David Meek­er starts a new biotech chap­ter in his ca­reer; Sam Kulka­rni takes the helm at CRISPR

David Meek­er left Gen­zyme last April af­ter a 23-year run, in­clud­ing six years as pres­i­dent af­ter Sanofi stepped in to buy the land­mark biotech six years ago. Five months lat­er, af­ter adding a string of biotech board po­si­tions to his sched­ule, Meek­er has land­ed his next big gig in biotech run­ning KSQ Ther­a­peu­tics in Cam­bridge, MA. At KSQ, he says, you can start an ex­per­i­ment us­ing cut­ting edge tech­nol­o­gy and no bias about out­comes. With CRISPR,“we can study all 20,000 genes in the genome across a mul­ti­tude of dis­ease mod­els and find out which of those tar­gets has the biggest im­pact in mod­u­lat­ing the dis­ease. We can do it one shot, 20,000 genes at a time.”

Sam Kulka­rni

→ Af­ter steer­ing CRISPR Ther­a­peu­tics to an IPO last year as the last of the big three gene edit­ing com­pa­nies to make the leap in­to the pub­lic mar­kets, found­ing CEO Rodger No­vak is step­ping down and hand­ing the reins over to the orig­i­nal chief busi­ness de­vel­op­ment of­fi­cer, Samarth Kulka­rni. There’s no spe­cif­ic rea­son giv­en for No­vak’s de­par­ture, oth­er than the gener­ic “per­son­al rea­sons” of­ten cit­ed dur­ing these kinds of change­ups. No­vak is stay­ing on the board.

Shafique Vi­rani, a busi­ness de­vel­op­ment ex­ec at Roche/Genen­tech, has been named the new CEO of Navire Phar­ma. Part­ner­ing with MD An­der­son, the biotech will work on in­hibit­ing SHP2 in fight­ing can­cer tu­mors. “Navire’s com­pounds po­tent­ly bind SHP2 and pre­vent ac­ti­va­tion of the pro­tein, block­ing its abil­i­ty to pro­mote tu­mor growth,” said Vi­rani. Bridge­Bio is bankrolling the start­up to the tune of $30 mil­lion.

Loan Hoang-Sayag is ex­it­ing her post as CMO at Cel­lec­tis, ef­fec­tive im­me­di­ate­ly. Math­ieu Si­mon, the COO/EVP of the im­munother­a­py com­pa­ny, will be step­ping in as the in­ter­im.

An­ge­lo Moess­lang has joined In­Gen­eron as their new CEO. For­mer­ly, Moess­lang was the CFO at Fre­se­nius Med­ical Care North Amer­i­ca, where he worked his way up start­ing in 1995.

Halozyme Ther­a­peu­tics‘ chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer Mark Ger­gen is leav­ing to “pur­sue pro­fes­sion­al op­por­tu­ni­ties out­side the Com­pa­ny.”

Sumi­ta Ray is the new gen­er­al coun­sel of Calithera Bio­sciences.

→ Ad­verum Biotech­nolo­gies has added Lin­da Neu­man as VP of clin­i­cal de­vel­op­ment. She hails from Sune­sis Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals.

→  Ste­fan Oel­rich worked his way up and is now the ex­ec­u­tive vice pres­i­dent of Sanofi’s di­a­betes & car­dio­vas­cu­lar unit.

Ganesh Kaun­dinya has been pro­mot­ed to the COO/CSO gig at Mo­men­ta. He is one of the co-founders of the Cam­bridge, MA-based com­pa­ny.

Im­muno­core has ap­point­ed An­drew Hotchkiss as their new chief com­mer­cial of­fi­cer. Pre­vi­ous­ly, he worked at Eli Lil­ly, be­gin­ning in ’96.

→  Mar­go Heath-Chiozzi is now SVP of reg­u­la­to­ry af­fairs at Celldex Ther­a­peu­tics.

→  Amit Shah is the CFO at Ma­ri­na Biotech.

Con­tra­Fect’s new COO is Lisa Ric­cia­r­di.

2023 Spot­light on the Fu­ture of Drug De­vel­op­ment for Small and Mid-Sized Biotechs

In the context of today’s global economic environment, there is an increasing need to work smarter, faster and leaner across all facets of the life sciences industry.  This is particularly true for small and mid-sized biotech companies, many of which are facing declining valuations and competing for increasingly limited funding to propel their science forward.  It is important to recognize that within this framework, many of these smaller companies already find themselves resource-challenged to design and manage clinical studies themselves because they don’t have large teams or in-house experts in navigating the various aspects of the drug development journey. This can be particularly challenging for the most complex and difficult to treat diseases where no previous pathway exists and patients are urgently awaiting breakthroughs.

Dipal Doshi, Entrada Therapeutics CEO

Ver­tex just found the next big ‘trans­for­ma­tive’ thing for the pipeline — at a biotech just down the street

Back in the summer of 2019, when I was covering Vertex’s executive chairman Jeff Leiden’s plans for the pipeline, I picked up on a distinct focus on myotonic dystrophy Type I, or DM1 — one of what Leiden called “two diseases (with DMD) we’re interested in and we continue to look for those assets.”

Today, Leiden’s successor at the helm of Vertex, CEO Reshma Kewalramani, is plunking down $250 million in cash to go the extra mile on DM1. The lion’s share of that is for the upfront, with a small reserve for equity in a deal that lines Vertex up with a neighbor in Seaport that has been rather quietly going at both of Vertex’s early disease targets with preclinical assets.

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WIB22: Am­ber Salz­man had few op­tions when her son was di­ag­nosed with a rare ge­net­ic dis­ease. So she cre­at­ed a bet­ter one

This profile is part of Endpoints News’ 2022 special report about Women in Biopharma R&D. You can read the full report here.

Amber Salzman’s life changed on a cold, damp day in Paris over tiny plastic cups of lukewarm tea.

She was meeting with Patrick Aubourg, a French neurologist studying adrenoleukodystrophy, or ALD, a rare genetic condition that causes rapid neurological decline in young boys. It’s a sinister disease that often leads to disability or death within just a few years. Salzman’s nephew was diagnosed at just 6 or 7 years old, and died at the age of 12.

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Ahead of ad­comm, FDA rais­es un­cer­tain­ties on ben­e­fit-risk pro­file of Cy­to­ki­net­ic­s' po­ten­tial heart drug

The FDA’s Cardiovascular and Renal Drugs Advisory Committee will meet next Tuesday to discuss whether Cytokinetics’ potential heart drug can safely reduce the risk of cardiovascular death and heart failure in patients with symptomatic chronic heart failure with reduced ejection fraction.

The drug, known as omecamtiv mecarbil and in development for more than 15 years, has seen mixed results, with a first Phase III readout from November 2020 hitting the primary endpoint of reducing the odds of hospitalization or other urgent care for heart failure by 8%. But it also missed a key secondary endpoint analysts had pegged as key to breaking into the market.

Ab­b­Vie slapped with age dis­crim­i­na­tion law­suit, fol­low­ing oth­er phar­mas

Add AbbVie to the list of pharma companies currently facing age discrimination allegations.

Pennsylvania resident Thomas Hesch filed suit against AbbVie on Wednesday, accusing the company of passing him over for promotions in favor of younger candidates.

Despite 30 years of pharma experience, “Hesch has consistently seen younger, less qualified employees promoted over him,” the complaint states.

Rami Elghandour, Arcellx CEO

Up­dat­ed: Gilead, Ar­cel­lx team up on an­ti-BC­MA CAR-T as biotech touts a 100% re­sponse rate at #ASH22

Gilead and Kite are plunking down big cash to get into the anti-BCMA CAR-T game.

The pair will shell out $225 million in cash upfront and $100 million in equity to Arcellx, Kite announced Friday morning, to develop the biotech’s lead CAR-T program together. Kite will handle commercialization and co-development with Arcellx, and profits in the US will be split 50-50.

Concurrent with the deal, Arcellx revealed its latest cut of data for the program known as CART-ddBCMA, ahead of a full presentation at this weekend’s ASH conference — a 100% response rate among patients getting the therapy. Investors jumped at the dual announcements, sending Arcellx shares $ACLX up more than 25% in Friday’s morning session.

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WIB22: Lead­ing NK cell re­searcher re­flects on roots in Iran, the UK and Texas

This profile is part of Endpoints News’ 2022 special report about Women in Biopharma R&D. You can read the full report here.

In a small but widely-cited 11-person study published in NEJM in 2020, seven patients saw signs of their cancer completely go away after getting a new therapy made from natural killer cells. The study was one of the earliest to provide clinical proof that the experimental treatment method had promise.

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WIB22: Chas­ing af­ter ever-evolv­ing sci­ence takes a drug hunter across the pond

This profile is part of Endpoints News’ 2022 special report about Women in Biopharma R&D. You can read the full report here.

Like many scientists, Fiona Marshall would tell you that she loved the natural world growing up — going to look at crabs running around the beach near her childhood home, pondering about the tides. But one thing about biology, in particular, stood out: It was constantly changing, and changing very quickly.

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Bio­gen vet jumps to CSO at Third Rock Treg biotech; Karuna CEO is step­ping down, but this is­n't good­bye

Just a few days into her new job, Ellen Cahir-McFarland’s office is being emptied.

Cahir-McFarland, formerly head of research at Annexon, is the new chief scientific officer of Abata Therapeutics, a preclinical biotech that’s developing regulatory T cell, or Treg, therapies for multiple sclerosis. On Monday, Abata will be moving from its current shared space to its new office in Watertown, MA — hence the emptying, Cahir-McFarland tells Endpoints News from a now bare, white-walled office room.

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