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

Kenji Yasukawa, Astellas CEO (Photographer: Akio Kon/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Astel­las taps chief strat­e­gy of­fi­cer as next CEO to 'go on the ag­gres­sive'

Five years into its big R&D revamp, Astellas says it’s time for a changing of the guard.

Kenji Yasukawa, who took over as president and CEO in 2018, will step down to become chairman of the board in April, making room for Naoki Okamura to take over. Okamura joined the company in 1986 and has served in a variety of finance, business and strategy roles, including most recently as chief strategy officer.

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Jean-Paul Clozel, Idorsia CEO (Patrick Straub/Keystone via AP Images)

Idor­si­a's brain bleed drug flunks PhI­II tri­al, a decade af­ter pre­vi­ous flop

Idorsia’s long journey with clazosentan came to an abrupt “unexpected result” Monday morning with a Phase III flop.

The Swiss biopharma said the drug did not meet the main goal of the late-stage REACT study, conducted in the US, Canada and Europe since early 2019.

The 409-patient trial tested the intravenous drug’s ability to prevent complications due to delayed cerebral ischemia following aneurysmal subarachnoid hemorrhage (aSAH), in which blood vessels in the brain narrow and blood accumulates around the brain’s surface, which then dials up the pressure on the brain.

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Clin­i­cal tri­al di­ver­si­ty da­ta show mis­match be­tween en­roll­ment and dis­ease preva­lence, GSK says

A lack of diversity in clinical trials has persisted despite decades of initiatives to try to turn the tide.

In a recent review of 17 years of clinical trials, drugmaker GSK found that there were some mismatches between the demographics of its US-based trials and how prevalent diseases were in those populations.

The results, the company says, will help GSK and others design studies that better represent epidemiological rates within races and ethnicities.

The Big Phar­ma dis­card pile; Lay­offs all around while some biotechs bid farewell; New Roche CEO as­sem­bles top team; 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.

With earnings seasons in full swing, we’ve listened in on all the calls so you don’t have to. But news is popping up from all corners, so make sure you check out our other updates, too.

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Raymond Stevens, Structure Therapeutics CEO

Be­hind Fri­day's $161M IPO: A star sci­en­tist, GPCR drug dis­cov­ery and a plan to chal­lenge phar­ma in di­a­betes

What does it take to pull off a $161 million biotech IPO these days?

In Structure Therapeutics’ case, it means having a star scientist co-founder paired with the computational drug discovery company Schrödinger, $198 million in private funding from blue-chip investors, almost six years of research work on G protein-coupled receptors and a slate of oral, small-molecule drugs, with an eye on the huge and growing diabetes and weight-loss market.

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Simba Gill, Evelo Biosciences CEO

Sim­ba Gill stay­ing on at Evelo to weath­er lay­offs and a PhII fail

Simba Gill will be staying put as CEO of Evelo Biosciences for now.

Gill announced last year that he would be leaving the head position at Evelo to take on the role of executive partner at Flagship Pioneering. He was aiming to stay on until a successor was selected, but there’s a new course of action in the wake of a Phase II miss and a reduced headcount.

“I want to emphasize that I remain personally committed to Evelo and staying on to lead the organization. I continue to believe that Evelo is a remarkable opportunity in terms of the science, the platform, the type of products that we’re able to produce, and most importantly, the potential of millions of patients suffering from all stages of inflammatory disease,” Gill said on a conference call.

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Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) (Francis Chung/E&E News/Politico via AP Images)

In­fla­tion re­bates in­com­ing: Wyden calls on CMS to move quick­ly as No­var­tis CEO pledges re­ver­sal

Senate Finance Chair Ron Wyden (D-OR) this week sent a letter to the head of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services seeking an update on how and when new inflation-linked rebates will take effect for drugs that see major price spikes.

The newly signed Inflation Reduction Act requires manufacturers to pay a rebate to Medicare when they increase drug prices faster than the rate of inflation.

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Trodelvy notch­es a win in most com­mon form of breast can­cer

Following a promise last year to go “big and fast in breast cancer,” Gilead has secured a win for Trodelvy in the most common form.

The drug was approved to treat HR-positive, HER2-negative breast cancer patients who’ve already received endocrine-based therapy and at least two other systemic therapies for metastatic cancer, Gilead announced on Friday.

Trodelvy won its first indication in metastatic triple-negative breast cancer back in 2020, and has since added urothelial cancer to the list. HR-positive HER2-negative breast cancer accounts for roughly 70% of new breast cancer cases worldwide per year, according to senior VP of oncology clinical development Bill Grossman, and many patients develop resistance to endocrine-based therapies or worsen on chemotherapy.

John Roberts, exiting Vyant Bio CEO

Neu­rode­gen­er­a­tive biotech Vyant warns of po­ten­tial wind-down

The CEO and chief scientific officer of Vyant Bio are out the door as the little-known but publicly-listed neurodegenerative biotech searches for an exit or, if all else fails, a wind-down.

The soul-searching bookends a winding journey for the biotech, which rebranded and transitioned from diagnostics company Cancer Genetics in 2021 after a merger with StemoniX. That came after a failed merger attempt with NovellusDx (now Fore Biotherapeutics) in 2018. In the last few years, units have been sold off and the stock price $VYNT has plummeted from the $30 range to penny stock territory.

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