Ex-Mer­ri­mack CEO Mul­roy launch­es on­col­o­gy start­up Part­ner Ther­a­peu­tics

Two vet­er­ans in this busi­ness — the for­mer Mer­ri­mack CEO and the ex-CMO of Ser­agon — have launched a new can­cer start­up that’s built on an in­creas­ing­ly pop­u­lar busi­ness mod­el in biotech: fill the C-suite first, then the pipeline.

Robert Mul­roy

The new ven­ture is called Part­ner Ther­a­peu­tics, or PTx, and it’s led by Robert Mul­roy, who re­signed as Mer­ri­mack’s CEO in Oc­to­ber 2016. Al­so at the helm is De­ba­sish Roy­chowd­hury, who’s serv­ing as PTx’s CMO. You might re­mem­ber Roy­chowd­hury from his time as CMO of Ser­agon Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals, the com­pa­ny Roche/Genen­tech ac­quired for $725 mil­lion back in 2014. But Roy­chowd­hury al­so has a long re­sume in phar­ma, pre­vi­ous­ly serv­ing as clin­i­cal de­vel­op­ment VP at GSK, head­ing Sanofi’s on­col­o­gy unit, and lead­ing the glob­al on­col­o­gy reg­u­la­to­ry group at Eli Lil­ly.

The duo plans to lever­age their ex­pe­ri­ence in drug de­vel­op­ment, fundrais­ing, ap­proval and com­mer­cial­iza­tion to take ap­proved and late-stage treat­ments to the mar­ket.

De­ba­sish Roy­chowd­hury

PTx plans to build its port­fo­lio through the ac­qui­si­tion of pro­grams, op­er­at­ing as an in­te­grat­ed com­mer­cial, de­vel­op­ment, and man­u­fac­tur­ing or­ga­ni­za­tion.

The mod­el is one we’ve seen a lot late­ly, in which trust­ed ex­ec­u­tives are pri­or­i­tized be­fore the pipeline. The hope is that they can de­liv­er one or more re­turns, of­ten fol­low­ing a busi­ness mod­el in which an um­brel­la com­pa­ny finds promis­ing as­sets to ad­vance, and then spins them out in­to sep­a­rate en­ti­ties to see if the sci­ence sinks or swims. That way, one fail­ure doesn’t tank the whole en­ter­prise and the vet­er­an ex­ec­u­tives can dri­ve on.

“We formed PTx to ad­dress gaps in treat­ment and im­prove cost ef­fec­tive­ness of can­cer care through a mis­sion-dri­ven or­ga­ni­za­tion fo­cused on ex­cep­tion­al ex­e­cu­tion on be­half of pa­tients,” Mul­roy said in a state­ment.


Im­age: Robert Mul­roy and De­ba­sish Roy­chowd­hury

Health­care Dis­par­i­ties and Sick­le Cell Dis­ease

In the complicated U.S. healthcare system, navigating a serious illness such as cancer or heart disease can be remarkably challenging for patients and caregivers. When that illness is classified as a rare disease, those challenges can become even more acute. And when that rare disease occurs in a population that experiences health disparities, such as people with sickle cell disease (SCD) who are primarily Black and Latino, challenges can become almost insurmountable.

The End­points 11: They've got mad mon­ey and huge am­bi­tions. It's time to go big or go home

These days, selecting a group of private biotechs for the Endpoints 11 spotlight begins with a sprint to get ahead of IPOs and the M&A teams at Big Pharma. I’ve had a couple of faceplants earlier this year, watching some of the biotechs on my short list choose a quick leap onto Nasdaq or into the arms of a buyer.

Vividion, you would have been a great pick for the Endpoints 11. I’m sorry I missed you.

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Dave Lennon, former president of Novartis Gene Therapies

So what hap­pened with No­var­tis Gene Ther­a­pies? Here's your an­swer

Over the last couple of days it’s become clear that the gene therapy division at Novartis has quietly undergone a major reorganization. We learned on Monday that Dave Lennon, who had pursued a high-profile role as president of the unit with 1,500 people, had left the pharma giant to take over as CEO of a startup.

Like a lot of the majors, Novartis is an open highway for head hunters, or anyone looking to staff a startup. So that was news but not completely unexpected.

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Who are the women su­per­charg­ing bio­phar­ma R&D? Nom­i­nate them for this year's spe­cial re­port

The biotech industry has faced repeated calls to diversify its workforce — and in the last year, those calls got a lot louder. Though women account for just under half of all biotech employees around the world, they occupy very few places in C-suites, and even fewer make it to the helm.

Some companies are listening, according to a recent BIO survey which showed that this year’s companies were 2.5 times more likely to have a diversity and inclusion program compared to last year’s sample. But we still have a long way to go. Women represent just 31% of biotech executives, BIO reported. And those numbers are even more stark for women of color.

Jean Bennett (Brent N. Clarke/Invision/AP Images)

Lux­tur­na in­ven­tor Jean Ben­nett starts a new gene ther­a­py com­pa­ny to tack­le rare dis­eases left be­hind by phar­ma, VCs

A few years ago Jean Bennett found herself in a surprising place for a woman who invented the first gene therapy ever approved in the United States: No one, it seemed, wanted her work.

Bennett, who designed and co-developed Luxturna, approved in 2018 for a rare form of blindness, had kept building new gene therapies for eye diseases at her University of Pennsylvania lab. But although the results in animals looked promising, pharma companies and investors kept turning down the pedigreed ophthalmology professor.

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FDA au­tho­rizes Pfiz­er's vac­cine boost­er for se­niors, those at high risk for se­vere Covid-19

The Biden administration’s goal of kicking off its booster shot drive for the entire US population this week is not quite going as planned.

First, Pfizer applied for approval of a supplemental application for the booster shots, but since last Friday’s adcomm reviewing them, the plan has devolved into an EUA, which the FDA issued late Thursday evening.

The population that is now eligible for the booster, six months after receiving the first pair of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines, also narrowed from what Pfizer applied for (everyone who’s eligible for the initial Pfizer shots) to just those who are 65 or older, or at high-risk of a Covid infection, including health care workers and others with occupational hazards.

Stéphane Bancel, AP Images

Fi­nal analy­sis of US-fund­ed Mod­er­na Covid vac­cine tri­al shows 98% ef­fi­ca­cy against se­vere dis­ease

A final look at the results of the placebo-controlled Moderna trial in the New England Journal of Medicine, published Thursday afternoon, shows how the vaccine continues to prevent Covid-19 and severe cases after more than five months following the second shot.

Of the more than 30,000 enrolled in the trial that ultimately led to the vaccine’s EUA, only two people in the vaccine group got a severe form of the disease, compared to 106 in the placebo group — leading to an efficacy of 98%.

Emma Walmsley, GlaxoSmithKline CEO (Credit: Fang Zhe/Xinhua/Alamy Live News)

The fire un­der Glax­o­SmithK­line's Em­ma Walm­s­ley grows as an­oth­er well-known ac­tivist in­vestor grabs its pitch­fork — re­port

Bluebell Capital Partners, a proxy brawler fresh off a campaign to oust global food giant Danone’s CEO and most of its board of directors, has bought a stake in UK drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline with its eyes trained directly on Emma Walmsley, the Financial Times reported Wednesday.

The London-based hedge fund joins another notorious activist firm in Paul Singer’s Elliott Management, which earlier this year called for a shakeup in leadership at GSK to handle what the company described as a wealth of riches across the drug giant’s portfolio hindered by limited vision from top staff.

FDA+ roundup: Bs­U­FA III ready for show­time, court tells FDA to re-work com­pound­ing plan, new guid­ance up­dates and more

The FDA has now spelled out what exactly will be included in the third iteration of Biosimilar User Fee Act (BsUFA) from 2023 through 2027, which similarly to the prescription drug deal, sets fees that industry has to pay for submitting applications, in exchange for firm timelines that the agency must meet.

This latest deal includes several sweeteners for the biosimilar industry, which has yet to make great strides in the US market, with shorter review timelines for safety labeling updates and updates to add or remove an indication that does not contain efficacy data.

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