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

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David Grainger [file photo]

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Chemotherapy and radiotherapy are the current gladiators of cancer treatment, but they come with well-known limitations and side-effects. The emergence of immunotherapy — a ferocious new titan in oncologist’s toolbox — takes the brakes off the immune system to kill cancer cells with remarkable success in some cases, but the approach is not always effective. What makes certain forms of cancer so resilient? Scientists may have finally pieced together a tantalizing piece of the puzzle, and a new biotech is banking on a new approach to fill the gap.

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While No­var­tis ban­ish­es Zol­gens­ma scan­dal scars — Bio­gen goes on a Spin­raza 'of­fen­sive'

While Novartis painstakingly works to mop up the stench of the data manipulation scandal associated with its expensive gene therapy for spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) Zolgensma— rival Biogen is attempting to expand the use of its SMA therapy, Spinraza. 

The US drugmaker $BIIB secured US approval for Spinraza for use in the often fatal genetic disease in 2016. The approval covered a broad range of patients with infantile-onset (most likely to develop Type 1) SMA. 

Jason Kelly. Mike Blake/Reuters via Adobe

Eye­ing big ther­a­peu­tic push, Gink­go bags $290M to build a cell pro­gram­ming em­pire

Ginkgo Bioworks is on a roll. Days after publicizing a plan to nurture new startups via partnerships with accelerators Y Combinator and Petri, the Boston biotech says it has raised another $290 million for its cell programming platform to reach further and wider.

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UP­DAT­ED: Speak­er Nan­cy Pelosi to un­veil bill for fed­er­al­ly ne­go­ti­at­ed drug prices

After months of buzz from both sides of the aisle, Speaker Nancy Pelosi will today introduce her plan to allow the federal government to negotiate prices for 250 prescription drugs, setting up a showdown with a pharmaceutical industry working overtime to prevent it.

The need to limit drug prices is a rare point of agreement between President Trump and Democrats, although the president has yet to comment on the proposal and will likely face pressure to back a more conservative option or no bill at all. Republican Senator Chuck Grassley is reportedly lobbying his fellow party members on a more modest proposal he negotiated with Democratic Senator Ron Wyden in July.

Jeff Kindler's Cen­trex­ion re­news bid to make pub­lic de­but

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The Boston based company, led by former Pfizer $PFE chief Kindler, originally contemplated a $70 million to $80 million IPO last year— but eventually postponed that strategy. On Wednesday, the company revived its bid to make a public debut in a filing with the SEC — although no pricing details were disclosed.

Zachary Hornby. Boundless

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It was the cellular equivalent of opening your car door and finding an active, roaring engine in the driver seat.

Scientists learned strands of DNA could occasionally appear outside of its traditional home in the nucleus in the 1970s, when they appeared as little, innocuous circles on microscopes; inexplicable but apparently innate. But not until UC San Diego’s Paul Mischel published his first study in Science in 2014 did researchers realize these circles were not only active but potentially overactive and driving some cancer tumors’ superhuman growth.

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We don’t know exactly what researchers found in this latest catastrophe, but the companies noted in their release that investigators had determined that the drug was flunking the risk/benefit analysis.

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