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Eli Lilly CEO David Ricks (Evan Vucci/AP Images)

Eli Lil­ly's David Ricks snared $24M pay pack­age in a year tur­bo-boost­ed by Covid-19 an­ti­body

Boosted by booming sales of its Covid-19 antibody bamlanivimab, Eli Lilly posted double-digit growth in 2020 despite a more steady showing from its legacy portfolio. In his fourth year at the helm, CEO David Ricks will tout 2020 as a win — particularly for his pocketbook.

Ricks secured $23.7 million in pay in 2020, a roughly 11% bump from the previous year, the Indianapolis drugmaker disclosed in a proxy filing with the SEC.

Vas Narasimhan, Novartis CEO (Jason Alden/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Vas Narasimhan gets a bump in pay, but still falls well be­low some ri­vals

Vasant Narasimhan has never sat down with a reporter and complained about his multi-million dollar pay package, although perhaps it wouldn’t be the worst idea for his bank account.

Novartis disclosed their CEO pay package last week, revealing that Narasimhan earned $14.2 million in 2020. That easily keeps him as one of the most well-compensated executives in the world, with a paycheck large enough to purchase about 73,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine, enough to inoculate a small Midwestern city.

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End­points Man­u­fac­tur­ing: 5 Ques­tions with Ho­mol­o­gy Med­i­cines

This week, I asked five questions of Tim Kelly, the chief technology officer at Homology Medicines. Kelly has over two decades of experience in manufacturing, having spent time at Sarepta and Shire before joining Homology.

The Bedford, MA company is seeking to harness a novel technology that uses AAV vectors derived from human hematopoietic stem cells that are designed to precisely and efficiently deliver genetic medicines into the human body. Part of Kelly’s tenure has included construction of the company’s in-house manufacturing facility.

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Janet Woodcock, acting FDA commissioner (AP Images)

Janet Wood­cock slams calls for FDA 'fire­wal­l' amid ad­u­canum­ab de­ba­cle, cit­ing need for col­lab­o­ra­tive drug de­vel­op­ment

The FDA has long taken a collaborative approach to working with drugmakers on approval applications, all in the interest, it says, of bringing the best molecules to market. But when the drug is a lemon, the cozy relationship between regulators and industry courts easy blame.

Could a “firewall” between regulators and drugmakers prevent lousy drugs from getting the agency’s backing? Acting commissioner Janet Woodcock says no way.

Kimberly Johnson via Fannie Mae

Eli Lil­ly adds new board mem­ber Kim­ber­ly John­son, the COO who helped lead Fan­nie Mae out of the US hous­ing cri­sis

It’s been an ugly couple of weeks for Eli Lilly’s C-suite after former CFO Josh Smiley was shown the door for sending “inappropriate messages.” In the fallout from that scandal, Lilly could be excused for looking to mitigate some of its risk — and Fannie Mae COO Kimberly Johnson joining the board could help on that front.

Johnson joined Fannie in 2006, months before the wheels came off the US housing market. The mortgage financier was roughed up in the fallout from that crisis and implicated as one of the institutional players that loaded up on bad-money subprime loans with the government’s backing. In fact, the firm’s derivatives portfolio hedging those balky mortgages may have added even more fuel to the fire.

Charlie Albright and Petra Kaufmann

Gene edit­ing ex­pert Char­lie Al­bright tells us why he hopped from Ed­i­tas to a new role as CSO of an up­start biotech out to en­gi­neer gene ther­a­py 2.0

We now know where Charlie Albright was headed when he jumped ship at CRISPR gene editing pioneer Editas a few weeks ago.

Albright has skipped across town to Waltham, MA-based Affinia, the newly hatched gene therapy biotech — from AveXis vets Sean Nolan and Rick Modi — looking to develop next-gen AAV delivery vehicles for a new wave of once-and-done therapies. And he’s been joined on the team by Petra Kaufmann, a vet from Novartis Gene Therapies — until recently known as AveXis.

Kamel Khalili (Joseph V. Labolito/Temple University)

Ex­clu­sive: Af­ter four decades, one re­searcher's rad­i­cal HIV cure fi­nal­ly gets its shot

In the downtime between experiments, Kamel Khalili and his mentor traded their wildest ideas for curing HIV. It was the mid 1980s and Khalili was a postdoc at George Khoury’s National Cancer Institute lab, where he studied links between viruses and tumors, then one of the hottest fields in cancer research. But the epidemic was raging through New York and San Francisco, mounting the largest public health threat in decades. A couple buildings over, Robert Gallo was sequencing the virus for the first time. It felt impossible to stay away.

There was one idea Khalili couldn’t stop thinking about. HIV posed a unique challenge in part because it integrated itself into human DNA, coiling away from the body’s defenses. Khalili had spent his grad days tinkering with one of the earliest tools biologists invented to manipulate DNA inside a living cell. In fact, the first experiment he was assigned to when he moved from Tehran to Philadelphia as a 27-year-old graduate student was to take a bacteria-infecting virus and use it to inactivate a gene inside E. coli.

He wondered if he could do the same to the HIV genes inside a patient’s cells — an idea, he knew, was as ludicrous as it was elegant.

“Obviously the tool wasn’t there,” Khalili recalls. The tools they had struck DNA randomly, subjecting the recipient to a scattershot of genetic artillery. “You’d kill the patient.”

Then in 2012 came CRISPR, the so-called molecular scissors that could cut DNA wherever a researcher wanted. Khalili, who had risen to run a vast neuroscience department at Temple University without ever giving up on his youthful whim, rushing to examine a new gene editing tool whenever it appeared, got to work. Within a year and a half of Jennifer Doudna and Emmanuelle Charpentier’s Nobel-winning Science paper, he submitted a manuscript to The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that would send ripples through the HIV field.

He had taken CRISPR and used it to excise HIV out of human DNA. When he put it in HIV-infected mice a few years later, about a third were cured.

“I’ve been working on HIV for close to 40 years,” says Khalili. Now 69, he has an easy, avuncular laugh even over Zoom and large expressive eyebrows, though colleagues tell me he can have a far harder edge in the lab. “For the first time we realized a cure was possible.”

In November, Khalili gave the first evidence the approach could work in monkeys. Investors are now getting on board. Excision BioTherapeutics, the company founded around Khalili’s work, announced today a $50 million Series A to push the therapy into the clinic. If it works as intended, it could provide a long-sought single-shot cure for a virus that now infects 38 million people worldwide and set the stage for a similar approach for other chronic viruses, such as herpes and hepatitis B.

In a field already burned countless times, outside researchers are understandably cautious: CRISPR is a powerful tool, they say, but trying to excise all the viral DNA lurking in a patient’s cells is like trying to plumb an oil spill; there’s always a bit left, tucked in hard-to-reach places. Still, many were impressed he got this far, having discounted the approach years before. And they broadly agreed that Khalili may have invented one of the weapons for the multi-pronged assault they think will one day take down the virus.

The first test will come later this year, when a group of patients will be injected with Khalili’s therapy and, eventually, taken off the anti-retroviral medicines that have kept their infections at bay. If the infections don’t return, they will owe it to an immigrant scientist, who flung himself into a crisis much of his adopted country ignored and for four decades never let go of a brash and maybe even brilliant idea, even when the tools didn’t exist and the NIH told him it was impossible.

Skepticism still runs high, just not as high as when Khalili first started sketching out the idea to friends and colleagues on napkins nearly a decade ago.

“We have to be very careful,” says Fyodor Urnov, a gene editing expert at Cal-Berkeley who worked on early HIV gene editing studies. “But I think, overall, the field can move from hypothetical to realistic optimism.”

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Neil Woodford (Jenny Goodall/​ANL/​Shutterstock)

'I’m not try­ing to re­build an ego': Neil Wood­ford ap­peals to pro­fes­sion­als for his come­back biotech fund

Neil Woodford is back. For real.

More than a year after he was fired from his eponymous flagship fund — which followed a controversial and chaotic suspension that came on the heels of investors demanding their money back following two years of underperformance — the disgraced stockpicker said he’s ready to rebuild a biotech investment operation from scratch.

The new brand will be christened WCM Partners, after Woodford Capital Management, he told The Telegraph in an in-depth interview. Speaking publicly for the first time since getting sacked, he was at times emotional, apologetic and angry. Yet if anything, he still sounds confident.

Pascal Soriot, AstraZeneca CEO (Raphael Lafargue/Abaca/Sipa USA; Sipa via AP Images)

As­traZeneca's Pas­cal So­ri­ot picks up $21.5M pay pack­age in 2020, a big haul in year marked by Covid-19 shot de­vel­op­ment

AstraZeneca’s 2020 was one for the books as the British drugmaker kept up a fervid pace with partner Oxford University to develop their adenovirus-based Covid-19 shot. In the meantime, sales growth in the US and emerging markets drove up AstraZeneca’s top line — and that proved lucrative for CEO Pascal Soriot.

Soriot bagged a 2020 compensation package worth $21.5 million in 2020, a slight increase from his 2019 total despite AstraZeneca posting 10% revenue growth on the year, according to the pharma giant’s annual report.

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Josh Smiley (Eli Lilly)

Eli Lil­ly strips oust­ed CFO Josh Smi­ley of $24M in pay af­ter 'i­nap­pro­pri­ate mes­sages' scan­dal

Eli Lilly let go of former CFO Josh Smiley earlier this week, and it apparently had good reason to do so after the veteran finance chief reportedly sent inappropriate messages to employees. But the firing came with a special poke in the eye for Smiley, who will be forced to forfeit $24 million in compensation as he walks out the door.

According to an SEC filing, Lilly required Smiley to forgo $1 million of his 2020 cash bonus, around $3 million of his due shareholder value awards the past three years, and all other current and future equity incentive awards as part of his severance deal— which in aggregate total more than $24 million in future payouts wiped away.

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