Big Phar­ma vet John Hohnek­er takes the reins at Anokion; Hep­tares co-founder Fiona Mar­shall re­signs from par­ent com­pa­ny So­sei

John Hohnek­er

→ Hav­ing worked in a slate of se­nior po­si­tions in phar­ma and biotech, John Hohnek­er is now tak­ing the reins of Anokion as pres­i­dent and CEO. Most re­cent­ly he was pres­i­dent of R&D at For­ma Ther­a­peu­tics, where he guid­ed the com­pa­ny from dis­cov­ery stage to clin­i­cal tri­als. In Hohnek­er, the Lau­sanne, Switzer­land-head­quar­tered biotech gets an ex­pe­ri­enced ex­ec who’s spent a com­bined 20 years at GSK and No­var­tis. He’s been in­volved with the de­vel­op­ment, ap­proval and com­mer­cial­iza­tion of such drugs as Cosen­tyx, Gleevec, and Afin­i­tor. His fo­cus will be on de­vel­op­ing the biotech’s im­mune tol­er­ance plat­form for au­toim­mune dis­ease, which has at­tract­ed Cel­gene to ink a col­lab­o­ra­tion deal with an op­tion to buy.

→ Rid­ing on the ex­cite­ment of the ear­ly OK for Rho­pres­sa, Aerie Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals $AERI has made two new hires to help lead reg­u­la­to­ry and sales ef­forts. Nils Haupt­mann will be­come di­rec­tor of reg­u­la­to­ry af­fairs and phar­ma­covig­i­lance, sup­port­ing — as he did at Avanir, Fi­bro­Gen and Spec­trum Phar­ma — the prepa­ra­tion of clin­i­cal doc­u­ments. He will al­so pro­vide over­sight of post-mar­ket­ing pro­mo­tion­al ac­tiv­i­ties. Mean­while, Al­ler­gan vet Tim Swan will man­age the teams that in­ter­act with health­care providers and or­ga­ni­za­tions as di­rec­tor of sales and trans­paren­cy op­er­a­tions. Bring­ing more hands on deck is a nat­ur­al next step for the oph­thalmic com­pa­ny, as it plans to launch its first drug and file an NDA for its sec­ond by Q2.

Hep­tares co-founder Fiona Mar­shall has re­signed from her po­si­tion as EVP and CSO at So­sei to as­sume a role out­side the com­pa­ny. She is set to de­part in Feb­ru­ary, al­most ex­act­ly three years af­ter So­sei ac­quired the G pro­tein-cou­pled re­cep­tors tar­get­ing biotech that she helped cre­ate. Mal­colm Weir, Hep­tares co-founder and CEO and So­sei’s EVP and chief R&D of­fi­cer, will con­tin­ue to lead these ac­tiv­i­ties. Sup­port­ing him in man­ag­ing the Japan­ese/UK bio­phar­ma’s pipeline will be Tim Tasker, who has been pro­mot­ed to EVP and CMO.

→ Af­ter a stint ad­vis­ing bio­phar­ma com­pa­nies, Robert Lutz is div­ing back in­to a biotech role of his own as the new CSO of Glythera, a next-gen an­ti­body drug con­ju­gate de­vel­op­er based in News­cas­tle, Eng­land. Be­fore be­com­ing a con­sul­tant, Lutz spent over 20 years at Im­muno­Gen, where he helped ad­vance sev­er­al ADC can­di­dates — in­clud­ing Kad­cy­la — and was most re­cent­ly VP of trans­la­tion­al re­search and de­vel­op­ment. In its quest to de­vel­op new tar­get­ed treat­ments for hard-to-treat tu­mors, Glythera has al­so re­cruit­ed med­i­c­i­nal chemist Jon Rof­fey to its sci­en­tif­ic ad­vi­so­ry board from Can­cer Re­search UK’s com­mer­cial part­ner­ships team.

Phy­ton Biotech, a con­tract de­vel­op­ment and man­u­fac­tur­ing or­ga­ni­za­tion most known for mak­ing Pa­cli­tax­el and Do­c­etax­el, has pro­mot­ed Col­in Marr as its new pres­i­dent. Marr has worked in the Van­cou­ver of­fice for a cou­ple years as VP of busi­ness de­vel­op­ment, so his man­date of over­see­ing the com­pa­ny’s Cana­di­an and Ger­man di­vi­sions and de­vis­ing a longterm growth and di­ver­si­fi­ca­tion strat­e­gy won’t be en­tire­ly new to him.

→ As its three pre­clin­i­cal projects ap­proach clin­i­cal de­vel­op­ment, Swe­den’s Al­li­ga­tor Bio­science (Nas­daq Stock­holm: ATORX) has ap­point­ed Anu Bal­en­dran as its VP of busi­ness de­vel­op­ment. Specif­i­cal­ly, Bal­en­dran, who is cur­rent­ly ex­ter­nal in­no­va­tion di­rec­tor at As­traZeneca, will help so­lid­i­fy Al­li­ga­tor’s out-li­cense mod­el by seek­ing part­ner­ships. His ap­point­ment fol­lows those of CMO Char­lotte Rus­sell and VP of dis­cov­ery Pe­ter Ell­mark last month, con­tin­u­ing a pe­ri­od of growth through both deals and in-house clin­i­cal work.

→ Gene con­trol spe­cial­ist Syn­promics has brought in Sarah Haeck­er Meeks as VP of busi­ness de­vel­op­ment, in charge of po­si­tion­ing and find­ing part­ners for its plat­form tech­nol­o­gy, which har­ness­es syn­thet­ic pro­mot­ers to reg­u­late gene ex­pres­sion. In con­junc­tion, the Ed­in­burgh, Scot­land biotech has al­so a sub­sidiary in the US, from where Meeks from lead busi­ness ac­tiv­i­ties cov­er­ing all ter­ri­to­ries.

Aslan Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals, a Sin­ga­pore­an can­cer fight­er with dual am­bi­tions in Asia and US/Eu­rope, has tapped Boehringer In­gel­heim vet Stephen Doyle to be head of Chi­na. As Aslan ex­plores po­ten­tial mar­kets for its lead as­set var­l­i­tinib, li­censed from Ar­ray Bio­phar­ma — which it has been de­vel­op­ing for a while but on­ly re­cent­ly got com­mer­cial­iza­tion rights to — Chi­na has be­come an im­por­tant tar­get. It has al­so ac­cel­er­at­ed its de­vel­op­ment time­line there. Be­tween Boehringer and Sanofi, Doyle has led both reg­u­la­to­ry and mar­ket­ing/sales sides of things. In his new role, he will have broad re­spon­si­bil­i­ty with op­er­a­tions and pipeline de­vel­op­ment.

→ Af­ter a decade in the CFO seat at im­munother­a­py com­pa­ny Gen­ti­cel (now Genky­otex), Eli Lil­ly vet Mar­tin Koch is switch­ing it up by tak­ing the role of COO at In­otrem. Dur­ing that time, Koch played roles in Gen­ti­cel’s fi­nanc­ing, IPO and ul­ti­mate merg­er. In line with his pre­vi­ous ex­pe­ri­ence, Koch will su­per­vise fi­nan­cial ac­tiv­i­ties and ex­e­cute the busi­ness plan at Paris-based In­otrem, which is de­vel­op­ing Motrem, a sep­tic shock drug aimed at mod­u­lat­ing the im­muno­log­i­cal mech­a­nism lead­ing to it.

→ Tai­wan’s JHL Biotech — an up­start de­vel­op­er and man­u­fac­tur­er of bi­o­log­ics — has named Rong Chen its new CMO. Hav­ing worked in the Chi­na of­fices of Sanofi and Glax­o­SmithK­line, Chen joins from Phagelux in Shang­hai, a bi­o­log­ics com­pa­ny where he was al­so CMO.

→ Zurich-based In­ositec has re­cruit­ed Roche vet Frits van Alphen to the com­pa­ny as chief med­ical of­fi­cer. Alphen had head­ed the op­er­a­tional ex­cel­lence team at Roche.

Vi­raTher­a­peu­tics CEO Heinz Schw­er has joined the ad­vi­so­ry board of Ger­many’s am­cure, giv­ing ad­vice to the Karl­sruhe In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­o­gy spin­off as it pre­pares to move its pep­tide-based can­cer ther­a­py through the clin­ic.

Alice Shaw, Lung Cancer Foundation of America

Top ALK ex­pert and can­cer drug re­searcher Al­ice Shaw bids adieu to acad­e­mia, hel­lo to No­var­tis

Jay Bradner has recruited a marquee oncology drug researcher into the ranks of the Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research. Alice Shaw is jumping from prestigious posts intertwined through Mass General, Harvard and Dana-Farber to take the lead of NIBR’s translational clinical oncology group.

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Hal Barron, GSK's president of R&D and CSO, speaks to Endpoints News founder and editor John Carroll in London at Endpoints' #UKBIO19 summit on October 8, 2019

[Video] Cel­e­brat­ing tri­al fail­ures, chang­ing the cul­ture and al­ly­ing with Cal­i­for­nia dream­ers: R&D chief Hal Bar­ron talks about a new era at GSK

Last week I had a chance to sit down with Hal Barron at Endpoints’ #UKBIO19 summit to discuss his views on R&D at GSK, a topic that has been central to his life since he took the top research post close to 2 years ago. During the conversation, Barron talked about changing the culture at GSK, a move that involves several new approaches — one of which involves celebrating their setbacks as they shift resources to the most promising programs in the pipeline. Barron also discussed his new alliances in the Bay Area — including his collaboration pact with Lyell, which we covered here — frankly assesses the pluses and minuses of the UK drug development scene, and talks about his plans for making GSK a much more effective drug developer.

This is one discussion you won’t want to miss. Insider and Enterprise subscribers can log-in to watch the video.

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Med­ical an­i­ma­tion: Mak­ing it eas­i­er for the site and the pa­tient to un­der­stand

Medical animation has in recent years become an increasingly important tool for conveying niche information to a varied audience, particularly to those audiences without expertise in the specialist area. Science programmes today, for example, have moved from the piece-to-camera of the university professor explaining how a complex disease mechanism works, to actually showing the viewer first-hand what it might look like to shrink ourselves down to the size of an ant’s foot, and travel inside the human body to witness these processes in action. Effectively communicating a complex disease pathophysiology, or the novel mechanism of action of a new drug, can be complex. This is especially difficult when the audience domain knowledge is limited or non-existent. Medical animation can help with this communication challenge in several ways.
Improved accessibility to visualisation
Visualisation is a core component of our ability to understand a concept. Ask 10 people to visualise an apple, and each will come up with a slightly different image, some apples smaller than others, some more round, some with bites taken. Acceptable, you say, we can move on to the next part of the story. Now ask 10 people to visualise how HIV’s capsid protein gets arranged into the hexamers and pentamers that form the viral capsid that holds HIV’s genetic material. This request may pose a challenge even to someone with some virology knowledge, and it is that inability to effectively visualise what is going on that holds us back from fully understanding the rest of the story. So how does medical animation help us to overcome this visualisation challenge?

Flu Virus (Source: CDC)

FDA ex­pands Xofluza ap­proval as Roche strug­gles to catch loom­ing flu mar­ket

As a potentially powerful flu season looms, so does a big test for Roche and its new flu drug, Xofluza. The Swiss giant just got a small boost in advance of that test as the FDA expanded Xofluza’s indication to include patients at high risk of developing flu-related complications.

Xofluza (baloxavir marboxil) was approved last October in the US, the first landmark flu drug approval in 20 years and a much-needed green light for a company that had watched its leading flu drug Tamiflu get eaten alive by generics. Like its predecessor, the pill offered a reduction in flu symptoms but not a cure.

EMA backs sev­en ther­a­pies, in­clud­ing Mer­ck­'s Ebo­la vac­cine

The first-ever Ebola vaccine is on the precipice of approval after the European Medicine’s Agency (EMA) backed the Merck product in this week’s roster of recommendations.

The drugmaker $MRK began developing the vaccine, christened Ervebo, during the West African outbreak that occurred between 2014 and 2016, killing more than 11,000.

The current outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has shown case fatality rates of approximately 67%, the agency estimated. Earlier this year, the WHO declared the outbreak — which so far has infected more than 3,000 people — a public health emergency of international concern.

Ronald Herb­st fol­lows Med­Im­mune ex­o­dus to Pyx­is CSO post; Jeff God­dard to suc­ceed CEO of AIT Bio­science

→ The outflow of top execs from MedImmune continues to fill the leadership ranks of smaller biotechs. The latest to take off is Ronald Herbst, the head of oncology research, who’s assuming the CSO post at Pyxis Oncology.  

Herbst was part of the old MedImmune organization AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot restructured earlier this year, reorganizing the company and eliminating the storied subsidiary as a separate organization.

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Mi­rati preps its first look at their KRAS G12C con­tender, and they have to clear a high bar for suc­cess

If you’re a big KRAS G12C fan, mark your calendars for October 28 at 4:20 pm EDT.

That’s when Mirati $MRTX will unveil its first peek at the early clinical data available on MRTX849 in presentations at the AACR-NCI-EORTC International Conference on Molecular Targets and Cancer Therapeutics in Boston.

Mirati has been experiencing the full effect of a rival’s initial success at targeting the G12C pocket found on KRAS, offering the biotech some support on the concept they’re after — and biotech fans a race to the top. Amgen made a big splash with its first positive snapshot on lung cancer, but deflated sky-high expectations as it proved harder to find similar benefits in other types of cancers.

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The FDA will hus­tle up an ex­pe­dit­ed re­view for As­traZeneca’s next shot at a block­buster can­cer drug fran­chise

AstraZeneca paid a hefty price to partner with Daiichi Sankyo on their experimental antibody drug conjugate for HER2 positive breast cancer. And they’ve been rewarded with a fast ride through the FDA, with a straight shot at creating another blockbuster oncology franchise.

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Sean Parker, AP

Sean Park­er helps cre­ate a CRISPRed cell ther­a­py 2.0 play — and he’s got a high-pro­file set of lead­ers on the team

You can rack up one more high-profile debut effort in the wave of activity forming around cell therapy 2.0. It’s another appealing Bay Area group that’s attracted some of the top hands in the business to a multi-year effort to create a breakthrough. And they have $85 million in hand to make that first big step to the clinic.

Today it’s Ken Drazan and the team at South San Francisco-based ArsenalBio that are coming from behind the curtain for a public bow, backed by billionaire Sean Parker and a collection of investors that includes Beth Seidenberg’s new venture investment operation based in LA.
Drazan — a J&J Innovation vet with a long record of entrepreneurial endeavors — exited the stage in 2018 when his last mission ended as he stepped aside as president of Grail. It wasn’t long, though, before he was helping out with a business plan for ArsenalBio that revolved around the work of a large group of interconnected scientists supported by the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunology.

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