En­tra­da picks Syn­tim­mune vet Mario Saltarel­lo as CMO; Gene ther­a­py mak­er Or­chard hires Ran Zheng as CTO

Mario Saltarel­li

En­tra­da Ther­a­peu­tics, the start­up launched by 5AM and MPM Cap­i­tal to de­vel­op ther­a­pies based on a fam­i­ly of cell-pen­e­trat­ing small cyclic pep­tides that Ohio State pro­fes­sor De­hua Pei dis­cov­ered, has found a chief med­ical of­fi­cer in Mario Saltarel­li. “His ex­pe­ri­ences at both ven­ture-backed biotech­nol­o­gy and glob­al phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pa­nies have in­volved him in every as­pect of bring­ing a med­i­cine from bench to bed­side,” said CEO Di­pal Doshi, re­fer­ring to Saltarel­li’s stints at Syn­tim­mune, Ver­tex, An­nex­on and Mallinck­rodt, among oth­ers.

→ Hav­ing sharp­ened his CFO acu­men at Aldeyra and Javelin, Stephen Tuli­pano has land­ed a new job at Stoke Ther­a­peu­tics. The Bio­gen alum joins Stoke months af­ter it closed a $90 mil­lion Se­ries B bank­ing on its an­ti­sense ap­proach — up­reg­u­lat­ing pro­tein ex­pres­sion — to ge­net­ic epilep­sies and oth­er dis­eases, with a lead (pre­clin­i­cal) pro­gram in Dravet syn­drome.

→ Wrap­ping up a Phase III pro­gram for its pe­di­atric liv­er drug, Al­bireo has be­gun plan­ning for the po­ten­tial launch by cre­at­ing a chief com­mer­cial of­fi­cer role. Pamela Stephen­son, a vet­er­an of Ver­tex and Pfiz­er, will take on the po­si­tion. A4250 is de­signed to treat pro­gres­sive fa­mil­ial in­tra­hep­at­ic cholesta­sis, square­ly sit­u­at­ed in the or­phan realm in which Stephen­son has spent plen­ty of time.

→ Two months af­ter we broke the sto­ry that For­ma Ther­a­peu­tics had axed R&D staff in a ma­jor re­or­ga­ni­za­tion of the com­pa­ny, found­ing CEO Steve Tre­gay is now join­ing the ex­o­dus. He’s be­ing re­placed at the helm by Genen­tech vet and chief strat­e­gy of­fi­cer Frank Lee. Lee, whose last ti­tle at Genen­tech was se­nior vice pres­i­dent, glob­al prod­uct strat­e­gy, had a di­rect hand in launch­ing some of the big biotech’s top fran­chise drugs

Ran Zheng

→ Fol­low­ing a 16-year ca­reer han­dling op­er­a­tions at Am­gen, Ran Zheng is join­ing Or­chard Ther­a­peu­tics $OR­TX as its first chief tech­ni­cal of­fi­cer. Her re­spon­si­bil­i­ties span process de­vel­op­ment, man­u­fac­tur­ing, qual­i­ty, fa­cil­i­ties and en­gi­neer­ing, sup­ply chain, as well as CMC — all cru­cial el­e­ments in Or­chard’s quest to be­come a full-fledged de­vel­op­er of rare dis­ease gene ther­a­pies.

→ Weeks af­ter Mark Sir­go took the helm at ArunA Bio, he’s tapped Al Med­war, a for­mer col­league at BioDe­liv­ery Sci­ences, to ex­e­cute on cor­po­rate and com­mer­cial de­vel­op­ment of its ex­o­some plat­form. The Athens, GA-based com­pa­ny is wag­ing a fresh ef­fort to de­vel­op ther­a­peu­tics for neu­rode­gen­er­a­tive dis­eases us­ing neur­al ex­o­somes and could use some in­dus­try col­lab­o­ra­tions.

→ With a new CSO in place, Nim­bus Ther­a­peu­tics is beef­ing up its sci­en­tif­ic team to ac­cel­er­ate its mo­men­tum in drug dis­cov­ery. Alan Col­lis has been named VP of pre­clin­i­cal de­vel­op­ment, hav­ing worked with the com­pa­ny part-time since leav­ing the DPMK di­rec­tor role at For­ma Ther­a­peu­tics last Oc­to­ber. Jen­nifer Roc­nik, cur­rent di­rec­tor of on­col­o­gy bi­ol­o­gy, got a pro­mo­tion to VP bi­ol­o­gy.

→ As Fractyl Lab­o­ra­to­ries kicks off a clin­i­cal tri­al in type 2 di­a­betes, the Lex­ing­ton, MA-based  com­pa­ny has hired for­mer Sanofi ex­ec Mar­garet Bo­rys as chief com­mer­cial of­fi­cer and In­ter­cept alum Juan Car­los Lopez-Ta­lav­era as chief med­ical of­fi­cer. Its lead prod­uct can­di­date, Re­vi­ta DMR, is an out­pa­tient pro­ce­dure de­signed to re­ju­ve­nate the in­testi­nal lin­ing through a catheter in or­der to re­verse in­sulin-re­sis­tant meta­bol­ic dis­eases like di­a­betes and NASH.

→ Ox­ford pro­fes­sor Mark Mc­Carthy has of­fi­cial­ly hung up his “metaphor­i­cal stetho­scope” to and trav­el­ing halfway across the world to lead hu­man ge­net­ics at Genen­tech in the Bay Area. His new job will in­volve en­abling drug dis­cov­ery, as well as di­rect­ing a re­search team fo­cused on trans­la­tion­al ef­forts.

Roger Perlmutter. Merck via webcast

'Our lega­cy mat­ter­s': Mer­ck maps out Keytru­da king­dom while spot­light­ing ad­vances in vac­cines, hos­pi­tal care

“You can for the mo­ment stop tak­ing notes. You can put down your pens and your pad. I have no slides. I have no sub­stan­tive da­ta. I have no pitch.”

So be­gan Roger Perl­mut­ter’s brief ap­pear­ance on­stage at Mer­ck’s first in­vestor day in five years, where he dived in­to the com­pa­ny’s his­to­ry dat­ing back to 1933. The first em­ploy­ees at Mer­ck Re­search Lab­o­ra­to­ries, hand­picked by founder George W. Mer­ck, were crit­i­cal to Mer­ck’s abil­i­ty to achieve clin­i­cal and com­mer­cial suc­cess.

How small- to mid-sized biotechs can adopt pa­tient cen­tric­i­ty in their on­col­o­gy tri­als

By Lucy Clos­sick Thom­son, Se­nior Di­rec­tor of On­col­o­gy Pro­ject Man­age­ment, Icon

Clin­i­cal tri­als in on­col­o­gy can be cost­ly and chal­leng­ing to man­age. One fac­tor that could re­duce costs and re­duce bar­ri­ers is har­ness­ing the pa­tient voice in tri­al de­sign to help ac­cel­er­ate pa­tient en­roll­ment. Now is the time to adopt pa­tient-cen­tric strate­gies that not on­ly fo­cus on pa­tient needs, but al­so can main­tain cost ef­fi­cien­cy.

Eli Casdin, Casdin Capital

Eli Cas­din backs Codex­is' plat­form tech with $50M eq­ui­ty buy

About a month af­ter Codex­is notched a deal with No­var­tis $NVS, the Cal­i­for­nia com­pa­ny $CDXS on Thurs­day said long-time in­vestor Cas­din Cap­i­tal is putting up $50 mil­lion in a pri­vate place­ment, which puts the New York-based in­vest­ment firm in con­trol of more than 5% of the pro­tein en­gi­neer­ing play­er’s stock.

Eli Cas­din start­ed his epony­mous in­vest­ment firm in 2012 and dates his re­la­tion­ship with Codex­is back to at least a decade. About three years ago, Cas­din Cap­i­tal be­gan in­vest­ing in the in­dus­tri­al biotech com­pa­ny, af­ter it piv­ot­ed its fo­cus to the life sci­ences — un­der the aus­pices of new chief John Nicols — away from the en­er­gy in­dus­try.

In­vestors pony up $476M for the lat­est round of biotech IPOs to hit the Street

Three biotechs — and a genome se­quenc­ing play­er — have caught the lat­est tide to the Gold Coast of IPOs, round­ing out the first half of 2019 with 23 new drug de­vel­op­ers mak­ing it on Nas­daq.

Most of these com­pa­nies filed their IPOs al­most si­mul­ta­ne­ous­ly, though we’re still wait­ing on word of fel­low class­mate Bridge­Bio’s pric­ing af­ter CEO Neil Ku­mar set the terms at $14 to $16 a share on Mon­day in search of a $240 mil­lion (or so) wind­fall. If he’s suc­cess­ful, that would take the one-week haul past the $700 mil­lion mark, a fresh sign that in­vestors’ en­thu­si­asm for new­ly coined pub­lic biotechs hasn’t cooled.

John Reed at JPM 2019. Jeff Rumans for Endpoints News

Sanofi's John Reed con­tin­ues to re­or­ga­nize R&D, cut­ting 466 jobs while boost­ing can­cer, gene ther­a­py re­search

The R&D reorganization inside Sanofi is continuing, more than a year after the pharma giant brought in John Reed to head the research arm of the Paris-based company.
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The top 10 block­buster drugs in the late-stage pipeline — Eval­u­ate adds 6 new ther­a­pies to heavy-hit­ter list

Vertex comes in for a substantial amount of criticism for its no-holds-barred tactical approach toward wresting the price it wants for its commercial drugs in Europe. But the flip side of that coin is a highly admired R&D and commercial operation that regularly wins kudos from analysts for their ability to engineer greater cash flow from the breakthrough drugs they create.

Both aspects needed for success in this business are on display in the program backing Vertex’s triple for cystic fibrosis. VX-659/VX-445 + Tezacaftor + Ivacaftor — it’s been whittled down to 445 now — was singled out by Evaluate Pharma as the late-stage therapy most likely to win the crown for drug sales in 5 years, with a projected peak revenue forecast of $4.3 billion.

The latest annual list, which you can see here in their latest world preview, includes a roster of some of the most closely watched development programs in biopharma. And Evaluate has added 6 must-watch experimental drugs to the top 10 as drugs fail or go on to a first approval. With apologies to the list maker, I revamped this to rank the top 10 by projected 2024 sales, instead of Evaluate's net present value rankings.

It's how we roll at Endpoints News.

Here is a quick summary of the rest of the top 10:

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Robert Forrester, Verastem

Ve­rastem CEO For­rester steps to the ex­it as the board hunts com­mer­cial-savvy ex­ec for the be­lea­guered biotech

Robert For­rester is step­ping down as CEO of Ve­rastem On­col­o­gy $VSTM just 8 months af­ter the com­pa­ny nabbed an ap­proval for du­velis­ib, a PI3K drug with a sto­ried past — and what ap­pears as not much of a fu­ture.

The biotech put out word this morn­ing that For­rester will take an ad­vi­so­ry role with Ve­rastem while COO Dan Pa­ter­son steps up to take charge of the lead­er­ship team and the board looks around for a new CEO.

Ken Frazier appears before the Senate Committee on Finance for a hearing on prescription drug pricing on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, February 26, 2019. Chris Kleponis for CNP via AP Images

Who’s next in line to suc­ceed Ken Fra­zier as CEO of the Keytru­da-blessed Mer­ck?

When Merck waved off a looming forced retirement for Ken Frazier last September, the board cited flexibility in CEO transition as a key factor in the decision. Having Frazier — who’s also chairman of the company — around beyond his 65th birthday in 2019 would ensure they install the best person at the best time, they said.

The board has evidently begun that process with a clear preference for internal candidates, sources told Bloomberg. CFO Robert Davis, chief marketing officer Michael Nally, and chief commercial officer Frank Clyburn are all in the running, according to an insider.

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In starved an­tibi­ot­ic field, Melin­ta soars as FDA grants speedy drug re­view

Such is the state of af­fairs in an­tibi­ot­ic land that the FDA agree­ing to pri­or­i­ty re­view an ap­pli­ca­tion to ex­pand the use of an an­tibi­ot­ic can rock­et up a stock more than two-fold.

On Wednes­day, Melin­ta Ther­a­peu­tics said its ap­proved an­tibi­ot­ic Baxdela had been grant­ed pri­or­i­ty re­view for use in com­mu­ni­ty-ac­quired bac­te­r­i­al pneu­mo­nia (CAPB). The FDA is ex­pect­ed to make its de­ci­sion by Oc­to­ber 24. Shares of the Con­necti­cut drug­mak­er $ML­NT cat­a­pult­ed, clos­ing up near­ly 224% at $6.41.