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.

Is a pow­er­house Mer­ck team prepar­ing to leap past Roche — and leave Gilead and Bris­tol My­ers be­hind — in the race to TIG­IT dom­i­na­tion?

Roche caused quite a stir at ASCO with its first look at some positive — but not so impressive — data for their combination of Tecentriq with their anti-TIGIT drug tiragolumab. But some analysts believe that Merck is positioned to make a bid — soon — for the lead in the race to a second-wave combo immuno-oncology approach with its own ambitious early-stage program tied to a dominant Keytruda.

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Fangliang Zhang, AP Images

UP­DAT­ED: Leg­end fetch­es $424 mil­lion, emerges as biggest win­ner yet in pan­dem­ic IPO boom as shares soar

Amid a flurry of splashy pandemic IPOs, a J&J-partnered Chinese biotech has emerged with one of the largest public raises in biotech history.

Legend Biotech, the Nanjing-based CAR-T developer, has raised $424 million on NASDAQ. The biotech had originally filed for a still-hefty $350 million, based on a range of $18-$20, but managed to fetch $23 per share, allowing them to well-eclipse the massive raises from companies like Allogene, Juno, Galapagos, though they’ll still fall a few dollars short of Moderna’s record-setting $600 million raise from 2018.

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As it hap­pened: A bid­ding war for an an­tibi­ot­ic mak­er in a mar­ket that has rav­aged its peers

In a bewildering twist to the long-suffering market for antibiotics — there has actually been a bidding war for an antibiotic company: Tetraphase.

It all started back in March, when the maker of Xerava (an FDA approved therapy for complicated intra-abdominal infections) said it had received an offer from AcelRx for an all-stock deal valued at $14.4 million.

The offer was well-timed. Xerava was approved in 2018, four years after Tetraphase posted its first batch of pivotal trial data, and sales were nowhere near where they needed to be in order for the company to keep its head above water.

Drug man­u­fac­tur­ing gi­ant Lon­za taps Roche/phar­ma ‘rein­ven­tion’ vet as its new CEO

Lonza chairman Albert Baehny took his time headhunting a new CEO for the company, making it absolutely clear he wanted a Big Pharma or biotech CEO with a good long track record in the business for the top spot. In the end, he went with the gold standard, turning to Roche’s ranks to recruit Pierre-Alain Ruffieux for the job.

Ruffieux, a member of the pharma leadership team at Roche, spent close to 5 years at the company. But like a small army of manufacturing execs, he gained much of his experience at the other Big Pharma in Basel, remaining at Novartis for 12 years before expanding his horizons.

Covid-19 roundup: Ab­b­Vie jumps in­to Covid-19 an­ti­body hunt; As­traZeneca shoots for 2B dos­es of Ox­ford vac­cine — with $750M from CEPI, Gavi

Another Big Pharma is entering the Covid-19 antibody hunt.

AbbVie has announced a collaboration with the Netherlands’ Utrecht University and Erasmus Medical Center and the Chinese-Dutch biotech Harbour Biomed to develop a neutralizing antibody that can treat Covid-19. The antibody, called 47D11, was discovered by AbbVie’s three partners, and AbbVie will support early preclinical work, while preparing for later preclinical and clinical development. Researchers described the antibody in Nature Communications last month.

Pfiz­er’s Doug Gior­dano has $500M — and some ad­vice — to of­fer a cer­tain breed of 'break­through' biotech

So let’s say you’re running a cutting-edge, clinical-stage biotech, probably public, but not necessarily so, which could see some big advantages teaming up with some marquee researchers, picking up say $50 million to $75 million dollars in a non-threatening minority equity investment that could take you to the next level.

Doug Giordano might have some thoughts on how that could work out.

The SVP of business development at the pharma giant has helped forge a new fund called the Pfizer Breakthrough Growth Initiative. And he has $500 million of Pfizer’s money to put behind 7 to 10 — or so — biotech stocks that fit that general description.

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Bris­tol My­ers is clean­ing up the post-Cel­gene merg­er pipeline, and they’re sweep­ing out an ex­per­i­men­tal check­point in the process

Back during the lead up to the $74 billion buyout of Celgene, the big biotech’s leadership did a little housecleaning with a major pact it had forged with Jounce. Out went the $2.6 billion deal and a collaboration on ICOS and PD-1.

Celgene, though, also added a $530 million deal — $50 million up front — to get the worldwide rights to JTX-8064, a drug that targets the LILRB2 receptor on macrophages.

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Mer­ck wins a third FDA nod for an­tibi­ot­ic; Mereo tack­les TIG­IT with $70M raise in hand

Merck — one of the last big pharma bastions in the beleaguered field of antibiotic drug development — on Friday said the FDA had signed off on using its combination drug, Recarbrio, with hospital-acquired bacterial pneumonia and ventilator-associated bacterial pneumonia. The drug could come handy for use in hospitalized patients who are afflicted with Covid-19, who carry a higher risk of contracting secondary bacterial infections. Once SARS-CoV-2, the virus behind Covid-19, infects the airways, it engages the immune system, giving other pathogens free rein to pillage and plunder as they please — the issue is particularly pertinent in patients on ventilators, which in any case are breeding grounds for infectious bacteria.

RA Cap­i­tal, Hill­house join $310M rush to back Ever­est's climb to com­mer­cial heights in Chi­na

Money has never been an issue for Everest Medicines. With an essentially open tab from their founders at C-Bridge Capital, the biotech has gone two and a half years racking up drug after drug, bringing in top exec after top exec, and issuing clinical update after update.

But now other investors want in — and they’re betting big.

Everest is closing its Series C at $310 million. The first $50 million comes from the Jiashan National Economic and Technological Development Zone; the remaining C-2 tranche was led by Janchor Partners, with RA Capital Management and Hillhouse Capital as co-leaders. Decheng Capital, GT Fund, Janus Henderson Investors, Rock Springs Capital, Octagon Investments all joined.