Ex-Al­ler­gan CEO David Py­ott backs a biotech start­up along­side Take­da, PhI tri­al set to launch

David Py­ott has a new gig to add to his post-Al­ler­gan CV. Py­ott and Take­da co-led a $13 mil­lion start­up round for Bion­iz, an Irvine, CA-based de­vel­op­er which just had its first IND ap­proved.

David Py­ott

Bion­iz is build­ing a pep­tide plat­form based on block­ing par­tic­u­lar cy­tokines that can trig­ger dis­ease. It has two lead pro­grams, BNZ-1 and BNZ-2, with two com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent dis­ease tar­gets. BNZ-1 is aimed at HTLV-1 As­so­ci­at­ed Myelopa­thy (HAM), an or­phan dis­ease, and for cer­tain T-cell leukemias. The pre­clin­i­cal BNZ-2 tar­gets cy­tokines IL15/IL21 for celi­ac dis­ease and oth­er im­muno-in­flam­ma­to­ry dis­or­ders in the GI tract.

Py­ott is tak­ing the chair­man’s post for him­self while Na­zli Az­i­mi takes the CEO’s role. Az­i­mi worked on cy­tokine re­search at the NIH and lat­er moved on to the fac­ul­ty of the pres­ti­gious Fred Hutchin­son Can­cer Re­search Cen­ter, where she spe­cial­ized in the her­pes virus.

The high-pro­file Py­ott blazed a wide trail for him­self dur­ing the 17 years he helmed Al­ler­gan. But his am­bi­tions to con­tin­ue to grow the com­pa­ny ran in­to a hos­tile bid from Valeant. In the end, Brent Saun­ders ap­peared as the white knight in that deal, grab­bing the com­pa­ny and in­te­grat­ing it in­to his own glob­al net­work.

Small is now big in bio­phar­ma. Like a num­ber of ex-CEOs, Py­ott is find­ing plen­ty of op­por­tu­ni­ties to work with biotech star­tups. Ex-Gen­zyme CEO Hen­ri Ter­meer is a key play­er in the Boston/Cam­bridge start­up hub, while ex-Sanofi CEO Chris Viehbach­er is run­ning an in­vest­ment group, and ex-Pfiz­er CEO Jeff Kindler runs his own shop.

Joe Kiani and Co­ta Cap­i­tal con­tributed to the round for Bion­iz.

Bion­iz’s Az­i­mi had this to say in a state­ment this morn­ing:

This fi­nanc­ing is an im­por­tant step need­ed to dri­ve the de­vel­op­ment of new po­ten­tial treat­ments for pa­tients af­fect­ed by very se­ri­ous cy­tokine-dri­ven dis­eases. The ac­cep­tance of the BNZ-1 IND is a great ac­com­plish­ment by our team and we are ex­cit­ed to col­lab­o­rate with the NIH on the clin­i­cal ad­vance­ment of this pro­gram.

Biotech Half­time Re­port: Af­ter a bumpy year, is biotech ready to re­bound?

The biotech sector has come down firmly from the highs of February as negative sentiment takes hold. The sector had a major boost of optimism from the success of the COVID-19 vaccines, making investors keenly aware of the potential of biopharma R&D engines. But from early this year, clinical trial, regulatory and access setbacks have reminded investors of the sector’s inherent risks.

RBC Capital Markets recently surveyed investors to take the temperature of the market, a mix of specialists/generalists and long-only/ long-short investment strategies. Heading into the second half of the year, investors mostly see the sector as undervalued (49%), a large change from the first half of the year when only 20% rated it as undervalued. Around 41% of investors now believe that biotech will underperform the S&P500 in the second half of 2021. Despite that view, 54% plan to maintain their position in the market and 41% still plan to increase their holdings.

Bio­gen hit by ALS set­back with PhI­II fail­ure for tofersen — but fol­lows a fa­mil­iar strat­e­gy high­light­ing the pos­i­tive

Patients and analysts waiting to hear Sunday how Biogen’s SOD1-ALS drug tofersen fared in Phase III didn’t have to wait long for the top-line result they were all waiting for. The drug failed the primary endpoint on significantly improving the functional and neurologic decline of patients over 28 weeks as well as the extension period for continued observation.

In fact, there was very little difference in response.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 120,000+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

UP­DAT­ED: Boehringer nabs FDA's first in­ter­change­abil­i­ty des­ig­na­tion for its Hu­mi­ra com­peti­tor — but will it mat­ter?

The FDA late Friday awarded Boehringer Ingelheim the first interchangeability designation for its Humira biosimilar Cyltezo, meaning that when it launches in July 2023, pharmacists will be able to automatically substitute the Boehringer’s version for AbbVie’s mega-blockbuster without a doctor’s input.

The designation will likely give Boehringer, which first won approval for Cyltezo in 2017, the leg up on a crowded field of Humira competitors.

Reshma Kewalramani, Vertex CEO (YouTube)

Ver­tex gets much-need­ed win with ‘ex­tra­or­di­nary’ first pa­tient re­sults on po­ten­tial di­a­betes cure

Vertex said Monday that the first patient dosed with its cell therapy for type 1 diabetes saw their need for insulin injections vanish almost entirely, a key early step in the decades-long effort to develop a curative treatment for the chronic disease.

The patient, who had suffered five potentially life-threatening hypoglycemic — or low blood sugar — episodes in the year before the therapy, was injected with synthetic insulin-producing cells. After 90 days, the patient’s new cells produced insulin steadily and ramped up their insulin production after a meal like normal cells do, as measured by a standard biomarker for insulin production.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 120,000+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

No­var­tis de­vel­op­ment chief John Tsai: 'We go deep in the new plat­form­s'

During our recent European Biopharma Summit, I talked with Novartis development chief John Tsai about his experiences over the 3-plus years he’s been at the pharma giant. You can read the transcript below or listen to the exchange in the link above.

John Carroll: I followed your career for quite some time. You’ve had more than 20 years in big pharma R&D and you’ve obviously seen quite a lot. I really was curious about what it was like for you three and a half years ago when you took over as R&D chief at Novartis. Obviously a big move, a lot of changes. You went to work for the former R&D chief of Novartis, Vas Narasimhan, who had his own track record there. So what was the biggest adjustment when you went into this position?

Endpoints Premium

Premium subscription required

Unlock this article along with other benefits by subscribing to one of our paid plans.

Amit Etkin, Alto Neuroscience CEO (Alto via Vimeo)

A star Stan­ford pro­fes­sor leaves his lab for a start­up out to re­make psy­chi­a­try

About five years ago, Amit Etkin had a breakthrough.

The Stanford neurologist, a soft-spoken demi-prodigy who became a professor while still a resident, had been obsessed for a decade with how to better define psychiatric disorders. Drugs for depression or bipolar disorder didn’t work for many patients with the conditions, and he suspected the reason was how traditional diagnoses didn’t actually get at the heart of what was going on in a patient’s brain.

Susan Galbraith, Executive VP, Oncology R&D, AstraZeneca

As­traZeneca on­col­o­gy R&D chief Su­san Gal­braith: 'Y­ou're go­ing to need or­thog­o­nal com­bi­na­tion­s'


Earlier in the week we broadcast our 4th annual European Biopharma Summit with a great lineup of top execs. One of the one-on-one conversations I set up was with Susan Galbraith, the oncology research chief at AstraZeneca. In a wide-ranging discussion, Galbraith reviewed the cancer drug pipeline and key trends influencing development work at the pharma giant. You can watch the video, above, or stick with the script below. — JC

Endpoints Premium

Premium subscription required

Unlock this article along with other benefits by subscribing to one of our paid plans.

Sheldon Koenig, Esperion CEO

Es­pe­ri­on gets out the bud­get ax, chop­ping 170 staffers as its big drug launch sput­ters

Esperion’s executive team spent years insisting that they had found the sweet spot in the market for their cholesterol drug. But that strategy has soured badly, and after struggling to sell its heart disease pill for more than a year, the biotech says it will cut about 40% of its staff over the next few weeks.

The layoffs will take place across the board, from sales and marketing to R&D, CEO Sheldon Koenig told Endpoints News on Monday. While the chief executive declined to elaborate on how many employees will be affected, an SEC filing stated that approximately 170 staffers are on the chopping block.

Two drug­mak­ers hit with PDU­FA date de­lays from FDA amid back­log of in­spec­tions

As the FDA is weighed down with more and more pandemic responsibilities, the agency is beginning to miss PDUFA dates with more frequency too. Two different companies on Monday said they received notices that the FDA has not completed their drug reviews on time.

The review of an NDA for Avadel Pharmaceuticals’ candidate treatment for narcolepsy is not coming this month, the company said, and the review of UCB’s BLA for bimekizumab, used to treat moderate to severe plaque psoriasis, will miss its target date as well.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 120,000+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.