Fresh from the No­var­tis/Trump scan­dal, ex-CEO Joe Jimenez jumps on the board of uBio­me — a biotech launch­ing an R&D group

Af­ter fig­ur­ing in as one of the cen­tral fig­ures for one of the most talked about scan­dals in bio­phar­ma his­to­ry, ex-No­var­tis CEO Joe Jimenez is step­ping back out on­to the stage to­day with a board seat at a com­mer­cial mi­cro­bio­me com­pa­ny that is now set­ting its sights on cre­at­ing a drug de­vel­op­ment arm.

Launched 6 years ago from its base in the Bay Area, uBio­me has launched a pair of con­sumer tests that can do at-home tests on your gut or the STDs that women face, like chlamy­dia and gon­or­rhea. Now the com­pa­ny has raised $83 mil­lion from ven­ture back­ers — led by OS Fund — in a new dri­ve to join the pack de­vel­op­ing new mi­cro­bio­me ther­a­pies. That’s been a fast-grow­ing field in re­cent times.

Jes­si­ca Rich­man

Click on the im­age to see the full-sized ver­sion

To do that, the com­pa­ny is set­ting up a new R&D unit on the oth­er side of the coun­try, in Cam­bridge, MA. I talked with CEO and founder Jes­si­ca Rich­man, who’s still play­ing some of her cards close to her vest — from the num­ber of peo­ple she’s plan­ning to have in the group to the spe­cif­ic pro­grams she has in mind. 

For now, the R&D plan is ball­parked in three key ar­eas: meta­bol­ic and au­toim­mune dis­eases along with can­cer, with some part­ner­ship talks in the works. 

“8VC (which led their B round) brought on Joe as an ad­vis­er,” the CEO tells me. “We just re­al­ly liked him, he’s a gre­gar­i­an” and “great per­son” who al­so of­fered some great ad­vice on their bud­ding com­mer­cial work. 

Nor­mal­ly, any com­pa­ny of uBio­me’s size and scope could on­ly dream about get­ting the ex-CEO of one of the world’s biggest phar­ma com­pa­nies on the board.

But Jimenez? 

So what about the big No­var­tis scan­dal, where Jimenez con­firmed that he signed up Michael Co­hen, Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s per­son­al at­tor­ney, for a $1.2 mil­lion con­tract? Mon­ey that went in­to the same pot that paid porn ac­tress Stormy Daniels’ hush mon­ey. The one Jimenez says was a sim­ple and short-lived con­sult­ing con­tract in search of a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing of Trump’s health­care plans, and the one De­moc­rats in­sist was a sim­ple at­tempt to buy ac­cess and in­flu­ence in what was not at all a short-lived con­nec­tion.

“In our un­der­stand­ing there’s no is­sue there,” replies Rich­man. And from what he says, it was all much “dif­fer­ent than what was por­trayed in the press.”

How so? 

That, she replied, was a ques­tion best di­rect­ed at Jimenez.

I will — if I ever get the chance.


Im­age: Joe Jimenez. UBIO­ME

FDA chief Stephen Hahn on Capitol Hill earlier this week (Getty Images)

As FDA’s work­load buck­les un­der the strain, Trump again ac­cus­es the agency of a po­lit­i­cal hit job

Peter Marks appeared before a virtual SVB Leerink audience yesterday and said that his staff at FDA’s CBER is on the verge of working around the clock. Manufacturing inspections, policy work and sponsor communications have all been pushed down the to-do list so that they can be responsive to Covid-related interactions. And the agency’s objective right now? “To save as many lives as we can,” Marks said, likening the mortality on the current outbreak as equivalent to “a nuclear bomb on a small city.”

Mi­no­ryx and Sper­o­genix ink an ex­clu­sive li­cense agree­ment to de­vel­op and com­mer­cial­ize lerigli­ta­zone in Chi­na

September 23, 2020 – Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai (China) and Mataró, Barcelona (Spain)  

Minoryx will receive an upfront and milestone payments of up to $78 million, as well as double digit royalties on annual net sales 

Sperogenix will receive exclusive rights to develop and commercialize leriglitazone for the treatment of X-linked adrenoleukodystrophy (X-ALD), a rare life-threatening neurological condition

David Berry (Flagship)

Flag­ship's next big tech­no­log­i­cal bet? The cloud

Earlier this month, Flagship announced their big bet on the software half the industry is talking about, launching the AI and machine learning startup. Now, they and a couple other investors are gambling $100 million on a software that much of the public generally thinks of as a cool, IT afterthought: cloud computing.

The idea, says founder and Flagship partner David Berry, is one of scale: The sheer magnitude of biological data that you can store on cloud technology is unprecedented. And that size, when leveraged properly, can allow you to ask questions and form insights that are similarly unprecedented.

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Patrick Enright, Longitude co-founder (Longitude)

As its biotechs hit the pan­dem­ic ex­it, Lon­gi­tude rais­es $585M for new neu­ro, can­cer, ag­ing and or­phan-fo­cused fund

The years have been kind to Longitude Capital. This year, too.

A 2006 spinout of Pequot Capital, its founders started their new firm just four years before the parent company would go under amid insider trading allegations. Their first life sciences fund raised $325 million amid the financial crisis, they added a second for $385 million and then in, 2016, a third for $525 million. In the last few months, the pandemic biotech IPO boom netted several high-value exits from those funds, as Checkmate, Vaxcyte, Inozyme and Poseida all went public.

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The win­dow is wide open as four more biotechs join the go-go IPO class of 2020

It’s another day of hauling cash in the biopharma world as four more IPOs priced Friday and a fifth filed its initial paperwork.

The biggest offering comes from PMV Pharma, an oncology biotech focusing on p53 mutations, which raised $211.8 million after pricing shares at $18 apiece. Prelude Therapeutics, developing PRMT5 inhibitors for rare cancers, was next with a $158 million raise, pricing shares at $19 each. Graybug Vision raised $90 million after pricing at $16 per share for its wet AMD candidates, and breast cancer biotech Greenwich Lifesciences brought up the rear with a small, $7 million raise after pricing shares at $5.75.

J&J of­fers PhI/IIa da­ta show­ing its sin­gle-dose vac­cine can stir up suf­fi­cient im­mune re­sponse

Days after J&J dosed the first participants of its Phase III ENSEMBLE trial, the pharma giant has detailed the early-stage data that gave them confidence in a single-dose regimen.

Testing two dose levels either as a single dose or in a two-dose schedule spaced by 56 days in, the scientists from Janssen, the J&J subsidiary developing its vaccine, reported that the low dose induced a similar immune response as the high dose. The interim Phase I/IIa results were posted in a preprint on medRxiv.

Daniel O'Day, Gilead CEO (Kevin Dietsch/UPI/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Play-by-play of Gilead­'s $21B Im­munomedics buy­out de­tails a fren­zied push — and mints a new biotech bil­lion­aire

Immunomedics had not really been looking for a buyout when the year began. Excited by its BLA for Trodelvy, submitted to the FDA in late 2019, executive chairman Behzad Aghazadeh started off looking for potential licensing deals and zeroed in on four potential partners, including Gilead, following January’s JP Morgan Healthcare Conference in San Francisco. Such talks advanced throughout the year, with discussions advancing to the second round in mid-August.

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President Donald Trump reacts after signing an executive order following his remarks on his healthcare policies yesterday in Charlotte, North Carolina (Getty Images)

Op-ed: Will phar­ma re­al­ly pay for Trump’s lat­est law­less promise to 33 mil­lion Medicare ben­e­fi­cia­ries? Not like­ly

Sitting atop the executive branch, President Donald Trump is the ultimate authority at the FDA. He can fast track any vaccine to approval himself. If it came to that, of course.

What he can’t do is unilaterally order the legislative branch to loosen the Treasury’s coffers for $6.6 billion. Nor can he command pharmaceutical companies to pay for $200 vouchers sent to 33 million Medicare beneficiaries for prescription drugs before the election.

Pal­la­dio bags $20 mil­lion Se­ries B to top­ple a prob­lem­at­ic kid­ney dis­ease drug

Palladio Biosciences just took one step further in its quest to topple Otsuka’s Samsca with its own — it hopes safer — autosomal dominant polycystic kidney disease (ADPKD) drug.

The Pennsylvania-based biotech announced a $20 million Series B on Friday, which will fund a 10-person Phase III trial of its vasopressin V2 receptor agonist, lixivaptan. CEO Alex Martin expects to read out data in the first half of next year, then launch straight into a larger pivotal Phase III study with about 1,200 participants.