Ex-Cel­gene ex­ec Ter­rie Cur­ran puts her Phath­om team in place; Car­away taps Mar­tin Williams as CEO

Ter­rie Cur­ran

→ Gas­troin­testi­nal dis­ease-fo­cused Phath­om Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals has shak­en up its lead­er­ship team. The com­pa­ny has tapped for­mer Cel­gene ex­ec Ter­rie Cur­ran as CEO, suc­ceed­ing David Socks, who is tran­si­tion­ing to in­ter­im CFO. Cur­ran was pres­i­dent of Cel­gene’s glob­al in­flam­ma­tion and im­munol­o­gy fran­chise — help­ing with the sale of Ote­zla for $13.4 bil­lion to Am­gen — and has held a pre­vi­ous stint at Mer­ck. In ad­di­tion to Cur­ran, the com­pa­ny al­so wel­comed for­mer Omeros CMO Eck­hard Leifke as CMO, ex-Cel­gene ex­ec Joseph Hand as chief ad­min­is­tra­tive of­fi­cer, and for­mer gen­er­al coun­sel for Cy­cle­ri­on Ther­a­peu­tics Lar­ry Miller as gen­er­al coun­sel. They al­so re­placed Chris Slavin­sky on the board with Take­da ex­ec Asit Parikh.

Mar­tin Williams

Mar­tin Williams has tak­en the reins at Car­away Ther­a­peu­tics as the com­pa­ny’s new CEO. Most re­cent­ly, Williams served as the ex­ec­u­tive chair­man at Yu­ma Ther­a­peu­tics, which he co-found­ed. His pre­vi­ous stints in­clude roles as CEO of Tokai Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals and CBO of Dicer­na Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals and Syn­ta Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals. Williams’ ap­point­ment comes af­ter the neu­rode­gen­er­a­tive dis­ease-fo­cused com­pa­ny named Cristi­na Csim­ma chair of the com­pa­ny’s board of di­rec­tors ear­li­er this year.

→ Af­ter a clean sweep of its C-suite a few months ago, Akcea has grabbed Alex Howarth to be the com­pa­ny’s new COO. Howarth, a for­mer GSK ex­ec (lead­ing GSK Ven­ture Part­ner­shipswill take charge of cor­po­rate strat­e­gy, busi­ness de­vel­op­ment, man­age­ment of stake­hold­er al­liances, le­gal and com­pli­ance.

→ San Fran­cis­co-based de­vel­op­er Nu­ve­lu­tion — which back in 2017 struck a pact and gam­bled big on a Phase III study to ap­ply Te­va’s Auste­do to Tourette syn­drome — has snagged Ronald Martell as the com­pa­ny’s pres­i­dent and CEO. Martell most re­cent­ly was founder and ex­ec­u­tive chair­man of In­dap­ta and CEO at Achieve Life Sci­ences. His ré­sumé al­so in­cludes roles at HAVAH Ther­a­peu­tics, Im­Clone Sys­tems, Roche and Genen­tech — where he was re­spon­si­ble for build­ing the com­pa­ny’s on­col­o­gy fran­chise, in­clud­ing the launch of Her­ceptin for metasta­t­ic HER-2 pos­i­tive breast can­cer and Rit­ux­an for non-Hodgkin’s lym­phoma. 

Ronald Martell

In­cep­tuawhich re­cent­ly inked an ex­clu­sive clin­i­cal tri­al sup­ply agree­ment with Ger­man on­col­o­gy gener­ics man­u­fac­tur­er Ben­dalishas named Paul Wi­tuschek as pres­i­dent of the com­pa­ny’s North Amer­i­can busi­ness. He will be based in the US. In this new role, Wi­tuschek will take on le­gal re­spon­si­bil­i­ty of the com­pa­ny’s US af­fil­i­ate and lead the North Amer­i­can busi­ness de­vel­op­ment of In­cep­tua’s three busi­ness units: Clin­i­cal Tri­al Ser­vices, Med­i­cines Ac­cess and In­cep­tua Phar­ma. Pre­vi­ous­ly, Wi­tuschek served as ex­ec­u­tive vice pres­i­dent of glob­al busi­ness de­vel­op­ment for ICON and served as VP, glob­al busi­ness de­vel­op­ment for Catal­ent Phar­ma So­lu­tions.

→ Af­ter abrupt­ly call­ing off their IPO in Au­gust and re­viv­ing it once more in Oc­to­ber, RAPT Ther­a­peu­tics has named Rod­ney Young as CFO. Most re­cent­ly Young served in the same role at Celler­ant Ther­a­peu­tics and pre­vi­ous­ly was CFO and VP of fi­nance and ad­min­is­tra­tion for Stem­Cells, where he was re­spon­si­ble for rais­ing over $200 mil­lion in fi­nanc­ing. Young’s ap­point­ment came a day be­fore the com­pa­ny inked a col­lab­o­ra­tion with South Ko­rea’s Han­mi Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals worth $10 mil­lion up­front and up to $108 mil­lion in po­ten­tial de­vel­op­ment and sales mile­stones. 

Paul Wi­tuschek

Glen­mark spin­off Ich­nos Sci­ences, led by Gilead vet Alessan­dro Ri­va, has made two new ad­di­tions to the team with the ap­point­ments of Patrick Flani­gan as CFO and Mar­tin Wil­son as gen­er­al coun­sel. Pri­or to his new role, Flani­gan served as SVP of in­vestor re­la­tions & trea­sury for Cel­gene. Wil­son comes from Teligent where he served as gen­er­al coun­sel and has pre­vi­ous ex­pe­ri­ence from stints at En­do Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals, Par Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal and Scher­ing-Plough.

→ Phar­ma­cy ben­e­fit man­ag­er Prime Ther­a­peu­tics has se­cured Chris­tine Bent as the com­pa­ny’s COO. Bent joins the com­pa­ny af­ter a stint as SVP of op­er­a­tions at Al­li­na Hos­pi­tal and Clin­ics and for­mer roles at Min­neapo­lis Heart In­sti­tute and Atrius Health.

Af­ter back­ing in­fec­tious dis­ease start­up AN2 Ther­a­peu­tics and ink­ing a deal for their lead TB drug, Brii Bio­sciences has brought on GSK vet John Kraus as SVP, neu­ro­sciences ther­a­py area and Zhi­jianJamesChen as a strate­gic sci­en­tif­ic ad­vi­sor. Most re­cent­ly, Kraus served as VP, drug de­vel­op­ment ser­vices for ICON and pre­vi­ous­ly held a 12-year stint at GSK, fo­cus­ing on the neu­ro­sciences ther­a­py area unit and de­vel­op­ing treat­ments for a va­ri­ety of CNS dis­eases. Chen, a pro­fes­sor, is an in­ves­ti­ga­tor at Howard Med­ical In­sti­tute. Pre­vi­ous­ly, Chen was a se­nior sci­en­tist at Pro­Script, where he helped dis­cov­er the pro­tea­some in­hibitor Vel­cade — used to treat mul­ti­ple myelo­ma.

Zhi­jian “James” Chen

→ Neur­al ex­o­some de­vel­op­er for the treat­ment of neu­rode­gen­er­a­tive dis­eases Aruna Bio has ap­point­ed James Paskavitz as VP of re­search and de­vel­op­ment. Paskavitz most re­cent­ly served as se­nior med­ical di­rec­tor at Sage Ther­a­peu­tics. Pri­or to Sage, Paskavitz was med­ical di­rec­tor at Bio­gen, lead­ing the com­pa­ny’s Parkin­son’s dis­ease imag­ing and tech­nol­o­gy pro­gram along with fa­cil­i­tat­ing ear­ly de­vel­op­ment in Alzheimer’s, ALS and mul­ti­ple scle­ro­sis. In ad­di­tion, he has served as med­ical di­rec­tor at both Ver­tex Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals and Parex­el.  

Ax­o­vant spin­out Arvelle Ther­a­peu­tics — part­ner to SK Bio­phar­ma, which re­cent­ly bagged an $850 mil­lion IPO in Ko­rea — has ap­point­ed for­mer ex­ec and COO of Acte­lion Ot­to Schwarz as chair to its board of di­rec­tors and as an in­de­pen­dent di­rec­tor. 

Alex Howarth

Bioa­sis Tech­nolo­gies — a com­pa­ny de­vel­op­ing the xB³ plat­form, tech­nol­o­gy for the de­liv­ery of ther­a­peu­tics across the blood-brain bar­ri­er (BBB) and the treat­ment of cen­tral ner­vous sys­tem (CNS) dis­or­ders — has an­nounced the cre­ation of the med­ical on­col­o­gy ad­vi­so­ry board with three ap­point­ments: John De­G­root, chair­man ad in­ter­im in the de­part­ment of neu­ro-on­col­o­gy at MD An­der­son; pro­fes­sor of med­i­cine at UCSF Hope Ru­go; and co­or­di­na­tor at the Hos­pi­tal Vall d’He­bron in Barcelona Javier Cortés. The board’s chair will be José Igle­sias, who has been ap­point­ed con­sul­tant CMO for the com­pa­ny and has held pre­vi­ous stints at Eli Lil­ly and Am­gen. The goals of this board will be to guide the clin­i­cal strat­e­gy and de­sign of the xB3-001 clin­i­cal pro­gram for the treat­ment of HER2+ breast can­cer and brain metas­tases. 

Evelo Bio­sciences, which de­vel­ops bi­o­log­ics, has wel­comed Juan An­dres to its board of di­rec­tors. An­dres is cur­rent­ly the chief tech­ni­cal op­er­a­tions and qual­i­ty of­fi­cer at Mod­er­na

Nick Galakatos, Blackstone global head of life sciences

Nick Galakatos and the Black­stone team now have a record $4.6B to in­vest in bio­phar­ma, with a big fo­cus on push­ing com­pa­nies over the top

Nick Galakatos and his team at Blackstone Life Sciences have seen their biggest opportunities swell up in mostly established players who don’t have all the money they need to accomplish everything on the to-do list. And right now, with the industry booming, that’s a long list with some hefty needs.

The Blackstone team has neatly tied up the largest private fund ever raised in life sciences for making big dreams come true in biopharma. Late Thursday, Blackstone put out word that they had closed their highly anticipated fund with the projected $4.6 billion all in.

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Bio­gen shares spike as ex­ecs com­plete a de­layed pitch for their con­tro­ver­sial Alzheimer's drug — the next move be­longs to the FDA

Biogen is stepping out onto the high wire today, reporting that the team working on the controversial Alzheimer’s drug aducanumab has now completed their submission to the FDA. And they want the agency to bless it with a priority review that would cut the agency’s decision-making time to a mere 6 months.

The news drove a 10% spike in Biogen’s stock $BIIB ahead of the bell.

Part of that spike can be attributed to a relief rally. Biogen execs rattled backers and a host of analysts earlier in the year when they unexpectedly delayed their filing to the third quarter. That delay provoked all manner of speculation after CEO Michel Vounatsos and R&D chief Al Sandrock failed to persuade influential observers that the pandemic and other factors had slowed the timeline for filing. Actually making the pitch at least satisfies skeptics that the FDA was not likely pushing back as Biogen was pushing in. From the start, Biogen execs claimed that they were doing everything in cooperation with the FDA, saying that regulators had signaled their interest in reviewing the submission.

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Regeneron CEO Leonard Schleifer speaks at a meeting with President Donald Trump, members of the Coronavirus Task Force, and pharmaceutical executives in the Cabinet Room of the White House (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

OWS shifts spot­light to drugs to fight Covid-19, hand­ing Re­gen­eron $450M to be­gin large scale man­u­fac­tur­ing in the US

The US government is on a spending spree. And after committing billions to vaccines defense operations are now doling out more of the big bucks through Operation Warp Speed to back a rapid flip of a drug into the market to stop Covid-19 from ravaging patients — possibly inside of 2 months.

The beneficiary this morning is Regeneron, the big biotech engaged in a frenzied race to develop an antibody cocktail called REGN-COV2 that just started a late-stage program to prove its worth in fighting the virus. BARDA and the Department of Defense are awarding Regeneron a $450 million contract to cover bulk delivery of the cocktail starting as early as late summer, with money added for fill/finish and storage activities.

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Gilead boasts of pos­i­tive remde­sivir da­ta on mor­tal­i­ty — but their analy­sis pro­vokes the skep­tics

Gilead is surging again off data that suggest its antiviral remdesivir might improve survival.

The new data come from an analysis Gilead conducted comparing the death rate and recovery time of patients in one of its remdesivir trials to a group of 800 patients “with similar baseline characteristics and disease severity” who received only standard-of-care around the same time. The result, they said, suggested that patients who received remdesivir had a 62% better chance at surviving than those who did not.

Hal Barron, GSK

Win or lose on the mar­ket­ing OK, the FDA just gunned down GSK’s bright hopes for their BC­MA ther­a­py

The FDA’s ODAC — the Oncologic Drugs Advisory Committee — has a well-known bias in favor of adding new cancer drugs to the market, even if efficacy is at best marginal and serious safety issues demand careful management.

Doctors want as many arrows in their quiver as they can get. And when patients are dying after failing multiple drugs, why not give it a go one more time?

GlaxoSmithKline, though, is about to test out how their new BCMA antibody drug conjugate belantamab mafodotin can do after being mauled in an in-house FDA review, ahead of the Tuesday expert panel discussion. Even if the agency goes ahead with an expected green light, this drug will likely be constrained to a small niche — icing any plans they may have for making waves in oncology anytime soon.

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Bob Goeltz bolts Uni­ty Biotech­nol­o­gy to be­come CFO at Ar­cus Bio­sciences; John John­son tapped for his lat­est CEO gig

→ A press release earlier in the week noted that Bob Goeltz left his CFO post at Unity Biotechnology “to pursue a new opportunity.” We now know what that opportunity is, joining Terry Rosen’s crew at Arcus Biosciences as the new CFO. A former executive director of corporate development at Amgen, Goeltz was the CFO for CytomX Therapeutics before making the move to anti-aging startup Unity in 2017.

Covid-19 roundup: BioN­Tech go­ing head-to-head with Mod­er­na as PhI­II mR­NA launch looms; Tri­al on Shin­zo Abe’s once-fa­vorite an­tivi­ral is in­con­clu­sive

It’s a race to the Phase III finish line now for the 2 leading mRNA vaccines in the pipeline for Covid-19.

BioNTech chief Ugur Sahin told the Wall Street Journal that his company will start Phase III testing of their vaccine later this month, setting them up to lateral the data to regulators before the end of this year.

That puts them essentially on the exact same schedule as Moderna is dedicated to. The Massachusetts rival to BioNTech also expects to launch Phase III this month. Lots of rumors have circulated about delays and conflict among the scientists advancing the Moderna jab, but the biotech has consistently stuck to its plan to start a late-stage pivotal this month.

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Andrew Kruegel, Kures president and co-founder (Columbia Tech Ventures via Vimeo)

Af­ter psilo­cy­bin and ke­t­a­mine, a new biotech comes along de­vel­op­ing a drug Scott Got­tlieb fought

Andrew Kruegel was six years into his chemistry work at Columbia University, when, one day in August 2016, he learned he might have only 30 days before the government made him destroy his research.

Kruegel had been studying kratom, a leaf long used in Southeast Asia as a stimulant or for pain. It had opioid-like properties, he found, but seemed to offer pain relief without the addictive potential or respiratory side effects of traditional opioids — a riddle that might help illuminate how human opioid receptors work.

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The home run count: The $100M+ mega-round boom in biotech in­spired a $7.3B feed­ing fren­zy — so far this year

Over the last 6 months there’s been a blizzard of money piling up drifts of the green stuff through the biotech landscape. And the forecast calls for more cash windfalls ahead.

Even as a global pandemic has killed more than half a million people, blighted economies and divided nations over the proper response, it’s also helped ignite an unprecedented burst of big-time investing. And not just in Covid-19 deals, as we’ve looked at before.

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