Biotech en­tre­pre­neur Saurabh Sa­ha moves to trans­la­tion­al re­search chief at Bris­tol-My­ers; Ex-GSK phar­ma chief Hus­sain switch­es to pri­vate eq­ui­ty

Saurabh Sa­ha

→ Bris­tol-My­ers Squibb $BMY has hired Saurabh Sa­ha to run their trans­la­tion sci­ence group, which is re­spon­si­ble for triag­ing pre­clin­i­cal work of in­ter­est and steer­ing the most promis­ing pro­grams to­ward the clin­ic. Sa­ha — a 40-year-old Johns Hop­kins grad, where he worked in Bert Vo­gel­stein’s lab — once up­on a time la­bored in­side No­var­tis’ glob­al ops, be­fore leav­ing for a string of new jobs in biotech. Nine years ago he set up a trans­la­tion­al re­search and de­vel­op­ment or­ga­ni­za­tion called Bio­Med Val­ley Dis­cov­er­ies. Then his role as a ven­ture part­ner at the pro­lif­ic At­las Ven­ture led him to be­come chief med­ical of­fi­cer at Syn­log­ic, fol­lowed by a brief but wild­ly suc­cess­ful stint as CEO of Delinia. Sa­ha is stay­ing in the Boston area, where Bris­tol-My­ers is build­ing a new R&D cen­ter.

→ Near the be­gin­ning of this year, Ab­bas Hus­sain an­nounced plans to leave his role as Glax­o­SmithK­line’s phar­ma chief, hand­ing over the job to Luke Miels as new CEO Em­ma Walm­s­ley be­gan to as­sem­ble her own top team. And now Hus­sain has land­ed at C-Bridge Cap­i­tal, a pow­er­house Chi­nese pri­vate eq­ui­ty group which has in­vest­ed heav­i­ly in some promi­nent Asian biotechs. Hus­sain spent eight years at GSK, build­ing the phar­ma gi­ant in­to the lead vol­ume op­er­a­tion in the drug in­dus­try and rolling out a quo­ta-free sales mod­el in dozens of coun­tries around the world. He start­ed as emerg­ing mar­kets chief, with a big role in clean­ing up a bribery scan­dal in Chi­na capped with a $500 mil­lion fine. His shift to se­nior part­ner at C-Bridge — af­ter be­ing tapped as a pos­si­ble re­place­ment for GSK CEO An­drew Wit­ty — says a lot about the fast-chang­ing bio­phar­ma world we live in now and Chi­na’s grow­ing role in the in­dus­try.

→ Jeff Hat­field is be­ing giv­en the lead­ing role at Zaf­gen, which is mak­ing a come­back bid af­ter its lead drug proved un­safe. Hat­field, com­ing off his role as CEO of Vi­tae, which was sold to Al­ler­gan, will take the helm as Tom Hugh­es moves in­to a new role as chief sci­en­tif­ic of­fi­cer. Hugh­es is al­so re­tain­ing the pres­i­dent’s ti­tle in the shift at Zaf­gen. Hugh­es says he’s hap­py with the change-up, not­ing: “We are ramp­ing up our clin­i­cal ac­tiv­i­ties with ZGN-1061 now in Phase 2, and have two pre­clin­i­cal can­di­dates that are ad­vanc­ing to­ward the clin­ic. We al­so have ex­cit­ing new in­sights in­to the MetAP2 path­way that war­rant an in­creased com­mit­ment to ad­vance our un­der­stand­ing of its ther­a­peu­tic po­ten­tial and de­vel­op new drugs lever­ag­ing its im­pact.”

→ Am­gen CEO Robert Brad­way was named chair­man-elect of PhRMA ef­fec­tive im­me­di­ate­ly. Sanofi CEO Olivi­er Brandi­court will be­come chair­man-elect and James Robin­son, pres­i­dent, Astel­las Amer­i­c­as, will as­sume the role of board trea­sur­er ef­fec­tive Feb­ru­ary 7, 2018.

→ Roche vet Nico­la Thomp­son is tak­ing the CEO post at Viri­on­HealthLau­ra Lane is on board as  COO. Abing­worth has hand­ed over a £13 mil­lion Se­ries A to the com­pa­ny for its work on new drugs for res­pi­ra­to­ry vi­ral in­fec­tions.  “We are de­light­ed to re­ceive this sup­port and will use the funds to ad­vance our nov­el pro­grammes in­to the clin­ic,” said Jef­frey Al­mond, who just joined as chair­man of Viri­on­Health. “Up­per res­pi­ra­to­ry tract in­fec­tions re­main an im­por­tant un­met need which in­cludes an es­ti­mat­ed 1 bil­lion cas­es of in­fluen­za across the globe each year.”

→ Tre­vana chief sci­en­tif­ic of­fi­cer Michael Lark is head­ed to the ex­it in mid-De­cem­ber. Twen­ty-one staffers large­ly from the re­search arm are al­so be­ing cut — 30% of its to­tal work­force.

Dublin-based Ma­lin is tap­ping more of An­drew von Es­chen­bach’s time. The for­mer FDA chief has signed on as chief med­ical ad­vis­er to the biotech in­vestor, af­ter a stint in the some­what less for­mal po­si­tion of ad­vi­so­ry part­ner. Von Es­chen­bach was head of the Na­tion­al Can­cer In­sti­tute for the four years pri­or to tak­ing the reins at the FDA from 2006 to 2009 un­der Pres­i­dent George W. Bush. He’s now al­so a se­nior fel­low at the Milken In­sti­tute and pres­i­dent of Samar­i­tan Health Ini­tia­tives.

→ Ex-JP­Mor­gan ex­ec and new­ly mint­ed ven­ture ex­ec Stephen Beren­son is join­ing the board at Mod­er­na, where Flag­ship chief Noubar Afeyan is chair­man of the board. Beren­son joined Flag­ship as an ex­ec­u­tive part­ner last sum­mer af­ter wrap­ping a stint as vice chair­man of in­vest­ment bank­ing.

→ Michael C. Diem is Am­i­cus Ther­a­peu­tics’ new SVP of cor­po­rate de­vel­op­ment. His pre­vi­ous gigs in­clude As­traZeneca and Glax­o­SmithK­line. “I am pleased to wel­come Dr. Mike Diem to our se­nior lead­er­ship team at Am­i­cus,” said Am­i­cus CEO John Crow­ley. “Mike will be a key leader for Am­i­cus as we eval­u­ate strate­gies to en­hance our port­fo­lio of lead­ing edge rare dis­ease med­i­cines and tech­nolo­gies. He will be ex­treme­ly valu­able to Am­i­cus as we con­tin­ue to build a top glob­al biotech­nol­o­gy com­pa­ny fo­cused on dev­as­tat­ing rare dis­eases.”

→ Amyris has tak­en on Ed­uar­do Al­varez as their chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer.

→ Men­lo Ven­tures has added Greg Yap as a part­ner, he will be fo­cus­ing on life sci­ence, health and med­ical in­vest­ing.

 

2023 Spot­light on the Fu­ture of Drug De­vel­op­ment for Small and Mid-Sized Biotechs

In the context of today’s global economic environment, there is an increasing need to work smarter, faster and leaner across all facets of the life sciences industry.  This is particularly true for small and mid-sized biotech companies, many of which are facing declining valuations and competing for increasingly limited funding to propel their science forward.  It is important to recognize that within this framework, many of these smaller companies already find themselves resource-challenged to design and manage clinical studies themselves because they don’t have large teams or in-house experts in navigating the various aspects of the drug development journey. This can be particularly challenging for the most complex and difficult to treat diseases where no previous pathway exists and patients are urgently awaiting breakthroughs.

Christian Itin, Autolus CEO (UKBIO19)

Au­to­lus tips its hand, bags $220M as CAR-T show­down with Gilead looms

The first batch of pivotal data on Autolus Therapeutics’ CAR-T is in, and execs are ready to plot a path to market.

With an overall remission rate of 70% at the interim analysis featuring 50 patients, the results set the stage for a BLA filing by the end of 2023, said CEO Christian Itin.

Perhaps more importantly — given that Autolus’ drug, obe-cel, is going after an indication that Gilead’s Tecartus is already approved for — the biotech highlighted “encouraging safety data” in the trial, with a low percentage of patients experiencing severe immune responses.

Dipal Doshi, Entrada Therapeutics CEO

Ver­tex just found the next big ‘trans­for­ma­tive’ thing for the pipeline — at a biotech just down the street

Back in the summer of 2019, when I was covering Vertex’s executive chairman Jeff Leiden’s plans for the pipeline, I picked up on a distinct focus on myotonic dystrophy Type I, or DM1 — one of what Leiden called “two diseases (with DMD) we’re interested in and we continue to look for those assets.”

Today, Leiden’s successor at the helm of Vertex, CEO Reshma Kewalramani, is plunking down $250 million in cash to go the extra mile on DM1. The lion’s share of that is for the upfront, with a small reserve for equity in a deal that lines Vertex up with a neighbor in Seaport that has been rather quietly going at both of Vertex’s early disease targets with preclinical assets.

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WIB22: Am­ber Salz­man had few op­tions when her son was di­ag­nosed with a rare ge­net­ic dis­ease. So she cre­at­ed a bet­ter one

This profile is part of Endpoints News’ 2022 special report about Women in Biopharma R&D. You can read the full report here.

Amber Salzman’s life changed on a cold, damp day in Paris over tiny plastic cups of lukewarm tea.

She was meeting with Patrick Aubourg, a French neurologist studying adrenoleukodystrophy, or ALD, a rare genetic condition that causes rapid neurological decline in young boys. It’s a sinister disease that often leads to disability or death within just a few years. Salzman’s nephew was diagnosed at just 6 or 7 years old, and died at the age of 12.

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Ahead of ad­comm, FDA rais­es un­cer­tain­ties on ben­e­fit-risk pro­file of Cy­to­ki­net­ic­s' po­ten­tial heart drug

The FDA’s Cardiovascular and Renal Drugs Advisory Committee will meet next Tuesday to discuss whether Cytokinetics’ potential heart drug can safely reduce the risk of cardiovascular death and heart failure in patients with symptomatic chronic heart failure with reduced ejection fraction.

The drug, known as omecamtiv mecarbil and in development for more than 15 years, has seen mixed results, with a first Phase III readout from 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 key to breaking into the market.

Ab­b­Vie slapped with age dis­crim­i­na­tion law­suit, fol­low­ing oth­er phar­mas

Add AbbVie to the list of pharma companies currently facing age discrimination allegations.

Pennsylvania resident Thomas Hesch filed suit against AbbVie on Wednesday, accusing the company of passing him over for promotions in favor of younger candidates.

Despite 30 years of pharma experience, “Hesch has consistently seen younger, less qualified employees promoted over him,” the complaint states.

Rami Elghandour, Arcellx CEO

Up­dat­ed: Gilead, Ar­cel­lx team up on an­ti-BC­MA CAR-T as biotech touts a 100% re­sponse rate at #ASH22

Gilead and Kite are plunking down big cash to get into the anti-BCMA CAR-T game.

The pair will shell out $225 million in cash upfront and $100 million in equity to Arcellx, Kite announced Friday morning, to develop the biotech’s lead CAR-T program together. Kite will handle commercialization and co-development with Arcellx, and profits in the US will be split 50-50.

Concurrent with the deal, Arcellx revealed its latest cut of data for the program known as CART-ddBCMA, ahead of a full presentation at this weekend’s ASH conference — a 100% response rate among patients getting the therapy. Investors jumped at the dual announcements, sending Arcellx shares $ACLX up more than 25% in Friday’s morning session.

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WIB22: Lead­ing NK cell re­searcher re­flects on roots in Iran, the UK and Texas

This profile is part of Endpoints News’ 2022 special report about Women in Biopharma R&D. You can read the full report here.

In a small but widely-cited 11-person study published in NEJM in 2020, seven patients saw signs of their cancer completely go away after getting a new therapy made from natural killer cells. The study was one of the earliest to provide clinical proof that the experimental treatment method had promise.

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WIB22: Chas­ing af­ter ever-evolv­ing sci­ence takes a drug hunter across the pond

This profile is part of Endpoints News’ 2022 special report about Women in Biopharma R&D. You can read the full report here.

Like many scientists, Fiona Marshall would tell you that she loved the natural world growing up — going to look at crabs running around the beach near her childhood home, pondering about the tides. But one thing about biology, in particular, stood out: It was constantly changing, and changing very quickly.

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