Dear Kite: With 2300% up­side, we blazed an amaz­ing trail

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With the $12 bil­lion Kite buy­out now signed, sealed and de­liv­ered, CEO Arie Bellde­grun has penned a thank-you note to every­one who helped along the way.

Here it is, in its en­tire­ty.


To My Kite Fam­i­ly –

Arie Bellde­grun

For all of us, the Kite ex­pe­ri­ence has been more than just an in­vest­ment op­por­tu­ni­ty or a step­ping stone in a pro­fes­sion­al ca­reer. Over the past eight years, Kite has be­come an in­te­gral part of our lives and a foun­da­tion from which hope be­came more than just an as­pi­ra­tion.

To our pa­tients: You put your faith in us and an ex­per­i­men­tal tech­nol­o­gy known as CAR T ther­a­py. That faith al­lowed a small proof-of-con­cept tri­al to po­ten­tial­ly pro­duce the first-and-on­ly ap­proved CAR T ther­a­py for mul­ti­ple forms of large B-cell lym­phoma. We now have the po­ten­tial to treat thou­sands of pa­tients in need and the means to ex­pand the tech­nol­o­gy to treat many oth­er tu­mors.

To clin­i­cians, our stead­fast part­ners: Your tire­less ef­forts in con­duct­ing clin­i­cal tri­als, with the sole pur­pose of giv­ing your pa­tients hope when no oth­er op­tions re­mained, is to be com­mend­ed. You should be proud. Your de­ter­mi­na­tion and ex­per­tise have paved the way for oth­ers to fol­low.

To our in­vestors: I am hon­ored and hum­bled by your con­tin­ued be­lief in us. Some of you joined me in the nascent stages of Kite, where you in­vest­ed in sim­ply my word, pas­sion and be­lief. While oth­er in­vestors came lat­er, all of you stood by our side, time and time again, even when oth­ers tried to in­fuse doubt. You have been wise ad­vi­sors and fierce sen­tinels.

To our Board of Di­rec­tors: Your sup­port and guid­ance is be­yond what any­one may read in an SEC fil­ing. You have been our guardians and teach­ers, each bring­ing your own set of ex­pe­ri­ences and in­sights for the bet­ter­ment of every­one in­volved in Kite. You have helped us build and pre­serve a bright fu­ture for cell ther­a­py.

To our UCLA friends and Sci­en­tif­ic Founders: Back in 2009, your un­pop­u­lar be­lief that cel­lu­lar im­munother­a­py not on­ly held great promise for the treat­ment of pa­tients but could al­so be brought to pa­tients with oth­er­wise in­cur­able can­cer was para­mount to the suc­cess of Kite. Your friend­ship, ex­per­tise and sup­port of the en­tire Kite fam­i­ly for the past eight years is the ul­ti­mate ex­am­ple of a suc­cess­ful aca­d­e­m­ic-in­dus­try part­ner­ship. I can­not thank you enough for all you have done for Kite.

To our em­ploy­ees: I can’t imag­ine work­ing along­side a braver, more pas­sion­ate or more com­mit­ted group of peo­ple, of­ten­times at the qui­et sac­ri­fice of your per­son­al lives. Your de­vo­tion has been with­out lim­it or ques­tion, even in the face of skep­tics.

In a span of just a few short years, we grew from few­er than 10 em­ploy­ees to al­most 700. The com­pa­ny’s val­ue in­creased 2300% from the time of our IPO to near­ly $12 bil­lion with the ac­qui­si­tion by Gilead Sci­ences. Our clos­ing $180 per share price rep­re­sents not just a 960% ap­pre­ci­a­tion from the IPO price of $17 per share, but the largest ever pre-com­mer­cial bio­phar­ma ac­qui­si­tion.

Kite has changed so many lives in just eight years. I know it has changed mine. I hope it has changed yours, too.

In this, my last of­fi­cial up­date as Pres­i­dent and CEO of Kite, I re­main filled with hope. Hope that Kite’s maid­en flight is mere­ly the first leg of a jour­ney, with an ul­ti­mate des­ti­na­tion more amaz­ing than any of us can to­day con­ceive. Hope that we, in­di­vid­u­al­ly, and col­lec­tive­ly, re­main fo­cused on the cure and con­tin­ue to work to­ward this no­ble pur­suit. And, hope that I get the chance to shake your hand and per­son­al­ly thank each of you for what you have done to make the Kite dream pos­si­ble.

Hope is on­ly the be­gin­ning, not the strat­e­gy.

Thank you all again for your years of sup­port. None of this would have been pos­si­ble with­out each of you.

Arie

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It’s been a volatile year in the world of biopharma. Market declines reset M&A valuations, and may be beginning to tempt bigger buyers back into dealmaking. Russia’s war in Ukraine disrupted drug sales and clinical trials. A new generation of young biotech leaders emerged in the Endpoints 20(+1) Under 40. And as capital runs dry in a tough environment for raising new funds, companies big and small are taking a look at their headcounts and operations for ways to make it through lean times.

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Tom Riga, Spectrum Pharmaceuticals CEO

Spec­trum im­plodes af­ter a harsh pub­lic slap­down and now a CRL from Richard Paz­dur

The FDA has gone out of its way several times to flatten any expectations for Spectrum’s lung cancer drug poziotinib, including slamming the regulatory door in the biotech’s face four years ago when the their executive crew came calling for a breakthrough drug designation and encouragement from the oncology wing of the FDA.

That stinging early rebuke pointed straight down the path to a corrosive in-house agency review of Spectrum’s attempt to land an accelerated approval for the oral EGFR TKI and a public whipping that included a classic takedown by none other than Richard Pazdur, who slammed the company for “poor drug development” that led to confusion over the dose needed for a slice of NSCLC patients harboring HER2 exon 20 insertion mutations.

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Big Phar­ma's Twit­ter ex­o­dus; Mer­ck wa­gers $1.35B on buy­out; $3.5M gene ther­a­py; and more

Welcome back to Endpoints Weekly, your review of the week’s top biopharma headlines. Want this in your inbox every Saturday morning? Current Endpoints readers can visit their reader profile to add Endpoints Weekly. New to Endpoints? Sign up here.

As you start planning for #JPM23, we hope you will consider joining Endpoints News for our live and virtual events. For those who are celebrating Thanksgiving, we hope you are enjoying the long weekend with loved ones. And if you’re not — we’ll see you next week!

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Albert Bourla, Pfizer CEO (John Thys/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Pfiz­er CEO un­der fire from UK watch­dog over vac­cine com­ments — re­port

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla told the BBC last December that he had “no doubt in my mind that the benefits, completely, are in favor” of vaccinating 5- to 11-year-olds for Covid-19. Almost a year later, those comments have reportedly landed him in trouble with a UK pharma watchdog.

Children’s advocacy group UsForThem filed a complaint with the UK’s Prescription Medicines Code of Practice Authority (PMCPA) last year accusing Bourla of making “disgracefully misleading” statements during the BBC interview, including one that “Covid in schools is thriving.” At the time, UK regulators had not yet cleared the vaccine for the 5 to 11 age group, though the vaccine did have a positive opinion from the EMA’s human medicines committee.

Sanofi's new headquarters, La Maison Sanofi, in Paris (Credit: Luc Boegly)

Sanofi wel­comes 500 staffers to new Paris HQ af­ter €30M ren­o­va­tion

When Paul Hudson took the helm at Sanofi back in 2019, he promised to reinvent the pharma giant — including its Paris headquarters. This week, the company set up shop in new “state-of-the-art” digs.

La Maison Sanofi, as the new HQ is called, is officially open for business, Hudson announced on Monday. The 9,000-square-meter (just under 97,000-square-foot) space accommodates 500 employees across the company’s government and global support functions teams, including finance, HR, legal and corporate affairs — and it was built with environmental sustainability and hybrid work in mind.

Sta­da to place $50M+ in­vest­ment in a new fa­cil­i­ty in Ro­ma­nia

While Romania may conjure up images of vast mountain ranges and tales of medieval kings, one generic manufacturer has broken ground on a new facility there.

German pharma company Stada said Monday that it has placed a €50 million ($51.9 million) investment into a 100,000 square-meter (1.08 million square-foot) site in Turda, Romania, a city in the Southeast of the country. According to a Stada spokesperson in an email to Endpoints News, the company has developed only 281,500 square feet of the site so far.

Rachael Rollins (Charles Krupa/AP Images)

US seeks jail time for co-CEO of New Eng­land com­pound­ing cen­ter af­ter dead­ly 2012 fun­gal out­break

The US attorney for the district of Massachusetts late last week called on the state’s district court to sentence the former co-owner of the now-defunct New England Compounding Center to 18 months of jail time for his role in the center’s quality deviations that led to more than 100 people dead from a fungal meningitis outbreak.

Gregory Conigliaro was convicted of conspiring with more than a dozen others at NECC to deceive the FDA and misrepresent the fact that the center was only dispensing drugs pursuant to patient-specific prescriptions.

FDA tells Catal­ent to fix is­sues at two man­u­fac­tur­ing sites on its own

The CDMO Catalent will have to fix issues at two manufacturing plants in the US and Europe that were subject to inspections by the FDA this summer, giving the company room to correct the issues without facing further regulatory action.

The FDA gave Catalent a “voluntary action indicated” response to two inspections at the contract manufacturer’s site in Bloomington, IN, and Brussels, Belgium. Fixing the issues on its own is a preferable outcome to facing an “official action indicated” response, meaning that an official warning would be sent out or a sit-down with the FDA would be required.

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Merck targets vaccine-hesitant parents in its latest 'Why Vaccines' campaign. (Image: Shutterstock)

Mer­ck­'s lat­est 'Why Vac­ci­nes' cam­paign seeks to bet­ter in­form vac­cine-hes­i­tant moms

From Hollywood couple endorsements to targeted equity efforts, Merck has been pushing the value of vaccinations, especially since the Covid-19 pandemic disruption. Now the pharma is turning to a new target — vaccine-hesitant parents, and moms in particular.

Merck’s “Why Vaccines” latest social media and digital campaign spotlights real-life new moms who have questions about vaccinating their children.

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