Eli Lil­ly R&D chief Jan Lund­berg heads for the ex­it as CEO as­sem­bles a new team at the top

A day af­ter the FDA ap­proved abe­maci­clib, new Eli Lil­ly CEO Dave Ricks has tapped sev­er­al new chiefs for the phar­ma gi­ant’s ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee. And the change-out in­cludes the de­par­ture of R&D chief Jan Lund­berg as Ricks pro­motes Dan Skovron­sky as the new head of sci­ence and tech­nol­o­gy and pres­i­dent of Lil­ly Re­search Labs.

Lund­berg has been a cen­tral fig­ure at Lil­ly over the last 8 years, a cru­cial pe­ri­od that saw out the end of John Lech­leit­er’s ca­reer at the top and the be­gin­ning of a stream of new drug ap­provals that are cen­tral to its longterm suc­cess. It hasn’t al­ways been pret­ty, but the R&D group has kept its eyes on chang­ing stan­dards of care in can­cer, di­a­betes and oth­er dis­eases that have seen some big de­vel­op­ments in the re­cent past.

Dan Skovron­sky

The ques­tion now is whether Lund­berg — who al­so led dis­cov­ery re­search at As­traZeneca be­fore mak­ing the leap to Lil­ly — will ac­tu­al­ly go ahead and re­tire or sim­ply jump to a new job af­ter a de­cent in­ter­val, a path fol­lowed by a grow­ing num­ber of se­nior ex­ecs who have found new ca­reers in the com­fort­ing arms of a boom­ing VC com­mu­ni­ty.

Skovron­sky — most re­cent­ly the de­vel­op­ment chief at Lil­ly — joined the com­pa­ny back in 2010, when Lech­leit­er bought out Avid Ra­dio­phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals in or­der to get its hands on a brain-imag­ing tech­nol­o­gy that could high­light be­ta-amy­loid in the brain. Lil­ly has spent years and a for­tune pur­su­ing new ways to al­ter the tra­jec­to­ry of Alzheimer’s, with noth­ing to show for it so far.

The com­pa­ny has had much bet­ter suc­cess with can­cer, as it demon­strat­ed yes­ter­day with the ap­proval of abe­maci­clib, a CDK 4/6 drug which will now go head to head with two ma­jor league ri­vals al­ready on the mar­ket. Lil­ly says the drug will be sold as Verzenio.

Eli Lil­ly has made a shift­ing set of promis­es on the R&D front, with­out ac­tu­al­ly de­liv­er­ing right on sched­ule. One of the lat­est up­dates on that score in­clud­ed a promise of 20 new drugs ap­provals in a decade run stretch­ing from 2014 to 2023. Ricks al­so has been chang­ing up the pipeline fo­cus some­what, while cut­ting in­to the staff in a move to re­duce costs by elim­i­nat­ing 8.5% of its em­ploy­ee ros­ter.

There are sev­er­al oth­er new se­nior ex­ec an­nounce­ments to­day, in­clud­ing:

— The pro­mo­tion of Josh Smi­ley to se­nior vice pres­i­dent and chief fi­nan­cial of­fi­cer.

— Myles O’Neill is tak­ing over the lead role in man­u­fac­tur­ing.

— Aar­ti Shah, SVP and chief of in­for­ma­tion tech, is be­ing bumped up a lev­el to EVP.


The Eli Lil­ly and Co cor­po­rate head­quar­ters is pic­tured April 26, 2017, in In­di­anapo­lis. AP Pho­to

Brent Saunders [Getty Photos]

UP­DAT­ED: Ab­b­Vie seals $63B deal to buy a trou­bled Al­ler­gan — spelling out $1B in R&D cuts

Brent Saunders has found his way out of the current fix he’s in at Allergan $AGN. He’s selling the company to AbbVie for $63 billion in the latest example of the hot M&A market in biopharma.

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FDA re­jects Ac­er's rare dis­ease drug, asks for new tri­al — shares crater

Ac­er Ther­a­peu­tics’ bid to re­pur­pose celipro­lol — a be­ta-block­er on the mar­ket for hy­per­ten­sion — as a treat­ment for a rare, in­her­it­ed con­nec­tive tis­sue dis­or­der has hit a se­vere set­back. The New­ton, Mass­a­chu­setts-based com­pa­ny on Tues­day said the FDA re­ject­ed the drug and has asked for an­oth­er clin­i­cal tri­al.

The com­pa­ny’s shares $AC­ER cratered near­ly 77% to $4.47 in Tues­day morn­ing trad­ing.

Richard Gonzalez testifying in front of Senate Finance Committee, February 2019 [AP Images]

Ab­b­Vie's $63B buy­out spot­lights the re­turn of ma­jor M&A deals — de­spite the back­lash

Big time M&A is back. But for how long?

Over the past 18 months we’ve now seen three ma­jor buy­outs an­nounced: Take­da/Shire; Bris­tol-My­ers/Cel­gene and now Ab­b­Vie/Al­ler­gan. And with this lat­est deal it’s in­creas­ing­ly clear that the sharp fall from grace suf­fered by high-pro­file play­ers which have seen their share prices blast­ed has cre­at­ed an open­ing for the growth play­ers in big phar­ma to up their game — in sharp con­trast to the pop­u­lar bolt-on deals that have been dri­ving the growth strat­e­gy at No­var­tis, Mer­ck, Roche and oth­ers.

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SQZ, Ery­tech kick off $57M cell ther­a­py part­ner­ship; Jean-Paul Kress lands new CEO gig at Mor­phoSys

→ In a mar­riage of two tech­nolo­gies meant to make cell ther­a­pies more pow­er­ful, SQZ Biotech is team­ing up with France’s Ery­tech Phar­ma for a col­lab­o­ra­tion, with $57 mil­lion re­served for the first project and $50 mil­lion for each sub­se­quent ap­proval (prod­uct or in­di­ca­tion). Hav­ing ac­cess to Ery­tech’s method of fash­ion­ing ther­a­peu­tics from red blood cells, the Cam­bridge, MA-based com­pa­ny said, will am­pli­fy SQZ’s cell en­gi­neer­ing ca­pa­bil­i­ties and al­low them to de­vleop a new class of im­munomod­u­la­to­ry ther­a­pies. Its own tech — so far ap­plied in can­cer but al­so has po­ten­tial in di­a­betes — tem­po­rary dis­rupts the cell mem­brane by squeez­ing the cell, thus cre­at­ing a brief win­dow for tar­get ma­te­ri­als such as anti­gens to en­ter.

Tasly Bio­phar­ma pitch­es long-await­ed IPO — will it trig­ger an­oth­er $1B gold rush on HKEX?

In the run up to the Hong Kong stock ex­change’s an­tic­i­pat­ed rule change — open­ing the door for Chi­nese pre-rev­enue biotechs to go pub­lic clos­er to home — more than a year ago, Tasly Bio­phar­ma was one of the big play­ers whose ru­mored in­ter­est helped stoke en­thu­si­asm for the new list­ing venue. The com­pa­ny has since kept the drum­roll rum­bling in the back­ground, rais­ing a pre-IPO round and con­vinc­ing part­ner Trans­gene to swap own­er­ship in a joint ven­ture for eq­ui­ty. Now the oth­er shoe has fi­nal­ly dropped as ex­ecs out­line plans for a pipeline dom­i­nat­ed by car­dio­vas­cu­lar drugs.

UP­DAT­ED: In sur­prise switch, Bris­tol-My­ers is sell­ing off block­buster Ote­zla, promis­ing to com­plete Cel­gene ac­qui­si­tion — just lat­er

Apart from revealing its checkpoint inhibitor Opdivo blew a big liver cancer study on Monday, Bristol-Myers Squibb said its plans to swallow Celgene will require the sale of blockbuster psoriasis treatment Otezla to keep the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at bay.

The announcement — which has potentially delayed the completion of the takeover to early 2020 — irked investors, triggering the New York-based drugmaker’s shares to tumble Monday morning in premarket trading.

Celgene’s Otezla, approved in 2014 for psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis, is a rising star. It generated global sales of $1.6 billion last year, up from the nearly $1.3 billion in 2017. Apart from the partial overlap of Bristol-Myers injectable Orencia, the company’s rival oral TYK2 psoriasis drug is in late-stage development, after the firm posted encouraging mid-stage data on the drug, BMS-986165, last fall. With Monday’s decision, it appears Bristol-Myers is favoring its experimental drug, and discounting Otezla’s future.

The move blindsided some analysts. Credit Suisse’s Vamil Divan noted just days ago:

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Novotech CEO Dr. John Moller

Novotech CRO Award­ed Frost & Sul­li­van Best Biotech CRO Asia-Pa­cif­ic 2019

Known in the in­dus­try as the Asia-Pa­cif­ic CRO, Novotech is now lead CRO ser­vices provider for the grow­ing num­ber of in­ter­na­tion­al biotechs se­lect­ing the re­gion for their stud­ies.

Re­flect­ing this Asia-Pa­cif­ic growth, Novotech staff num­bers are up 20% since De­cem­ber 2018 to 600 in-house clin­i­cal re­search peo­ple across a full range of ser­vices, across the re­gion.

Novotech’s ca­pa­bil­i­ties have been rec­og­nized by an­a­lysts like Frost & Sul­li­van, most re­cent­ly with the pres­ti­gious Asia-Pa­cif­ic CRO Biotech of the year award for best prac­tices in clin­i­cal re­search for biotechs for the fifth year. See oth­er awards here.

With 4 more biotech IPOs due to wrap up Q2, how is the class of 2019 far­ing?

With 22 biotech IPOs on the books and four more set to price in the last week of June, in­vest­ment ad­vis­er Re­nais­sance Cap­i­tal has tak­en the pulse of the re­cent rush.

By the IPO ex­perts’ count, 25 out of 32 health­care of­fer­ings this year have been from biotechs — dif­fer­ing slight­ly from Brad Lon­car’s tal­ly — and the over­all pic­ture is one of un­der­per­for­mance. While they av­er­aged a first-day re­turn of 9.0%, col­lec­tive­ly they have trad­ed down to a 5.9% re­turn. Turn­ing Point $TP­TX and Cor­texyme $CRTX emerged on top at the half-year mark, ris­ing 135% and 109% re­spec­tive­ly.

Suf­fer­ing No­var­tis part­ner Cona­tus grabs the ax and packs it in on NASH af­ter a se­ries of set­backs

The NASH par­ty is over at No­var­tis-backed Cona­tus. And this time they’re turn­ing off the lights.

More than 2 years af­ter No­var­tis sur­prised the biotech in­vest­ment com­mu­ni­ty with its $50 mil­lion up­front and promise of R&D sup­port to part­ner with the lit­tle biotech on NASH — ig­nit­ing a light­ning strike for the share price — Cona­tus $CNAT is back with the lat­est bit­ter tale to tell about em­ri­c­as­an, which once in­spired con­fi­dence at the phar­ma gi­ant.