Ex-GSK CEO An­drew Wit­ty goes biotech, tak­ing a board seat at G1

An­drew Wit­ty and G1 CEO Mark Vel­le­ca File Pho­to


An­drew Wit­ty may have just stepped out of the top job at the multi­na­tion­al phar­ma gi­ant Glax­o­SmithK­line, but he isn’t leav­ing bio­phar­ma.

G1 Ther­a­peu­tics $GTHX tells me that Sir An­drew is join­ing the board of di­rec­tors at the Re­search Tri­an­gle Park, NC-based biotech, in a clear coup for the new­ly pub­lic com­pa­ny.

“I had met him a cou­ple of times,” says CEO Mark Vel­le­ca. “Glax­o­SmithK­line has a pres­ence in North Car­oli­na. I was im­pressed by his re­marks on where the in­dus­try is head­ing, is­sues of ac­cess,” mar­ket­ing and more. “The fact that he has led the de­vel­op­ment of mul­ti­ple prod­ucts that have been sold glob­al­ly, ben­e­fit­ing pa­tients from all dif­fer­ent ther­a­peu­tic ar­eas was an ex­pe­ri­ence base we didn’t have on the board.”

Ex­ecs at Hat­teras Ven­ture Part­ners, a long­time backer, helped with the in­tro­duc­tions, and the tim­ing was ex­act­ly right. G1 com­plet­ed its IPO just two months ago, rais­ing more than $100 mil­lion as well as ex­pec­ta­tions on some new board ad­di­tions. And Wit­ty left the helm of GSK in March.

Wit­ty had his ups and downs dur­ing his 9-year stint at the top of the phar­ma gi­ant, cer­tain­ly, but he per­sist­ed in main­tain­ing a fo­cus on ethics and cor­po­rate per­for­mance that can on­ly ben­e­fit G1, adding some gilt-edged cred­i­bil­i­ty and glob­al Street rep as well as a guid­ing force for the com­pa­ny as they push their lead drug through a slate of mid-stage stud­ies.

Gen­er­al­ly, one board post will lead to a few oth­ers for the top-ranked ex­ecs. So does this mean we’ll be see­ing more of these an­nounce­ments from Wit­ty?

I man­aged to get a ques­tion to him via e-mail on that score, but all I heard back was that he “has noth­ing fur­ther to add.”

Wit­ty does have oth­er work to at­tend to. He is Chan­cel­lor of the Uni­ver­si­ty of Not­ting­ham in Eng­land and a vis­it­ing pro­fes­sor at Im­pe­r­i­al Col­lege Lon­don. Here’s his pre­pared state­ment:

“As some­one who is pas­sion­ate about the de­vel­op­ment of new and mean­ing­ful med­i­cines, I am de­light­ed to join the G1 board of di­rec­tors. The en­cour­ag­ing ear­ly clin­i­cal da­ta gen­er­at­ed by G1’s CDK 4/6 in­hibitors sup­port their po­ten­tial to im­prove pa­tient out­comes in mul­ti­ple on­col­o­gy in­di­ca­tions. I look for­ward to work­ing with the G1 team at this ex­cit­ing time of cor­po­rate growth.”

Tar­get­ing a Po­ten­tial Vul­ner­a­bil­i­ty of Cer­tain Can­cers with DNA Dam­age Re­sponse

Every individual’s DNA is unique, and because of this, every patient responds differently to disease and treatment. It is astonishing how four tiny building blocks of our DNA – A, T, C, G – dictate our health, disease, and how we age.

The tricky thing about DNA is that it is constantly exposed to damage by sources such as ultraviolet light, certain chemicals, toxins, and even natural biochemical processes inside our cells.¹ If ignored, DNA damage will accumulate in replicating cells, giving rise to mutations that can lead to premature aging, cancer, and other diseases.

Roivant par­lays a $450M chunk of eq­ui­ty in biotech buy­out, grab­bing a com­pu­ta­tion­al group to dri­ve dis­cov­ery work

New Roivant CEO Matt Gline has crafted an all-equity upfront deal to buy out a Boston-based biotech that has been toiling for several years now at building a supercomputing-based computational platform to design new drugs. And he’s adding it to the Erector set of science operations that are being built up to support their network of biotech subsidiaries with an eye to growing the pipeline in a play to create a new kind of pharma company.

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The fu­ture of mR­NA, J&J's vac­cine ad­comm, Mer­ck­'s $1.85B au­toim­mune bet and more

Welcome to the third installment of Endpoints Weekly, your review of the week’s top biopharma headlines. Want this in your inbox every Saturday morning? Current Endpoints readers can visit their reader profile to add Endpoints Weekly. New to Endpoints? Sign up here.

If this report was helpful in recapping it all for you, please do share it with your colleagues.

Get ready for FDA’s third Covid-19 vaccine

On the heels of a ringing endorsement from FDA reviewers earlier in the week, J&J‘s single-dose vaccine — which proved 66% effective at preventing symptomatic Covid-19, and 85% effective at stopping severe disease 28 days after administration — the advisory committee convened by the agency voted unanimously to recommend its emergency use authorization. It was “a relatively easy call,” according to one of the committee members — although that doesn’t mean they didn’t have questions. Jason Mast has the highlights from the discussion, including new information from the company, on this live blog.

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With dust set­tled on ac­tivist at­tack, Lau­rence Coop­er leaves Zio­pharm to a new board

Laurence Cooper has done his part.

In the five years since he left a tenured position at Houston’s MD Anderson Cancer Center to become CEO of Boston-based Ziopharm, he’s steered the small-cap immunotherapy player through patient deaths in trials, clinical holds, short attacks and, most recently, an activist attack on the board.

So when the company has “fantastic news” like an IND clearance for a TCR T cell therapy program, he’s ready to pass on the baton.

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Fol­low biotechs go­ing pub­lic with the End­points News IPO Track­er

The Endpoints News team is continuing to track IPO filings for 2021, and we’ve designed a new tracker page for the effort.

Check it out here: Biopharma IPOs 2021 from Endpoints News

You’ll be able to find all the biotechs that have filed and priced so far this year, sortable by quarter and listed by newest first. As of the time of publishing on Feb. 25, there have already been 16 biotechs debuting on Nasdaq so far this year, with an additional four having filed their S-1 paperwork.

Steve Cutler, Icon CEO (Icon)

In the biggest CRO takeover in years, Icon doles out $12B for PRA Health Sci­ences to fo­cus on de­cen­tral­ized clin­i­cal work

Contract research M&A had a healthy run in recent years before recently petering out. But with the market ripe for a big buyout and the Covid-19 pandemic emphasizing the importance of decentralized trials, Wednesday saw a tectonic shift in the CRO world.

Icon, the Dublin-based CRO, will acquire PRA Health Sciences for $12 billion in a move that will shake up the highest rungs of a fragmented market. The merger would combine the 5th- and 6th-largest CROs by 2020 revenue, according to Icon, and the merger will set the newco up to be the second-largest global CRO behind only IQVIA.

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Doug Ingram (file photo)

Why not? Sarep­ta’s third Duchenne MD drug sails to ac­cel­er­at­ed ap­proval

Sarepta may be running into some trouble with its next-gen gene therapy approach to Duchenne muscular dystrophy. But when it comes to antisense oligonucleotides, the well-trodden regulatory path is still leading straight to an accelerated approval for casimersen, now christened Amondys 45.

We just have to wait until 2024 to find out if it works.

Amondys 45’s approval was unceremonious, compared to its two older siblings. There was no controversy within the FDA over approving a drug based on a biomarker rather than clinical benefit, setting up a powerful precedent that still haunts acting FDA commissioner Janet Woodcock as biotech insiders weighed her potential permanent appointment; no drama like the FDA issuing a stunning rejection only to reverse its decision and hand out an OK four months later, which got more complicated after the scathing complete response letter was published; no anxious tea leaf reading or heated arguments from drug developers and patient advocates who were tired of having corticosteroids as their loved ones’ only (sometimes expensive) option.

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J&J ad­comm live blog: Com­mit­tee votes 22-0 to rec­om­mend an FDA OK for the J&J vac­cine, set­ting up 3rd US Covid-19 jab

The US could have a third authorized Covid-19 vaccine within hours.

The FDA’s advisory committee voted unanimously — 22-0 — to recommend the agency issue an emergency use authorization for J&J’s vaccine. If they follow the precedent of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine,  the FDA will likely authorize the vaccine by Saturday, immediately adding a few million doses to the US supply and adding a 100 million by June. An authorization would give the world its first single-dose vaccine, a major weapon in the effort to vaccinate the world and bring the virus to heel, particularly in rural and developing areas.

Gos­samer push­es ahead with failed asth­ma drug; Cull­gen gets $50M Se­ries B for pro­tein de­graders

After getting beaten up by investors over the key failure of its lead drug GB001, Gossamer had already indicated that they thought they could move ahead in asthma, though likely through a partnership. And the biotech is pushing forward on that front, according to a Q4 statement today, following talks with regulators.

The company reported:

Gossamer engaged with the FDA and the EMA about the clinical development path in asthma, and based off those interactions, Gossamer believes that there is a viable clinical development path for GB001, or its backup molecule, in asthma. Gossamer does not currently plan to move forward with GB001, or its backup molecule, in further clinical trials without a partner.