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.

Aerial view of Genentech's campus in South San Francisco [Credit: Getty]

Genen­tech sub­mits a big plan to ex­pand its South San Fran­cis­co foot­print

The sign is still there, a quaint reminder of whitewashed concrete not 5 miles from Genentech’s sprawling, chrome-and-glass campus: South Francisco The Industrial City. 

The city keeps the old sign, first erected in 1923, as a tourist site and a kind of civic memento to the days it packed meat, milled lumber and burned enough steel to earn the moniker “Smokestack of the Peninsula.” But the real indication of where you are and how much has changed both in San Francisco and in the global economy since a couple researchers and investors rented out an empty warehouse 40 years ago comes in a far smaller blue sign, resembling a Rotary Club post, off the highway: South San Francisco, The Birthplace of Biotech.

Here comes the oral GLP-1 drug for di­a­betes — but No­vo Nordisk is­n't dis­clos­ing Ry­bel­sus price just yet

Novo Nordisk’s priority review voucher on oral semaglutide has paid off. The FDA approval for the GLP-1 drug hit late Friday morning, around six months after the NDA filing.

Rybelsus will be the first GLP-1 pill to enter the type 2 diabetes market — a compelling offering that analysts have pegged as a blockbuster drug with sales estimates ranging from $2 billion to $5 billion.

Ozempic, the once-weekly injectable formulation of semaglutide, brought in around $552 million (DKK 3.75 billion) in the first half of 2019.

As Nas­daq en­rolls the fi­nal batch of 2019 IPOs, how have the num­bers com­pared to past years?

IGM Biosciences’ upsized IPO haul, coming after SpringWorks’ sizable public debut, has revved up some momentum for the last rush of biotech IPOs in 2019.

With 39 new listings on the books and roughly two more months to go before winding down, Nasdaq’s head of healthcare listings Jordan Saxe sees the exchange marking 50 to 60 biopharma IPOs for the year.

“December 15 is usually the last possible day that companies will price,” he said, as companies get ready for business talks at the annual JP Morgan Healthcare Conference in January.

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Oxitec biologist releases genetically modified mosquitoes in Piracicaba, Brazil in 2016 [credit: Getty Images]

In­trex­on unit push­es back against claims its GM mos­qui­toes are mak­ing dis­ease-friend­ly mu­tants

When the hysteria of Zika transmission sprang into the American zeitgeist a few years ago, UK-based Oxitec was already field-testing its male Aedes aegypti mosquito, crafted to possess a gene engineered to obliterate its progeny long before maturation.

But when a group of independent scientists evaluated the impact of the release of these genetically-modified mosquitoes in a trial conducted by Oxitec in Brazil between 2013 and 2015, they found that some of the offspring had managed to survive — prompting them to speculate what impact the survivors could have on disease transmission and/or insecticide resistance.

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[via AP Images]

Pur­due threat­ens to walk away from set­tle­ment, asks to pay em­ploy­ees mil­lions in bonus­es

There are two updates on the lawsuit against Purdue Pharma over its role in fueling the opioid epidemic, as the Sackler family threatens to walk away from their pledge to pay out $3 billion if a bankruptcy judge does not stop outstanding state lawsuits against them. At the same time, the company has asked permission to pay millions in bonuses to select employees.

Purdue filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy this week as part of its signed resolution to over 2,000 lawsuits. The deal would see the Sackler family that owns Purdue give $3 billion from their personal wealth and the company turned into a trust committed to curbing and reversing overdoses.

While No­var­tis ban­ish­es Zol­gens­ma scan­dal scars — Bio­gen goes on a Spin­raza 'of­fen­sive'

While Novartis painstakingly works to mop up the stench of the data manipulation scandal associated with its expensive gene therapy for spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) Zolgensma— rival Biogen is attempting to expand the use of its SMA therapy, Spinraza. 

The US drugmaker $BIIB secured US approval for Spinraza for use in the often fatal genetic disease in 2016. The approval covered a broad range of patients with infantile-onset (most likely to develop Type 1) SMA. 

Jason Kelly. Mike Blake/Reuters via Adobe

Eye­ing big ther­a­peu­tic push, Gink­go bags $290M to build a cell pro­gram­ming em­pire

Ginkgo Bioworks is on a roll. Days after publicizing a plan to nurture new startups via partnerships with accelerators Y Combinator and Petri, the Boston biotech says it has raised another $290 million for its cell programming platform to reach further and wider.

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UP­DAT­ED: Speak­er Nan­cy Pelosi to un­veil bill for fed­er­al­ly ne­go­ti­at­ed drug prices

After months of buzz from both sides of the aisle, Speaker Nancy Pelosi will today introduce her plan to allow the federal government to negotiate prices for 250 prescription drugs, setting up a showdown with a pharmaceutical industry working overtime to prevent it.

The need to limit drug prices is a rare point of agreement between President Trump and Democrats, although the president has yet to comment on the proposal and will likely face pressure to back a more conservative option or no bill at all. Republican Senator Chuck Grassley is reportedly lobbying his fellow party members on a more modest proposal he negotiated with Democratic Senator Ron Wyden in July.

David Grainger [file photo]

'Dis­con­nect the bas­tard­s' — one biotech's plan to break can­cer cell­s' uni­fied de­fens­es

Chemotherapy and radiotherapy are the current gladiators of cancer treatment, but they come with well-known limitations and side-effects. The emergence of immunotherapy — a ferocious new titan in oncologist’s toolbox — takes the brakes off the immune system to kill cancer cells with remarkable success in some cases, but the approach is not always effective. What makes certain forms of cancer so resilient? Scientists may have finally pieced together a tantalizing piece of the puzzle, and a new biotech is banking on a new approach to fill the gap.

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