Cel­gene vet Jack­ie Fouse grabs the reins of a Vivek Ra­maswamy vant-up

Jack­ie Fouse has land­ed.

A lit­tle more than four months af­ter Fouse said she was “re­tir­ing” as pres­i­dent of Cel­gene, she’s back run­ning her own biotech as ex­ec­u­tive chair­man of Der­ma­vant, one of sev­er­al new “vants” that Roivant chief Vivek Ra­maswamy has kicked in­to play over the last three years.

Fouse wrapped up her fi­nal lap at Cel­gene a few days ago, end­ing a 3-month leg as a com­pa­ny ad­vis­er to see out her tran­si­tion from the big biotech, which has per­haps the busiest deal­mak­ing group in the in­dus­try.  She moves from a top job at a bell­wether com­pa­ny to a start­up with a few ad­vanced ther­a­pies in the clin­ic. And she tells me that the part­ner­ing work she did at Cel­gene will help her get start­ed on her new job as ex­ec­u­tive chair­man.

Der­ma­vant is a pri­vate start­up, so we aren’t get­ting any de­tails on the pay pack­age. But if Ra­maswamy’s re­cent hires are any in­di­ca­tion, it like­ly in­cludes a hefty slice of eq­ui­ty with po­ten­tial to pay off with a few suc­cess­es in the clin­ic.

For Ra­maswamy, who’s been ramp­ing up a line­up of new com­pa­nies, a high-pro­file hire like Fouse fits per­fect­ly in­to a strat­e­gy to build cred­i­bil­i­ty quick­ly by woo­ing some note­wor­thy fig­ures to run his com­pa­nies. He did that just a few months ago with the move to bring in David Hung to run Ax­o­vant, fo­cused on Alzheimer’s and de­men­tia, not long af­ter Hung com­plet­ed the $14 bil­lion sale of Medi­va­tion to Pfiz­er.

“Over the past three years, I have come to the con­clu­sion that qual­i­ty of lead­er­ship and per­son­nel will be the most im­por­tant de­ter­mi­nants of suc­cess for Roivant over the long run,” Ra­maswamy told me. “In three years, it is my hope that Der­ma­vant will be one of the lead­ing com­pa­nies in the world in de­vel­op­ing tru­ly in­no­v­a­tive treat­ments for med­ical der­ma­to­log­ic con­di­tions, as op­posed to fol­low­ing the his­tor­i­cal path of ‘derm-fo­cused’ com­pa­nies that have sought to sell re­for­mu­la­tions or al­ter­na­tive­ly-brand­ed ver­sions of drugs that have been around for many decades. We hope to build not on­ly a world-class de­vel­op­ment team at Der­ma­vant, but al­so a lead­ing com­mer­cial or­ga­ni­za­tion in the field of med­ical der­ma­tol­ogy.”

These days, when you hear a se­nior bio­phar­ma ex­ec at a top-20 com­pa­ny is re­tir­ing, it’s of­ten just a pre­lude to a new job at a biotech start­up, where an eq­ui­ty stake can pay off in ways that a ca­reer of­ten can’t.

In a pre­view to to­day’s news, I got a chance to ask Fouse a few ques­tions by email. Here’s what she had to say about the move.

JC: I would safe­ly say that every­one in the in­dus­try has been look­ing to see where you’d land af­ter Cel­gene. I’m go­ing to as­sume you had some choic­es on your next role. Was there one key, de­cid­ing fac­tor that steered you to Der­ma­vant?

JF: What I found most com­pelling about Der­ma­vant was the com­pa­ny’s mis­sion, name­ly of­fer­ing in­no­v­a­tive so­lu­tions to press­ing un­met needs in med­ical der­ma­tol­ogy. I think the ther­a­pies in de­vel­op­ment at Der­ma­vant have strong mech­a­nis­tic ra­tio­nales and I have been im­pressed with what the Der­ma­vant and Roivant teams have done up to now to put to­geth­er a pipeline of late stage, in­ter­est­ing as­sets and con­tin­ue to ad­vance their de­vel­op­ment. The com­bi­na­tion of the clin­i­cal and med­ical skills of the ex­ist­ing Der­ma­vant team and those of the Roivant non-clin­i­cal, reg­u­la­to­ry and busi­ness de­vel­op­ment teams have de­liv­ered a great ex­ist­ing pipeline for Der­ma­vant.

JC: You’ve got a cou­ple of drugs in the pipeline. Do you plan on more deals and is an IPO on the hori­zon? In short, what are you go­ing to do with the com­pa­ny now? What’s your man­date?

JF: We have no plans for an IPO in the near term. The com­pa­ny is ful­ly fund­ed and sup­port­ed by Roivant to pur­sue all of its cur­rent and fu­ture de­vel­op­ment pro­grams at full speed. My im­me­di­ate man­date is to rapid­ly build the pipeline fur­ther through the right sort of part­ner­ships, while ad­vanc­ing the three drugs which are in the com­pa­ny’s pipeline to­day. My long-term ob­jec­tive at Der­ma­vant is to scale a com­pa­ny from the ear­ly stages of its growth in­to an in­dus­try leader in an im­por­tant and ne­glect­ed ther­a­peu­tic area.

JC: And fi­nal­ly, what’s the one thing you learned at Cel­gene that will be most help­ful in this new role?

JF: At Cel­gene I was re­spon­si­ble for man­ag­ing a port­fo­lio of cor­po­rate part­ner­ships through the com­pa­ny’s dis­trib­uted re­search and de­vel­op­ment mod­el. I learned how to man­age those re­la­tion­ships and de­liv­er mu­tu­al­ly ben­e­fi­cial so­lu­tions that served the needs of our part­ners. At Der­ma­vant, I in­tend to do the same thing as the com­pa­ny forms new part­ner­ships with oth­er com­pa­nies work­ing in med­ical der­ma­tol­ogy.

In a fol­lowup, she not­ed:

I should al­so add that at Cel­gene the dis­trib­uted R&D mod­el and port­fo­lio of part­ner­ships was a joint con­struc­tion across our ear­ly re­search team, name­ly Tom Daniel who I think you know, and BD team led by George Golumbes­ki along with oth­ers and me when I was CFO, head of hem/onc and COO. Team ef­fort, not just my su­per­vi­sion.

It’s fi­nal­ly over: Bio­gen, Ei­sai scrap big Alzheimer’s PhI­I­Is af­ter a pre­dictable BACE cat­a­stro­phe rais­es safe­ty fears

Months after analysts and investors called on Biogen and Eisai to scrap their BACE drug for Alzheimer’s and move on in the wake of a string of late-stage failures and rising safety fears, the partners have called it quits. And they said they were dropping the drug — elenbecestat — after the independent monitoring board raised concerns about…safety.

We don’t know exactly what researchers found in this latest catastrophe, but the companies noted in their release that investigators had determined that the drug was flunking the risk/benefit analysis.

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Lisa M. DeAngelis, MSKCC

MSK picks brain can­cer ex­pert Lisa DeAn­ge­lis as its next CMO — fol­low­ing José Basel­ga’s con­tro­ver­sial ex­it

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His replacement, who now will be in charge of MSK’s cutting-edge research work as well as the cancer care delivered by hundreds of practitioners, is Lisa M. DeAngelis. DeAngelis had been chair of the neurology department and co-founder of MSK’s brain tumor center and was moved in to the acting CMO role in the wake of Baselga’s departure.

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Tal Zaks. Moderna

The mR­NA uni­corn Mod­er­na has more ear­ly-stage hu­man da­ta it wants to show off — reach­ing new peaks in prov­ing the po­ten­tial

The whole messenger RNA field has attracted billions of dollars in public and private investor cash gambled on the prospect of getting in on the ground floor. And this morning Boston-based Moderna, one of the leaders in the field, wants to show off a few more of the cards it has to play to prove to you that they’re really in the game.

The whole hand, of course, has yet to be dealt. And there’s no telling who gets to walk with a share of the pot. But any cards on display at this point — especially after being accused of keeping its deck under lock and key — will attract plenty of attention from some very wary, and wired, observers.

“In terms of the complexity and unmet need,” says Tal Zaks, the chief medical officer, “this is peak for what we’ve accomplished.”

Moderna has two Phase I studies it wants to talk about now.

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It's not per­fect, but it's a good start: FDA pan­elists large­ly en­dorse Aim­mune's peanut al­ler­gy ther­a­py

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Traditionally, peanut allergies are managed by avoidance, but the threat of accidental exposure cannot be nullified. Some allergists have devised a way to dose patients off-label with peanut protein derived from supermarket products to wean them off their allergies. But the idea behind Aimmune’s product was to standardize the peanut protein, and track the process of desensitization — so when accidental exposure in the real world invariably occurs, patients are less likely to experience a life-threatening allergic reaction.

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Rit­ter bombs fi­nal PhI­II for sole lac­tose in­tol­er­ance drug — shares plum­met

More than two years ago Ritter Pharmaceuticals managed to find enough silver lining in its Phase IIb/III study — after missing the top-line mark — to propel its lactose intolerance toward a confirmatory trial. But as it turned out, the enthusiasm only set the biotech and its investors up to be sorely disappointed.

This time around there’s little left to salvage. Not only did RP-G28 fail to beat placebo in reducing lactose intolerance symptoms, patients in the treatment group actually averaged a smaller improvement. On a composite score measuring symptoms like abdominal pain, cramping, bloating and gas, patients given the drug had a mean reduction of 3.159 while the placebo cohort saw a 3.420 drop on average (one-sided p-value = 0.0106).

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Alex Ar­faei trades his an­a­lyst's post for a new role as biotech VC; Sanofi vet heads to Vi­for

Too often, Alex Arfaei arrived too late. 

An analyst at BMO Capital Markets, he’d meet with biotech or pharmaceutical heads for their IPO or secondary funding and his brain, trained on a biology degree and six years at Merck and Endo, would spring with questions: Why this biomarker? Why this design? Why not this endpoint? Not that he could do anything about it. These execs were coming for clinical money; their decisions had been made and finalized long ago.

Arde­lyx bags its first FDA OK for IBS, set­ting up a show­down with Al­ler­gan, Iron­wood

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The drug’s first application will be for IBS with constipation (IBS-C), inhibiting sodium-hydrogen exchanger NHE3 in the GI tract in such a way as to increase bowel movements and decrease abdominal pain. This comes on the heels of two successful Phase III trials.