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.

Vlad Coric (Biohaven)

In an­oth­er dis­ap­point­ment for in­vestors, FDA slaps down Bio­haven’s re­vised ver­sion of an old ALS drug

Biohaven is at risk of making a habit of disappointing its investors. 

Late Friday the biotech $BHVN reported that the FDA had rejected its application for riluzole, an old drug that they had made over into a sublingual formulation that dissolves under the tongue. According to Biohaven, the FDA had a problem with the active ingredient used in a bioequivalence study back in 2017, which they got from the Canadian drugmaker Apotex.

Norbert Bischofberger. Kronos

Backed by some of the biggest names in biotech, Nor­bert Bischof­berg­er gets his megaround for plat­form tech out of MIT

A little over a year ago when I reported on Norbert Bischofberger’s jump from the CSO job at giant Gilead to a tiny upstart called Kronos, I noted that with his connections in biotech finance, that $18 million launch round he was starting off with could just as easily have been $100 million or more.

With his first anniversary now behind him, Bischofberger has that mega-round in the bank.

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Chas­ing Roche's ag­ing block­buster fran­chise, Am­gen/Al­ler­gan roll out Avastin, Her­ceptin knock­offs at dis­count

Let the long battle for biosimilars in the cancer space begin.

Amgen has launched its Avastin and Herceptin copycats — licensed from the predecessors of Allergan — almost two years after the FDA had stamped its approval on Mvasi (bevacizumab-awwb) and three months after the Kanjinti OK (trastuzumab-anns). While the biotech had been fielding biosimilars in Europe, this marks their first foray in the US — and the first oncology biosimilars in the country.

Seer adds ex-FDA chief Mark Mc­Clel­lan to the board; Her­cules Cap­i­tal makes it of­fi­cial for new CEO Scott Bluestein

→ On the same day it announced a $17.5 million Series C, life sciences and health data company Seer unveiled that it had lured former FDA commissioner and ex-CMS administrator Mark McClellan on to its board. “Mark’s deep understanding of the health care ecosystem and visionary insights on policy reform will be crucial in informing our thinking as we work to bring our liquid biopsy and life sciences products to market,” said Seer chief and founder Omid Farokhzad in a statement.

Daniel O'Day

No­var­tis hands off 3 pre­clin­i­cal pro­grams to the an­tivi­ral R&D mas­ters at Gilead

Gilead CEO Daniel O’Day’s new task hunting up a CSO for the company isn’t stopping the industry’s dominant antiviral player from doing pipeline deals.

The big biotech today snapped up 3 preclinical antiviral programs from pharma giant Novartis, with drugs promising to treat human rhinovirus, influenza and herpes viruses. We don’t know what the upfront is, but the back end has $291 million in milestones baked in.

Vas Narasimhan, AP Images

On a hot streak, No­var­tis ex­ecs run the odds on their two most im­por­tant PhI­II read­outs. Which is 0.01% more like­ly to suc­ceed?

Novartis CEO Vas Narasimhan is living in the sweet spot right now.

The numbers are running a bit better than expected, the pipeline — which he assembled as development chief — is performing and the stock popped more than 4% on Thursday as the executive team ran through their assessment of Q2 performance.

Year-to-date the stock is up 28%, so the investors will be beaming. Anyone looking for chinks in their armor — and there are plenty giving it a shot — right now focus on payer acceptance of their $2.1 million gene therapy Zolgensma, where it’s early days. And CAR-T continues to underperform, but Novartis doesn’t appear to be suffering from it.

So what could go wrong?

Actually, not much. But Tim Anderson at Wolfe pressed Narasimhan and his development chief John Tsai to pick which of two looming Phase III readouts with blockbuster implication had the better odds of success.

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Francesco De Rubertis

Medicxi is rolling out its biggest fund ever to back Eu­rope's top 'sci­en­tists with strange ideas'

Francesco De Rubertis built Medicxi to be the kind of biotech venture player he would have liked to have known back when he was a full time scientist.

“When I was a scientist 20 years ago I would have loved Medicxi,’ the co-founder tells me. It’s the kind of place run by and for investigators, what the Medicxi partner calls “scientists with strange ideas — a platform for the drug hunter and scientific entrepreneur. That’s what I wanted when I was a scientist.”

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Af­ter a decade, Vi­iV CSO John Pot­tage says it's time to step down — and he's hand­ing the job to long­time col­league Kim Smith

ViiV Healthcare has always been something unique in the global drug industry.

Owned by GlaxoSmithKline and Pfizer — with GSK in the lead as majority owner — it was created 10 years ago in a time of deep turmoil for the field as something independent of the pharma giants, but with access to lots of infrastructural support on demand. While R&D at the mother ship inside GSK was souring, a razor-focused ViiV provided a rare bright spot, challenging Gilead on a lucrative front in delivering new combinations that require fewer therapies with a more easily tolerated regimen.

They kept a massive number of people alive who would otherwise have been facing a death sentence. And they made money.

And throughout, John Pottage has been the chief scientific and chief medical officer.

Until now.

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H1 analy­sis: The high-stakes ta­ble in the biotech deals casi­no is pay­ing out some record-set­ting win­nings

For years the big trend among dealmakers at the major players has been centered on ratcheting down upfront payments in favor of bigger milestones. Better known as biobucks for some. But with the top 15 companies competing for the kind of “transformative” pacts that can whip up some excitement on Wall Street, with some big biotechs like Regeneron now weighing in as well, cash is king at the high stakes table.

We asked Chris Dokomajilar, the head of DealForma, to crunch the numbers for us, looking over the top 20 deals for the past decade and breaking it all down into the top alliances already created in 2019. Gilead has clearly tipped the scales in terms of the coin of the bio-realm, with its record-setting $5 billion upfront to tie up to Galapagos’ entire pipeline.

Dokomajilar notes:

We’re going to need a ‘three comma club’ for the deals with over $1 billion in total upfront cash and equity. The $100 million-plus club is getting crowded at 164 deals in the last decade with new deals being added towards the top of the chart. 2019 already has 14 deals with at least $100 million in upfront cash and equity for a total year-to-date of over $9 billion. That beats last year’s $8 billion and sets a record.

Add upfronts and equity payments and you get $11.5 billion for the year, just shy of last year’s record-setting $11.8 billion.

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