Fred Aslan re­turns to biotech as pres­i­dent of Vi­vid­ion; Zai Lab scoops Por­to­la's Tao Fu to spear­head US op­er­a­tions

Fred Aslan

→ Af­ter a stint as CEO of a med­ical de­vice com­pa­ny, Re­cep­tos co-founder and Ven­rock alum Fred Aslan is back in the drug de­vel­op­ment busi­ness. As pres­i­dent and chief busi­ness of­fi­cer of Vi­vid­ion Ther­a­peu­tics, he will play a cru­cial role in en­gi­neer­ing deals to fi­nance the mul­ti­ple ap­pli­ca­tions of Vi­vid­ion’s syn­thet­ic and pro­teom­ic chem­istry plat­forms, which has al­ready scored a big col­lab­o­ra­tion with Cel­gene. Vi­vid­ion has al­so wooed Lar­ry Burgess — long­time ex­ec at Ar­ray Bio­phar­ma — to be­come its head of chem­istry.

→ Re­mem­ber when Tao Fu qui­et­ly re­signed from his post as chief com­mer­cial and busi­ness at Por­to­la? It turns out he was prep­ping a move to Zai Lab $ZLAB, where he’s been ap­point­ed pres­i­dent and COO with re­spon­si­bil­i­ty on every­thing from busi­ness de­vel­op­ment to man­u­fac­tur­ing. The Shang­hai-based biotech likes his US ex­pe­ri­ence — ac­crued over years of work­ing for J&J and Bris­tol-My­ers Squibb — which will come in­to play as they open up their US head­quar­ters around his of­fice in San Fran­cis­co.

→ Wern­er Cautreels, the long­time CEO at Se­lec­ta Bio­sciences $SELB, is re­tir­ing from his post. The biotech re­port­ed this morn­ing that Bay­er vet Carsten Brunn has been named as the new CEO. Cautreels is stay­ing on as an ad­vis­er af­ter he leaves his job at the end of this year. Se­lec­ta is prep­ping a Phase III study for SEL-212, an ex­per­i­men­tal gout drug. Cautreels was named CEO in 2010, a cou­ple of years af­ter the launch of the com­pa­ny fo­cused on syn­thet­ic vac­cine par­ti­cle tech from the lab of MIT’s Bob Langer.

Karim Dab­bagh

→ There’s been a change of lead­er­ship — and strat­e­gy — at one of the Bay Area biotechs look­ing to play a promi­nent role in mi­cro­bio­me R&D. Glenn Ned­win is out as CEO of Sec­ond Genome, leav­ing the top post open for chief sci­en­tif­ic of­fi­cer Karim Dab­bagh to step in­to. Al­so out is the broad-based ap­proach to R&D that Ned­win had, in­clud­ing ag work, as the biotech looks to cre­ate a ra­zor-sharp fo­cus on an up­com­ing Phase II for NASH — a block­buster tar­get which has in­spired a fren­zy of com­pe­ti­tion. Dab­bagh’s next chap­ter as CEO will cen­ter on SGM-1019, a P2X7 in­hibitor that in­hibits NL­RP3, an in­flam­ma­some that has been at­tract­ing a broad group of play­ers.

→ Ali Fat­taey is out as CEO of Curis. The Lex­ing­ton, MA-based biotech says Fat­taey is leav­ing the com­pa­ny, which is about all it has to say about that. The ex-CEO was cred­it­ed with hir­ing his re­place­ment, COO James Dentzer, now pres­i­dent and CEO. “Look­ing for­ward, we be­lieve (Dentzer) is best po­si­tioned to lead Curis as we seek to progress our three high-val­ue pro­grams quick­ly and suc­cess­ful­ly through the clin­ic,” says chair­man Mar­tyn Greenacre.

→ As Ma­rizyme com­pletes the ac­qui­si­tion of its pro­tease plat­form — and some drug can­di­dates de­vel­oped on it — the biotech has ap­point­ed Michael Han­d­ley as its new CEO. Han­d­ley takes over from Nick De­Vi­to and has the big task of re­al­iz­ing Ma­rizyme’s vi­sion for buy­ing late-stage prod­ucts in the acute care space to push them over the reg­u­la­to­ry fin­ish line.

Nau­tic Part­ners has hired biotech vet Michael Kallelis to run Mikart, the con­tract de­vel­op­ment and man­u­fac­tur­ing or­ga­ni­za­tion it just bought.

Volk­er Her­rmann

→ Weeks af­ter clos­ing a $72 mil­lion round, Ar­mon Sharei, the young founder and CEO at SQZ Biotech has brought in an in­dus­try vet­er­an to shape the biotech’s cor­po­rate strat­e­gy, op­er­a­tions and com­mu­ni­ca­tions as it ap­proach­es the clin­ic. Volk­er Her­rmann’s of­fi­cial ti­tle is pres­i­dent and COO, but he will al­so take over the busi­ness de­vel­op­ment front. A Pfiz­er vet, Her­rmann first made the jump to biotech for Vi­amet Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals and had since worked as COO of Se­len­i­ty Ther­a­peu­tics.

→ Ramp­ing up for piv­otal stud­ies for an old Sanofi drug, X4 Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals has ap­point­ed Adam Mostafa as CFO. While Mostafa most re­cent­ly served in the same po­si­tion at Abpro, he spent most of his ca­reer in the in­vest­ment bank­ing world, capped by a stint as man­ag­ing di­rec­tor at Can­tor Fitzger­ald.  

→ Hav­ing steered Gen­fit’s lead drug, elafi­bra­nor, to a Phase III pro­gram, CMO So­phie Még­nien has de­cid­ed to re­sign from the com­pa­ny but em­pha­sizes that the de­ci­sion is “en­tire­ly per­son­al and is to­tal­ly un­re­lat­ed to Gen­fit or its R&D pro­grams” — pre­sum­ably in re­sponse to ru­mors that she has an of­fer to join a com­peti­tor. Pas­cal Bir­man, her for­mer deputy, is step­ping up to lead the clin­i­cal team.

→ Scrap­ping for cash to pro­duce ad­di­tion­al safe­ty da­ta re­quest­ed by the FDA be­fore it could pro­ceed with its lead drug, Gem­phire has cut in­to its C-suite for a round of lay­offs. The re­duc­tion — which claims five staffers, or a third of the tiny biotech’s work­force — caps a tur­bu­lent few months at Gem­phire $GEMP dur­ing which its shares were bat­tered. Among the five laid off are CFO Jef­frey Math­iesen and CMO Lee Gold­en. CEO Steven Gul­lans will now dou­ble as the prin­ci­pal fi­nan­cial and ac­count­ing of­fi­cer of the com­pa­ny.

Mer­ck vet Arthur San­to­ra has joined a new­ly pub­lic En­tera $EN­TX as its CMO, re­plac­ing Er­ic Lang. The Jerusalem-based biotech is de­vel­op­ing oral for­mu­la­tions of parathy­roid hor­mone (PTH) for os­teo­poro­sis and hy­poparathy­roidism.

→ With Phase III tri­als for its non-opi­oid, non-steroid pain drug un­der­way, Cen­trex­ion Ther­a­peu­tics is ready to talk com­mer­cial­iza­tion. An­drew Par­tridge, for­mer­ly of Ver­tex and Am­gen, is the new EVP and CCO tasked with build­ing out the team.

→ Emerg­ing from the Nu­plazid scan­dal af­ter an FDA re­view con­clud­ed the Parkin­son’s drug car­ries more ben­e­fit than risks, Aca­dia is now ready to move on with this and oth­er clin­i­cal pro­grams in cen­tral ner­vous sys­tem dis­or­ders, an­nounc­ing two new hires. Organon vet Robert Kaper has joined as SVP, glob­al head of med­ical af­fairs, while Eliseo Sali­nas as­sumes the CSO and SVP post af­ter hop­ping around a slate of biotechs.

Mit­subishi Tan­abe Phar­ma Amer­i­ca has re­cruit­ed Joseph Scalia from Bay­er to head its US op­er­a­tions as VP of com­mer­cial sales and mar­ket­ing.

Ea­gle Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals $EGRX has el­e­vat­ed chief com­mer­cial of­fi­cer David Per­nock to the COO role, while keep­ing pres­i­dent in his ti­tle, in prepa­ra­tion for the “next phase in com­mer­cial­iza­tion” of their in­jecta­bles.

→ Har­vard pro­fes­sor and Broad re­searcher David Liu — wide­ly rec­og­nized for his work on gene edit­ing and syn­thet­ic bi­ol­o­gy, with a cou­ple of biotech star­tups un­der his belt — has joined the board of WuXi Bi­o­log­ics.

Bris­tol My­ers is clean­ing up the post-Cel­gene merg­er pipeline, and they’re sweep­ing out an ex­per­i­men­tal check­point in the process

Back during the lead up to the $74 billion buyout of Celgene, the big biotech’s leadership did a little housecleaning with a major pact it had forged with Jounce. Out went the $2.6 billion deal and a collaboration on ICOS and PD-1.

Celgene, though, also added a $530 million deal — $50 million up front — to get the worldwide rights to JTX-8064, a drug that targets the LILRB2 receptor on macrophages.

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UP­DAT­ED: Leg­end fetch­es $424 mil­lion, emerges as biggest win­ner yet in pan­dem­ic IPO boom as shares soar

Amid a flurry of splashy pandemic IPOs, a J&J-partnered Chinese biotech has emerged with one of the largest public raises in biotech history.

Legend Biotech, the Nanjing-based CAR-T developer, has raised $424 million on NASDAQ. The biotech had originally filed for a still-hefty $350 million, based on a range of $18-$20, but managed to fetch $23 per share, allowing them to well-eclipse the massive raises from companies like Allogene, Juno, Galapagos, though they’ll still fall a few dollars short of Moderna’s record-setting $600 million raise from 2018.

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As it hap­pened: A bid­ding war for an an­tibi­ot­ic mak­er in a mar­ket that has rav­aged its peers

In a bewildering twist to the long-suffering market for antibiotics — there has actually been a bidding war for an antibiotic company: Tetraphase.

It all started back in March, when the maker of Xerava (an FDA approved therapy for complicated intra-abdominal infections) said it had received an offer from AcelRx for an all-stock deal valued at $14.4 million.

The offer was well-timed. Xerava was approved in 2018, four years after Tetraphase posted its first batch of pivotal trial data, and sales were nowhere near where they needed to be in order for the company to keep its head above water.

Drug man­u­fac­tur­ing gi­ant Lon­za taps Roche/phar­ma ‘rein­ven­tion’ vet as its new CEO

Lonza chairman Albert Baehny took his time headhunting a new CEO for the company, making it absolutely clear he wanted a Big Pharma or biotech CEO with a good long track record in the business for the top spot. In the end, he went with the gold standard, turning to Roche’s ranks to recruit Pierre-Alain Ruffieux for the job.

Ruffieux, a member of the pharma leadership team at Roche, spent close to 5 years at the company. But like a small army of manufacturing execs, he gained much of his experience at the other Big Pharma in Basel, remaining at Novartis for 12 years before expanding his horizons.

Is a pow­er­house Mer­ck team prepar­ing to leap past Roche — and leave Gilead and Bris­tol My­ers be­hind — in the race to TIG­IT dom­i­na­tion?

Roche caused quite a stir at ASCO with its first look at some positive — but not so impressive — data for their combination of Tecentriq with their anti-TIGIT drug tiragolumab. But some analysts believe that Merck is positioned to make a bid — soon — for the lead in the race to a second-wave combo immuno-oncology approach with its own ambitious early-stage program tied to a dominant Keytruda.

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Covid-19 roundup: Ab­b­Vie jumps in­to Covid-19 an­ti­body hunt; As­traZeneca shoots for 2B dos­es of Ox­ford vac­cine — with $750M from CEPI, Gavi

Another Big Pharma is entering the Covid-19 antibody hunt.

AbbVie has announced a collaboration with the Netherlands’ Utrecht University and Erasmus Medical Center and the Chinese-Dutch biotech Harbour Biomed to develop a neutralizing antibody that can treat Covid-19. The antibody, called 47D11, was discovered by AbbVie’s three partners, and AbbVie will support early preclinical work, while preparing for later preclinical and clinical development. Researchers described the antibody in Nature Communications last month.

Pfiz­er’s Doug Gior­dano has $500M — and some ad­vice — to of­fer a cer­tain breed of 'break­through' biotech

So let’s say you’re running a cutting-edge, clinical-stage biotech, probably public, but not necessarily so, which could see some big advantages teaming up with some marquee researchers, picking up say $50 million to $75 million dollars in a non-threatening minority equity investment that could take you to the next level.

Doug Giordano might have some thoughts on how that could work out.

The SVP of business development at the pharma giant has helped forge a new fund called the Pfizer Breakthrough Growth Initiative. And he has $500 million of Pfizer’s money to put behind 7 to 10 — or so — biotech stocks that fit that general description.

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Mer­ck wins a third FDA nod for an­tibi­ot­ic; Mereo tack­les TIG­IT with $70M raise in hand

Merck — one of the last big pharma bastions in the beleaguered field of antibiotic drug development — on Friday said the FDA had signed off on using its combination drug, Recarbrio, with hospital-acquired bacterial pneumonia and ventilator-associated bacterial pneumonia. The drug could come handy for use in hospitalized patients who are afflicted with Covid-19, who carry a higher risk of contracting secondary bacterial infections. Once SARS-CoV-2, the virus behind Covid-19, infects the airways, it engages the immune system, giving other pathogens free rein to pillage and plunder as they please — the issue is particularly pertinent in patients on ventilators, which in any case are breeding grounds for infectious bacteria.

RA Cap­i­tal, Hill­house join $310M rush to back Ever­est's climb to com­mer­cial heights in Chi­na

Money has never been an issue for Everest Medicines. With an essentially open tab from their founders at C-Bridge Capital, the biotech has gone two and a half years racking up drug after drug, bringing in top exec after top exec, and issuing clinical update after update.

But now other investors want in — and they’re betting big.

Everest is closing its Series C at $310 million. The first $50 million comes from the Jiashan National Economic and Technological Development Zone; the remaining C-2 tranche was led by Janchor Partners, with RA Capital Management and Hillhouse Capital as co-leaders. Decheng Capital, GT Fund, Janus Henderson Investors, Rock Springs Capital, Octagon Investments all joined.