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.

Susan Galbraith, AstraZeneca EVP, oncology R&D, at EUBIO22 (Rachel Kiki for Endpoints News)

Up­dat­ed: As­traZeneca jumps deep­er in­to cell ther­a­py 2.0 space with $320M biotech M&A

Right from the start, the execs at Neogene had some lofty goals in mind when they decided to try their hand at a cell therapy that could tackle solid tumors.

Its founders have helped hone a new approach that would pack in multiple neoantigen targets to create a personalized TCR treatment that would not just make the leap from blood to solid tumors, but do it with durability. And they managed to make their way rapidly to the clinic, unveiling their first Phase I program for advanced tumors just last May.

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Ei­sai’s ex­pand­ed Alzheimer’s da­ta leave open ques­tions about safe­ty and clin­i­cal ben­e­fit

Researchers still have key questions about Eisai’s investigational Alzheimer’s drug lecanemab following the publication of more Phase III data in the New England Journal of Medicine Tuesday night.

In the paper, which was released in conjunction with presentations at an Alzheimer’s conference, trial investigators write that a definition of clinical meaningfulness “has not been established.” And the relative lack of new information, following topline data unveiled in September, left experts asking for more — setting up a potential showdown to precisely define how big a difference the drug makes in patients’ lives.

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Uğur Şahin, BioNTech CEO (ddp images/Sipa USA/Sipa via AP Images)

BioN­Tech bets on dif­fi­cult STING field via small mol­e­cule pact with a Pol­ish biotech

BioNTech is beefing up its relatively thin small molecule pipeline by adding weight to a clinically difficult corner of oncology R&D: STING agonists. To do so, BioNTech is teaming up with a 15-year-old Polish biotech and doling out €40 million, about $41.5 million, to start.

The deal is broken into two parts: First, BioNTech obtains an exclusive global license to develop and market Ryvu Therapeutics’ STING agonist portfolio as small molecules, whether alone or in combination with other agents.

Illustration: Assistant Editor Kathy Wong for Endpoints News

Twit­ter dis­ar­ray con­tin­ues as phar­ma ad­ver­tis­ers ex­tend paus­es and look around for op­tions, but keep tweet­ing

Pharma advertisers on Twitter are done — at least for now. Ad spending among the previous top spenders flattened even further last week, according to the latest data from ad tracker Pathmatics, amid ongoing turmoil after billionaire boss Elon Musk’s takeover now one month ago.

Among 18 top advertisers tracked for Endpoints News, only two are spending: GSK and Bayer. GSK spending for the full week through Sunday was minimal at just under $1,900. Meanwhile, German drugmaker Bayer remains the industry outlier upping its spending to $499,000 last week from $480,000 the previous week. Bayer’s spending also marks a big increase from a month ago and before the Musk takeover, when it spent $16,000 per week.

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Vi­a­tris with­draws ac­cel­er­at­ed ap­proval for top­i­cal an­timi­cro­bial 24 years lat­er

After 24 years without confirming clinical benefit, the FDA announced Tuesday morning that Viatris (formed via Mylan and Pfizer’s Upjohn) has decided to withdraw a topical antimicrobial agent, Sulfamylon (mafenide acetate), after the company said conducting a confirmatory study was not feasible.

Sulfamylon first won FDA’s accelerated nod in 1998 as a topical burn treatment, with the FDA noting that last December, Mylan told the agency that it wasn’t running the trial.

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Catal­ent to cut about 200 jobs in Mary­land and Texas

Contract manufacturing company Catalent is cutting about 200 jobs in Maryland and Texas, according to WARN notices, trimming back some of its pandemic-era expansion.

The company will cut 77 jobs by Jan. 15 of next year at a cell therapy facility in Webster, TX, just outside of Houston. In Maryland, the company is reducing staff at two locations, with 82 jobs being eliminated at Catalent’s facility in Gaithersburg, and 53 in Rockville. The layoffs go into effect at those locations on Jan. 14.

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iECURE CEO Joe Truitt and founder Jim Wilson

Jim Wil­son biotech iECURE gets fresh $65M to push pe­di­atric liv­er dis­ease gene ther­a­py in­to the clin­ic

Jim Wilson-founded biotech iECURE has wrapped a $65M Series A extension round to get its lead candidate — a gene replacement therapy for a rare inherited liver disease known as ornithine transcarbamylase deficiency, or OTC — into the clinic.

This round was co-led by Novo Holdings and LYFE Capital, followed by initial investors Versant and OrbiMed as well. In September 2021, iECURE raised a $50 million Series A led by the latter two. The new cash infusion will get iECURE through an initial in-human trial, which CEO Joe Truitt told Endpoints News iECURE hopes to read out in 2024.

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Sana, Codex­is lay off staff, reshuf­fle pipeline in bid to fo­cus cell ther­a­py, en­zyme en­gi­neer­ing work

As its market cap shrinks to a fraction of its heyday, flashy cell therapy startup Sana Biotechnology is laying off 15% of its staffers in a move to rejig the pipeline and restructure the company.

Sana is among a growing group of biotechs that, feeling the weight of a broader market downturn and seeing their shares tumble steadily, are tightening the purse strings and adjusting their focus. Also on Tuesday, Codexis, an enzyme engineering company based in California and now helmed by former Sierra Oncology CEO Stephen Dilly, announced it will reduce the workforce by 18%.

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John Carroll with David Chang, Allogene CEO (Credit: Jeff Rumans Photography)

Al­lo­gene takes the stage in New York to go deep on its off-the-shelf cell ther­a­pies — de­clar­ing a first for sol­id tu­mors

NEW YORK — In most cases, a biotech like Allogene would wait until the next big science conference to offer its latest series of snapshots of its data. But most biotechs aren’t like Allogene, where the veteran leaders from Kite garnered a substantial number of kudos over the years for their in-depth reviews of the company’s progress.

So on Tuesday, the leaders at Allogene converged on Manhattan once again to give a detailed breakdown of their latest steps forward, looking to stay out front in the busy off-the-shelf cell therapy arena, keep a clean bill of health on the safety front and prove that they can not only match the autologous pioneers they helped create but make the all-important leap into solid tumors. It’s another step forward in a journey that has a long way to go before even the first big regulatory finish lines appear on the track. But for CEO David Chang, who spent some time with me running through the data ahead of the Tuesday session, it all amounts to forward momentum toward the desired goal.

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