Ex-GSK CEO, R&D chief An­drew Wit­ty and Mon­cef Slaoui are jump­ing in­to the biotech VC game

Top phar­ma ex­ecs at the mar­quee com­pa­nies don’t re­al­ly re­tire. Some segue quite nat­u­ral­ly in­to ven­ture cap­i­tal, where their con­tacts and heavy­weight in­dus­try rep­u­ta­tions can fa­cil­i­tate the growth of lit­tle biotech com­pa­nies at a time the VC crowd is en­joy­ing a pro­longed and pop­u­lar boom.

This morn­ing two of the biggest names that once dom­i­nat­ed GSK for a decade, the new­ly re­tired CEO An­drew Wit­ty and long­time R&D chief Mon­cef Slaoui, mapped out their plans to jump in­to the biotech ven­ture cap­i­tal game. Sir An­drew has signed on as a part­ner at Durham, NC-based Hat­teras Ven­ture Part­ners, while Slaoui has joined the Eu­ro­pean team at Medicxi.

“An­drew Wit­ty we be­lieve brings the high­est lev­el of un­der­stand­ing about the phar­ma in­dus­try as a whole,” Hat­teras Gen­er­al Part­ner Bob In­gram tells me, count­ing off Wit­ty’s lead­ing roles in the glob­al com­mer­cial as well as R&D side of the busi­ness.

Wit­ty is land­ing in a group where he al­ready feels quite com­fort­able.

He joined the board at Hat­teras port­fo­lio com­pa­ny G1 re­cent­ly, re­turn­ing to a re­gion where GSK has had deep roots. He spoke at an in­vestors meet­ing in 2008 and then again last year, says In­gram, as he was wind­ing up a lengthy stint at the helm of the phar­ma gi­ant. And In­gram says Wit­ty — like­ly the on­ly knight­ed mem­ber of the biotech ven­ture com­mu­ni­ty — is ex­pect­ed to help ad­vise the firm and its biotech com­pa­nies, lend­ing some of his ster­ling Big Phar­ma rep to the or­ga­ni­za­tion as it grows up new com­pa­nies.

Just yes­ter­day Hat­teras, a big play­er in­volv­ing all things out of UNC, par­tic­i­pat­ed in a $27 mil­lion round for Cam­bridge, MA-based Rodin.

Slaoui was the long­time R&D chief at Glax­o­SmithK­line be­fore he moved to chair the big vac­cines side of the busi­ness at GSK ahead of his re­tire­ment last June. As R&D chief, Slaoui cre­at­ed the dis­cov­ery per­for­mance units that were de­signed to spur more biotech-like think­ing as the DPUs com­pet­ed for re­sources. But the DPUs failed to be­come the in­no­va­tion cen­ters that GSK need­ed — with some of Slaoui’s top bets go­ing bad — and new CEO Em­ma Walm­s­ley is fash­ion­ing her own re­or­ga­ni­za­tion to shake things up once again.

Where GSK did find ma­jor new de­vel­op­ment ini­tia­tives was in vac­cines — Shin­grix — and in HIV, where the com­pa­ny re­mains a key play­er.


The Eu­ro­pean VC firm Slaoui joined to­day has some of the best con­tacts in the in­dus­try, and a grow­ing port­fo­lio of biotechs to its cred­it. But it’s a whole dif­fer­ent world from what Slaoui helped cre­ate at GSK, which spends bil­lions of dol­lars every year on drug re­search with big op­er­a­tions in the US and UK. Medicxi’s part­ners have a rep for re­lent­less thrift, mak­ing their R&D dol­lars, eu­ros and pounds stretch as far as pos­si­ble — and then some.

In a state­ment, Slaoui said he was look­ing for­ward to start­ing, “with funds avail­able to in­vest not on­ly in ear­ly stage as­sets but al­so to build­ing in­no­v­a­tive com­pa­nies through clin­i­cal de­vel­op­ment and mar­ket en­try. I am look­ing for­ward to mak­ing an ac­tive con­tri­bu­tion to se­lect­ing and lead­ing in­vest­ments, and to sup­port­ing am­bi­tious en­tre­pre­neurs to de­vel­op med­i­cines that ul­ti­mate­ly make a dif­fer­ence to pa­tients.”

Not long af­ter leav­ing GSK, the en­thu­si­as­tic and out­go­ing Slaoui start­ed join­ing biotech boards, with wel­comes at SutroVax, mR­NA play­er Mod­er­na as well as the pub­lic out­fit In­tel­lia $NT­LA, one of a hand­ful of CRISPR/Ca9 gene edit­ing star­tups dom­i­nat­ing the field. Then, a lit­tle over a month ago, he dropped off the In­tel­lia crew, cit­ing a con­flict but not ex­plain­ing it.

We’ll see soon what he has planned in that field.


Im­ages: An­drew Wit­ty (top) Bloomberg / Mon­cef Slaoui File Pho­to

Qual­i­ty Con­trol in Cell and Gene Ther­a­py – What’s Re­al­ly at Stake?

In early 2021, Bluebird Bio was forced to suspend clinical trials of its gene therapy for sickle cell disease after two patients in the trial developed cancer. As company scientists rushed to assess whether there was any causal link between the therapy and the cancer cases, Bluebird’s stock value plummeted – as did those of multiple other biopharma companies developing similar therapies.

While investigations concluded that the gene therapy was unlikely to have caused cancer, investors and the public may be more skittish regarding the safety of gene and cell therapies after this episode. This recent example highlights how delicate the fields of cell and gene therapy remain today, even as they show great promise.

Chris Gibson (Photo By Vaughn Ridley/Sportsfile for Web Summit via Getty Images)

Re­cur­sion founders gin for­tunes as IPO back­ers show­er $436M on one of the biggest boasts in AI -- based on some very small deals

In the AI drug development world, boasting often comes with the territory. Yet few can rival Recursion when it comes to claiming the lead role in what company execs like to call the industrialization of drug development, with promises of continued exponential growth in the number of drugs it has in the pipeline.

On Friday, the Salt Lake City-based biotech translated its unicorn-sized boasts into a killer IPO, pricing more than 24 million shares at the high end of its range and bringing in $436 million — with a large chunk of that promised by some deep-pocket backers.

Endpoints Premium

Premium subscription required

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

Tillman Gerngross (Adagio)

Till­man Gern­gross' Covid-19 an­ti­body moon­shot scores $336M with the help of new ace CFO. Is an IPO next?

Less than a year into its existence, serial biotech entrepreneur Tillman Gerngross’ antibody play Adagio has raced ahead into a pivotal trial for its lead drug for Covid-19 on the back of some very promising preclinical data. Now, crossover investors led by Peter Kolchinsky at RA are rolling up the Brinks truck — and that could spell an IPO in the offing for Adagio.

Adagio has bagged $336 million as part of a Series C round led by RA Capital to advance lead single-shot antibody ADG20 through a pivotal Phase I/II/III trial for the treatment of mild to moderate Covid-19 patients at high risk of infection, the biotech said Monday.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 107,200+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Jami Rubin (EQRx)

Ja­mi Ru­bin, once fa­bled for grilling bio­phar­ma ex­ecs, de­camps to head fi­nance at drug pric­ing dis­rupter

As Goldman Sachs’ top pharmaceutical analyst, Jami Rubin was known for asking the tough questions. Now, as she takes the lead on EQRx’s mission to rewrite the rules of drug pricing, we’ll see how good her answers are.

Rubin made the jump to biotech on April 5, becoming EQRx’s new CFO, the company said Monday. She’s coming from PJT Partners, where she’s been a partner providing strategic guidance for biotech and pharmaceutical companies for the last couple years. With EQRx’s recent $500 million Series B round in the books, it wouldn’t be a surprise if she was already lining up a public debut.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 107,200+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Ben Carson (Evan Vucci, AP Images)

UP­DAT­ED The doc­tor is in: Trump in­sid­er Ben Car­son joins NASH play­er Galectin as a 'spe­cial con­sul­tant,' part-time spokesman

In the few short months since President Donald Trump left office, his former department heads are reportedly having a difficult time finding employment. But for Ben Carson, Trump’s former housing secretary, that’s not a problem anymore after biotech came calling.

Carson, a former GOP presidential candidate and erstwhile HUD head, has joined Galectin Therapeutics as a “special consultant” the biotech hopes will help raise its profile and provide an entrée to key business partnerships, the company said Monday.

UP­DAT­ED: New Kaiser analy­sis shows how lim­it­ing price ne­go­ti­a­tions to tar­get­ed drugs may bet­ter fo­cus up­com­ing leg­is­la­tion

As Congress considers whether to adopt sweeping new legislation to lower prescription drug prices across the board, the Kaiser Family Foundation is out with a new report on Monday showing how a more targeted approach on a subset of drugs might be a more efficient way to save government funds.

“This analysis shows that Medicare Part D and Part B spending is highly concentrated among a relatively small share of covered drugs, mainly those without generic or biosimilar competitors,” wrote Juliette Cubanski, deputy director of the program on Medicare policy at KFF, and Tricia Neuman, SVP of KFF. “Focusing drug price negotiation or reference pricing on a subset of drugs that account for a disproportionate share of spending would be an efficient use of administrative resources, though it would also leave some potential savings on the table.”

Biotech's IPO raise ap­proach­es $5.5B as Nas­daq con­tin­ues to prove fruit­ful with 2 de­buts and three new fil­ings

Editor’s note: Interested in following biopharma’s fast-paced IPO market? You can bookmark our IPO Tracker here.

It was another busy week in the biotech IPO market as the second quarter continues to churn out significant investment into the sector.

Recursion led the way with a $436 million raise on Friday, pricing its IPO at $18, the high end of its range. Our own John Carroll went in depth on that raise over the weekend. Also on Friday, preclinical cancer biotech Biomea Fusion debuted with a $153 million raise priced at its own high end of $17 per share. The two companies helped push the combined IPO raise for 2021 to nearly $5.5 billion.

When is a drug re­al­ly a de­vice? Court knocks down FDA ap­peal in try­ing to sort that grey area

It’s always a surprise when a court has to step in to tell the FDA that it erred in performing one of its main duties: classifying whether a medical product is drug or a device.

But that’s what the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia did on Friday, making clear to the world’s top drug regulator that Genus Medical Technologies’ contrast agent barium sulfate (also known as Vanilla SilQ) should not be considered a drug, as the FDA had said, but a medical device.

Q1: A flood of in­vestor cash drove biotech's num­bers to new record highs, and the tor­rent of cash is mov­ing up­stream fast

If you thought biotech was booming last year, wait until you get a load of the numbers from Q1 2021.

On virtually every level, with one exception, the money engine was working around the clock in the first 3 months of this year. Venture capital has reached such a fever peak that the average B round now weighs in at an average mega-weight value of $100 million. The money flow is also finding its way to the mouth of the R&D river, where discovery work now merits the big bucks instead of cautionary seed funds.

Endpoints Premium

Premium subscription required

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