Gen­zyme founder, biotech en­tre­pre­neur and in­dus­try leg­end Hen­ri Ter­meer dies

Hen­ri Ter­meer, one of the great­est and most suc­cess­ful vi­sion­ar­ies in biotech, has died. Ac­cord­ing to the Boston Globe, Ter­meer col­lapsed at his Mar­ble­head home on Fri­day evening. He was 71.

Ter­meer’s lega­cy rests on grow­ing Gen­zyme in­to a world leader in or­phan drug R&D, de­vel­op­ing drugs for tiny pa­tient pop­u­la­tions, sav­ing lives and pi­o­neer­ing an ag­gres­sive pric­ing strat­e­gy that made the field a pop­u­lar fo­cus among a whole gen­er­a­tion of star­tups. (The 10 most ex­pen­sive ther­a­pies on the plan­et are all or­phan drugs.) Sanofi CEO Chris Viehbach­er saw the val­ue, and bought the com­pa­ny for about $20 bil­lion in 2011, af­ter Ter­meer had run the com­pa­ny for 30 years — a rare feat in this in­dus­try.

Over the last six years, Ter­meer stayed ac­tive in biotech, serv­ing on boards at Mod­er­na, Ve­rastem and oth­ers and in­vest­ing part of the $158 mil­lion wind­fall of cash he earned in the Sanofi buy­out in a long line­up of up­starts. Ar­rakis, found­ed by se­r­i­al en­tre­pre­neur Michael Gilman, was the most re­cent to earn his sup­port just last Feb­ru­ary. He backed Kees Been as a co-founder at Lyso­so­mal Ther­a­peu­tics. And he clear­ly en­joyed work­ing with many of his old Gen­zyme col­leagues as they left to take oth­er po­si­tions in the Biotech/Cam­bridge biotech hub he helped cre­ate.

He nev­er lost his love of launch­ing new com­pa­nies.

“It is just in that phase of try­ing to de­fine its iden­ti­ty and what it is go­ing to de­vel­op all the way by it­self,” Ter­meer said of Mod­er­na back in 2013 in an in­ter­view with Fierce­Biotech. “That is a fan­tas­tic mo­ment be­cause with that you shape what the fu­ture will look like.”

Ter­meer al­ways kept fo­cused on shap­ing the fu­ture. And biotech will be feel­ing the ef­fects for years to come.

We’ve gath­ered a few trib­utes from Twit­ter and we’ll con­tin­ue to add to this through Sun­day.

Im­age: Feb. 16, 2011: Hen­ri Ter­meer, chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer of Gen­zyme, lis­tens dur­ing a news con­fer­ence an­nounc­ing the deal where France’s Sanofi-Aven­tis agreed to buy Ter­meer’s com­pa­ny, end­ing a nine-month pur­suit of Gen­zyme. Bloomberg via Get­ty Im­ages

 

Pi­o­neer­ing Click Chem­istry in Hu­mans

Reimagining cancer treatments

Cancer is a leading cause of death worldwide, accounting for nearly 10 million deaths in 2020, which is nearly one in six deaths. Recently, we have seen incredible advances in novel cancer therapies such as immune checkpoint inhibitors, cell therapies, and antibody-drug conjugates that have revamped cancer care and improved survival rates for patients.

Despite this significant progress in therapeutic targeting, why are we still seeing such a high mortality rate? The reason is that promising therapies are often limited by their therapeutic index, which is a measure of the effective dose of a drug, relative to its safety. If we could broaden the therapeutic indices of currently available medicines, it would revolutionize cancer treatments. We are still on the quest to find the ultimate cancer medicine – highly effective in several cancer types, safe, and precisely targeted to the tumor site.

Justin Klee (L) and Joshua Cohen, Amylyx co-CEOs (Cody O'Loughlin/The New York Times; courtesy Amylyx)

Ad­vo­cates, ex­perts cry foul over Amy­lyx's new ALS drug, cit­ing is­sues with price, PhI­II com­mit­ment

Not 24 hours after earning the first ALS drug approval in five years, Amylyx Pharmaceuticals’ Relyvrio is already drawing scrutiny. And it’s coming from multiple fronts.

In an investor call Friday morning, Amylyx revealed that it would charge about $158,000 per year, a price point that immediately drew backlash from ALS advocates and some outside observers. The cost reveal had been highly anticipated in the immediate hours after Thursday evening’s approval, though Amylyx only teased Relyvrio would cost less than previously approved drugs.

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Land­mark Amy­lyx OK spurs de­bate; Some... pos­i­tive? Alzheimer's da­ta; Can­cer tri­al bot­tle­neck; Sanofi's CRISPR bet; 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.

After brief stops in Paris and Boston, John Carroll and the Endpoints crew are staying on the road in October with their return for a live/streaming EUBIO22 in London. The hybrid event fireside chats and panels on mRNA, oncology and the crazy public market. We hope you can join him there.

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Joshua Cohen (L) and Justin Klee, Amylyx co-CEOs

Up­dat­ed: Af­ter long and wind­ing road, FDA ap­proves Amy­lyx's ALS drug in vic­to­ry for pa­tients and ad­vo­ca­cy groups

For just the third time in its 116-year history, the FDA has approved a new treatment for Lou Gehrig’s disease, or ALS.

US regulators gave the thumbs-up to the drug, known as Relyvrio, in a massive win for patients and their families. The approval, given to Boston-area biotech Amylyx Pharmaceuticals, comes after two years of long and contentious debates over the drug’s effectiveness between advocacy groups and FDA scientists, following the readout of a mid-stage clinical trial in September 2020.

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#AAO22: J&J’s first look at com­mon eye dis­ease port­fo­lio pads the case for PhII of gene ther­a­py

CHICAGO — While the later-stage drug developers in the geographic atrophy field are near the finish line, Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen is taking a more deliberate route, with a treatment that it hopes to be a one-time fix.

The Big Pharma will take its Hemera Biosciences-acquired gene therapy into a Phase II study later this year in patients with GA, a common form of age-related macular degeneration that impacts about five million people worldwide. To get there, Janssen touted early-stage safety data at the American Academy of Ophthalmology annual conference Saturday morning, half a day after competitors Apellis and Iveric Bio revealed their own more-detailed Phase III analyses.

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Some­one old, some­one new: Mod­er­na pro­motes CTO, raids No­var­tis for re­place­ment amid pipeline push

Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel made clear on the last quarterly call that “now is not the time to slow down.” On Thursday, he made a bit more room in the cockpit.

The company unveiled a new executive role on Thursday, promoting former chief technical operations and quality officer Juan Andres to president of strategic partnerships and enterprise expansion, and poaching a former Novartis exec to take his place.

George Church (courtesy EnPlusOne BioSciences)

George Church, Wyss sci­en­tists and North­pond chal­lenge con­ven­tion­al RNA man­u­fac­tur­ing with new biotech

RNA medicine has been at the forefront for the past few years, with the first RNA silencing therapy approved in 2018, and mRNA Covid vaccines following after. But flying under the radar has been the process of actually making RNA for these treatments.

That’s what Daniel Wiegand and Jonathan Rittichier have been working on in George Church’s lab for the past six years.

Friday morning, they unveiled EnPlusOne Biosciences, a biotech built on their RNA synthesis platform. Wiegand will serve as the Watertown, MA-based biotech’s CEO, and Rittichier will be CSO. And no different from his other startups, Church will be acting as scientific advisor. Its fourth co-founder, Dan Ahlstedt, joined through a Harvard Business School program, and will be COO.

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Up­dat­ed: Al­ny­lam re­in­forces APOL­LO-B patisir­an da­ta be­fore head­ing to the FDA

Weeks after uncorking some mostly positive data for patisiran in transthyretin-mediated (ATTR) amyloidosis with cardiomyopathy, Alnylam is bolstering its package with new exploratory and subgroup data before shipping it off to regulators.

The RNAi drug maintained “generally consistent” benefits in efficacy and quality of life across several prespecified subgroups at month 12, Alnylam announced on Friday afternoon, including age, baseline tafamidis use, ATTR amyloidosis type, baseline six-minute walk test score and others.

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Nooman Haque, head of life sciences and healthcare at Silicon Valley Bank, and John Carroll

I’m head­ed to Lon­don soon for #EU­BIO22. Care to join me?

It was great getting back to a live ESMO conference/webinar in Paris followed by a live pop-up event for the Endpoints 11 in Boston. We’re staying on the road in October with our return for a live/streaming EUBIO22 in London.

Silicon Valley Bank’s Nooman Haque and I are once again jumping back into the thick of it with a slate of virtual and live events on October 12. I’ll get the ball rolling with a virtual fireside chat with Novo Nordisk R&D chief Marcus Schindler, covering their pipeline plans and BD work.