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.

 

John Hood [file photo]

UP­DATE: Cel­gene and the sci­en­tist who cham­pi­oned fe­dra­tinib's rise from Sanofi's R&D grave­yard win FDA OK

Six years after Sanofi gave it up for dead, the FDA has approved the myelofibrosis drug fedratinib, now owned by Celgene.

The drug will be sold as Inrebic, and will soon land in the portfolio at Bristol-Myers Squibb, which is finalizing a deal to acquire Celgene.

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UP­DAT­ED: AveX­is sci­en­tif­ic founder was axed — and No­var­tis names a new CSO in wake of an ethics scan­dal

Now at the center of a storm of controversy over its decision to keep its knowledge of manipulated data hidden from regulators during an FDA review, Novartis CEO Vas Narasimhan has found a longtime veteran in the ranks to head the scientific work underway at AveXis, where the incident occurred. And the scientific founder has hit the exit.

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Ab­b­Vie gets its FDA OK for JAK in­hibitor upadac­i­tinib, but don’t look for this one to hit ex­ecs’ lofty ex­pec­ta­tions

Another big drug approval came through on Friday afternoon as the FDA OK’d AbbVie’s upadacitinib — an oral JAK1 inhibitor that is hitting the rheumatoid arthritis market with a black box warning of serious malignancies, infections and thrombosis reflecting fears associated with the class.

It will be sold as Rinvoq — at a wholesale price of $59,000 a year — and will likely soon face competition from a drug that AbbVie once controlled, and spurned. Reuters reports that a 4-week supply of Humira, by comparison, is $5,174, adding up to about $67,000 a year.

The top 10 fran­chise drugs in bio­phar­ma his­to­ry will earn a to­tal of $1.4T (tril­lion) by 2024 — what does that tell us?

Just in case you were looking for more evidence of just how important Amgen’s patent win on Enbrel is for the company and its investors, EvaluatePharma has come up with a forward-looking consensus estimate on what the list of top 10 drugs will look like in 2024.

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ICER blasts FDA, PTC and Sarep­ta for high prices on DMD drugs Em­flaza, Ex­ondys 51

ICER has some strong words for PTC, Sarepta and the FDA as the US drug price watchdog concludes that as currently priced, their respective new treatments for Duchenne muscular dystrophy are decidedly not cost-effective.

The final report — which cements the conclusions of a draft issued in May — incorporates the opinion of a panel of 17 experts ICER convened in a public meeting last month. It also based its analysis of Emflaza (deflazacort) and Exondys 51 (eteplirsen) on updated annual costs of $81,400 and over $1 million, respectively, after citing “incorrect” lower numbers in the initial calculations.

The key dates for KRAS watch­ers through the end of the year — the trail is nar­row and risks are ex­treme

There’s nothing quite like a big patent win when it comes to burnishing your prospects in the pipeline. And for Amgen, which seems to have rescued Enbrel for a run to 2029, the cheering section on Wall Street is now fixed on AMG 510 and a key rival.

And it didn’t take much data to do it. 

There was the first snapshot of a handful of patients, with a 50% response rate. Then came word that Amgen researchers are also tracking responses in different cancers, at least one in colorectal cancer and appendiceal too. 

Bain's Or­ly Mis­han joins Pfiz­er's neu­ro spin­out Cerev­el; On­colyt­ic virus biotech taps Sil­la­Jen ex­ec He­le­na Chaye as CEO

→ Bain Capital is deploying one of its top investors to Cerevel Therapeutics, steering a $350 million-plus neuro play carved out of Pfizer. Orly Mishan — a co-founder and principal of Bain’s life sciences unit — was involved in the partnership that birthed the biotech spinout in the first place. As Cerevel’s first chief business officer, she is tasked with corporate development, program management as well as technical operations. 

UP­DAT­ED: Sci­en­tist-CEO ac­cused of im­prop­er­ly us­ing con­fi­den­tial in­fo from uni­corn Alec­tor

The executive team at Alector $ALEC has a bone to pick with scientific co-founder Asa Abeliovich. Their latest quarterly rundown has this brief note buried inside:

On June 18, 2019, we initiated a confidential arbitration proceeding against Dr. Asa Abeliovich, our former consulting co-founder, related to alleged breaches of his consulting agreement and the improper use of our confidential information that he learned during the course of rendering services to us as our consulting Chief Scientific Officer/Chief Innovation Officer. We are in the early stage of this arbitration proceeding and are unable to assess or provide any assurances regarding its possible outcome.

There’s no explicit word in the filing on what kind of confidential info was involved, but the proceeding got started 2 days ahead of Abeliovich’s IPO.

Abeliovich, formerly a tenured associate professor at Columbia, is a top scientist in the field of neurodegeneration, which is where Alector is targeted. More recently, he’s also helped start up Prevail Therapeutics as the CEO, which raised $125 million in an IPO. And there he’s planning on working on new gene therapies that target genetically defined subpopulations of Parkinson’s disease. Followup programs target Gaucher disease, frontotemporal dementia and synucleinopathies.

But this time Abeliovich is the CEO rather than a founding scientist. And some of their pipeline overlaps with Alector’s.

Abeliovich and Prevail, though, aren’t taking this one lying down.

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Chi­na has be­come a CEO-lev­el pri­or­i­ty for multi­na­tion­al phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pa­nies: the trend and the im­pli­ca­tions

After a “hot” period of rapid growth between 2009 and 2012, and a relatively “cooler” period of slower growth from 2013 to 2015, China has once again become a top-of-mind priority for the CEOs of most large, multinational pharmaceutical companies.

At the International Pharma Forum, hosted in March in Beijing by the R&D Based Pharmaceutical Association Committee (RDPAC) and the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), no fewer than seven CEOs of major multinational pharmaceutical firms participated, including GSK, Eli Lilly, LEO Pharma, Merck KGaA, Pfizer, Sanofi and UCB. A few days earlier, the CEOs of several other large multinationals attended the China Development Forum, an annual business forum hosted by the research arm of China’s State Council. It’s hard to imagine any other country, except the US, having such drawing power at CEO level.