Cel­lec­tis re­cruits ex-Servi­er re­search chief De­pil; Are­na inks $224M deal on new drugs; JLABS heads to Shang­hai; As­traZeneca vet takes Goldfinch helm

→ French CAR-T de­vel­op­er Cel­lec­tis has re­cruit­ed Stéphane De­pil, the for­mer R&D chief of Servi­er, to lead the com­pa­ny’s clin­i­cal de­vel­op­ment. De­pil will serve as se­nior vice pres­i­dent of R&D and chief med­ical of­fi­cer. The new ap­point­ment brings De­pil back to the in­dus­try af­ter a break while he di­rect­ed the can­cer im­munother­a­py pro­gram at the Léon Bérard Can­cer Cen­ter in Ly­on, France. But back when he was at Servi­er, he over­saw 20 can­cer pro­grams, sev­er­al of which were in clin­i­cal tri­als. Cel­lec­tis hopes to ben­e­fit from De­pil’s track record in the field to move its CAR-T as­sets in­to the clin­ic af­ter a rough start in­volv­ing a pa­tient death. “Stéphane De­pil’s deep med­ical, aca­d­e­m­ic, and clin­i­cal reg­u­la­to­ry on­col­o­gy ex­pe­ri­ence – specif­i­cal­ly in R&D for all phas­es with­in the phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal, biotech­nol­o­gy, and clin­i­cal re­search spaces – will be in­valu­able as he leads Cel­lec­tis’ strat­e­gy and pro­motes aware­ness of the break­through work that we are do­ing as a leader and in­no­va­tor in the gene-edit­ing field,” said An­dré Chouli­ka, Cel­lec­tis’ CEO, in a state­ment. “His strate­gic al­liance-build­ing, col­lab­o­ra­tion skills, un­der­stand­ing of the glob­al en­vi­ron­ment with on­co­log­i­cal clin­i­cal re­search, and first­hand ex­pe­ri­ence run­ning a phar­ma com­pa­ny all add a great de­gree of abil­i­ty and depth to our lead­er­ship team.”

→ Are­na Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals, the San Diego drug mak­er best known for its di­et pill Belviq, has inked a deal worth up to $224M with Ever­est Med­i­cines to de­vel­op and com­mer­cial­ize its two new pipeline drugs in main­land Chi­na, Tai­wan, Hong Kong, Macau, and South Ko­rea. The two drugs, ra­linepag and es­trasi­mod, are a far cry from Are­na’s ear­ly work in obe­si­ty drugs. Ra­linepag is a Phase III-ready oral, se­lec­tive prosta­cy­clin re­cep­tor ag­o­nist for the treat­ment of pul­monary ar­te­r­i­al hy­per­ten­sion. The drug’s Phase II da­ta got Are­na’s in­vestors pret­ty jazzed ear­li­er this year. The drug is de­signed to be more po­tent and ef­fec­tive than Acte­lion’s Up­travi. Then there’s etrasi­mod, a Phase II oral S1P re­cep­tor mod­u­la­tor be­ing eval­u­at­ed for mul­ti­ple au­toim­mune dis­eases, in­clud­ing ul­cer­a­tive col­i­tis, a form of in­flam­ma­to­ry bow­el dis­ease. Ear­li­er this year, Amit Mun­shi said the drug was safer and po­ten­tial­ly more ef­fi­ca­cious than Ozan­i­mod, the drug de­vel­oped by San Diego’s Re­cep­tos (pur­chased by Cel­gene for $7.2 bil­lion). In the new deal with Ever­est, a com­pa­ny backed by $50M from Chi­na’s C-Bridge Cap­i­tal, Are­na gets $12M in an up­front pay­ment and is el­i­gi­ble to re­ceive up to $212M in mile­stones, along with roy­al­ties.

John­son & John­son is launch­ing a JLABS in Shang­hai — the first lo­ca­tion out­side of North Amer­i­ca — af­ter reach­ing agree­ments with the Shang­hai Mu­nic­i­pal Gov­ern­ment, Pudong New Area Gov­ern­ment and Shang­hai Phar­ma En­gine Com­pa­ny. Sched­uled to open in Q2 2019, the fa­cil­i­ty in Zhangjiang Hi-Tech Park will span 4,400 sq. me­ter (47,000+ sq. ft.) and can host up to 50 life sci­ence and health care star­tups. “Chi­na, and Shang­hai specif­i­cal­ly, have be­come a glob­al hotspot for health­care in­no­va­tion,” said Vladimir Makat­saria, John­son & John­son Chi­na Group chair­man, in a state­ment. J&J is cur­rent­ly ac­cept­ing ap­pli­ca­tions from biotech, phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal, med­ical de­vice, con­sumer and dig­i­tal health com­pa­nies to this site as well as its eight oth­er JLABS lo­ca­tions.

→ In­dus­try vet An­tho­ny John­son is tak­ing the helm at Goldfinch Bio, a Cam­bridge, MA-based biotech look­ing to de­vel­op new drugs for ge­net­i­cal­ly de­fined kid­ney dis­eases. Goldfinch launched a year ago with $55 mil­lion in Third Rock mon­ey. John­son is the lat­est in a long line of Big Phar­ma R&D ex­ecs mak­ing a move to a start­up, leav­ing his post as head of ear­ly clin­i­cal de­vel­op­ment for the In­no­v­a­tive Med­i­cines and Ear­ly De­vel­op­ment Biotech Unit. His bio in­cludes 25 pos­i­tive proof-of-con­cept stud­ies. In ad­di­tion, Michael Brox­son is join­ing Goldfinch as chief busi­ness and op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer.

Shire $SH­PG has struck a col­lab­o­ra­tion deal with Rani Ther­a­peu­tics that gives the rare dis­ease gi­ant ex­clu­sive rights to re­search, eval­u­ate and pur­sue a world­wide li­cense for the oral de­liv­ery of fac­tor VI­II to pa­tients with he­mo­phil­ia A. This in­vest­ment, the terms of which were not dis­closed, comes just a few weeks af­ter ri­val Roche’s Hem­li­bra nabbed an FDA ap­proval, some­thing that an­a­lysts said could help shrink Shire’s share of the he­mo­phil­ia mar­ket from 49% to 29%. The Rani Pill tech­nol­o­gy brings a nov­el in­testi­nal de­liv­ery ap­proach to the treat­ment of he­mo­phil­ia, which is dom­i­nat­ed by in­jecta­bles, though the com­pa­ny is al­so do­ing work on rheuma­toid arthri­tis, can­cer and Crohn’s dis­ease. As part of the pact, Shire has al­so made an eq­ui­ty in­vest­ment in­to Rani Ther­a­peu­tics.

As­traZeneca trum­pets the 'mo­men­tous' da­ta they found for Tagris­so in an ad­ju­vant set­ting for NSCLC — but many of the ex­perts aren’t cheer­ing along

AstraZeneca is rolling out the big guns this evening to provide a salute to their ADAURA data on Tagrisso at ASCO.

Cancer R&D chief José Baselga calls the disease-free survival data for their drug in an adjuvant setting of early stage, epidermal growth factor receptor-mutated NSCLC patients following surgery “momentous.” Roy Herbst, the principal investigator out of Yale, calls it “transformative.”

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Pablo Legorreta, founder and CEO of Royalty Pharma AG, speaks at the annual Milken Institute Global Conference in Beverly Hills, California (Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Cap­i­tal­iz­ing Pablo: The world’s biggest drug roy­al­ty buy­er is go­ing pub­lic. And the low-key CEO di­vulges a few se­crets along the way

Pablo Legorreta is one of the most influential players in biopharma you likely never heard of.

Over the last 24 years, Legorreta’s Royalty Pharma group has become, by its own reckoning, the biggest buyer of drug royalties in the world. The CEO and founder has bought up a stake in a lengthy list of the world’s biggest drug franchises, spending $18 billion in the process — $2.2 billion last year alone. And he’s become one of the best-paid execs in the industry, reaping $28 million from the cash flow last year while reserving 20% of the cash flow, less expenses, for himself.

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Ab­b­Vie wins an ap­proval in uter­ine fi­broid-as­so­ci­at­ed heavy bleed­ing. Are ri­vals My­ovant and Ob­sE­va far be­hind?

Women expel on average about 2 to 3 tablespoons of blood during their time of the month. But with uterine fibroids, heavy bleeding is typical — a third of a cup or more. Drugmakers have been working on oral therapies to try and stem the flow, and as expected, AbbVie and their partners at Neurocrine Biosciences are the first to make it across the finish line.

Known chemically as elagolix, the drug is already approved as a treatment for endometriosis under the brand name Orilissa. It targets the GnRH receptor to decrease the production of estrogen and progesterone.

David Chang, Allogene CEO (Jeff Rumans)

Head­ed to PhII: Al­lo­gene CEO David Chang com­pletes a pos­i­tive ear­ly snap­shot of their off-the-shelf CAR-T pi­o­neer

Allogene CEO David Chang has completed the upbeat first portrait of the biotech’s off-the-shelf CAR-T contender ALLO-501 at virtual ASCO today, keeping all eyes on a drug that will now try to go on to replace the first-wave personalized pioneers he helped create.

The overall response rate outlined in Allogene’s abstract for treatment-resistant patients with non-Hodgkin lymphoma slipped a little from the leadup, but if you narrow the patient profile to treatment-naïve patients — removing the 3 who had previous CAR-T therapy who didn’t respond, leaving 16 — the ORR lands at 75% with a 44% complete response rate. And 9 of the 12 responders remained in response at the data cutoff, offering a glimpse on durability that still has a long way to go before it can be completely nailed down.

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Fabrice Chouraqui, Cellarity CEO-partner (LinkedIn)

Drug de­vel­op­er, Big Phar­ma com­mer­cial ex­ec, now an up­start biotech chief — Fab­rice Chouraqui is ready to try some­thing new as a ‘CEO-part­ner’ at Flag­ship

Fabrice Chouraqui’s career has taken some big twists along his life journey. He got his PharmD at Université Paris Descartes and jumped into the drug development game for a bit. Then he took a sharp turn and went back to school to get his MBA at Insead before returning to pharma on the commercial side.

Twenty years later, after steadily rising through the ranks and journeying the globe to nab a top job as president of US pharma for the Basel-based Novartis, Chouraqui exited in another career switch. And now he’s headed into a hybrid position as a CEO-partner at Flagship, where he’ll take a shot at leading Cellarity — one of the VC’s latest paradigm-changing companies of the groundbreaking model that aspires to deliver a new platform to the world of drug R&D.

Sanofi brings in 4 new ex­ec­u­tives in con­tin­ued shake-up, as vac­cines and con­sumer health chief head out the door

In the middle of Sanofi’s multi-pronged race to develop a Covid-19 vaccine, David Loew, the head of their sprawling vaccines unit, is leaving – part of the final flurry of moves in the French giant’ months-long corporate shuffle that will give them new-look leadership under new CEO Paul Hudson.

The company also said today that Alan Main, the head of their consumer healthcare unit, is out, and they named 4 executives to fill new or newly vacated positions, 3 of whom come from both outside both Sanofi and from Pharma.

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Dan O'Day, Gilead CEO (Andrew Harnik, AP Images)

UP­DAT­ED: Gilead leas­es part­ner rights to TIG­IT, PD-1 in a $2B deal with Ar­cus. Now comes the hard part

Gilead CEO Dan O’Day has brokered his way to a PD-1 and lined up a front row seat in the TIGIT arena, inking a deal worth close to $2 billion to align the big biotech closely with Terry Rosen’s Arcus. And $375 million of that comes upfront, with cash for the buy-in plus equity, along with $400 million for R&D and $1.22 billion in reserve to cover opt-in payments and milestones..

Hotly rumored for weeks, the 2 players have formalized a 10-year alliance that starts with rights to the PD-1, zimberelimab. O’Day also has first dibs on TIGIT and 2 other leading programs, agreeing to an opt-in fee ranging from $200 million to $275 million on each. There’s $500 million in potential TIGIT milestones on US regulatory events — likely capped by an approval — if Gilead partners on it and the stars align on the data. And there’s another $150 million opt-in payments for the rest of the Arcus pipeline.

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Paul Hudson, Sanofi CEO (Getty Images)

Sanofi CEO Paul Hud­son has $23B burn­ing a hole in his pock­et. And here are some hints on how he plans to spend that

Sanofi has reaped $11.1 billion after selling off a big chunk of its Regeneron stock at $515 a share. And now everyone on the M&A side of the business is focused on how CEO Paul Hudson plans to spend it.

After getting stung in France for some awkward politicking — suggesting the US was in the front of the line for Sanofi’s vaccines given American financial support for their work, versus little help from European powers — Hudson now has the much more popular task of managing a major cash cache to pull off something in the order of a big bolt-on. Or two.

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Roger Perlmutter, Merck R&D chief (YouTube)

UP­DAT­ED: Backed by BAR­DA, Mer­ck jumps in­to Covid-19: buy­ing out a vac­cine, part­ner­ing on an­oth­er and adding an­tivi­ral to the mix

Merck execs are making a triple play in a sudden leap into the R&D campaign against Covid-19. And they have more BARDA cash backing them up on the move.

Tuesday morning the pharma giant simultaneously announced plans to buy an Austrian biotech that has been working on a preclinical vaccine candidate, added a collaboration on another vaccine with the nonprofit IAVI and inked a deal with Ridgeback Biotherapeutics on an early-stage antiviral.

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