Ed­i­tas CMO to ex­it as CRISPR tech gears up; Roche di­ag­nos­tics di­vi­sion CEO Roland Diggel­mann is out

Roland Diggel­mann is step­ping down as CEO of Roche’s di­ag­nos­tics di­vi­sion to “pur­sue his ca­reer out­side of the com­pa­ny.” The Swiss drug­mak­er $RHH­BY, which part­ed ways with R&D chief John Reed in re­cent months, has ap­point­ed Michael Heuer — the re­gion head of Eu­rope, Mid­dle East, Africa, and Latin Amer­i­ca — to fill the role ad in­ter­im. This year marks the 10th year of Diggel­man’s ca­reer at Roche Di­ag­nos­tics, where he pre­vi­ous­ly led the Asia Pa­cif­ic re­gion.

Bris­tol-My­ers Squibb $BMY found a re­place­ment for Mur­do Gor­don, the ex-com­mer­cial chief who re­cent­ly jumped ship to take the same reins at Am­gen. And CEO Gio­van­ni Caforio didn’t have to go far to find him. Christo­pher Boern­er, a sea­soned vet who’s been in charge of in­ter­na­tion­al sales at Bris­tol-My­ers, is get­ting the big pro­mo­tion to com­mer­cial chief and ex­ec­u­tive vice pres­i­dent. Boern­er — who’s worked at Seat­tle Ge­net­ics, Den­dreon and Genen­tech in the past — will like­ly be giv­en the chance of push­ing Bris­tol’s new PD-1 ap­proach on tu­mor mu­ta­tion bur­den in­to the mar­ket, where it will like­ly face a con­sid­er­able amount of con­fu­sion and kick­back over the tests that would be re­quired to iden­ti­fy pa­tients. But to his ad­van­tage, he knows the port­fo­lio bet­ter than most.

→ In the lat­est move in a reshuf­fle of se­nior ex­ecs among the biggest play­ers in bio­phar­ma, Gilead has tapped long­time Am­gen vet Lau­ra Hamill to head its com­mer­cial team. Hamill fills a po­si­tion va­cat­ed by the re­tire­ment of James Mey­ers, whose ca­reer tra­jec­to­ry was quite sim­i­lar to hers: He joined Gilead in 1996 as a re­gion­al sales di­rec­tor, climb­ing all the way up to EVP, com­mer­cial op­er­a­tions. Hamill had been with Am­gen since 2002, most re­cent­ly serv­ing as SVP, US busi­ness op­er­a­tions. Her new role gives her broad au­thor­ity over Gilead’s mar­ket­ing strat­egy and prod­uct launch­es around the world. Hamill joins Gilead at a time the big biotech is un­der­go­ing a ma­jor soul search­ing amidst a C-suite ex­o­dus.

Ed­i­tas Med­i­cine is search­ing for a new ex­ec to steer the first clin­i­cal tests of its CRISPR gene edit­ing tech as CMO Ger­ald Cox plans to de­part the com­pa­ny at the end of the year. Cox, a 16-year Sanofi Gen­zyme vet who joined Ed­i­tas in 2016, did not give a rea­son for his res­ig­na­tion ex­cept that it “felt like a nat­ur­al tran­si­tion point.” Cox will con­tin­ue to lead the ef­forts in sub­mit­ting Ed­i­tas’ first IND, which is ex­pect­ed in 2018.

→ Last we heard from Arc­turus Ther­a­peu­tics, CEO Joseph Payne was cel­e­brat­ing his vic­to­ry against the board of di­rec­tors that oust­ed him. Now, he’s ready to build up his own team in the af­ter­math of the bat­tle royale, putting An­drew Sas­sine — one of the new board mem­bers he brought on to re­place his old foes — in the CFO seat tem­porar­i­ly while he search­es for a per­ma­nent hire. For­mer­ly of Fi­deli­ty In­vest­ments, Sas­sine has spent the past few ears on the boards of sev­er­al life sci­ence com­pa­nies.

→ As the PDU­FA date for Ve­rastem On­col­o­gy’s PI3K drug ap­proach­es, it has re­cruit­ed Robert Gagnon to han­dle its fi­nances as CFO. A for­mer chief ac­count­ing of­fi­cer at Bio­gen, Gagnon has since worked in two CFO roles at an in­dus­tri­al ser­vices com­pa­ny and a life sci­ence re­search tools provider. It will on­ly be weeks be­fore we know whether du­velis­ib, an Ab­b­Vie castoff with a no­madic past, will fi­nal­ly get an OK at the FDA de­spite mixed re­sults.

→ Toron­to-based top­i­cal cream de­vel­op­er De­liv­ra has pro­mot­ed Pas­cal At­tard to CFO af­ter two years as VP of fi­nance.

Longeveron, a Mi­a­mi-based com­pa­ny de­vel­op­ing stem cell ther­a­pies for age-re­lat­ed dis­eases, has named Arin Maer­cks chief com­mer­cial of­fi­cer. With their lead prod­uct for ag­ing frailty in Phase II, ex­ecs be­lieve Maer­cks’ ex­pe­ri­ence guid­ing growth in a slate of in­dus­tries — from med­ical de­vice to point of care tech­nol­o­gy — will come in­to play. Oth­er pro­grams in the pipeline in­clude an Alzheimer’s treat­ment.

→ The hir­ing spree at Al­lo­gene Ther­a­peu­tics is con­tin­u­ing with the ap­point­ment of David Tillet as SVP, head of qual­i­ty. Tillet shares the same Am­gen roots with Al­lo­gene’s new chief tech­ni­cal of­fi­cer, Al­li­son Moore, though he’s been work­ing as a con­sul­tant in the past few years — Al­lo­gene be­ing one of his clients. “I look for­ward to build­ing and over­see­ing the qual­i­ty func­tion and be­ing a part of this ex­cit­ing time at Al­lo­gene,” he said in a state­ment, as the up­start looks to claim the fron­trun­ner po­si­tion in CAR-T with a pipeline of cell ther­a­pies from Pfiz­er.

→ Look­ing to up its IT game, Ei­sai has tapped Stephen Davies to over­see its glob­al tech­nol­o­gy in­fra­struc­ture and app de­vel­op­ment as well as the IT func­tion for its Amer­i­c­as re­gion. Jump­ing from a re­search di­rec­tor role at ad­vi­so­ry firm Gart­ner’s life sci­ence di­vi­sion, Davies’ of­fi­cial ti­tle will be VP, Ei­sai strat­e­gy in­for­ma­tion sys­tems.

Chi-Chang Wung is the new di­rec­tor of an­a­lyt­i­cal de­vel­op­ment at UPM Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals. Pri­or to the con­tract de­vel­op­ment and man­u­fac­tur­ing or­ga­ni­za­tion, he’s worked at Alk­er­mes and Siga Tech­nolo­gies.

→ Af­ter a stint at gener­ics mak­er Lupin Phar­ma, Mer­ck vet Jef­fery Palmer has land­ed at Tris Phar­ma. As VP of qual­i­ty and com­pli­ance, he will build up a qual­i­ty team as the com­pa­ny looks to piv­ot to com­mer­cial­iza­tion with a pair of cold meds.

→ Cana­da’s Tetra Bio-Phar­ma has hired Steeve Neron to strate­gize mar­ket­ing for its cannabi­noid-based drug can­di­dates. The new VP jumps from Bausch Health Cana­da — bet­ter known by its for­mer iden­ti­ty as Valeant.

→ Not­ed CAR-T in­ves­ti­ga­tor Michel Sade­lain is lend­ing his cell ther­a­py ex­per­tise to the plat­form builders at Berke­ley Lights, where he’s the lat­est mem­ber of its strate­gic sci­en­tif­ic ad­vi­so­ry board.

Fangliang Zhang, AP Images

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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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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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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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.

David Meline (file photo)

Mod­er­na’s new CFO took a cut in salary to jump to the mR­NA rev­o­lu­tion­ary. But then there’s the rest of the com­pen­sa­tion pack­age

David Meline took a little off the top of his salary when he jumped from the CFO post at giant Amgen to become the numbers czar at the upstart vaccines revolutionary Moderna. But the SEC filing that goes with a major hire also illustrates how it puts him in line for a fortune — provided the biotech player makes good as a promising game changer.

To be sure, there’s nothing wrong with the base salary: $600,000. Or the up-to 50% annual cash bonus — an industry standard — that comes with it. True, the 62-year-old earned $999,000 at Amgen in 2019, but it’s the stock options that really count in the current market bliss for all things biopharma. And there Meline did well.

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