Di­rec­tor of di­ver­si­ty and in­clu­sion ar­rives at Mass­Bio; Jerome Jab­bour takes the helm at Mati­nas; Ex-Eli Lil­ly CFO be­comes pres­i­dent of PBM busi­ness

Edie Stringfel­low

→ In a first, the Mass­a­chu­setts Biotech­nol­o­gy Coun­cil has brought on Edie Stringfel­low as its di­rec­tor of di­ver­si­ty and in­clu­sion, bol­ster­ing its ini­tia­tive to im­prove in­clu­sion and di­ver­si­ty in the life sci­ences in­dus­try. Her main man­date is to “serve as a re­source and li­aise” with the com­mu­ni­ty, help­ing mem­bers change mind­sets through ed­u­ca­tion, out­reach and ad­vo­ca­cy. Com­ing from the Cam­bridge biotech hub, the move was wide­ly ap­plaud­ed. “Mass­Bio is al­ways at the fore­front of change, and Edie is not afraid to have tough con­ver­sa­tions and to ed­u­cate our mem­bers and the in­dus­try at large that di­ver­si­ty and in­clu­sion is not just the right thing to do, but is a good busi­ness de­ci­sion,” said Mass­Bio CEO Robert Cough­lin in a state­ment.

→ Hav­ing steered Mati­nas Bio­Phar­ma $MTNB through a meet­ing with the FDA to sal­vage its an­ti-fun­gal, Roelof Ron­gen has de­cid­ed it’s time his co-founder Jerome Jab­bour take over as CEO. Like Ron­gen, Jab­bour has a back­ground in phar­ma busi­ness de­vel­op­ment. He or­ches­trat­ed the mi­cro-cap’s ac­qui­si­tion of Aquar­ius Biotech­nolo­gies, bring­ing in the cochleate lipid-crys­tal de­liv­ery tech plat­form that MAT2203 — the drug Mati­nas is hus­tling to a Phase II — is de­vel­oped on. Hav­ing served as pres­i­dent since 2016, Jab­bour said he has “a very clear vi­sion” for the both the lead drug and oth­er po­ten­tial new ther­a­pies to come out of part­ner­ships. Ron­gen is al­so step­ping down from the board.

Søren Tul­strup

→ Af­ter sev­er­al months of search­ing, Swe­den’s Hansa Med­ical has found its per­fect leader in Søren Tul­strup, who takes over from board chair­man Ulf Wi­in­berg. Wi­in­berg, a for­mer chief of Lund­beck, has been in­ter­im CEO since the sud­den death of Göran Arvid­son in No­vem­ber. Tul­strup is no stranger to the top job, hav­ing served as CEO of Vi­for Phar­ma and San­taris Phar­ma be­fore fo­cus­ing on ad­vi­so­ry roles. The board al­so liked that he’s trot­ted the globe man­ag­ing rare dis­ease and kid­ney dis­ease prod­ucts for the likes of No­var­tis, Mer­ck and Shire. Hansa is cur­rent­ly test­ing its own im­munoglob­u­lin-in­hibit­ing en­zyme for kid­ney trans­plant re­jec­tion — with Phase II da­ta pub­lished this week — among a slate of oth­er in­di­ca­tions.

Leila Al­land is join­ing Af­fimed’s $AFMD quest for nat­ur­al killer and T cell en­gager pro­grams as its CMO af­ter a stint at Tarve­da Ther­a­peu­tics. Hei­del­berg, Ger­many-based Af­fimed has a pipeline of bis­pe­cif­ic an­ti­bod­ies hit­ting dif­fer­ent can­cer tar­gets, but Al­land’s first fo­cus will like­ly be AFM13, a CD30 drug in Phase I and II tri­als — as a monother­a­py and in com­bos — for Hodgkin lym­phoma. Al­land has been in­volved in ear­ly-stage de­vel­op­ment for pret­ty much her en­tire bio­phar­ma ca­reer, hav­ing served in clin­i­cal roles at As­traZeneca, Bris­tol-My­ers Squibb and No­var­tis.

→ In a nod to Michael Skyn­ner’s busi­ness de­vel­op­ment con­tri­bu­tions, Bi­cy­cle Ther­a­peu­tics has pro­mot­ed the VP of op­er­a­tions and dis­cov­ery to COO. The biotech, head­quar­tered in Cam­bridge, UK with of­fices in Boston, MA, re­cent­ly ini­ti­at­ed the first ever clin­i­cal study of one of its unique drug con­ju­gates since it was found­ed in 2009. That tri­al, con­duct­ed in col­lab­o­ra­tion with Can­cer UK, is among the strate­gic al­liances that Skyn­ner guid­ed. Be­fore join­ing Bi­cy­cle in 2016, Skyn­ner — who co-found­ed a biotech ear­li­er in his ca­reer — led re­search and dis­cov­ery ef­forts at Pfiz­er and Glax­o­SmithK­line.

Jen­nifer Schranz

→ With Phase III da­ta and reg­u­la­to­ry fil­ing in sight for lefa­mulin, Nabri­va Ther­a­peu­tics $NBRV has tapped for­mer Shire ex­ec Jen­nifer Schranz to run the next stretch of its clin­i­cal de­vel­op­ment. As CMO, Schranz will con­tribute to the an­ti-in­fec­tive com­pa­ny’s busi­ness strate­gies in ad­di­tion to over­see­ing med­ical af­fairs. Top-line oral da­ta of lefa­mulin for com­mu­ni­ty-ac­quired bac­te­r­i­al pneu­mo­nia is ex­pect­ed any time now; if this sec­ond PhI­II looks any­thing like the first, Schranz’s ex­pe­ri­ence in the reg­u­la­to­ry sub­mis­sion and ap­proval process will come in­to use. In her own words: “This is a time of sig­nif­i­cant op­por­tu­ni­ty and a po­ten­tial in­flec­tion point for Nabri­va and I look for­ward to part­ner­ing with its ex­pe­ri­enced man­age­ment team to ad­vance the first tru­ly new class of an­ti-in­fec­tives for in­tra­venous and oral use in hu­mans in near­ly 20 years.”

Avadel’s CCO $AVDL Gre­go­ry Di­vis has a new role. The Dublin-based spe­cial­ty phar­ma bumped Di­vis up to EVP and COO of the com­pa­ny, which mar­kets sev­er­al drugs tar­get­ed at hos­pi­tal set­tings. A for­mer CEO of women’s health com­pa­ny Lumara Health who over­saw its sale to AM­AG Phar­ma, Di­vis has been ac­tive in Avadel’s sup­ply chain, busi­ness de­vel­op­ment and com­mer­cial ac­tiv­i­ties. All of that will con­tin­ue as he helps launch Noc­ti­va, a noc­turia drug Avadel li­censed from Seren­i­ty Phar­ma af­ter Al­ler­gan dropped its com­mer­cial­iza­tion rights.

Si­en­na Bio­phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals $SNNA has re­cruit­ed Car­o­line Van Hove as its first chief com­mer­cial of­fi­cer. Her re­cent role in in­ter­na­tion­al strat­e­gy mar­ket­ing at Botox-mak­er Al­ler­gan like­ly pre­pared her for the port­fo­lio of med­ical der­ma­tol­ogy and aes­thet­ics prod­ucts that she’s now in charge of. Join­ing her in the C-suite will be John Smither, a one-time Si­en­na CFO that has been re-hired to re­place Richard Pe­ter­son. An Am­gen vet, Smither has been work­ing as a con­sul­tant since leav­ing the West­lake Vil­lage, CA biotech last year.

→ Just a few months af­ter re­tir­ing from Eli Lil­ly, De­r­i­ca Rice has signed on to run CVS Health’s phar­ma­cy ben­e­fit man­ag­er (PBM) busi­ness, Care­mark — the sec­ond not­ed phar­ma ex­ec to move in­to the PBM world in two weeks. (Ex-GSK chief An­drew Wit­ty made waves last week jump­ing to Unit­ed­Health‘s Op­tum di­vi­sion.) Rice’s 27-year tenure at the In­di­anapo­lis drug­mak­er cul­mi­nat­ed in a decade as CFO and fea­tured a few months as in­ter­im CEO. Now on the oth­er end of the ne­go­ti­at­ing ta­ble, he is tasked with strat­e­gy, new busi­ness de­vel­op­ment and client re­la­tion­ship man­age­ment on top of day-to-day over­sight. He suc­ceeds Jonathan Roberts, who was pro­mot­ed from Care­mark’s pres­i­dent to CVS Health’s COO.

Ori­ge­nis, a Ger­man biotech fo­cused on the cen­tral ner­vous sys­tem, has hired Pe­ter Seufer-Wasserthal to scout part­ner­ships for a range of ap­pli­ca­tions of its tech plat­form. While its own clin­i­cal pro­grams tack­le neu­rode­gen­er­a­tion, the com­pa­ny is con­fi­dent that its ca­pac­i­ty for dis­cov­er­ing and de­sign­ing brain-pen­e­trat­ing small mol­e­cule drugs can lead to promis­ing non-CNS and oph­thal­mo­log­i­cal as­sets. That will all fall un­der the purview of the new chief busi­ness of­fi­cer, who had plen­ty of prac­tice find­ing deals for a di­verse pipeline at In­trex­on. His ap­point­ment comes as Ori­ge­nis looks to build a Se­ries A syn­di­cate to back an IND.

→ Dou­bling down on ge­nomics, J. Craig Ven­ter has wooed a long­time ex­ec from fam­i­ly his­to­ry provider An­ces­try to be­come chief tech­nol­o­gy of­fi­cer of his an­ti-ag­ing start­up Hu­man Longevi­ty. Scott Sorensen spent 16 years at An­ces­try, help­ing trans­form the com­pa­ny from a fam­i­ly his­to­ry busi­ness in­to a ge­nomics busi­ness. Ven­ter likes the tech­nol­o­gy ar­chi­tec­ture he built there, and is trust­ing him to work the same mag­ic for HLI’s cus­tomer in­ter­faces and data­base.

Sor­ren­to Ther­a­peu­tics $SRNE has ap­point­ed in­vest­ment banker Jiong Shao as CFO, putting weight be­hind its ex­pressed in­tent to seek dual list­ing in Nas­daq and the Hong Kong ex­change this year. Hav­ing spent time in big-name banks in New York and Hong Kong, Jiong’s for­mer client list boasts of Chi­nese tech gi­ants like Al­iba­ba and Baidu. 2018 has been an event­ful year for Sor­ren­to, which just nabbed an FDA ap­proval for non-opi­oid pain patch ZTli­do, with es­ti­mat­ed peak sales of over $1 bil­lion. With a new ex­ec who be­lieves that its shares are “cur­rent­ly sub­stan­tial­ly un­der-val­ued,” it sounds like the San Diego com­pa­ny is just be­gin­ning.

Shire’s gen­er­al man­ag­er in Chi­na, Free­man Cong, is leav­ing the op­er­a­tion to spend more time with fam­i­ly in the US. For­mer­ly the gen­er­al man­ag­er of Bax­al­ta’s Chi­na di­vi­sion, Cong as­sumed the Shire post af­ter the rare dis­ease gi­ant ac­quired the he­mo­phil­ia com­pa­ny. Sipu Fang — Shire’s point per­son in Asia — will take over his du­ties ad in­ter­im.

→ Per­son­al­ized can­cer im­munother­a­py play­er Grit­stone On­col­o­gy has poached Sarep­ta’s VP of tech­ni­cal op­er­a­tions, Jayant Aphale, to run its man­u­fac­tur­ing plant in Pleasan­ton, CA. Process de­vel­op­ment and clin­i­cal ma­te­r­i­al man­u­fac­tur­ing is a key part of per­son­al­ized neoanti­gen R&D, and Aphale, a sea­soned pro­fes­sion­al who’s led a num­ber of ther­a­pies from vac­cines to oligonu­cleotides, seems just the per­son to tap. Grit­stone, which counts GV and Lil­ly Asia Ven­tures among its back­ers, is look­ing to en­ter the clin­ic mid-2018.

Mary Mattes’ lat­est move in CRO-land has tak­en her to Syn­ter­act, where she is now SVP of bio­met­rics and drug safe­ty. Con­tin­u­ing the work she did at PRA and Ac­celo­vance, she heads a team ad­vis­ing clients on da­ta man­age­ment, bio­sta­tis­tics and safe­ty across stages of clin­i­cal de­vel­op­ment. Ad­di­tion­al­ly, she is tasked with se­lect­ing tech­nol­o­gy en­hance­ments for the com­pa­ny it­self.

Jen­nifer Zachary is the new gen­er­al coun­sel at Mer­ck $MRK, suc­ceed­ing Michael Hol­ston, who’s set to be­come chief lawyer at Gen­er­al Electrics. A for­mer FDA staffer, Zachary has been ad­vis­ing health care man­u­fac­tur­ers as a law firm part­ner. At the phar­ma gi­ant, her re­spon­si­bil­i­ty will span glob­al le­gal, se­cu­ri­ty and avi­a­tion, and en­vi­ron­men­tal, health and safe­ty or­ga­ni­za­tions.

AM­PAC Fine Chem­i­cals, a Ran­cho Cor­do­va, CA-based man­u­fac­tur­er of ac­tive phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal in­gre­di­ents and in­ter­me­di­ates, has ap­point­ed Lee Gau­thi­er to re­place re­tir­ing VP of op­er­a­tions Joseph Camp­bell.

→ For­mer Kite BD ex­ec He­len Kim and Kite’s cur­rent CMO David Chang are re­unit­ing at Dal­las-based can­cer biotech Pelo­ton Ther­a­peu­tics, where they are the two lat­est mem­bers of the board of di­rec­tors.

→ De­men­tia re­search Sharon Co­hen has joined ProMIS Neu­ro­sciences’ sci­en­tif­ic ad­vi­so­ry board, help­ing guide its lead ther­a­py for Alzheimer’s.

Trans­late Bio CEO Ronald Re­naud is lend­ing his lead­er­ship to Kyn Ther­a­peu­tics by be­com­ing its new board chair­man. The At­las-backed, Boston-based up­start works on the nascent field of im­munome­tab­o­lism. The biotech has al­so wel­comed Har­vard pro­fes­sor Fran­cis­co Quin­tana to its sci­en­tif­ic ad­vi­so­ry board.

Bris­tol My­ers is clean­ing up the post-Cel­gene merg­er pipeline, and they’re sweep­ing out an ex­per­i­men­tal check­point in the process

Back during the lead up to the $74 billion buyout of Celgene, the big biotech’s leadership did a little housecleaning with a major pact it had forged with Jounce. Out went the $2.6 billion deal and a collaboration on ICOS and PD-1.

Celgene, though, also added a $530 million deal — $50 million up front — to get the worldwide rights to JTX-8064, a drug that targets the LILRB2 receptor on macrophages.

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UP­DAT­ED: Leg­end fetch­es $424 mil­lion, emerges as biggest win­ner yet in pan­dem­ic IPO boom as shares soar

Amid a flurry of splashy pandemic IPOs, a J&J-partnered Chinese biotech has emerged with one of the largest public raises in biotech history.

Legend Biotech, the Nanjing-based CAR-T developer, has raised $424 million on NASDAQ. The biotech had originally filed for a still-hefty $350 million, based on a range of $18-$20, but managed to fetch $23 per share, allowing them to well-eclipse the massive raises from companies like Allogene, Juno, Galapagos, though they’ll still fall a few dollars short of Moderna’s record-setting $600 million raise from 2018.

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As it hap­pened: A bid­ding war for an an­tibi­ot­ic mak­er in a mar­ket that has rav­aged its peers

In a bewildering twist to the long-suffering market for antibiotics — there has actually been a bidding war for an antibiotic company: Tetraphase.

It all started back in March, when the maker of Xerava (an FDA approved therapy for complicated intra-abdominal infections) said it had received an offer from AcelRx for an all-stock deal valued at $14.4 million.

The offer was well-timed. Xerava was approved in 2018, four years after Tetraphase posted its first batch of pivotal trial data, and sales were nowhere near where they needed to be in order for the company to keep its head above water.

Drug man­u­fac­tur­ing gi­ant Lon­za taps Roche/phar­ma ‘rein­ven­tion’ vet as its new CEO

Lonza chairman Albert Baehny took his time headhunting a new CEO for the company, making it absolutely clear he wanted a Big Pharma or biotech CEO with a good long track record in the business for the top spot. In the end, he went with the gold standard, turning to Roche’s ranks to recruit Pierre-Alain Ruffieux for the job.

Ruffieux, a member of the pharma leadership team at Roche, spent close to 5 years at the company. But like a small army of manufacturing execs, he gained much of his experience at the other Big Pharma in Basel, remaining at Novartis for 12 years before expanding his horizons.

Covid-19 roundup: Ab­b­Vie jumps in­to Covid-19 an­ti­body hunt; As­traZeneca shoots for 2B dos­es of Ox­ford vac­cine — with $750M from CEPI, Gavi

Another Big Pharma is entering the Covid-19 antibody hunt.

AbbVie has announced a collaboration with the Netherlands’ Utrecht University and Erasmus Medical Center and the Chinese-Dutch biotech Harbour Biomed to develop a neutralizing antibody that can treat Covid-19. The antibody, called 47D11, was discovered by AbbVie’s three partners, and AbbVie will support early preclinical work, while preparing for later preclinical and clinical development. Researchers described the antibody in Nature Communications last month.

Is a pow­er­house Mer­ck team prepar­ing to leap past Roche — and leave Gilead and Bris­tol My­ers be­hind — in the race to TIG­IT dom­i­na­tion?

Roche caused quite a stir at ASCO with its first look at some positive — but not so impressive — data for their combination of Tecentriq with their anti-TIGIT drug tiragolumab. But some analysts believe that Merck is positioned to make a bid — soon — for the lead in the race to a second-wave combo immuno-oncology approach with its own ambitious early-stage program tied to a dominant Keytruda.

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Pfiz­er’s Doug Gior­dano has $500M — and some ad­vice — to of­fer a cer­tain breed of 'break­through' biotech

So let’s say you’re running a cutting-edge, clinical-stage biotech, probably public, but not necessarily so, which could see some big advantages teaming up with some marquee researchers, picking up say $50 million to $75 million dollars in a non-threatening minority equity investment that could take you to the next level.

Doug Giordano might have some thoughts on how that could work out.

The SVP of business development at the pharma giant has helped forge a new fund called the Pfizer Breakthrough Growth Initiative. And he has $500 million of Pfizer’s money to put behind 7 to 10 — or so — biotech stocks that fit that general description.

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Leen Kawas, Athira CEO (Athira)

Can a small biotech suc­cess­ful­ly tack­le an Ever­est climb like Alzheimer’s? Athi­ra has $85M and some in­flu­en­tial back­ers ready to give it a shot

There haven’t been a lot of big venture rounds for biotech companies looking to run a Phase II study in Alzheimer’s.

The field has been a disaster over the past decade. Amyloid didn’t pan out as a target — going down in a litany of Phase III failures — and is now making its last stand at Biogen. Tau is a comer, but when you look around and all you see is destruction, the idea of backing a startup trying to find complex cocktails to swing the course of this devilishly complicated memory-wasting disease would daunt the pluckiest investors.

GSK presents case to ex­pand use of its lu­pus drug in pa­tients with kid­ney dis­ease, but the field is evolv­ing. How long will the mo­nop­oly last?

In 2011, GlaxoSmithKline’s Benlysta became the first biologic to win approval for lupus patients. Nine years on, the British drugmaker has unveiled detailed positive results from a study testing the drug in lupus patients with associated kidney disease — a post-marketing requirement from the initial FDA approval.

Lupus is a drug developer’s nightmare. In the last six decades, there has been just one FDA approval (Benlysta), with the field resembling a graveyard in recent years with a string of failures including UCB and Biogen’s late-stage flop, as well as defeats in Xencor and Sanofi’s programs. One of the main reasons the success has eluded researchers is because lupus, akin to cancer, is not just one disease — it really is a disease of many diseases, noted Al Roy, executive director of Lupus Clinical Investigators Network, an initiative of New York-based Lupus Research Alliance that claims it is the world’s leading private funder of lupus research, in an interview.