De­spite progress, women are 'se­vere­ly un­der­rep­re­sent­ed' in biotech — re­port

Of the 200 mi­cro- and small-cap biotech CEOs in­clud­ed in the Bed­ford Group and Transearch’s lat­est study, on­ly 17, or 8.5%, self-iden­ti­fied as women.

Dar­ren Ray­croft

While that marks a near­ly 3% im­prove­ment from 2020, Bed­ford Group part­ner and man­ag­ing di­rec­tor Dar­ren Ray­croft re­mains “cau­tious­ly op­ti­mistic.” Of 745 to­tal ex­ecs, 18% were fe­male, up from less than 10% in 2020. And on boards, women saw an 11% jump in rep­re­sen­ta­tion, while mi­nor­i­ty groups saw a 2% in­crease.

“This is a bit of a call to ac­tion as it was last year for com­pa­nies to see things are head­ed in the right di­rec­tion, but they can change very quick­ly,” Ray­croft told End­points News, a day be­fore re­leas­ing the an­nu­al re­port. “We saw a slight in­crease year over year of vis­i­ble mi­nori­ties on boards, but some­what de min­imis.”

This is the sec­ond year the firm has re­leased a re­port based on about 200 pub­lic biotech com­pa­nies with mar­ket caps un­der $2 bil­lion. While the re­searchers have com­piled ex­ec­u­tive com­pen­sa­tion re­ports in oth­er ver­ti­cals for over a decade, they de­cid­ed to dip in­to the biotech space last year, in­spired in part by a new rule ap­proved last sum­mer that re­quires pub­lic com­pa­nies to dis­close di­ver­si­ty sta­tis­tics for their board of di­rec­tors.

“I think dis­clo­sure and trans­paren­cy around what’s hap­pen­ing is a start­ing point,” Ray­croft said. “Every­body can talk a great game on di­ver­si­ty, but who’s ac­tu­al­ly do­ing it? And what does it mean in the con­text of the in­dus­try?”

Of the 201 com­pa­nies in­clud­ed in this year’s re­port, the firm not­ed that many had spe­cif­ic tar­gets when it comes to DE&I. Drug­mak­ers across the in­dus­try have made sim­i­lar com­mit­ments, in­clud­ing No­vo Nordisk, which de­buted its first di­ver­si­ty and in­clu­sion re­port in North Amer­i­ca last month, and com­pa­nies like Pfiz­er, which re­cent­ly inked a di­ver­si­ty-fo­cused clin­i­cal tri­als part­ner­ship.

How­ev­er, “women are still se­vere­ly un­der-rep­re­sent­ed in the Biotech­nol­o­gy in­dus­try,” the Bed­ford re­port states. Of 1,264 board mem­bers stud­ied, on­ly 25% were fe­male, and just 16% of board mem­bers were not white.

Mean­while, CEO com­pen­sa­tions ranged from a me­di­an of $1.082 mil­lion for com­pa­nies with un­der $100 mil­lion in mar­ket cap to $5.64 mil­lion for com­pa­nies with $1 bil­lion to $2 bil­lion in mar­ket cap.

“I think it’s one board place­ment at a time,” Ray­croft said on im­prov­ing di­ver­si­ty num­bers.

Last year, he not­ed a “self-per­pet­u­at­ing” cy­cle of peo­ple at the board lev­el hir­ing friends of oth­er board mem­bers or friends of founders. “If they’re not just look­ing to their own net­works, they’re ask­ing board mem­bers, ‘Hey, who do you know?’ I think that’s how a small change be­comes a big change,” he added Tues­day.

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Justin Klee (L) and Joshua Cohen, Amylyx co-CEOs (Cody O'Loughlin/The New York Times; courtesy Amylyx)

Ad­vo­cates, ex­perts cry foul over Amy­lyx's new ALS drug, cit­ing is­sues with price, PhI­II com­mit­ment

Not 24 hours after earning the first ALS drug approval in five years, Amylyx Pharmaceuticals’ Relyvrio is already drawing scrutiny. And it’s coming from multiple fronts.

In an investor call Friday morning, Amylyx revealed that it would charge about $158,000 per year, a price point that immediately drew backlash from ALS advocates and some outside observers. The cost reveal had been highly anticipated in the immediate hours after Thursday evening’s approval, though Amylyx only teased Relyvrio would cost less than previously approved drugs.

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Land­mark Amy­lyx OK spurs de­bate; Some... pos­i­tive? Alzheimer's da­ta; Can­cer tri­al bot­tle­neck; Sanofi's CRISPR bet; 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.

After brief stops in Paris and Boston, John Carroll and the Endpoints crew are staying on the road in October with their return for a live/streaming EUBIO22 in London. The hybrid event fireside chats and panels on mRNA, oncology and the crazy public market. We hope you can join him there.

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Joshua Cohen (L) and Justin Klee, Amylyx co-CEOs

Up­dat­ed: Af­ter long and wind­ing road, FDA ap­proves Amy­lyx's ALS drug in vic­to­ry for pa­tients and ad­vo­ca­cy groups

For just the third time in its 116-year history, the FDA has approved a new treatment for Lou Gehrig’s disease, or ALS.

US regulators gave the thumbs-up to the drug, known as Relyvrio, in a massive win for patients and their families. The approval, given to Boston-area biotech Amylyx Pharmaceuticals, comes after two years of long and contentious debates over the drug’s effectiveness between advocacy groups and FDA scientists, following the readout of a mid-stage clinical trial in September 2020.

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#AAO22: J&J’s first look at com­mon eye dis­ease port­fo­lio pads the case for PhII of gene ther­a­py

CHICAGO — While the later-stage drug developers in the geographic atrophy field are near the finish line, Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen is taking a more deliberate route, with a treatment that it hopes to be a one-time fix.

The Big Pharma will take its Hemera Biosciences-acquired gene therapy into a Phase II study later this year in patients with GA, a common form of age-related macular degeneration that impacts about five million people worldwide. To get there, Janssen touted early-stage safety data at the American Academy of Ophthalmology annual conference Saturday morning, half a day after competitors Apellis and Iveric Bio revealed their own more-detailed Phase III analyses.

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Some­one old, some­one new: Mod­er­na pro­motes CTO, raids No­var­tis for re­place­ment amid pipeline push

Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel made clear on the last quarterly call that “now is not the time to slow down.” On Thursday, he made a bit more room in the cockpit.

The company unveiled a new executive role on Thursday, promoting former chief technical operations and quality officer Juan Andres to president of strategic partnerships and enterprise expansion, and poaching a former Novartis exec to take his place.

#AAO22 conference in Chicago (Photo credit: Associate editor Kyle LaHucik)

#AAO22: In bid for first FDA nod in ge­o­graph­ic at­ro­phy, Apel­lis claims an­oth­er first in eye dis­ease field

CHICAGO — Eight weeks before patients and industry find out if the FDA approves the first treatment for geographic atrophy, an advanced form of age-related macular degeneration, the biotech behind the drug is out with some new data on a secondary endpoint.

In what study investigator Charles Wykoff called the “first direct evidence of function preservation by slowing GA growth” in an investigational treatment, Apellis Pharmaceuticals’ drug pegcetacoplan led to less loss of retinal sensitivity versus sham  within 250 microns on either side of the GA lesion over 24 months.

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BioCryst's new website for its HAE unbranded campaign encourages patients to take charge of treatment decisions.

BioCryst launch­es aware­ness cam­paign around man­age­ment of rare vas­cu­lar dis­ease

While hereditary angioedema (HAE) is rare, treatment options for the condition have become much more common. So BioCryst Pharmaceuticals is taking a new angle in its recently launched HAE awareness campaign encouraging patients to take control of their disease management.

“Hereditary angioedema (HAE) isn’t the author of your story — you are … #cHAEngetheplan. Not the goal,” the US campaign website advises.

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EMA makes new rec­om­men­da­tions for Im­bru­vi­ca, med­i­cines with ter­li­pressin over res­pi­ra­to­ry and car­dio­vas­cu­lar risks

The EMA is handing out a new recommendation surrounding J&J and AbbVie’s cancer drug Imbruvica and some medicines containing terlipressin.

On Friday, the EMA’s safety committee (PRAC) stated that it has taken new measures to reduce the risk of respiratory failure and sepsis when medicines containing terlipressin that are used to treat people with hepatorenal syndrome (HRS-1), particularly for patients with advanced acute-on-chronic liver disease or advanced kidney failure.