Olivier Brandicourt (Romuald Meigneux, Sipa via AP Images)

UP­DAT­ED Dew­point nabs ex-Sanofi CEO Brandi­court and Bay­er VC chief Eck­hardt for board

Bay­er-part­nered Dew­point Ther­a­peu­tics is adding a pair of big-name phar­ma vets as it looks to make drugs tar­get­ing bio­mol­e­c­u­lar con­den­sates a re­al­i­ty.

Jür­gen Eck­hardt

The Boston biotech will add for­mer Sanofi CEO Olivi­er Brandi­court and the head of Bay­er’s ven­ture arm, Jür­gen Eck­hardt, to its board. Though both MDs, the pair has held long ca­reers on the busi­ness side of the in­dus­try, which is where their in­sight will be need­ed most, said Dew­point CEO Amir Nashat.

“The biggest is­sue for biotechs is, you know, your busi­ness,” Nashat told End­points News.

And, giv­en the long run­times in biotech, you need that ex­pe­ri­ence ear­ly. “It’s re­al­ly a game of try­ing to pre­dict what are the things that can hap­pen in this tri­al and that pro­gram and be pre­pared and hedge, be­cause every­thing’s so slow in biotech,” he said. “If you want to re­do an ex­per­i­ment, a Phase II, it’s go­ing to take 2 years and $50 mil­lion.”

Nashat al­so not­ed that a large part of Dew­point’s work in­volves part­ner­ing with phar­ma com­pa­nies. That was on dis­play in No­vem­ber, when they signed a $100 mil­lion deal with Bay­er to com­bine the biotech’s knowl­edge of the un­der­ly­ing bi­ol­o­gy with the Ger­man phar­ma’s small mol­e­cule li­brary to find drugs for car­dio­vas­cu­lar and gy­ne­co­log­i­cal in­di­ca­tions. “So hav­ing two peo­ple with a lot of ex­pe­ri­ence in that part of the busi­ness will be great,” he said.

Amir Nashat

Launched a lit­tle over a year ago by Po­laris, where Nashat is a part­ner, the com­pa­ny is built around the re­vived bi­ol­o­gy of bio­mol­e­c­u­lar con­den­sates — mem­brane­less, liq­uid-like droplets of RNA and pro­tein that can speed or slow down re­ac­tions. Al­though sci­en­tists have known about them for over a cen­tu­ry, on­ly re­cent­ly have re­searchers un­cov­ered their links to dis­eases, such as ALS.

Eck­hardt has led Leaps since 2016, af­ter serv­ing at a dif­fer­ent ven­ture firm, and is on the board of Blue­Rock, Joyn Bio, Khlo­ris, Oerth Bio, Im­mu­ni­tas and eGe­n­e­sis. He joins the board by virtue of Bay­er’s in­vest­ment in the com­pa­ny’s Se­ries A, not Bay­er’s drug dis­cov­ery part­ner­ship, Nashat said.

The ven­ture cap­i­tal­ist praised the com­pa­ny’s po­ten­tial but not­ed it was still ear­ly.

“This is open­ing up a whole new field of po­ten­tial tar­gets,” he told End­points. “But it will take time, the com­pa­ny start­ed re­al­ly on­ly last year.”

Brandi­court re­placed Chris Viehbach­er as Sanofi CEO in 2015 and tried to shake up its long-strug­gling R&D arm, but was ul­ti­mate­ly re­placed last year with Paul Hud­son, who, along­side the board, ex­e­cut­ed his own strate­gic shift. Orig­i­nal­ly trained as an in­fec­tious and trop­i­cal dis­ease spe­cial­ist, he joined Pfiz­er’s med­ical af­fairs team in 2000 and ran Bay­er from 2013 to 2015. In Feb­ru­ary, he joined Al­ny­lam’s board.

Dew­point put lab work on hold at the start of the pan­dem­ic, but is re­cent­ly back in full swing, both in Boston and at their fa­cil­i­ties in Berlin and Dres­den, where the coro­n­avirus has been brought un­der con­trol to a far greater de­gree. The biotech isn’t look­ing to have a drug in the clin­ic in the next year, but Nashat wouldn’t com­ment fur­ther. Be­yond a year, “a biotech is kind of guess­ing,” he said.

Still, Eck­hardt and Brandi­court’s ex­pe­ri­ence may be im­por­tant for a com­pa­ny that hopes to both spin­out and have com­mer­cial am­bi­tions. The pair will al­so be part of the board that re­cruits Nashat’s re­place­ment. In keep­ing with Po­laris’ phi­los­o­phy, the biotech will find a new CEO once it’s in a po­si­tion to at­tract a top tal­ent and Nashat will re­turn to Po­laris full-time.

“We want to be in­ten­tion­al about find­ing some­one who can map the fu­ture of the com­pa­ny, all the way through,” he said. “Un­til we find some­one who can do that, I’m able to per­form.”

Ugur Sahin, BioNTech CEO (Bernd von Jutrczenka/dpa via AP Images)

BioN­Tech is spear­head­ing an mR­NA vac­cine de­vel­op­ment pro­gram for malar­ia, with a tech trans­fer planned for Africa

Flush with the success of its mRNA Covid-19 vaccine, BioNTech is now gearing up for one of the biggest challenges in vaccine development — which comes without potential profit.

The German mRNA pioneer says it plans to work on a jab for malaria, then transfer the tech to the African continent, where it will work with partners on developing the manufacturing ops needed to make this and other vaccines.

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How one start­up fore­told the neu­ro­science re­nais­sance af­ter '50 years of shit­show'

In the past couple of years, something curious has happened: Pharma and VC dollars started gushing into neuroscience research.

Biogen’s controversial new Alzheimer’s drug Aduhelm has been approved on the basis of removing amyloid plaque from the brain, but the new neuro-focused pharma and biotechs have much loftier aims. Significantly curbing or even curing the most notorious disorders would prove the Holy Grail for a complex system that has tied the world’s best drug developers in knots for decades.

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Why is On­col­o­gy Drug De­vel­op­ment Re­search Late to the Dig­i­tal Bio­mark­ers Game?

During the recent Annual ASCO Meeting, thousands of cancer researchers and clinicians from across the globe joined together virtually to present and discuss the latest findings and breakthroughs in cancer research and care. There were more than 5000+ scientific abstracts presented during this event, yet only a handful involved the use of motion-tracking wearables to collect digital measures relating to activity, sleep, mobility, functional status, and/or quality of life. Although these results were a bit disappointing, they should come as no surprise to those of us in the wearable technology field.

Bob Bradway, Amgen CEO (Scott Eisen/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Am­gen bel­lies back up to the M&A ta­ble for an­oth­er biotech buy­out, this time with a $2.5B deal for an an­ti­body play­er fo­cused on PS­MA

Five months after Amgen CEO Bob Bradway stepped up to the M&A table and acquired Five Prime for $1.9 billion, following up with the smaller Rodeo acquisition, he’s gone back in for another biotech buyout.

This time around, Amgen is paying $900 million cash while committing up to $1.6 billion in milestones to bag the privately held Teneobio, an antibody drug developer that has expertise in developing new bispecifics and multispecifics. In addition, Amgen cited Teneobio’s “T-cell engager platform, which expands on Amgen’s existing leadership position in bispecific T-cell engagers by providing a differentiated, but complementary, approach to Amgen’s current BiTE platform.”

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Luciana Borio (Susan Walsh/AP Images)

UP­DAT­ED: Bob Nelsen's ARCH adds FDA, biode­fense ex­per­tise with ap­point­ment of Lu­ciana Bo­rio

Once vetted by the Biden team to lead the FDA as commissioner, Luciana Borio is now compiling quite the résumé.

Borio has now been named a venture partner at Bob Nelsen’s ARCH Venture Partners, and Nelsen told Endpoints News, “She will be involved in projects across the portfolio, including ongoing projects in manufacturing, clinical trials, gene therapy and gene editing, cell therapy, and delivery. We are exploring multiple projects in infectious disease, and next generation manufacturing.”

Art Levinson (Calico)

Google-backed Cal­i­co dou­bles down on an­ti-ag­ing R&D pact with Ab­b­Vie as part­ners ante up $1B, start to de­tail drug tar­gets

Seven years after striking up a major R&D alliance, AbbVie and Google-backed anti-aging specialist Calico are doubling down on their work with a joint, $1 billion commitment to continuing their work together. And they’re also beginning to offer some details on where this project is taking them in the clinic.

According to their statement, each of the two players is putting up $500 million more to keep the labs humming.

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Busi­ness­es and schools can man­date the use of Covid-19 vac­cines un­der EUAs, DOJ says

As public and private companies stare down the reality of the Delta variant, many are now requiring that their employees or students be vaccinated against Covid-19 prior to attending school or to returning or starting a new job. Claims that such mandates are illegal or cannot be used for vaccines under emergency use authorizations have now been dismissed.

Setting the record straight, the Department of Justice on Monday called the mandates legal in a new memo, even when used for people with vaccines that remain subject to EUAs.

No­var­tis reshuf­fles its wild cards; Tough sell for Bio­gen? Googling pro­teins; Ken Fra­zier's new gig; 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.

If you enjoy the People section in this report, you may also want to check out Peer Review, my colleagues Alex Hoffman and Kathy Wong’s comprehensive compilation of comings and goings in biopharma.

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Frank Pallone (Kevin Dietsch/Pool via AP Images)

House com­mit­tee seeks more from FDA on in­spec­tion back­log, when to restart work on for­eign sites

House Energy & Commerce committee leaders are raising fresh questions about the FDA’s ability to conduct foreign manufacturing site inspections and bring down its growing backlog.

“While we understand that the emergence of COVID-19 required the agency to suspend in-person inspection activities temporarily, we remain concerned that more than one year into the pandemic, the strategy for resuming all inspections and addressing the backlog of delayed inspections remains unclear,” E&C chair Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and a group of five other bipartisan leaders of the committee wrote to FDA acting commissioner Janet Woodcock.