Gilead R&D chief Nor­bert Bischof­berg­er is leav­ing in sur­prise ex­it, CEO re­vamps top sci­ence jobs

Nor­bert Bischof­berg­er

Af­ter a stretch of close to 30 years at Gilead $GILD, long­time R&D chief Nor­bert Bischof­berg­er is leav­ing the com­pa­ny. He’ll be step­ping out at the end of April, the lat­est in a whirl­wind se­ries of changes among the top sci­en­tists in bio­phar­ma.

John McHutchi­son

Tak­ing his place will be John McHutchi­son, the cur­rent EVP of clin­i­cal re­search at Gilead. And An­drew Cheng is step­ping up as chief med­ical of­fi­cer. Both will re­port di­rect­ly to CEO John Mil­li­gan.

The change up comes af­ter a stretch of tu­mul­tuous in­no­va­tion at Gilead. The com­pa­ny — which eas­i­ly had one of the most ag­gres­sive re­search groups in the in­dus­try — cre­at­ed a pain­less cure for he­pati­tis C, roil­ing that now shrink­ing mar­ket. It al­so set the pace for HIV R&D, where it’s been bat­tling it out with an ag­gres­sive Vi­iV un­der the guid­ance of Glax­o­SmithK­line.

An­drew Cheng

More re­cent­ly, the biotech has lurched in­to a head-to-head race with No­var­tis on CAR-T af­ter buy­ing Kite and be­gin­ning to ag­gres­sive­ly snap up next-gen cell ther­a­py tech.

There have been sev­er­al high-lev­el re­search jobs open up in bio­phar­ma in re­cent months. Jan Lund­berg is leav­ing Eli Lil­ly soon. New GSK CEO Em­ma Walm­s­ley made waves with her re­cent de­ci­sion to re­cruit Hal Bar­ron as head of R&D. And just days ago Roche an­nounced that pRED chief John Reed is al­so leav­ing his po­si­tion, with plans to re­turn to his home base in the U.S.

Bischof­berg­er helped ush­er out 25 com­pounds at Gilead, and what­ev­er he de­cides to do next he’ll have no trou­ble mov­ing along in this boom­ing biotech in­dus­try.

“There are few peo­ple across the en­tire bio­phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal in­dus­try who have had the kind of im­pact Nor­bert has had on trans­form­ing the treat­ment of se­ri­ous dis­eases, or who have demon­strat­ed his depth of un­der­stand­ing of and car­ing for the needs of peo­ple liv­ing with those dis­eases,” said Mil­li­gan. “I have worked along­side Nor­bert for near­ly three decades, and I know I speak for the en­tire Gilead or­ga­ni­za­tion in ex­press­ing my pro­found thanks to him for what he has done to build this com­pa­ny and to change the lives of so many in­di­vid­u­als around the world. We wish him all the best in the next phase of his pro­fes­sion­al ca­reer.”

A New Fron­tier: The In­ner Ear

What happens when a successful biotech venture capitalist is unexpectedly diagnosed with a chronic, life-disrupting vertigo disorder? Innovation in neurotology.

That venture capitalist was Jay Lichter, Ph.D., and after learning there was no FDA-approved drug treatment for his condition, Ménière’s disease, he decided to create a company to bring drug development to neurotology. Otonomy was founded in 2008 and is dedicated to finding new drug treatments for the hugely underserved community living with balance and hearing disorders. Helping patients like Jay has been the driving force behind Otonomy, a company heading into a transformative 2020 with three clinical trial readouts: Phase 3 in Ménière’s disease, Phase 2 in tinnitus, and Phase 1/2 in hearing loss. These catalysts, together with others in the field, highlight the emerging opportunity in neurotology.
Otonomy is leading the way in neurotology
Neurotology, or the treatment of inner ear neurological disorders, is a large and untapped market for drug developers: one in eight individuals in the U.S. have moderate-to-severe hearing loss, tinnitus or vertigo disorders such as Ménière’s disease.1 With no FDA-approved drug treatments available for these conditions, the burden on patients—including social anxiety, lower quality of life, reduced work productivity, and higher rates of depression—can be significant.2, 3, 4

Af­ter 4 years of furor, the FTC and New York state ac­cuse Mar­tin Shkre­li of run­ning a drug mo­nop­oly. And this time they plan to squash it

Pharma bro Martin Shkreli was jailed, publicly pilloried and forced to confront some lawmakers in Washington riled by his move to take an old generic and move the price from $17.50 per pill to $750. But through 4 years of controversy and public revulsion, his company never backed away from the price — left uncontrolled by a laissez faire federal policy on a drug’s cost.

Now the FTC and the state of New York plan to pry his fingers off the drug once and for all and open it up to some cheap competition.

Patrik Jonsson, the president of Lilly Bio-Medicines

Who knew? Der­mi­ra’s board kept watch as its stock price tracked Eli Lil­ly’s se­cret bid­ding on a $1.1B buy­out

In just 8 days, from December 6 to December 14, the stock jumped from $7.88 to $12.70 — just under the initial $13 bid. There was no hard news about the company that would explain a rise like that tracking closely to the bid offer, raising the obvious question of whether insider info has leaked out to traders.

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Short at­tack­er Sahm Ad­ran­gi draws crosshairs over a fa­vorite of Sanofi’s new CEO — with PhII da­ta loom­ing

Sahm Adrang Kerrisdale

Kerrisdale chief Sahm Adrangi took a lengthy break from his series of biotech short attacks after his chief analyst in the field pulled up stakes and went solo. But he’s making a return to drug development this morning, drawing crosshairs over a company that’s one of new Sanofi CEO Paul Hudson’s favorite collaborators.

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UP­DAT­ED: Ac­celeron of­fers thumbs up on a PhII suc­cess for would-be block­buster drug — and shares rock­et up

There’s no public data yet, but Acceleron $XLRN says that its first major trial readout of 2020 is a success.

In a Phase II study of 106 patients with pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH), Acceleron’s experimental drug sotatercept hit its primary endpoint: a significant reduction in pulmonary vascular resistance. The drug also met three different secondary endpoints, including the 6-minute walking test.

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Civi­ca and Blue Cross Blue Shield launch new ven­ture to low­er gener­ic prices

Five years after Martin Shkreli put a smug face to the volatile prices companies can charge even for generic drugs, payers and governments are coming up with outside-the-box solutions.

The latest fix is a new venture from the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, 18 of its members and Civica, the generics company founded in 2018 by hospitals fed up with high prices for drugs that had long-since lost patent protection. While Civica focused on drugs that hospitals purchased, the new company will aim to lower prices on drugs that, like Shkreli’s Daraprim, are purchased by individuals.

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Merck Invests in State-Of-The-Art Biotech Development Facility in Switzerland

Mer­ck KGaA match­es lofty R&D goals with €250M in­vest­ment in­to a new clin­i­cal man­u­fac­tur­ing site in Switzer­land

As Merck KGaA strives to prove itself as a capable biopharma R&D player, it has begun construction on a €250 million facility dedicated to developing and manufacturing drugs for use in clinical trials.

The German drugmaker chose a location at Corsier-sur-Vevey, Switzerland, where it already has a commercial manufacturing site, in order to “bridge together research and manufacturing.”

“This investment in the Merck Biotech Development Center reflects our commitment to speed up the availability of new medicines for patients in need, and confirms the importance of Switzerland as our prime hub for the manufacturing of biotech medicines,” CEO Stefan Oschmann said at the groundbreaking ceremony, according to a statement.

Breast can­cer ap­proval in tow, As­traZeneca, Dai­ichi armed an­ti­body scores in key gas­tric can­cer study

AstraZeneca kicked off Monday with a flurry of good news. Apart from unveiling positive results on its stroke trial testing its clot-fighter Brilinta, and welcoming its experimental IL-23 inhibitor brazikumab back from Allergan — the British drugmaker also disclosed some upbeat gastric cancer data on its HER2-positive oncology therapy it is collaborating on with Daiichi Sankyo.

Buoyed by the performance of its oncology drugs, last March AstraZeneca chief Pascal Soriot bet big to partner with Daiichi on the cancer drug, with $1.35 billion upfront in a deal worth up to roughly $7 billion. Roughly 8 months later, as 2019 drew to a close, the FDA swiftly approved the drug — trastuzumab deruxtecan — for use in breast cancer, months ahead of the expected decision date.

Sor­ren­to shrugs off an anony­mous pri­vate eq­ui­ty group’s $1B of­fer to buy the com­pa­ny

San Diego-based Sorrento Therapeutics isn’t going the M&A route — at least not today.

The biotech caused quite a stir when it put out word a few weeks ago that an unidentified private equity group was bidding a billion dollars-plus for the company. The news drove a quick spike in the company’s share price as investors hooked up for the ride — that didn’t happen.

The update sparked a 5% drop in the share price $SRNE ahead of the bell. It’s now trading just above $4, without any evidence that the $7 price looked like it was firm.