John Martin in 2012 (Paul Sakuma/AP Images)

UP­DAT­ED: Biotech pi­o­neer and start­up in­vestor John Mar­tin, who built Gilead in­to a pow­er­house play­er, has died

John C. Mar­tin, who led Gilead to great­ness in de­vel­op­ing a huge­ly prof­itable HIV drug fran­chise, has died.

His death at the age of 69 was flagged by the com­pa­ny he built, though a spokesper­son for Gilead said the com­pa­ny didn’t know the cause of death.

“John’s lega­cy will be felt for gen­er­a­tions to come, liv­ing on through the sci­en­tif­ic progress made un­der his lead­er­ship and the pro­grams he cham­pi­oned that ex­pand­ed ac­cess to med­ica­tions for peo­ple around the world,” said Daniel O’Day, who took over as CEO af­ter Mar­tin and his close col­league John Mil­li­gan left Gilead a cou­ple of years ago. “On be­half of all of us at Gilead, I ex­tend our deep­est con­do­lences to John’s fam­i­ly.”

Mar­tin start­ed at Gilead as a VP of R&D back in 1990, mov­ing up to CEO on­ly 6 years lat­er as he helmed the com­pa­ny for a 20-year stretch be­fore hand­ing the reins to Mil­li­gan and stick­ing with the chair­man’s post un­til 2019. Dur­ing that time the com­pa­ny built a rep as a fear­some com­peti­tor in HIV, field­ing drug cock­tails that kept the dead­ly AIDS at bay for mil­lions — while al­so be­ing tar­get­ed by crit­ics for be­ing tone deaf on pric­ing con­tro­ver­sies.

It was Gilead that would be the first to win the race to de­vel­op a large­ly pain­less com­bo cure for he­pati­tis C, and it was Gilead that rocked the in­dus­try with an $84,000 price tag that threat­ened a wide swathe of pay­ers, cre­at­ing a con­tro­ver­sy that set the stage for a years-long pub­lic bat­tle over pric­ing that con­tin­ues to sim­mer in Wash­ing­ton, DC.

In the in­dus­try, how­ev­er, Mar­tin was wide­ly loved. And he con­tin­ued to play an ac­tive role as a biotech in­vestor and en­thu­si­ast back­ing a num­ber of fledg­ling star­tups, in­clud­ing the Kro­nos start­up led by ex-Gilead R&D chief Nor­bert Bischof­berg­er, where he joined the board and the in­vestor syn­di­cate. Kite founder and long­time biotech en­tre­pre­neur Arie Bellde­grun, who worked with Mar­tin on Kro­nos, sent this to End­points News:

John was a bril­liant life sci­ence leader and trust­ed ad­vi­sor to many, my­self in­clud­ed. Our bond was formed through a shared pas­sion for sci­ence, but it grew even deep­er as our fam­i­lies grew to­geth­er in friend­ship. The hole that now ex­ists by his ab­sence, not just in our fam­i­ly, but by all of us in the in­dus­try, is im­mea­sur­able. We will seek to fill it with grat­i­tude for his re­mark­able life and work to hon­or him in all we do. On be­half of my wife Re­bec­ka, my­self, our en­tire Bellde­grun/Funt fam­i­ly and our ex­tend­ed fam­i­ly of col­leagues across com­pa­nies, we ex­tend our deep­est sym­pa­thies to John’s fam­i­ly and every­one who was for­tu­nate enough to know him. He will be great­ly missed.

Bischof­berg­er of­fered this trib­ute:

On be­half of the em­ploy­ees and Board of Di­rec­tors at Kro­nos Bio, I am deeply sad­dened by John’s pass­ing. An ex­cep­tion­al sci­en­tist and busi­ness leader, John has made im­mea­sur­able con­tri­bu­tions to the life sci­ences com­mu­ni­ty, our com­pa­ny and nu­mer­ous oth­er or­ga­ni­za­tions. Most im­por­tant­ly, he has helped mil­lions of peo­ple around the world through the med­i­cines we de­vel­oped through­out our near­ly three decades as col­leagues. He leaves a last­ing lega­cy that will ben­e­fit pa­tients around the world for years to come. John was one of my dear­est friends and a great men­tor, and I will miss him ter­ri­bly. We ex­tend our deep­est sym­pa­thies to John’s fam­i­ly and every­one who was for­tu­nate to have known him.

Oth­ers took to Twit­ter to say good­bye.

M&A: a crit­i­cal dri­ver for sus­tain­able top-line growth in health­care

2021 saw a record $600B in healthcare M&A activity. In 2022, there is an anticipated slowdown in activity, however, M&A prospects remain strong in the medium to long-term. What are future growth drivers for the healthcare sector? Where might we see innovations that drive M&A? RBC’s Andrew Callaway, Global Head, Healthcare Investment Banking discusses with Vito Sperduto, Global Co-Head, M&A.

15 LGBTQ lead­ers in bio­phar­ma; Paul Stof­fels’ Gala­pa­gos re­vamp; As­traZeneca catch­es up in AT­TR; and more

Welcome back to Endpoints Weekly, your review of the week’s top biopharma headlines. Want this in your inbox every Saturday morning? Current Endpoints readers can visit their reader profile to add Endpoints Weekly. New to Endpoints? Sign up here.

A return to in-person conferences also marks a return to on-the-ground reporting. My colleagues Beth Synder Bulik and Nicole DeFeudis were on-site at Cannes Lions, bringing live coverage of pharma’s presence at the ad festival — accompanied by photos from Clara Bui, our virtual producer, that bring you right to the scene. You can find a recap (and links to all the stories) below.

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AstraZeneca's new Evusheld direct to consumer campaign aims to reach more immunocompromised patients.

As­traZeneca de­buts first con­sumer cam­paign for its Covid-19 pro­phy­lac­tic Evusheld — and a first for EUA drugs

AstraZeneca’s first consumer ad for Evusheld is also a first for drugs that have been granted emergency use authorizations during the pandemic.

The first DTC ad for a medicine under emergency approval, the Evusheld campaign launching this week aims to raise awareness among immunocompromised patients — and spur more use.

Evusheld nabbed emergency authorization in December, however, despite millions of immunocompromised people looking for a solution and now more widespread availability of the drug.

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De­spite a slow start to the year for deals, PwC pre­dicts a flur­ry of ac­tiv­i­ty com­ing up

Despite whispers of a busy year for M&A, deal activity in the pharma space is actually down 30% on a semi-annualized basis, according to PwC’s latest report on deal activity. But don’t rule out larger deals in the second half of the year, the consultants said.

PwC pharmaceutical and life sciences consulting solutions leader Glenn Hunzinger expects to see Big Pharma companies picking up earlier stage companies to try and fill pipeline gaps ahead of a slew of big patent cliffs. Though a bear market continues to maul the biotech sector, Hunzinger said recent deals indicate that pharma companies are still paying above current trading prices.

Abortion-rights protesters regroup and protest following Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. (AP Photo/Gemunu Amarasinghe)

Fol­low­ing SCO­TUS de­ci­sion to over­turn abor­tion pro­tec­tions, AG Gar­land says states can't ban the abor­tion pill

Following the Supreme Court’s historic decision on Friday to overturn Americans’ constitutional right to an abortion after almost 50 years, Attorney General Merrick Garland sought to somewhat reassure women that states will not be able to ban the prescription drug sometimes used for abortions.

Following the decision, the New England Journal of Medicine also published an editorial strongly condemning the reversal, saying it “serves American families poorly, putting their health, safety, finances, and futures at risk.”

Joe Papa (Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press via AP, File)

Joe Pa­pa re­signs as chair of Bausch Health as bil­lion­aire John Paul­son takes over

Joe Papa, chair of Bausch Health, officially resigned on Thursday and the board appointed billionaire hedge fund manager John Paulson as the new chair, effective immediately.

The specialty pharma company sought to make clear that Papa’s abrupt departure “was not due to any dispute or disagreement with the Company, its management or the Board on any matter relating to the Company’s operations, policies or practices.”

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GSK says its drug for chron­ic hep B could ‘lead to a func­tion­al cure’ — but will it be alone or in com­bi­na­tion?

GSK, newly branded and soon-to-be demerged, shared interim results from its Phase II trial on its chronic hepatitis B treatment, one that it says has the “potential to lead to a functional cure.”

At a presentation at the EASL International Liver Congress, GSK shared that in around 450 patients who received its hep B drug bepirovirsen for 24 weeks, just under 30% had hepatitis B surface antigen and viral DNA levels that were too low to detect.

FDA un­veils new draft guid­ance to help with oligonu­cleotide ther­a­peu­tics de­vel­op­ment

While oligonucleotides, a wide variety of synthetically modified RNA or RNA/DNA hybrids that bind to a target RNA sequence to alter RNA and/or protein expression, have been winning approvals in recent years (e.g. Novartis’ cholesterol drug Leqvio), the regulatory agency is offering new draft guidance for those looking to follow a similar path.

The non-binding guidance, titled “Clinical Pharmacology Considerations for the Development of Oligonucleotide Therapeutics Guidance for Industry” deals with pharmacokinetic, pharmacodynamic, and safety assessments required as part of oligonucleotide therapeutics R&D.

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Joe Wiley, Amryt Pharma CEO

Am­ryt Phar­ma sub­mits a for­mal dis­pute res­o­lu­tion to the FDA over re­ject­ed skin dis­ease drug

The story of Amryt Pharma’s candidate for the genetic skin condition epidermolysis bullosa, or EB, will soon enter another chapter.

After the Irish drugmaker’s candidate, dubbed Oleogel-S10 and marketed as Filsuvez, was handed a CRL earlier this year, the company announced in a press release that it plans to submit a formal dispute resolution request for the company’s NDA for Oleogel-S10.