Philip Krause

For­mer FDA vac­cines deputy Krause heads down un­der as Mesoblast tries again on near­ly en­tire pipeline

Philip Krause will take his 11 years of in­sight from the up­per ech­e­lons of the FDA — es­pe­cial­ly dur­ing pan­dem­ic vac­cine nods — and ap­ply it to an Aus­tralian biotech that wants a sec­ond chance at se­cur­ing ap­proval in the US, par­tic­u­lar­ly as it looks to bounce back from a nixed No­var­tis deal.

The for­mer sec­ond-in-com­mand for vac­cines lead­er­ship at the FDA de­part­ed un­der murky cir­cum­stances last fall when he and Mar­i­on Gru­ber, di­rec­tor of the reg­u­la­tor’s Of­fice of Vac­cines Re­search & Re­view, re­port­ed­ly were miffed by the fed­er­al ad­min­is­tra­tion’s side­step­ping of the FDA on mat­ters of Covid-19 boost­er shots.

Now, Krause will pro­vide reg­u­la­to­ry lessons to Mesoblast as a board mem­ber. The move comes at a crit­i­cal junc­ture for the Aussie drug de­vel­op­er as it looks to win over the FDA for its cell ther­a­py to treat chil­dren with steroid-re­frac­to­ry acute graft ver­sus host dis­ease (SR-aGVHD). The FDA re­ject­ed the drug, remestem­cel-L, on the grounds that a sin­gle-arm, open-la­bel study was not enough in an Oc­to­ber 2020 de­ci­sion.

The agency want­ed a ran­dom­ized tri­al, but Mesoblast ap­plied af­ter a sin­gle-arm study showed sta­tis­ti­cal­ly sig­nif­i­cant ben­e­fit on the pri­ma­ry goal against a his­tor­i­cal con­trol rate in a phase III study. Reg­u­la­tors con­vened an ad­vi­so­ry com­mit­tee to dis­cuss the ap­pli­ca­tion, and the study de­sign was dif­fi­cult for some mem­bers to en­dorse since par­ents and pe­di­a­tri­cians would be re­luc­tant to place chil­dren in a place­bo arm.

Since then, the biotech has said it’s been in a “well-es­tab­lished process with FDA’s Cen­ter for Bi­o­log­ics Eval­u­a­tion and Re­search.” The biotech is tee­ing up for a re­sub­mis­sion of the ther­a­py.

“Mesoblast has now gen­er­at­ed sub­stan­tial new da­ta that it be­lieves es­tab­lish the rel­e­vance of the pro­posed po­ten­cy as­say mea­sur­ing remestem­cel-L’s in vit­ro an­ti-in­flam­ma­to­ry and im­munomod­u­la­to­ry ac­tiv­i­ty to the in vi­vo clin­i­cal ef­fect of the prod­uct in the Phase 3 tri­al in chil­dren with SR-aGVHD, in­clud­ing sur­vival and bio­mark­ers of in vi­vo ac­tiv­i­ty,” the com­pa­ny said last month in its lat­est quar­ter­ly re­port.

As a new­ly mint­ed board mem­ber, Krause did not mince words on the cen­tral role he thinks he can play in Mesoblast’s path to mar­ket.

“I be­lieve I can make a sub­stan­tial con­tri­bu­tion at this very im­por­tant time in the com­pa­ny’s tran­si­tion to­wards com­mer­cial­iza­tion,” the 30-year FDA vet­er­an said in a state­ment.

Krause, who was in­volved in vac­cines de­lib­er­a­tions dur­ing the height of the pan­dem­ic, joins Mesoblast as it al­so looks to re­bound from a failed $1.2 bil­lion deal with No­var­tis in which the biotech test­ed the aGVHD drug in ven­ti­la­tor-de­pen­dent Covid-19 pa­tients with acute res­pi­ra­to­ry dis­tress syn­drome.

The No­vem­ber 2020 deal flunked with­in weeks as the da­ta safe­ty mon­i­tor­ing board rec­om­mend­ed they no longer en­roll new pa­tients and wrap the tri­al ear­ly be­cause it was un­like­ly to meet a 30-day mor­tal­i­ty re­duc­tion goal. Twelve months lat­er, No­var­tis ditched its col­lab­o­ra­tor.

But, as it ap­pears to go at Mesoblast, there’s a sec­ond try at every­thing. Last month, the biotech chalked up the con­tin­u­ing need for new Covid-19 ther­a­pies due to new vari­ants and still high num­bers of pa­tients on ven­ti­la­tors.

Af­ter talks with the FDA, Mesoblast will con­duct an­oth­er tri­al in this pa­tient pop­u­la­tion — peo­ple with mod­er­ate or se­vere ARDS due to the pan­dem­ic dis­ease — and that could pave the way for an emer­gency use nod, a route that Krause has fa­mil­iar­i­ty with around the Covid-19 jabs.

Al­so on the dock­et is a new Phase III tri­al in the US for rexleme­stro­cel-L in pa­tients with chron­ic low back pain. That study may sup­port ap­proval sub­mis­sions in the US and EU, Mesoblast said last month. Don’t fret, Mesoblast al­so wants to give the cell ther­a­py an­oth­er shot in chron­ic heart fail­ure af­ter a Phase III flop in De­cem­ber 2020.

For Krause, this isn’t the first biotech he’s linked arms with since leav­ing FDA HQ. He be­came a strate­gic ad­vi­sor at Ad­ju­vance Tech­nolo­gies in Jan­u­ary, a lit­tle-known Lin­coln, NE biotech work­ing on whoop­ing cough and shin­gles vac­cines.

Illustration: Assistant Editor Kathy Wong for Endpoints News

How Pur­due's $272M ad­dic­tion pay­out fund­ed a new home for its dis­card­ed non-opi­oid re­search

Don Kyle spent more than 20 years working for Purdue Pharma, right through the US opioid epidemic that led to the company’s rise and eventual infamy. But contrary to Purdue’s focus on OxyContin, Kyle was researching non-opioid painkillers — that is, until the company shelved his research.

As the company’s legal troubles mounted, Kyle found an unlikely way to reboot the project. In 2019, he took his work to an Oklahoma State University center that’s slated to receive more than two-thirds of the state’s $272 million settlement with Purdue over claims that the drugmaker’s behavior ignited the epidemic of opioid use and abuse.

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President Joe Biden at the State of the Union address with Vice President Kamala Harris and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (Patrick Semansky/AP Images)

The drug pric­ing pres­i­dent: Biden warns of ve­to for any IRA re­peal at­tempts

President Joe Biden made clear in his “finish the job” State of the Union address last night that one of those jobs to be finished is insulin prices.

Biden’s push again to tackle insulin prices, after Republicans rebuffed the idea last summer and just after Biden won Medicare drug price negotiations/caps via the Inflation Reduction Act, shows how heavily he’s leaning into this work.

Rupert Vessey, Bristol Myers Squibb head of research and early development

Up­dat­ed: R&D tur­bu­lence at Bris­tol My­ers now in­cludes the end of a $650M al­liance and the de­par­ture of a top re­search cham­pi­on

This morning biotech Dragonfly put out word that Bristol Myers Squibb has handed back all rights to its IL-12 clinical-stage drug after spending $650 million to advance it into the clinic.

The news arrives amid a turbulent R&D stage for the pharma giant, which late last week highlighted Rupert Vessey’s decision to depart this summer as head of early-stage R&D following a crucial three-year stretch after he jumped to Bristol Myers in the big Celgene buyout. During that time he struck a series of deals for Bristol Myers, and also shepherded a number of Celgene programs down the pipeline, playing a major role for a lineup of biotechs which depended on him to champion their drugs.

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Utpal Koppikar, new Verily CFO

Ex­clu­sive: Ver­i­ly wel­comes Atara Bio­ther­a­peu­tics vet­er­an as new CFO

Verily, Alphabet’s life sciences outfit, has plucked a new CFO from the ranks of Atara Biotherapeutics, the company announced on Wednesday.

Utpal Koppikar joins Verily after a nearly five-year stint as CFO and senior VP at Atara, though his résumé also boasts roles at Gilead and Amgen.

The news follows a major reshuffling at Verily, including several senior departures earlier this year and a round of layoffs.

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Bill Anderson, incoming Bayer CEO (David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Bay­er taps Roche's Bill An­der­son to lead phar­ma gi­ant as CEO

We now know where Roche’s ex-pharma chief Bill Anderson is going.

German pharma giant Bayer announced Wednesday that Anderson will be taking on the role as CEO, less than six weeks after Anderson stepped down from his perch at Roche as head of the group’s pharmaceutical division.

Roche announced back in December that Anderson would depart on Dec. 31 to “pursue opportunities outside of Roche.” His replacement, Genentech vet and Roche’s current head of global product strategy, Teresa Graham, will start her role in March.

Bill Haney, Dragonfly CEO (Dave Pedley/Getty Images for SXSW)

Drag­on­fly chief: Bris­tol My­ers shouldn’t blame IL-12’s clin­i­cal per­for­mance for de­ci­sion to scrap the deal — eco­nom­ics played a key role

Bristol Myers Squibb says the IL-12 drug they were developing out of Dragonfly Therapeutics was scrubbed from the pipeline for a simple reason: It didn’t measure up on clinical performance.

But Bill Haney, the CEO of Dragonfly, is taking issue with that.

The early-stage drug, still in Phase I development, has passed muster with Bristol Myers’ general clinical expectations, advancing successfully while still in Phase I, he says.

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Iya Khalil, Merck VP and head of data, AI and genome sciences (Novartis)

Mer­ck-No­var­tis re­volv­ing door spins again as AI leader Iya Khalil switch­es phar­mas

As talk of AI this-and-that gobbles up headline after headline, one Big Pharma is losing its AI leader as she transitions to another drug giant: Iya Khalil will trade in her hat as Novartis’ go-to expert and leader in the space for Merck as VP and head of data, AI and genome sciences next week.

After nearly three years leading the artificial intelligence team at Novartis — as Big Pharma and biotechs alike latch onto the ripening AI-for-drug-discovery mode of operation — Khalil will switch employers to head up a similar post at Merck, where she’ll work out of Cambridge, MA beginning Feb. 13, the company tells Endpoints News.

Singer Nick Jonas is back at work for Dexcom, this time for its new G7 glucose monitor.

Dex­com's spokescelebri­ty Nick Jonas re­turns to Su­per Bowl in new glu­cose mon­i­tor com­mer­cial

Dexcom is going back to the Super Bowl with its pop singer and patient spokesperson Nick Jonas. Jonas takes center stage as the lone figure in the 30-second commercial showcasing Dexcom’s next-generation G7 continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) device.

Jonas’ sleight-of-hand tricks populate the commercial — he pinches his empty fingers together and pops them open to reveal the small CGM — even as he ends the ad, saying, “It’s not magic. It just feels that way.” Jonas then disappears in a puff of smoke.

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Richard Francis, newly-appointed Teva CEO (Novartis via Facebook)

New Te­va CEO Richard Fran­cis repri­or­i­tizes to 'get back to growth'

Six weeks into his new role at the helm of Teva Pharmaceutical, Richard Francis said it’s time to “get back to growth,” starting with a good look at the company’s priorities.

The chief executive has kicked off a strategic review, he announced during Teva’s quarterly call, which will continue over the next several months and produce results sometime in the middle of 2023. That means some pipeline cuts may be in store, he told Endpoints News, while declining to offer much more detail.