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

M&A: a crit­i­cal dri­ver for sus­tain­able top-line growth in health­care

2021 saw a record $600B in healthcare M&A activity. In 2022, there is an anticipated slowdown in activity, however, M&A prospects remain strong in the medium to long-term. What are future growth drivers for the healthcare sector? Where might we see innovations that drive M&A? RBC’s Andrew Callaway, Global Head, Healthcare Investment Banking discusses with Vito Sperduto, Global Co-Head, M&A.

15 LGBTQ lead­ers in bio­phar­ma; Paul Stof­fels’ Gala­pa­gos re­vamp; As­traZeneca catch­es up in AT­TR; and more

Welcome back to 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.

A return to in-person conferences also marks a return to on-the-ground reporting. My colleagues Beth Synder Bulik and Nicole DeFeudis were on-site at Cannes Lions, bringing live coverage of pharma’s presence at the ad festival — accompanied by photos from Clara Bui, our virtual producer, that bring you right to the scene. You can find a recap (and links to all the stories) below.

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Abortion-rights protesters regroup and protest following Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. (AP Photo/Gemunu Amarasinghe)

Fol­low­ing SCO­TUS de­ci­sion to over­turn abor­tion pro­tec­tions, AG Gar­land says states can't ban the abor­tion pill

Following the Supreme Court’s historic decision on Friday to overturn Americans’ constitutional right to an abortion after almost 50 years, Attorney General Merrick Garland sought to somewhat reassure women that states will not be able to ban the prescription drug sometimes used for abortions.

Following the decision, the New England Journal of Medicine also published an editorial strongly condemning the reversal, saying it “serves American families poorly, putting their health, safety, finances, and futures at risk.”

AstraZeneca's new Evusheld direct to consumer campaign aims to reach more immunocompromised patients.

As­traZeneca de­buts first con­sumer cam­paign for its Covid-19 pro­phy­lac­tic Evusheld — and a first for EUA drugs

AstraZeneca’s first consumer ad for Evusheld is also a first for drugs that have been granted emergency use authorizations during the pandemic.

The first DTC ad for a medicine under emergency approval, the Evusheld campaign launching this week aims to raise awareness among immunocompromised patients — and spur more use.

Evusheld nabbed emergency authorization in December, however, despite millions of immunocompromised people looking for a solution and now more widespread availability of the drug.

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Joe Papa (Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press via AP, File)

Joe Pa­pa re­signs as chair of Bausch Health as bil­lion­aire John Paul­son takes over

Joe Papa, chair of Bausch Health, officially resigned on Thursday and the board appointed billionaire hedge fund manager John Paulson as the new chair, effective immediately.

The specialty pharma company sought to make clear that Papa’s abrupt departure “was not due to any dispute or disagreement with the Company, its management or the Board on any matter relating to the Company’s operations, policies or practices.”

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Yong Dai, Frontera Therapeutics CEO

Scoop: Lit­tle-known Or­biMed-backed biotech clos­es $160M round to start gene ther­a­py tri­al

Frontera Therapeutics, a China and US biotech, has closed a $160 million Series B and received regulatory clearance to test its first gene therapy stateside, Endpoints News has learned.

Led by the largest shareholder, OrbiMed, the biotech has secured $195 million total since its September 2019 founding, according to an email reviewed by Endpoints. The lead AAV gene therapy program is for an undisclosed rare eye disease, according to the source.

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Spanish Prime Minister Pédro Sanchez and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen (AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert)

EU to launch vac­cine de­vel­op­ment and man­u­fac­tur­ing part­ner­ship with Latin Amer­i­can and Caribbean coun­tries

While European companies, including BioNTech, are focused on increasing vaccine access to African countries by setting up vaccine manufacturing facilities, the European Union is looking westward to Latin America and the Caribbean.

Speaking at a press conference with Spanish Prime Minister Pédro Sanchez, EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said that the EU is launching a new initiative for vaccines and medicines manufacturing in Latin America, to get drugs to Latin America and the Caribbean faster.

DEM BioPharma CEO David Donabedian (L) and executive chair Jan Skvarka

Long­wood sets an­oth­er 'don't eat me' biotech in­to gear with help of for­mer Tril­li­um CEO Jan Skvar­ka

Jonathan Weissman and team are out with a cancer-fighting biotech riding the appetite for those so-called “don’t eat me” and “eat me” signals.

The scientific co-founder — alongside fellow Whitehead Institute colleague Kipp Weiskopf and Stanford biologist Michael Bassik — has launched DEM BioPharma with incubator Longwood Fund and a crop of other investors.

In all, the nascent, 10-employee biotech has $70 million to bankroll hematology- and solid tumor-based programs, including a lead asset that could enter human trials in two to three years, CEO David Donabedian told Endpoints News.

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GSK says its drug for chron­ic hep B could ‘lead to a func­tion­al cure’ — but will it be alone or in com­bi­na­tion?

GSK, newly branded and soon-to-be demerged, shared interim results from its Phase II trial on its chronic hepatitis B treatment, one that it says has the “potential to lead to a functional cure.”

At a presentation at the EASL International Liver Congress, GSK shared that in around 450 patients who received its hep B drug bepirovirsen for 24 weeks, just under 30% had hepatitis B surface antigen and viral DNA levels that were too low to detect.