An­to­nio Gual­ber­to starts post-Ku­ra ca­reer at Ei­sai sub­sidiary H3; eF­FEC­TOR co-founder Siegfried Re­ich jumps to Turn­ing Point

→ Days af­ter Ku­ra On­col­o­gy an­nounced the de­par­ture of co-founder An­to­nio Gual­ber­to, we fi­nal­ly know where he wound up. Ei­sai sub­sidiary H3 Bio­med­i­cine has re­cruit­ed him as CMO to find­ing the right pa­tients to its four clin­i­cal-stage small mol­e­cule as­sets hit­ting ge­nom­ic dri­vers of can­cer.

“Chal­lenges of these and many oth­er pre­ci­sion med­i­cine ap­proach­es are on one hand tech­ni­cal — a need for ro­bust and pre­cise di­ag­nos­tics — and on the oth­er hand de­rived by the chal­lenge to al­ter stan­dard clin­i­cal prac­tice in set­tings where pa­tient screen­ing, e.g. by tu­mor DNA se­quenc­ing, is not stan­dard prac­tice,” he wrote to End­points News on his way back to Boston from Ei­sai’s Tokyo of­fices. “On­ly com­pelling clin­i­cal ac­tiv­i­ty can dri­ve clin­i­cians and pathol­o­gists to mod­i­fy stan­dard clin­i­cal prac­tice.”

Gual­ber­to was cred­it­ed with fig­ur­ing out the mech­a­nism of ac­tion for Ku­ra’s far­ne­syl trans­ferase in­hibitors and steer­ing them to the clin­ic. By dis­cov­er­ing CX­CL12 as a tar­get of their lead drug, tip­i­farnib, he an­swered a ques­tion that had been “unan­swered for more than a decade.”

“Tip­i­farnib is a great ex­am­ple of clin­i­cal dis­cov­ery that start­ed with the ob­ser­va­tion from tri­al da­ta from the pri­or Janssen pro­gram that AML pa­tients with high bone mar­row tu­mor bur­den and low cir­cu­lat­ing blasts were par­tic­u­lar­ly sen­si­tive to tip­i­farnib,” he said.

His pre­vi­ous stints span EMD Serono, Take­da and Pfiz­er.

→ Sea­soned drug hunter Siegfried Re­ich has left eF­FEC­TOR, the biotech he co-found­ed to dis­cov­er se­lec­tive trans­la­tion reg­u­la­tors, to take up the CSO role at Turn­ing Point Ther­a­peu­tics.

“I have fol­lowed the progress Turn­ing Point has made, and was drawn to its fo­cus on drug dis­cov­ery and its work to ad­vance the pipeline,” Re­ich told End­points. “I was al­so im­pressed by the depth of its man­age­ment team and board, many of whom I have worked with be­fore.”

Turn­ing Point re­cent­ly got some val­i­da­tion in its next-gen­er­a­tion ki­nase in­hibitor plat­form in the form of an im­pres­sive over­all re­sponse rate among TKI-naïve ROS1+ non-small cell lung can­cer pa­tients, al­though there were lin­ger­ing safe­ty con­cerns.

Re­ich, an in­ven­tor of the TKI In­ly­ta from his Agouron days who’s al­so worked in the an­tivi­ral space at Pfiz­er (in­vent­ing the pro­tease in­hibitor Vira­cept) and lat­er jumped to Lil­ly Biotech Cen­ter, said he would hit the ground run­ning to iden­ti­fy new tar­gets and churn out new projects on the macro­cyclic plat­form.

He will build on four drug can­di­dates in the San Diego start­up’s pipeline that tar­get ROS1/TRK, MET/CSF1R/SRC, RET/SRC and ALK, re­spec­tive­ly.

— Am­ber Tong


→ Gilead has snagged for­mer Bris­tol-My­ers Squibb on­col­o­gy ex­ec Michael Quigley as SVP, re­search bi­ol­o­gy. In ad­di­tion to his time at Bris­tol-My­ers, Quigley al­so held po­si­tions at Janssen and Med­Im­mune. At the same time, the com­pa­ny has pro­mot­ed Lin­da Hig­gins, who joined the com­pa­ny in 2010, to the po­si­tion of SVP and head of ex­ter­nal in­no­va­tion.

Géral­dine Hon­net Bio­ther­a­pies In­sti­tute

→ French biotech Sen­so­ri­on — fo­cused on the treat­ment of hear­ing loss dis­or­ders — has tapped Géral­dine Hon­net as CMO. Hon­net joins the com­pa­ny from Généthon, where she was al­so CMO. Pre­vi­ous­ly, Hon­net held posts at Parex­el In­ter­na­tion­al, Janssen-Cilag (John­son & John­son) and Trans­gene.

Tay­lor Schreiber has tak­en over the reins as CEO at Take­dapart­nered I/O play­er Shat­tuck Labs, suc­ceed­ing Josi­ah Horn­blow­er. Schreiber, a co-founder of the com­pa­ny, was pre­vi­ous­ly CSO. Pri­or to Shat­tuck, Schreiber was the co-founder and sci­en­tif­ic ad­vi­sor of Pel­i­can Ther­a­peu­tics. Horn­blow­er will re­main with the com­pa­ny as ex­ec­u­tive chair­man of the board.

→ AskBio has en­list­ed AAV gene ther­a­py ex­pert An­na Tre­ti­ako­va as SVP of prod­uct de­vel­op­ment. Tre­ti­ako­va has spent near­ly a decade con­duct­ing re­search at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Penn­syl­va­nia Gene Ther­a­py Pro­gram, Pfiz­er Rare Dis­ease Re­search Unit and Swan­Bio Ther­a­peu­tics.

Pe­ter Hecht Cy­cle­ri­on

→ Nan­cy Thorn­ber­ry-led Kally­ope — fo­cused on the gut-brain ax­is — has wel­comed Pe­ter Hecht to the board of di­rec­tors. Hecht re­cent­ly left his po­si­tion as CEO of Iron­wood Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals to head the com­pa­ny’s spin­out Cy­cle­ri­on Ther­a­peu­tics as CEO.

For­mer Foun­da­tion Med­i­cine CEO Troy Cox has hopped aboard the board of di­rec­tors at SOPHiA GE­NET­ICS as chair­man, re­plac­ing An­toine Duchateau, who will con­tin­ue to serve as a board mem­ber. Cox served as CEO for Foun­da­tion Med­i­cine be­gin­ning in 2017 up un­til the com­pa­ny was snatched up by Roche.

Af­ter scor­ing a new glau­co­ma drug ap­proval last March, Aerie Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals has named Ni­na Ohara as di­rec­tor, mar­ket­ing. Most re­cent­ly, Ohara served at Ot­su­ka Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals sub­sidiary Avanir Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals. In ad­di­tion, the com­pa­ny wel­comed Gre­go­ry Jones as di­rec­tor, tax. Jones pre­vi­ous­ly served at De­loitte Tax.

→ Bolt Ther­a­peu­tics has ap­point­ed Bris­tol-My­ers Squibb vet Nils Lon­berg to its sci­en­tif­ic ad­vi­so­ry board. Lon­berg cur­rent­ly serves as ex­ec­u­tive-in-res­i­dence at Canaan Part­ners.

→ Soft­ware de­vel­op­er for drug dis­cov­ery Optib­ri­um has ap­point­ed Tim Hohm as di­rec­tor of com­mer­cial busi­ness strat­e­gy and busi­ness de­vel­op­ment. Hohm hops over from No­vo Nordisk, where he was se­nior com­pet­i­tive in­tel­li­gence man­ag­er.

→ Ca­li­di Bio­ther­a­peu­tics — work­ing on on­colyt­ic virus-based im­munother­a­pies for can­cer — has en­list­ed Hee­hy­oung Lee to their board of di­rec­tors. Lee cur­rent­ly serves as a man­ag­ing part­ner at Lume­Bio and has held po­si­tions at Han­mi Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals and Sor­ren­to Ther­a­peu­tics in the past.

ZS Per­spec­tive: 3 Pre­dic­tions on the Fu­ture of Cell & Gene Ther­a­pies

The field of cell and gene therapies (C&GTs) has seen a renaissance, with first generation commercial therapies such as Kymriah, Yescarta, and Luxturna laying the groundwork for an incoming wave of potentially transformative C&GTs that aim to address diverse disease areas. With this renaissance comes several potential opportunities, of which we discuss three predictions below.

Allogenic Natural Killer (NK) Cells have the potential to displace current Cell Therapies in oncology if proven durable.

Despite being early in development, Allogenic NKs are proving to be an attractive new treatment paradigm in oncology. The question of durability of response with allogenic therapies is still an unknown. Fate Therapeutics’ recent phase 1 data for FT516 showed relatively quicker relapses vs already approved autologous CAR-Ts. However, other manufacturers, like Allogene for their allogenic CAR-T therapy ALLO-501A, are exploring novel lymphodepletion approaches to improve persistence of allogenic cells. Nevertheless, allogenic NKs demonstrate a strong value proposition relative to their T cell counterparts due to comparable response rates (so far) combined with the added advantage of a significantly safer AE profile. Specifically, little to no risk of graft versus host disease (GvHD), cytotoxic release syndrome (CRS), and neurotoxicity (NT) have been seen so far with allogenic NK cells (Fig. 1). In addition, being able to harness an allogenic cell source gives way to operational advantages as “off-the-shelf” products provide improved turnaround time (TAT), scalability, and potentially reduced cost. NKs are currently in development for a variety of overlapping hematological indications with chimeric antigen receptor T cells (CAR-Ts) today, and the question remains to what extent they will disrupt the current cell therapy landscape. Click for more details.

Lat­est news on Pfiz­er's $3B+ JAK1 win; Pacts over M&A at #JPM22; 2021 by the num­bers; Bio­gen's Aduhelm reck­on­ing; The sto­ry of sotro­vimab; and more

Welcome back to Endpoints Weekly, your review of the week’s top biopharma headlines. Want this in your inbox every Saturday morning? Current Endpoints readers can visit their reader profile to add Endpoints Weekly. New to Endpoints? Sign up here.

For those of you who attended #JPM22 in any shape or form, we hope you had a fruitful time. Regardless of how you spent the past hectic week, may your weekend be just what you need it to be.

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A $3B+ peak sales win? Pfiz­er thinks so, as FDA of­fers a tardy green light to its JAK1 drug abroc­i­tinib

Back in the fall of 2020, newly crowned Pfizer chief Albert Bourla confidently put their JAK1 inhibitor abrocitinib at the top of the list of blockbuster drugs in the late-stage pipeline with a $3 billion-plus peak sales estimate.

Since then it’s been subjected to serious criticism for the safety warnings associated with the class, held back by a cautious FDA and questioned when researchers rolled out a top-line boast that their heavyweight contender had beaten the champ in the field of atopic dermatitis — Dupixent — in a head-to-head study.

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Robert Califf, FDA commissioner nominee (Graeme Sloan/Sipa USA/Sipa via AP Images)

Rob Califf ad­vances as Biden's FDA nom­i­nee, with a close com­mit­tee vote

Rob Califf’s second confirmation process as FDA commissioner is already much more difficult than his near unanimous confirmation under the Obama administration.

The Senate Health Committee on Thursday voted 13-8 in favor of advancing Califf’s nomination to a full Senate vote. Several Democrats voted against Califf, including Sen. Bernie Sanders and Sen. Maggie Hassan. Several other Democrats who aren’t on the committee, like West Virginia’s Joe Manchin and Ed Markey of Massachusetts, also said Thursday that they would not vote for Califf. Markey, Hassan and Manchin all previously expressed reservations about the prospect of Janet Woodcock as an FDA commissioner nominee too.

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Michel Vounatsos, Biogen CEO (World Economic Forum/Ciaran McCrickard)

Bio­gen vows to fight CM­S' draft cov­er­age de­ci­sion for Aduhelm be­fore April fi­nal­iza­tion

Biogen executives made clear in an investor call Thursday they are not preparing to run a new CMS-approved clinical trial for their controversial Alzheimer’s drug anytime soon.

As requested in a draft national coverage decision from CMS earlier this week, Biogen and other anti-amyloid drugs will need to show “a meaningful improvement in health outcomes” for Alzheimer’s patients in a randomized, placebo-controlled trial to get paid for their drugs, rather than just the reduction in amyloid plaques that won Aduhelm its accelerated approval in June.

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CRO own­er pleads guilty to ob­struct­ing FDA in­ves­ti­ga­tion in­to fal­si­fied clin­i­cal tri­al da­ta

The co-owner of a Florida-based clinical research site pleaded guilty to lying to an FDA investigator during a 2017 inspection, revealing that she falsely portrayed part of a GlaxoSmithKline pediatric asthma study as legitimate, when in fact she knew that certain data had been falsified, the Department of Justice said Wednesday.

Three other employees — Yvelice Villaman Bencosme, Lisett Raventos and Maytee Lledo — previously pleaded guilty and were sentenced in connection with falsifying data associated with the trial at the CRO Unlimited Medical Research.

Susan Galbraith, AstraZeneca EVP, Oncology R&D

Can­cer pow­er­house As­traZeneca rolls the dice on a $75M cash bet on a buzzy up­start in the on­col­o­gy field

After establishing itself in the front ranks of cancer drug developers and marketers, AstraZeneca is putting its scientific shoulder — and a significant amount of cash — behind the wheel of a brash new upstart in the biotech world.

The pharma giant trumpeted news this morning that it is handing over $75 million upfront to ally itself with Scorpion Therapeutics, one of those biotechs that was newly birthed by some top scientific, venture and executive talent and bequeathed with a fortune by way of a bankroll to advance an only hazily explained drug platform. And they are still very much in the discovery and preclinical phase.

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‘Skin­ny la­bels’ on gener­ics can save pa­tients mon­ey, re­search shows, but re­cent court de­ci­sions cloud fu­ture

New research shows how generic drug companies can successfully market a limited number of approved indications for a brand name drug, prior to coming to market for all of the indications. But several recent court decisions have created a layer of uncertainty around these so-called “skinny” labels.

While courts have generally allowed generic manufacturers to use their statutorily permitted skinny-label approvals, last summer, a federal circuit court found that Teva Pharmaceuticals was liable for inducing prescribers and patients to infringe GlaxoSmithKline’s patents through advertising and marketing practices that suggested Teva’s generic, with its skinny label, could be employed for the patented uses.

A patient in Alaska receiving an antibody infusion to prevent Covid hospitalizations in September. All but one of these treatments has been rendered useless by Omicron (Rick Bowmer/AP Images)

How a tiny Swiss lab and two old blood sam­ples cre­at­ed one of the on­ly ef­fec­tive drugs against Omi­cron (and why we have so lit­tle of it)

Exactly a decade before a novel coronavirus broke out in Wuhan, Davide Corti — a newly-minted immunologist with frameless glasses and a quick laugh — walked into a cramped lab on the top floor of an office building two hours outside Zurich. He had only enough money for two technicians and the ceiling was so low in parts that short stature was a job requirement, but Corti believed it’d be enough to test an idea he thought could change medicine.

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