Dis­graced VC Steven Bur­rill heads to prison with 30-month sen­tence for fraud, tax eva­sion

An in­dict­ment on 34 counts of wire fraud, in­vest­ment ad­vis­er fraud, and tax eva­sion has fi­nal­ly led to prison time for ven­ture cap­i­tal­ist Steven Bur­rill.

Known in bio­phar­ma cir­cles for brash talk and a lav­ish lifestyle — sup­port­ed in part by mil­lions loot­ed from his own biotech fund — Bur­rill was first in­dict­ed last Sep­tem­ber by a fed­er­al grand ju­ry and faced a to­tal of 30 years in prison along­side mil­lions in fines.

But af­ter sign­ing a sealed plea agree­ment, Bur­rill will on­ly serve 2.5 years for the first two counts and pay $200 in a “spe­cial as­sess­ment.” A resti­tu­tion hear­ing next month will de­ter­mine whether Bur­rill must pay back $5.6 mil­lion to the fund he dipped in­to plus an ad­di­tion­al $2.9 mil­lion to the IRS for tax loss­es.

Ac­cord­ing to the De­part­ment of Jus­tice, Bur­rill con­vinced lim­it­ed part­ners to con­tribute cap­i­tal to the $283 mil­lion Bur­rill Life Sci­ences Cap­i­tal Fund III with “false and mis­lead­ing let­ters,” trans­ferred mil­lions in fees man­age­ment to en­ti­ties un­der his con­trol, and failed to re­port the in­come he fun­neled in­to his per­son­al ac­counts.

An ear­li­er SEC lit­i­ga­tion — which Bur­rill set­tled — put some ag­gre­gate num­bers on the case, dat­ing back to 2007. Over the next sev­en years, trans­fers from Fund III be­came rou­tine. About $4.6 mil­lion was used to cov­er per­son­al costs.

In spring of 2015, Bur­rill set­tled his dis­pute with the SEC, hand­ing over $6 mil­lion to cov­er what he had lift­ed out of the fund for ex­pens­es that in­clud­ed fam­i­ly va­ca­tions to St. Barts and Paris as well as jew­el­ry from Tiffany’s, gifts, car ser­vice, and pri­vate jets. The gifts went to both his girl­friend as well as his wife.

Bur­rill’s prob­lems turned crit­i­cal af­ter he had a falling out in 2014 with some of his staffers. Af­ter he fired them, they alert­ed in­vestors, who quick­ly seized con­trol of the fund and start­ed the chain of events.

Hav­ing backed biotech stal­warts like Phar­mas­set and Gala­pa­gos, cou­pled with me­dia cov­er­age from ti­tles like Sci­en­tif­ic Amer­i­can ex­tolling him as a vi­sion­ary, Bur­rill was once one of bio­phar­ma’s most vis­i­ble ven­ture cap­i­tal­ists.

He is now sched­uled to re­port to prison on March 4, 2019.

Im­age: Steven Bur­rill, fif­teen years ago, pos­ing at a fo­rum “No­bel Prizes and Biotech­nol­o­gy Gu­rus cel­e­brate DNA Dis­cov­ery’s 50th An­niver­sary” in Ly­on, France Get­ty

John Hood [file photo]

UP­DATE: Cel­gene and the sci­en­tist who cham­pi­oned fe­dra­tinib's rise from Sanofi's R&D grave­yard win FDA OK

Six years after Sanofi gave it up for dead, the FDA has approved the myelofibrosis drug fedratinib, now owned by Celgene.

The drug will be sold as Inrebic, and will soon land in the portfolio at Bristol-Myers Squibb, which is finalizing a deal to acquire Celgene.

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UP­DAT­ED: AveX­is sci­en­tif­ic founder was axed — and No­var­tis names a new CSO in wake of an ethics scan­dal

Now at the center of a storm of controversy over its decision to keep its knowledge of manipulated data hidden from regulators during an FDA review, Novartis CEO Vas Narasimhan has found a longtime veteran in the ranks to head the scientific work underway at AveXis, where the incident occurred. And the scientific founder has hit the exit.

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Ab­b­Vie gets its FDA OK for JAK in­hibitor upadac­i­tinib, but don’t look for this one to hit ex­ecs’ lofty ex­pec­ta­tions

Another big drug approval came through on Friday afternoon as the FDA OK’d AbbVie’s upadacitinib — an oral JAK1 inhibitor that is hitting the rheumatoid arthritis market with a black box warning of serious malignancies, infections and thrombosis reflecting fears associated with the class.

It will be sold as Rinvoq — at a wholesale price of $59,000 a year — and will likely soon face competition from a drug that AbbVie once controlled, and spurned. Reuters reports that a 4-week supply of Humira, by comparison, is $5,174, adding up to about $67,000 a year.

The top 10 fran­chise drugs in bio­phar­ma his­to­ry will earn a to­tal of $1.4T (tril­lion) by 2024 — what does that tell us?

Just in case you were looking for more evidence of just how important Amgen’s patent win on Enbrel is for the company and its investors, EvaluatePharma has come up with a forward-looking consensus estimate on what the list of top 10 drugs will look like in 2024.

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UP­DAT­ED: Sci­en­tist-CEO ac­cused of im­prop­er­ly us­ing con­fi­den­tial in­fo from uni­corn Alec­tor

The executive team at Alector $ALEC has a bone to pick with scientific co-founder Asa Abeliovich. Their latest quarterly rundown has this brief note buried inside:

On June 18, 2019, we initiated a confidential arbitration proceeding against Dr. Asa Abeliovich, our former consulting co-founder, related to alleged breaches of his consulting agreement and the improper use of our confidential information that he learned during the course of rendering services to us as our consulting Chief Scientific Officer/Chief Innovation Officer. We are in the early stage of this arbitration proceeding and are unable to assess or provide any assurances regarding its possible outcome.

There’s no explicit word in the filing on what kind of confidential info was involved, but the proceeding got started 2 days ahead of Abeliovich’s IPO.

Abeliovich, formerly a tenured associate professor at Columbia, is a top scientist in the field of neurodegeneration, which is where Alector is targeted. More recently, he’s also helped start up Prevail Therapeutics as the CEO, which raised $125 million in an IPO. And there he’s planning on working on new gene therapies that target genetically defined subpopulations of Parkinson’s disease. Followup programs target Gaucher disease, frontotemporal dementia and synucleinopathies.

But this time Abeliovich is the CEO rather than a founding scientist. And some of their pipeline overlaps with Alector’s.

Abeliovich and Prevail, though, aren’t taking this one lying down.

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Chi­na has be­come a CEO-lev­el pri­or­i­ty for multi­na­tion­al phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pa­nies: the trend and the im­pli­ca­tions

After a “hot” period of rapid growth between 2009 and 2012, and a relatively “cooler” period of slower growth from 2013 to 2015, China has once again become a top-of-mind priority for the CEOs of most large, multinational pharmaceutical companies.

At the International Pharma Forum, hosted in March in Beijing by the R&D Based Pharmaceutical Association Committee (RDPAC) and the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), no fewer than seven CEOs of major multinational pharmaceutical firms participated, including GSK, Eli Lilly, LEO Pharma, Merck KGaA, Pfizer, Sanofi and UCB. A few days earlier, the CEOs of several other large multinationals attended the China Development Forum, an annual business forum hosted by the research arm of China’s State Council. It’s hard to imagine any other country, except the US, having such drawing power at CEO level.

As dis­as­ter struck, Ab­b­Vie’s Rick Gon­za­lez swooped in on Al­ler­gan with an of­fer Brent Saun­ders couldn’t say no to

Early March was a no good, awful, terrible time for Allergan CEO Brent Saunders. His big lead drug had imploded in a Phase III disaster and activists were after his hide — or at least his chairman’s title — as the stock price continued a steady droop that had eviscerated share value for investors.

But it was a perfect time for AbbVie CEO Rick Gonzalez to pick up the phone and ask Saunders if he’d like to consider a “strategic” deal.

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As­traZeneca's jug­ger­naut PARP play­er Lyn­parza scoops up an­oth­er dom­i­nant win in PhI­II as the FDA adds a 'break­through' for Calquence

AstraZeneca’s oncology R&D group under José Baselga keeps churning out hits.

Wednesday morning the pharma giant and their partners at Merck parted the curtains on a successful readout for their Phase III PAOLA-1 study, demonstrating statistically significant improvement in progression-free survival for women with ovarian cancer in a first-line maintenance setting who added their PARP Lynparza to Avastin. This is their second late-stage success in ovarian cancer, which will help stave off rivals like GSK.

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ICER blasts FDA, PTC and Sarep­ta for high prices on DMD drugs Em­flaza, Ex­ondys 51

ICER has some strong words for PTC, Sarepta and the FDA as the US drug price watchdog concludes that as currently priced, their respective new treatments for Duchenne muscular dystrophy are decidedly not cost-effective.

The final report — which cements the conclusions of a draft issued in May — incorporates the opinion of a panel of 17 experts ICER convened in a public meeting last month. It also based its analysis of Emflaza (deflazacort) and Exondys 51 (eteplirsen) on updated annual costs of $81,400 and over $1 million, respectively, after citing “incorrect” lower numbers in the initial calculations.