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

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

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.

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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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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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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