Ex-Bax­al­ta CEO Lud­wig Hantson gets the top job at a trou­bled Alex­ion

So Lud­wig Hantson will get his chance to run a biotech com­pa­ny af­ter all.

A lit­tle less than nine months af­ter Shire closed on its deal to buy Bax­al­ta, a new spin­out out of Bax­ter, for $32 bil­lion, the for­mer CEO at Bax­al­ta now has the top job at Alex­ion.

Hantson had run Bax­ter Bio­Science be­fore they gave him the reins at Bax­al­ta, giv­ing him a run at op­er­at­ing a $6 bil­lion group re­spon­si­ble for launch­ing 13 prod­ucts. Shire, though, leaped on the buy­out short­ly af­ter it was spun out. Now he’ll be step­ping in­to a va­can­cy cre­at­ed by a mar­ket­ing scan­dal that took down both the CEO and the CFO, who were en­tan­gled in a scheme to push ear­ly sales of Soliris in or­der to meet Wall Street’s rev­enue ex­pec­ta­tions.

Alex­ion $ALXN has a mar­ket cap of close to $27 bil­lion.

Leerink’s Ge­of­frey Porges ques­tioned why a biotech like Alex­ion would want a Big Phar­ma ex­ec like Hantson at the helm.

(C)om­pared to oth­er CEO pos­si­bil­i­ties, in­vestors are like­ly to pre­sume a will­ing­ness by Hantson to sell Alex­ion, should the right of­fer be made, rather than any hubris­tic com­mit­ment to in­de­pen­dence at all costs. Neg­a­tive re­ac­tions to the ap­point­ment could be the lack of biotech ex­pe­ri­ence for Hantson and the re­in­force­ment of Alex­ion’s “big phar­ma” makeover. The ap­point­ment al­so means that oth­er can­di­dates with more di­rect­ly rel­e­vant rare dis­ease and biotech ex­pe­ri­ence have been passed over by Alex­ion’s board of di­rec­tors. Last­ly, some in­vestors will be­lieve that this an­nounce­ment takes the prospects for ac­qui­si­tion of Alex­ion off the ta­ble, for at least the im­me­di­ate fu­ture, al­though we doubt that this an­nounce­ment re­al­ly im­plies such a change in re­cep­tiv­i­ty (for the right of­fer).

Hantson will have his work cut out for him. Just days ago the com­pa­ny — run on an in­ter­im ba­sis by board mem­ber David Bren­nan, who was axed by the board at As­traZeneca af­ter sad­dling the com­pa­ny with the worst pipeline in Big Phar­ma — trig­gered a re­or­ga­ni­za­tion, cut­ting 7% of the com­pa­ny’s work­force. That’s more than 200 em­ploy­ees.

An­a­lysts have been com­plain­ing for months now that Alex­ion has be­come a chron­ic un­der­per­former, with the com­plaints grow­ing af­ter Soliris failed a piv­otal tri­al re­cent­ly. None of that was helped af­ter they de­cid­ed to scrap a drug Alex­ion got out of the $8.4 bil­lion Synage­va buy­out, SBC-103, which made the whole deal sus­pect. An ap­proved drug out of Synage­va, Kanu­ma, has been a ma­jor dis­ap­point­ment on the sales side.

Hantson al­so now faces sev­er­al ri­vals to Soliris in the clin­ic now, which hope to top­ple the com­pa­ny’s big fran­chise drug.

Hantson, who’s aware of all of that, was look­ing at a glass more than halfway full this morn­ing, hint­ing at some pos­si­ble deals to come.

Says Hantson:

Alex­ion is on-track to achiev­ing its near-term pri­or­i­ties, in­clud­ing: grow­ing its com­ple­ment and meta­bol­ic fran­chis­es; ob­tain­ing ap­proval of Soliris in re­frac­to­ry gMG; and ad­vanc­ing its pipeline pro­grams in­clud­ing ALXN1210 and eculizum­ab in re­laps­ing NMOSD. I al­so look for­ward to build­ing our fu­ture R&D and com­mer­cial growth strate­gies which will be guid­ed by the Com­pa­ny’s long-stand­ing goal of trans­form­ing lives.

Norbert Bischofberger. Kronos

Backed by some of the biggest names in biotech, Nor­bert Bischof­berg­er gets his megaround for plat­form tech out of MIT

A little over a year ago when I reported on Norbert Bischofberger’s jump from the CSO job at giant Gilead to a tiny upstart called Kronos, I noted that with his connections in biotech finance, that $18 million launch round he was starting off with could just as easily have been $100 million or more.

With his first anniversary now behind him, Bischofberger has that mega-round in the bank.

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Francesco De Rubertis

Medicxi is rolling out its biggest fund ever to back Eu­rope's top 'sci­en­tists with strange ideas'

Francesco De Rubertis built Medicxi to be the kind of biotech venture player he would have liked to have known back when he was a full time scientist.

“When I was a scientist 20 years ago I would have loved Medicxi,’ the co-founder tells me. It’s the kind of place run by and for investigators, what the Medicxi partner calls “scientists with strange ideas — a platform for the drug hunter and scientific entrepreneur. That’s what I wanted when I was a scientist.”

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Chas­ing Roche's ag­ing block­buster fran­chise, Am­gen/Al­ler­gan roll out Avastin, Her­ceptin knock­offs at dis­count

Let the long battle for biosimilars in the cancer space begin.

Amgen has launched its Avastin and Herceptin copycats — licensed from the predecessors of Allergan — almost two years after the FDA had stamped its approval on Mvasi (bevacizumab-awwb) and three months after the Kanjinti OK (trastuzumab-anns). While the biotech had been fielding biosimilars in Europe, this marks their first foray in the US — and the first oncology biosimilars in the country.

Seer adds ex-FDA chief Mark Mc­Clel­lan to the board; Her­cules Cap­i­tal makes it of­fi­cial for new CEO Scott Bluestein

→ On the same day it announced a $17.5 million Series C, life sciences and health data company Seer unveiled that it had lured former FDA commissioner and ex-CMS administrator Mark McClellan on to its board. “Mark’s deep understanding of the health care ecosystem and visionary insights on policy reform will be crucial in informing our thinking as we work to bring our liquid biopsy and life sciences products to market,” said Seer chief and founder Omid Farokhzad in a statement.

Daniel O'Day

No­var­tis hands off 3 pre­clin­i­cal pro­grams to the an­tivi­ral R&D mas­ters at Gilead

Gilead CEO Daniel O’Day’s new task hunting up a CSO for the company isn’t stopping the industry’s dominant antiviral player from doing pipeline deals.

The big biotech today snapped up 3 preclinical antiviral programs from pharma giant Novartis, with drugs promising to treat human rhinovirus, influenza and herpes viruses. We don’t know what the upfront is, but the back end has $291 million in milestones baked in.

Vas Narasimhan, AP Images

On a hot streak, No­var­tis ex­ecs run the odds on their two most im­por­tant PhI­II read­outs. Which is 0.01% more like­ly to suc­ceed?

Novartis CEO Vas Narasimhan is living in the sweet spot right now.

The numbers are running a bit better than expected, the pipeline — which he assembled as development chief — is performing and the stock popped more than 4% on Thursday as the executive team ran through their assessment of Q2 performance.

Year-to-date the stock is up 28%, so the investors will be beaming. Anyone looking for chinks in their armor — and there are plenty giving it a shot — right now focus on payer acceptance of their $2.1 million gene therapy Zolgensma, where it’s early days. And CAR-T continues to underperform, but Novartis doesn’t appear to be suffering from it.

So what could go wrong?

Actually, not much. But Tim Anderson at Wolfe pressed Narasimhan and his development chief John Tsai to pick which of two looming Phase III readouts with blockbuster implication had the better odds of success.

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Af­ter a decade, Vi­iV CSO John Pot­tage says it's time to step down — and he's hand­ing the job to long­time col­league Kim Smith

ViiV Healthcare has always been something unique in the global drug industry.

Owned by GlaxoSmithKline and Pfizer — with GSK in the lead as majority owner — it was created 10 years ago in a time of deep turmoil for the field as something independent of the pharma giants, but with access to lots of infrastructural support on demand. While R&D at the mother ship inside GSK was souring, a razor-focused ViiV provided a rare bright spot, challenging Gilead on a lucrative front in delivering new combinations that require fewer therapies with a more easily tolerated regimen.

They kept a massive number of people alive who would otherwise have been facing a death sentence. And they made money.

And throughout, John Pottage has been the chief scientific and chief medical officer.

Until now.

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On a glob­al romp, Boehringer BD team picks up its third R&D al­liance for Ju­ly — this time fo­cused on IPF with $50M up­front

Boehringer Ingelheim’s BD team is on a global deal spree. The German pharma company just wrapped its third deal in 3 weeks, going back to Korea for its latest pipeline pact — this time focused on idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.

They’re handing over $50 million to get their hands on BBT-877, an ATX inhibitor from Korea’s Bridge Biotherapeutics that was on display at a science conference in Dallas recently. There’s not a whole lot of data to evaluate the prospects here.

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Servi­er scoots out of an­oth­er col­lab­o­ra­tion with Macro­Gen­ics, writ­ing off their $40M

Servier is walking out on a partnership with MacroGenics $MGNX — for the second time.

After the market closed on Wednesday MacroGenics put out word that Servier is severing a deal — inked close to 7 years ago — to collaborate on the development of flotetuzumab and other Dual-Affinity Re-Targeting (DART) drugs in its pipeline.

MacroGenics CEO Scott Koenig shrugged off the departure of Servier, which paid $20 million to kick off the alliance and $20 million to option flotetuzumab — putting a heavily back-ended $1 billion-plus in additional biobuck money on the table for the anti-CD123/CD3 bispecific and its companion therapies.