, who joined Nim­bus in 2014 as head of busi­ness de­vel­op­ment, played a big role in forg­ing deals and fi­nanc­ing rounds that brought in $775 mil­lion — in­clud­ing a block­buster $400 mil­lion cash deal with Gilead for its NASH pro­gram. In a state­ment, found­ing CEO Don Nichol­son said he was look­ing for­ward to mov­ing on to the “next en­tre­pre­neur­ial chap­ter of my ca­reer,” wish­ing Keiper con­tin­ued suc­cess with his move up. His de­par­ture from the com­pu­ta­tion­al drug dis­cov­ery com­pa­ny comes sev­en months af­ter Rosana Kapeller left her role as found­ing CSO

→ Syn­log­ic’s board has de­cid­ed to hand a per­ma­nent pro­mo­tion to Aoife Bren­nan, who’s been run­ning the show since Jose Car­los Gutiér­rez-Ramos un­ex­pect­ed­ly de­part­ed back in May. Bren­nan joined the com­pa­ny in 2016 as the chief med­ical of­fi­cer.

Al­bert Bourla spent 25 years get­ting to the top at Pfiz­er, and now he’ll com­plete the last stride in­to the CEO’s of­fice, tak­ing con­trol of one of the world’s biggest phar­ma gi­ants. Pfiz­er an­nounced this morn­ing that Bourla would be tak­ing the reins at the com­pa­ny on Jan­u­ary 1, with Ian Read mov­ing from chair­man and CEO to ex­ec­u­tive chair­man. The big move was wide­ly her­ald­ed late last year, when Bourla was tapped to move from the com­pa­ny’s In­no­v­a­tive Health group to the new po­si­tion of chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer. Read made a se­ries of big changes at the end of his rein — part of a big lega­cy that Bourla will in­her­it, as well as a strat­e­gy he clear­ly in­tends to car­ry on un­der Read’s tute­lage at least for awhile.

Judy Smythe

Sci­ence 37, the vir­tu­al clin­i­cal tri­al com­pa­ny that scored a key Big Phar­ma part­ner­ship with No­var­tis ear­li­er this year, has re­cruit­ed three ex­pe­ri­enced ex­ecs from dif­fer­ent cor­ners of the life sci­ences world. Judy Smythe, a McKesson alum and for­mer pres­i­dent of Web­MD Health Ser­vices, is the new COO; Bar­dia Ak­bari is join­ing as SVP of clin­i­cal op­er­a­tions af­ter more than 15 years at Roche/Genen­tech; and Niv Caviar, a biotech vet­er­an with stints at Al­ler­gan and La Jol­la, as­sumes the CFO po­si­tion af­ter serv­ing as chief ex­ec­u­tive of a med­ical de­vice com­pa­nies for the past four years.

→ We now know where Na­tal­ie Sacks was head­ed af­ter jump­ing ship at Aduro $ADRO.

The chief med­ical of­fi­cer changed hats but kept the same job, join­ing South San Fran­cis­co-based Har­poon Ther­a­peu­tics, which has been work­ing on T cell en­gag­ing ther­a­pies.

Sacks left Aduro ex­act­ly two years af­ter join­ing the biotech. And she left just days ahead of a re­vamp at Aduro that fol­lowed J&J’s de­ci­sion to aban­don its long-run­ning pair of part­ner­ships at the com­pa­ny, val­ued at up to $1.2 bil­lion. 

Sacks had been in charge of clin­i­cal de­vel­op­ment at Onyx ear­li­er, play­ing a role in the Kypro­lis pro­gram. 

→ Hav­ing dealt with drug de­vel­op­ment as both a reg­u­la­tor and an in­vest­ment ad­vi­sor, Ar­mand Bal­boni has tak­en up a more hands-on role as Ap­pili Ther­a­peu­tics’ first CSO, tasked with steer­ing its in­fec­tious dis­ease pro­grams through the clin­ic. The Cana­di­an biotech likes both his back­ground in the mil­i­tary and re­cent ex­pe­ri­ence at Bur­ton Bloom, which they ex­pect to trans­late in­to sci­en­tif­ic in­sights for gov­ern­ment and in­dus­try col­lab­o­ra­tions.

→ Dal­las-based Car­dio­Vas­cu­lar Bio­Ther­a­peu­tics has scooped Ori Ben-Yehu­da from Gilead to over­see its full range of pro­tein drug re­search pro­grams — from di­a­bet­ic wounds to erec­tile dys­func­tion — as the new CMO.

Inge Lues is re­tir­ing from Pro­bio­drug as her five-year con­tract as chief de­vel­op­ment of­fi­cer comes to an end, pass­ing her R&D re­spon­si­bil­i­ties to Michael Scha­ef­fer, who’s just been pro­mot­ed to chief busi­ness of­fi­cer days ago. Scha­ef­fer in­her­its an Alzheimer’s dis­ease pro­gram that Lues has led to the edges of a Phase IIb tri­al.

Ti­tan Phar­ma has cre­at­ed a new po­si­tion in prepa­ra­tion for the re­launch of its opi­oid ad­dic­tion im­plant, and Mer­ck vet Dane Hall­berg is fill­ing the spot. Be­fore his ap­point­ment as EVP and chief com­mer­cial of­fi­cer, Hall­berg has been con­sult­ing with the com­pa­ny to eval­u­ate the mar­ket and iden­ti­fy the strate­gic po­si­tion for Probuphine.

CASI Phar­ma $CASI has re­cruit­ed Big Phar­ma vet Lar­ry Zhang to lead its Chi­na op­er­a­tions in Bei­jing, with a spe­cial fo­cus on com­mer­cial­iza­tion. Zhang was most re­cent­ly VP, head of pub­lic af­fairs and cor­po­rate re­spon­si­bil­i­ty at No­var­tis’ Chi­na unit, play­ing a lead role in help­ing the Swiss drug­mak­er adapt to Chi­na’s drug ap­proval re­form. That fol­lows a CEO stint at San­doz (Chi­na) as well as ex­ec­u­tive roles with Bay­er and Bax­ter in Asia.

→ Dig­i­tal med de­vel­op­er Click Ther­a­peu­tics has ap­point­ed Avanir vet Ran­dall Kaye as chief med­ical of­fi­cer and Austin Speier as chief strat­e­gy of­fi­cer. Speier, pre­vi­ous­ly VP, emerg­ing tech­nolo­gies, is charged with li­ais­ing with the FDA and oth­er stake­hold­ers to “build out this new ther­a­peu­tic cat­e­go­ry.” Click has re­cent­ly closed a $17 mil­lion round led by Sanofi’s ven­ture arm and is de­vel­op­ing a phone app de­signed for smok­ing ces­sa­tion.

Thomas Davis is fus­ing his ex­per­tise in can­cer vac­cine and cell ther­a­py in his new job as CMO of Geno­cea $GN­CA. As he did in Gade­ta and Celldex, where he held the same role, he will lead clin­i­cal and reg­u­la­to­ry de­vel­op­ment for Geno­cea’s neoanti­gen vac­cine and cell ther­a­py pro­grams. The Cam­bridge, MA-based biotech is al­so wel­com­ing Derek Meis­ner, its first-ever gen­er­al coun­sel.

Ed­i­tas Med­i­cine $ED­IT has wooed two ex­ecs from high pro­file bio­phar­ma com­pa­nies to help ex­e­cute its vi­sion for broad ap­pli­ca­tions of its gene edit­ing tech­nol­o­gy. SVP of im­muno­genet­ics Richard Mor­gan moves from blue­bird bio, bring­ing ex­pe­ri­ence from the NIH, while Sanofi vet Kate Zhang will be VP of bi­o­log­i­cal de­vel­op­ment.

Mari­no Gar­cia is the new SVP of cor­po­rate and busi­ness de­vel­op­ment at Zealand Phar­ma $ZEAL, where he is ex­pect­ed to hit the ground run­ning with his years of ex­pe­ri­ence plan­ning and man­ag­ing cor­po­rate ini­tia­tives.  

→ In recog­ni­tion of its grow­ing pres­ence in the Asia mar­ket, Bel­gium’s Promethera has pro­mot­ed the gen­er­al man­ag­er of its Japan of­fice to group CFO. Mut­su­ki Takano suc­ceeds Frank Hazevoets.

Forty Sev­en has added im­munol­o­gy su­per­star and new­ly mint­ed No­bel lau­re­ate Jim Al­li­son to its ad­vi­so­ry team along with three oth­er heavy­weights from the re­search world: Stan­ford’s Ronald Levy, MD An­der­son’s Pad­ma­nee Shar­ma, and George­town’s Louis Wein­er.

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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Part club, part guide, part land­lord: Arie Bellde­grun is blue­print­ing a string of be­spoke biotech com­plex­es in glob­al boom­towns — start­ing with Boston

The biotech industry is getting a landlord, unlike anything it’s ever known before.

Inspired by his recent experiences scrounging for space in Boston and the Bay Area, master biotech builder, investor, and global dealmaker Arie Belldegrun has organized a new venture to build a new, 250,000 square foot biopharma building in Boston’s Seaport district — home to Vertex and a number of up-and-coming biotech players.

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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).

H1 analy­sis: The high-stakes ta­ble in the biotech deals casi­no is pay­ing out some record-set­ting win­nings

For years the big trend among dealmakers at the major players has been centered on ratcheting down upfront payments in favor of bigger milestones. Better known as biobucks for some. But with the top 15 companies competing for the kind of “transformative” pacts that can whip up some excitement on Wall Street, with some big biotechs like Regeneron now weighing in as well, cash is king at the high stakes table.

We asked Chris Dokomajilar, the head of DealForma, to crunch the numbers for us, looking over the top 20 deals for the past decade and breaking it all down into the top alliances already created in 2019. Gilead has clearly tipped the scales in terms of the coin of the bio-realm, with its record-setting $5 billion upfront to tie up to Galapagos’ entire pipeline.

Dokomajilar notes:

We’re going to need a ‘three comma club’ for the deals with over $1 billion in total upfront cash and equity. The $100 million-plus club is getting crowded at 164 deals in the last decade with new deals being added towards the top of the chart. 2019 already has 14 deals with at least $100 million in upfront cash and equity for a total year-to-date of over $9 billion. That beats last year’s $8 billion and sets a record.

Add upfronts and equity payments and you get $11.5 billion for the year, just shy of last year’s record-setting $11.8 billion.

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UP­DAT­ED: With loom­ing ‘apoc­a­lypse of drug re­sis­tance,’ Mer­ck’s com­bi­na­tion an­tibi­ot­ic scores FDA ap­proval on two fronts

Merck — one of the last large biopharmaceuticals companies in the beleaguered field of antibiotic drug development — on Wednesday said the FDA had sanctioned the approval of its combination antibacterial for the treatment of complicated urinary tract and intra-abdominal infections.

To curb the rise of drug-resistant bacteria and maintain the efficacy of the therapy, Recarbrio (and other antibacterials) — the drug must be used to treat or prevent infections that are proven or strongly suspected to be caused by susceptible gram-negative bacteria, Merck $MRK said.

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John McHutchison in 2012. Getty Images

The $1.1M good­bye: Gilead CSO John McHutchi­son is out as Daniel O’Day shakes up the se­nior team

Just a little more than a year after John McHutchison grabbed a promotion to become CSO at Gilead in the wake of Norbert Bischofberger’s exit, he’s out amid a shakeup of the senior team that is also triggering the departure of two other top execs.

Gilead stated that McHutchison “has decided to step down” from the job as of August 2nd. And their SEC filing notes that he’ll be getting a $1.1 million check to settle up on his contract.

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Thomas Gajewski, David Steinberg. (CRI, Pyxis)

Bay­er, Long­wood back star re­searcher's deep dive in­to the tu­mor mi­croen­vi­ron­ment for new I/O tar­gets

From PD-1 targeting to the RAS pathway to the STING complex, Thomas Gajewski has spent the past two decades of his career decoding the various ways the immune system can be unleashed to defend against cancer. So when the University of Chicago professor comes around to putting all his findings into a new platform for finding new targets, VCs and pharma groups alike pay attention.

“He’s been studying T cells for 20 years, plus he’s one of the world’s leaders if not the world leader in the space,” David Steinberg, partner at Longwood Fund, said. “Furthermore, let me add he did a lot of the foundational research and also some of the seminal clinical trials in the existing set of I/O agents. He understands the space really well, he understands the current strengths, and I think he understood really well what was missing, so he knew where to look.”

Kamala Harris speaking yesterday at the Des Moines Register Iowa Presidential Candidate Forum [via Getty]

Who’s the tough­est on drug prices? A game of po­lit­i­cal one-up­man­ship is dri­ving the pol­i­cy de­bate in Wash­ing­ton

Earlier this week we got a look at Senator Kamala Harris’ position on drug prices. She’s proposing that HHS take an average price from single-payer systems like the UK, Germany and Canada — which leverage market access for lower prices — and use that to set the US price. Anything drug companies collect above that would be taxed at a rate of 100%.

And the rhetoric is scathing:
While families struggle to make it to the end of the month, pharmaceutical companies are turning record profits. They’re spending nearly as much on advertising as R&D. They’re manipulating their market power to hike prices on lifesaving generic drugs. They’re making twice the profit of the average industry in America and still increased drug prices by 10.5% over the past six months alone. Meanwhile, they are charging dramatically higher prices to American consumers.
That’s an escalation on Joe Biden’s plan, which includes drug importation from those cheaper markets as well as allowing Medicare to negotiate prices — something that virtually all Dems agree on now.

SJ Lee [File photo]

Go­ing in­side cells, Sung Joo Lee has sketched some big goals for his small — but glob­al — team of drug hunters

For a small biotech based in South Korea with a research arm in Cambridge, MA, Orum Therapeutics has sketched out some big goals aimed at developing antibodies for intracellular targets. And now they have a new $30 million round to push the work forward, aiming at a slate of currently undruggable quests.

Orum has been working on a platform tech out of Ajou University that relies on endocytosis to smuggle antibodies and their cargo inside a cell. They’ve published work in Nature that illustrates its preclinical potential in RAS mutations, and KRAS is on their list of targets. 

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