E-Scape Bio in­stalls per­ma­nent CEO Julie Anne Smith; Fa­ther pass­es reins to son at Al­le­gro Oph­thalmics

→ A year af­ter E-Scape Bio leapt out of stealth mode with some strong back­ing, the San Fran­cis­co up­start is ready to put its work in neu­rode­gen­er­a­tion to a clin­i­cal test. Lead­ing that charge will be Julie Anne Smith, who’s been ap­point­ed to suc­ceed Or­bimed part­ner Leon Chen as CEO. A two-time chief ex­ec­u­tive and biotech vet­er­an, Smith brings ex­pe­ri­ence in small mol­e­cule ther­a­pies and lyso­so­mal stor­age dis­or­ders from her re­cent stints at Nure­dis and Rap­tor Phar­ma. That re­sume checks all the right box­es for E-Scape: While the com­pa­ny launched with a heavy fo­cus on a ge­net­ic ap­proach to tack­ling Alzheimer’s, it has since put that project on the back­burn­er in fa­vor of an S1P5 pro­gram from Ab­b­Vie, which is slat­ed for the clin­ic in 2019.

→ Af­ter build­ing Al­le­gro Oph­thalmics from scratch over the past sev­en years, Ham­par Kara­geoz­ian de­cid­ed it’s time pres­i­dent and CMO Vick­en Kara­geoz­ian — al­so his son — steps up for the CEO role. Kara­geoz­ian Sr. will move to the ex­ec­u­tive chair­man po­si­tion, re­spon­si­ble for strat­e­gy with an eye on dis­cov­ery and R&D, while the new CEO preps the com­pa­ny for Phase III tri­als of lead drug risute­ganib in di­a­bet­ic mac­u­lar ede­ma. An oph­thalmic sur­geon by train­ing, Vick­en Kara­geoz­ian had pre­vi­ous­ly co-found­ed two oph­thal­mol­o­gy biotechs based on ther­a­peu­tics he co-in­vent­ed.

→ Over the last 11 years, Ed­ward Hu has been COO, CFO and chief in­vest­ment of­fi­cer at WuXi AppTec. Now he’s been named co-CEO, with a spe­cial re­spon­si­bil­i­ty for small mol­e­cule drug dis­cov­ery, de­vel­op­ment, man­u­fac­tur­ing ser­vices, drug and med­ical de­vice test­ing ser­vices, plus some. He’s re­tain­ing his CFO re­spon­si­bil­i­ties for now un­til a re­place­ment is se­lect­ed. And Hu will con­tin­ue to re­port to com­pa­ny founder Ge Li, who’s been chiefly re­spon­si­ble for the rapid growth of the big Chi­na-based com­pa­ny.

→ Ven­ture cap­i­tal­ist James Kuo sees po­ten­tial in On­co­Track­er’s bio­mark­er test­ing busi­ness — so much so that he left his 11-year role as man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of Athena Bioven­tures to pur­sue the CEO job there. “While the ini­tial fo­cus will be on build­ing a prof­itable busi­ness in the rapid­ly grow­ing mul­ti­ple myelo­ma mar­ket, we in­tend to serve a broad­er can­cer pop­u­la­tion by in­te­grat­ing nov­el im­mune ther­a­pies with com­pan­ion di­ag­nos­tics,” he said of the com­pa­ny. Bor­row­ing from his stints at Syn­thet­ic Bi­o­log­ics and Pfiz­er, he plans to ex­pand the West Hol­ly­wood, CA com­pa­ny through li­cens­ing deals like the one it had with Juno Ther­a­peu­tics.

→ Gaithers­burg, MD-based Sen­sei Bio­ther­a­peu­tics has named Ildiko Csi­ki as its chief med­ical of­fi­cer. Csi­ki most re­cent­ly worked as vice pres­i­dent of im­muno-on­col­o­gy clin­i­cal de­vel­op­ment at In­ovio Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals. Ear­li­er she worked as clin­i­cal de­vel­op­ment lead for Mer­ck‘s Keytru­da pro­gram. Re­port­ing to John Celebi — pres­i­dent and CEO since May — her first project will in­volve mov­ing for­ward the Phase I can­cer vac­cine SNS-301.

→ Bone heal­ing spe­cial­ist Kuros Bio­sciences has ap­point­ed Pas­cal Longlade to re­place re­tired CMO Vir­ginia Jamieson. Work­ing out of the Swiss biotech’s Nether­lands site, Longlade in­her­its a pipeline of bone graft sub­sti­tute prod­ucts and surgery sealants. He has moved be­tween phar­ma, biotech and med­ical de­vice com­pa­nies, most re­cent­ly over­see­ing med­ical and reg­u­la­to­ry af­fairs for France’s D&A Phar­ma.

→ Achillion $ACHN is on a hir­ing spree un­der new CEO Joseph Tru­itt. Just a week af­ter bring­ing Leerink banker An­tho­ny Gib­ney on as chief busi­ness of­fi­cer, the biotech has scooped Steven Ze­lenkofske from uniQure to be its chief med­ical of­fi­cer. Switch­ing his fo­cus from gene ther­a­pies to com­ple­ment in­hibitors for rare dis­eases, Ze­lenkofske will lead a clin­i­cal de­vel­op­ment team along­side new VPs Lau­ra Bar­row and Marc Uk­nis. His reg­u­la­to­ry ex­pe­ri­ence will be key as Achillion hus­tles along its Phase II pro­grams and pre­pare for reg­is­tra­tional tri­als, Tru­itt said.

Ran­dall Sze has been pro­mot­ed to CFO at Athenex, tak­ing over the fi­nance and ac­count­ing de­part­ment while con­tin­u­ing to spear­head cor­po­rate de­vel­op­ment ac­tiv­i­ties. While Sze on­ly joined the com­pa­ny late last year, he’s known CEO John­son Lau and the man­age­ment team since steer­ing Athenex’s IPO $AT­NX as the lead ex­e­cu­tion banker.

Michael Garone has re­signed from Im­munomedics $IM­MU af­ter a two-year CFO run that fea­tured a brief gig as in­ter­im CEO. Chief busi­ness of­fi­cer Us­ama Ma­lik will step in to shoul­der the fi­nan­cial du­ties, while con­troller William Frick­er has been named prin­ci­pal ac­count­ing of­fi­cer. The com­pa­ny em­pha­sized that his de­par­ture “is not the re­sult of any dis­agree­ment with the com­pa­ny,” its lead­er­ship or op­er­a­tions, and not­ed that Garone will stay on as VP of fi­nance for tran­si­tion un­til May 2019, ex­act­ly one year af­ter Im­munomedics sub­mit­ted a BLA for its an­ti­body-drug con­ju­gate.

→ San Diego-based Cidara Ther­a­peu­tics $CDTX has lost CFO Matthew On­aitis to med­ical de­vice com­pa­ny Main­stay Med­ical. Jef­frey Stein, the CEO, and Brady John­son, di­rec­tor of fi­nance and con­troller, are split­ting up his re­spon­si­bil­i­ties in the in­ter­im.

Bio­gen vet Anne Marie de Jonge Schuer­mans is jump­ing to So­bi to head its tech­ni­cal op­er­a­tions — a new union of the man­u­fac­tur­ing, bi­o­log­i­cal de­vel­op­ment & sup­ply chain and en­vi­ron­ment & safe­ty units. The Swedish rare dis­ease com­pa­ny likes her skills in “putting process­es and sys­tems in place, and of dri­ving trans­for­ma­tion in cross-func­tion­al and cross-cul­tur­al set­tings.” She starts in Oc­to­ber.

→ As Si­mon Bed­son re­tires from the in­ter­na­tion­al com­mer­cial op­er­a­tions at Ver­tex $VRTX, the com­pa­ny has re­cruit­ed Lu­dovic Fe­naux from Bris­tol-My­ers Squibb to take his place in its Lon­don head­quar­ters. Fe­naux, who’s al­so worked at As­traZeneca and Glax­o­SmithK­line, joins Ver­tex amid some tough fights it’s hav­ing with sin­gle Eu­ro­pean pay­ers over cov­er­ing its cys­tic fi­bro­sis drugs.

Aerie Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals $AERI has tapped Jef­frey White to join its R&D team as di­rec­tor, tox­i­col­o­gy and phar­ma­co­ki­net­ics. He joins from a sim­i­lar po­si­tion at Al­con, the eye care busi­ness No­var­tis is look­ing to spin out.

→ As ApoGen Biotech­nolo­gies goes pub­lic with its ex­pand­ed Se­ries A — with $11 mil­lion from the cor­po­rate ven­ture arms of Mer­ck KGaA, Ab­b­Vie, Eli Lil­ly, J&J and WuXi AppTec — it’s al­so an­nounc­ing the ap­point­ment of two new ex­ecs. Stephen Gwalt­ney, for­mer­ly of Glob­al Blood Ther­a­peu­tics and Take­da, is the new VP of chem­istry; Pe­ter de Vries joins from Fred Hutchin­son Can­cer Re­search Cen­ter to take on the se­nior di­rec­tor of bi­ol­o­gy po­si­tion. ApoGen is de­vel­op­ing ther­a­peu­tics to tack­le re­sis­tance to can­cer drugs.

→ CEO Per­ci­val Bar­ret­to-Ko is still build­ing out his ex­ec team at Astel­las, with two new pro­mo­tions this week. Ro­dri­go Fer­nan­dez, pre­vi­ous­ly ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of Astel­las’ in­ter­na­tion­al busi­ness, is now VP, Latin Amer­i­ca, play­ing a su­per­vi­so­ry role across all coun­tries in the re­gion. Shon­telle Dod­son has been tapped SVP, health sys­tems, tasked with a slate of re­spon­si­bil­i­ties across pric­ing and mar­ket ac­cess.

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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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.

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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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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Mer­ck wins a third FDA nod for an­tibi­ot­ic; Mereo tack­les TIG­IT with $70M raise in hand

Merck — one of the last big pharma bastions in the beleaguered field of antibiotic drug development — on Friday said the FDA had signed off on using its combination drug, Recarbrio, with hospital-acquired bacterial pneumonia and ventilator-associated bacterial pneumonia. The drug could come handy for use in hospitalized patients who are afflicted with Covid-19, who carry a higher risk of contracting secondary bacterial infections. Once SARS-CoV-2, the virus behind Covid-19, infects the airways, it engages the immune system, giving other pathogens free rein to pillage and plunder as they please — the issue is particularly pertinent in patients on ventilators, which in any case are breeding grounds for infectious bacteria.

RA Cap­i­tal, Hill­house join $310M rush to back Ever­est's climb to com­mer­cial heights in Chi­na

Money has never been an issue for Everest Medicines. With an essentially open tab from their founders at C-Bridge Capital, the biotech has gone two and a half years racking up drug after drug, bringing in top exec after top exec, and issuing clinical update after update.

But now other investors want in — and they’re betting big.

Everest is closing its Series C at $310 million. The first $50 million comes from the Jiashan National Economic and Technological Development Zone; the remaining C-2 tranche was led by Janchor Partners, with RA Capital Management and Hillhouse Capital as co-leaders. Decheng Capital, GT Fund, Janus Henderson Investors, Rock Springs Capital, Octagon Investments all joined.