Fabrice Chouraqui, Cellarity CEO-partner (LinkedIn)

Drug de­vel­op­er, Big Phar­ma com­mer­cial ex­ec, now an up­start biotech chief — Fab­rice Chouraqui is ready to try some­thing new as a ‘CEO-part­ner’ at Flag­ship

Fab­rice Chouraqui’s ca­reer has tak­en some big twists along his life jour­ney. He got his Phar­mD at Uni­ver­sité Paris Descartes and jumped in­to the drug de­vel­op­ment game for a bit. Then he took a sharp turn and went back to school to get his MBA at In­sead be­fore re­turn­ing to phar­ma on the com­mer­cial side.

Twen­ty years lat­er, af­ter steadi­ly ris­ing through the ranks and jour­ney­ing the globe to nab a top job as pres­i­dent of US phar­ma for the Basel-based No­var­tis, Chouraqui ex­it­ed in an­oth­er ca­reer switch. And now he’s head­ed in­to a hy­brid po­si­tion as a CEO-part­ner at Flag­ship, where he’ll take a shot at lead­ing Cel­lar­i­ty — one of the VC’s lat­est par­a­digm-chang­ing com­pa­nies of the ground­break­ing mod­el that as­pires to de­liv­er a new plat­form to the world of drug R&D.

Noubar Afeyan

In the lat­est switch-up, he’s chang­ing a top ex­ec­u­tive po­si­tion in a Swiss-based glob­al or­ga­ni­za­tion su­per­vis­ing thou­sands of staffers for a role run­ning a team of 50 en­gaged in deep sci­ence that mar­ries new in­sights in­to cel­lu­lar bi­ol­o­gy and AI in Cam­bridge, MA. And he’s com­mit­ted to a dual role as ven­ture part­ner, con­tribut­ing his own ideas to shap­ing the strat­e­gy and ex­e­cu­tion at Flag­ship.

It’s all a bit head-spin­ning, but Chouraqui ap­pears to be tak­ing it all in stride.

It’s time, he says, to “get back to val­ue cre­ation … I’m some­one who is pas­sion­ate about pro­gress­ing med­ical sci­ence.” And right now, he says, sci­ence has nev­er been pro­gress­ing as fast as it is now.

Flag­ship chief Noubar Afeyan has en­joyed bring­ing in ex-phar­ma ex­ecs, in­clud­ing top play­ers at No­var­tis like David Ep­stein. They fit well in­to a world where the Flag­ship team builds plat­forms and com­pa­nies from scratch, helped by record set­ting funds and a de­vot­ed group of in­vestors.

Avak Kahve­jian

Avak Kahve­jian, Flag­ship gen­er­al part­ner and found­ing CEO at Cel­lar­i­ty, says they’re try­ing some­thing new with this dual role of biotech chief and VC part­ner. As he ex­plains it, it’s an op­por­tu­ni­ty to bring some­one in to help guide the com­pa­ny at an ear­ly stage, while join­ing the Flag­ship team to help sharp­en the ven­ture group’s think­ing — “mean­ing that we’re all work­ing to­geth­er to think about strat­e­gy and vi­sion, ex­e­cute that to­geth­er.”

Chouraqui has no trou­ble bal­anc­ing strat­e­gy and vi­sion.

“We need to think dif­fer­ent­ly,” he says, point­ing to the same gris­ly stats on de­vel­op­ment risk — with a soul-killing 90% clin­i­cal fail­ure rate — that dom­i­nates dis­cus­sions on ROI.

“Thanks to the in­te­gra­tion of tech­nol­o­gy and bi­ol­o­gy,” says the new­ly-mint­ed CEO, “we are able to op­er­ate at a new lev­el. That lev­el is the cell, where we can dig­i­tal­ly map cell be­hav­ior and de­vel­op drugs that can in­flu­ence cell be­hav­ior.”

Now he just needs to get in­to the clin­ic and give it a whirl — though time­lines are one top­ic Chouraqui is steer­ing well clear of.

Qual­i­ty Con­trol in Cell and Gene Ther­a­py – What’s Re­al­ly at Stake?

In early 2021, Bluebird Bio was forced to suspend clinical trials of its gene therapy for sickle cell disease after two patients in the trial developed cancer. As company scientists rushed to assess whether there was any causal link between the therapy and the cancer cases, Bluebird’s stock value plummeted – as did those of multiple other biopharma companies developing similar therapies.

While investigations concluded that the gene therapy was unlikely to have caused cancer, investors and the public may be more skittish regarding the safety of gene and cell therapies after this episode. This recent example highlights how delicate the fields of cell and gene therapy remain today, even as they show great promise.

Law pro­fes­sors call for FDA to dis­close all safe­ty and ef­fi­ca­cy da­ta for drugs

Back in early 2018 when Scott Gottlieb led the FDA, there was a moment when the agency seemed poised to release redacted complete response letters and other previously undisclosed data. But that initiative never gained steam.

Now, a growing chorus of researchers are finding that a dearth of public data on clinical trials and pharmaceuticals means industry and the FDA cannot be held accountable, two law professors from Yale and New York University write in an article published Wednesday in the California Law Review.

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Novavax CEO Stanley Erck at the White House in 2020 (Andrew Harnik, AP Images)

As fears mount over J&J and As­traZeneca, No­vavax en­ters a shaky spot­light

As concerns rise around the J&J and AstraZeneca vaccines, global attention is increasingly turning to the little, 33-year-old, productless, bankruptcy-flirting biotech that could: Novavax.

In the now 16-month race to develop and deploy Covid-19 vaccines, Novavax has at times seemed like the pandemic’s most unsuspecting frontrunner and at times like an overhyped also-ran. Although they started the pandemic with only enough cash to last 6 months, they leveraged old connections and believers into $2 billion and emerged last summer with data experts said surpassed Pfizer and Moderna. They unveiled plans to quickly scale to 2 billion doses. Then they couldn’t even make enough material to run their US trial and watched four other companies beat them to the finish line.

FDA of­fers scathing re­view of Emer­gent plan­t's san­i­tary con­di­tions, em­ploy­ee train­ing af­ter halt­ing pro­duc­tion

The FDA wrapped up its inspection of Emergent’s troubled vaccine manufacturing plant in Baltimore on Tuesday, after halting production there on Monday. By Wednesday morning, the agency already released a series of scathing observations on the cross contamination, sanitary issues and lack of staff training that caused the contract manufacturer to dispose of millions of AstraZeneca and J&J vaccine doses.

Brad Bolzon (Versant)

Ver­sant pulls the wraps off of near­ly $1B in 3 new funds out to build the next fleet of biotech star­tups. And this new gen­er­a­tion is built for speed

Brad Bolzon has an apology to offer by way of introducing a set of 3 new funds that together pack a $950 million wallop in new biotech creation and growth.

“I want to apologize,” says the Versant chairman and managing partner, laughing a little in the intro, “that we don’t have anything fancy or flashy to tell you about our new fund. Same team, around the same amount of capital, same investment strategy. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

But then there’s the flip side, where everything has changed. Or at least speeded into a relative blur. Here’s Bolzon:

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Jenny Rooke (Genoa Ventures)

Ear­ly Zymer­gen in­vestor Jen­ny Rooke re­flects on 'chimeras' in biotech, what it takes to spot a $500M gem

When Jenny Rooke first heard of Zymergen back in 2014, she knew she was looking at something different and exciting. The Emeryville, CA biotech held the promise of blending biology and technology to solve a huge unmet need for cost-effective chemicals — of all things — and a stellar founding team to boot.

But back then, West Coast venture capitalists didn’t see in Zymergen the one thing they were looking for in a winning biotech: therapeutic potential. Rooke, however, saw an opportunity and made her bets. Seven years later, that bet is paying off in a big way.

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Sushil Patel, Replimune

Ex­clu­sive: Genen­tech's for­mer Tecen­triq 'CEO' jumps ship to head up com­mer­cial at an on­colyt­ic virus play­er

Genentech has long been a headhunter’s paradise with biotechs shopping for top execs with premium résumés, so it’s not unusual to see some long-time employees jumping ship. Now, one of the commercial leads on the company’s oncology portfolio is leaving after a 20-year stint to try his hand at a tiny oncolytic virus biotech.

Sushil Patel, Genentech’s former global oncology franchise head for lung and skin cancer and rare/agnostic tumor types, will leave his post at the world’s first biotech to head commercial at a much smaller operation in Replimune, which is using oncolytic viruses to hunt solid tumors.

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Emma Walmsley, GlaxoSmithKline CEO (Kevin Dietsch/Pool via CNP/Alamy)

Glax­o­SmithK­line hus­tles the 7th PD-1 past the fin­ish line with Jem­per­li. But how big will up­take be?

Everything came up sevens for GlaxoSmithKline on Thursday as the pharma notched the seventh PD-1 approval seven years after the first such drugs were OK’ed in Keytruda and Opdivo. But will it bring GSK good fortune?

The FDA granted accelerated approval to dostarlimab, to be branded Jemperli, to treat recurrent or advanced endometrial cancer in a specific subset of patients following platinum-based chemo. It’s a drug that came to GSK through its buyout of Tesaro, which it snapped up for $5.1 billion back in December 2018.

JP Gabriel, Ocugen

JP Gabriel watched from the bleach­ers as the pan­dem­ic raged. Now head of sup­ply chain at Ocu­gen, he's ready to bat

The world was in the middle of the most pressing public health risk his generation had ever seen, and JP Gabriel felt like he was sitting on the sidelines. As a VP of biologics and mRNA manufacturing at Ultragenyx, Gabriel watched from the sidelines as players like Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna used mRNA tech to chase their own Covid-19 vaccines.

This month, Gabriel got the chance to get his hands dirty against the pandemic — but it won’t be with mRNA.

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