Gold­man Sach­s' Ankang Li heads to biotech Terns as new CFO; SV re­cruits new part­ner for De­men­tia Dis­cov­ery Fund

Ankang Li Busi­ness Wire

→ Fresh off a NASH deal with French drug­mak­er Gen­fit, Terns Phar­ma has ap­point­ed Ankang Li as CFO. The Chi­nese biotech scooped Li from Gold­man Sachs, where he led high pro­file biotech IPOs as ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of health­care in­vest­ment bank­ing. A law school grad­u­ate with a back­ground in bio­med­ical re­search — his ca­reer has tak­en him to Salk In­sti­tute and Mer­ck’s Asia Pa­cif­ic in­no­va­tion hub — Li will hold ex­ten­sive re­spon­si­bil­i­ties in cor­po­rate fi­nanc­ing and busi­ness de­vel­op­ment.

→ Ven­ture Cap­i­tal SV Health In­vestors an­nounced the ap­point­ment of Jonathan Behr as part­ner in the De­men­tia Dis­cov­ery Fund — which at the com­ple­tion of its fundrais­ing in 2018 raised £250 mil­lion ($350 mil­lion). Behr joins the fund from JDRF T1D fund, where he served as its first man­ag­ing di­rec­tor. He brings ex­pe­ri­ence from var­i­ous roles at PureTech Ven­tures, En­light Bio­sciences and more than 13 oth­er com­pa­nies. 

Mitchell Chan Linkedin

Viela Bio has pro­mot­ed Mitchell Chan, one of the As­traZeneca ex­ecs who mi­grat­ed to the spin­out, to CFO. Hav­ing as­sist­ed in rais­ing cap­i­tal as head of fi­nance and cor­po­rate strat­e­gy, he will now add trea­sury, in­vestor re­la­tions and oth­er re­spon­si­bil­i­ties to his plate. His place­ment in the C-suite comes at a time Viela is gear­ing up to bring its lead drug, inebi­lizum­ab, to the FDA.

→ The mak­er of the wide­ly-abused opi­oid drug Oxy­con­tin, Pur­due Phar­ma is try­ing to leave its bad rep­u­ta­tion be­hind and re­build its R&D sec­tor with the ap­point­ment of Julie Ducharme as the com­pa­ny’s vice pres­i­dent and CSO. The com­pa­ny says that Ducharme will al­so “sup­port the com­pa­ny’s on­go­ing ef­forts to help ad­dress the opi­oid ad­dic­tion cri­sis.” Ducharme has 25 years of ex­pe­ri­ence un­der her belt and brings skills from her time at As­traZeneca, Mu­nid­phar­ma and the Na­tion­al Re­search Coun­cil (Cana­da). Pur­due Phar­ma is re­port­ed­ly con­sid­er­ing bank­rupt­cy — a route tak­en by Sub­sys-mak­er In­syswhich is re­port­ed­ly con­sid­er­ing bank­rupt­cy — a route tak­en by Sub­sys-mak­er In­sys.

Julie Ducharme Linkedin

→ Swiss-based Ob­sE­va — a com­pa­ny fo­cus­ing on ther­a­pies for con­di­tions that com­pro­mise the fe­male re­pro­duc­tive health and preg­nan­cy — wel­comed Eliz­a­beth Gar­ner to the ranks as its CMO. The cur­rent CMO and head of phar­ma­covig­i­lance, Elke Bestel, will be nom­i­nat­ed as the com­pa­ny’s vice pres­i­dent, head of drug safe­ty and phar­ma­covig­i­lance and re­main on Ob­sE­va’s ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee. Most re­cent­ly, Gar­ner served as CMO and SVP clin­i­cal de­vel­op­ment at Ag­ile Ther­a­peu­tics. Her pre­vi­ous stints in­clude roles at Myr­i­ad Ge­net­ics Lab­o­ra­to­ries, Mer­ck Re­search Lab­o­ra­to­ries and Ab­bott Lab­o­ra­to­ries — where she was the clin­i­cal lead of the en­dometrio­sis pro­gram for the now FDA-ap­proved elagolix (Orilis­sa).

→ CEO and pres­i­dent of Arch On­col­o­gy — a clin­i­cal-stage im­muno-on­col­o­gy com­pa­ny de­vel­op­ing an­ti-CD47 mAbs — Julie Cher­ring­ton, has joined the board of di­rec­tors at Mi­rati Ther­a­peu­tics — a biotech­nol­o­gy com­pa­ny fo­cused on can­cer ther­a­pies. Cher­ring­ton was the key con­trib­u­tor to the de­vel­op­ment of FDA-ap­proved prod­ucts Su­tent, Pal­la­dia, Vis­tide, Viread and Hep­sera. Cher­ring­ton has a wealth of ex­ec­u­tive ex­pe­ri­ence and has served at Gilead Sci­ences, Zenith Epi­ge­net­ics and Path­way Ther­a­peu­tics among oth­ers. 

Eliz­a­beth Gar­ner Linkedin

In­Med Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals — a com­pa­ny fo­cused on cannabi­noids — has ap­point­ed Take­da vet Cather­ine Saz­danoff to its board of di­rec­tors. Saz­danoff joined Take­da in 2006 and pri­or to that, she served in var­i­ous roles at Ab­bott Lab­o­ra­to­ries since 1984. Saz­danoff is al­so the in­de­pen­dent di­rec­tor of the board of Merid­i­an Bio­science and the cur­rent pres­i­dent and CEO of Saz­danoff Con­sult­ing

Squarex, a low-pro­file biotech work­ing on a pre­ven­ta­tive treat­ment for cold sores, has tapped a sea­soned CEO to suc­ceed its founder at the helm. Jack Tal­ley joins just past his four-year an­niver­sary with Izun Phar­ma, which fol­lowed pre­vi­ous stints at Alis­sa, Ac­tini­um and Epi­Cept. He is charged with steer­ing SQX770, a top­i­cal for­mu­la­tion of the im­munomod­u­la­tor squar­ic acid dibutyl es­ter, from Phase II tri­als to­ward an ap­proval. Hugh Mc­Tavish, who co-in­vent­ed the com­pa­ny’s tech­nol­o­gy with hopes of one-up­ping cur­rent drugs for her­pes labi­alis, is tran­si­tion­ing to an ex­ec­u­tive chair­man role.

Julie Cher­ring­ton Linkedin

SOPHiA GE­NET­ICS — a health tech com­pa­ny who de­vel­oped the AI SOPHiA for health­care pro­fes­sion­als — wel­comed Foun­da­tion Med­i­cine vet Troy Cox to its board of di­rec­tors. Pri­or to serv­ing at the Foun­da­tion Med­i­cine, Cox held roles at Genen­tech, UCB Bio­Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals, Sanofi-Aven­tis and Scher­ing-Plough.

Ryan Watts, Denali CEO

Bio­gen hands De­nali $1B-plus in cash, $1B-plus in mile­stones to part­ner on late-stage Parkin­son’s drug

Biogen is handing over more than a billion dollars cash to partner with the up-and-coming neurosciences crew at Denali on a new therapy for Parkinson’s. And the big biotech is ready to pile on more than a billion dollars more in milestones — if the alliance is a success.

For Biogen $BIIB, the move on Denali’s small molecule inhibitors of LRRK2 puts them in line to collaborate on a late-stage program for DNL151, which is scheduled to start next year.

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President Trump speaks with members of the media before boarding Marine One (AP Images)

'Oc­to­ber is com­ing,' and every­one still wants to know if a Covid-19 vac­cine will be whisked through the FDA ahead of the elec­tion

Right on the heels of a lengthy assurance from FDA commissioner Stephen Hahn that the agency will not rush through a quick approval for a Covid-19 vaccine, the President of the United States has some thoughts on timing he’d like to share.

In an exchange with Fox News’ Geraldo Rivera on Thursday, President Trump allowed that a vaccine could be ready to roll “sooner than the end of the year, could be much sooner.”

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Yvonne Greenstreet, incoming Alnylam president (Alnylam)

Al­ny­lam pres­i­dent Bar­ry Greene leaves af­ter 17 years, hand­ing po­si­tion over to Yvonne Green­street as biotech looks to­ward prof­itabil­i­ty

After 17 years helping Alnylam steer control of buzzy but unproven science they promised could change medicine, president Barry Greene is leaving the RNAi biotech just as that technology is beginning to hit prime time.

Leaving to “pursue outside interests in the biopharmaceutical industry,” the longtime executive will hand over the reins on October 1 to current COO Yvonne Greenstreet. Greenstreet, a former Pfizer and GlaxoSmithKline executive, inherits the high-profile spot at a company that’s proven its tech can work in rare diseases but now faces the daunting task of turning a couple successes and a new mountain of cash into drugs that are broadly applicable and, crucially, profitable.

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Covid-19 roundup: 34 AGs call for ‘march-in’ rights on remde­sivir; Hahn pleads with pub­lic to trust FDA's vac­cine re­view

A bipartisan group of 34 attorneys general have asked the federal government to bypass Gilead’s patent rights on remdesivir and begin scaling and distributing the Covid-19 antiviral, or to allow the states to do it themselves.

In a letter to HHS secretary Alex Azar, the AGs expressed frustrations over the $3,250 price tag Gilead placed on the the drug, citing the federal funding that went into its developments. And they noted the sustained difficulties hospitals have faced in getting supplies from either the California biotech or their contract manufacturer AmerisourceBergen.

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Douglas Fambrough, Dicerna CEO (Boehringer Ingelheim via YouTube)

Roche-backed Dicer­na push­es in­to the pack rac­ing to­ward the block­buster hep B goal line, armed with PhI da­ta

Dicerna has lined up a set of proof-of-concept data from a small cohort of hepatitis B patients in a match-up against some heavyweight rivals which got out in front of this race. And right in the front row you’ll find a team from Roche, which paid $200 million in cash and offered another $1.5 billion in milestones to partner with Dicerna $DRNA on their RNAi program for hep B.

Right now it’s looking competitive, with lots of big challenges ahead.

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UP­DAT­ED: No­vavax her­alds the lat­est pos­i­tive snap­shot of ear­ly-stage Covid-19 vac­cine — so why did its stock briefly crater?

High-flying Novavax $NVAX became the latest of the Covid-19 vaccine players to stake out a positive set of biomarker data from its early-stage look at its vaccine in humans.

Their adjuvanted Covid-19 vaccine was “well-tolerated and elicited robust antibody responses numerically superior to that seen in human convalescent sera,” the company noted. According to the biotech:

All subjects developed anti-spike IgG antibodies after a single dose of vaccine, many of them also developing wild-type virus neutralizing antibody responses, and after Dose 2, 100% of participants developed wild-type virus neutralizing antibody responses. Both anti-spike IgG and viral neutralization responses compared favorably to responses from patients with clinically significant COVID‑19 disease. Importantly, the IgG antibody response was highly correlated with neutralization titers, demonstrating that a significant proportion of antibodies were functional.

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Jan Hatzius (Photographer: Christopher Goodney/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

When will it end? Gold­man econ­o­mist gives late-stage vac­cines a good shot at tar­get­ing 'large shares' of the US by mid-2021 — but the down­side is daunt­ing

It took decades for hepatitis B research to deliver a slate of late-stage candidates capable of reining the disease in.

With Covid-19, the same timeline has devoured all of 5 months. And the outcome will influence the lives of billions of people and a multitrillion-dollar world economy.

Count the economists at Goldman Sachs as optimistic that at least one of these leading vaccines will stay on this furiously accelerated pace and get over the regulatory goal line before the end of this year, with a shot at several more near-term OKs. That in turn should lead to the production of billions of doses of vaccines that can create herd immunity in the US by the middle of next year, with Europe following a few months later.

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J&J gets a fresh OK for es­ke­t­a­mine, but is it re­al­ly the game-chang­er for de­pres­sion Trump keeps tweet­ing about?

Backed by an enthusiastic set of tweets from President Trump and a landmark OK for depression, J&J scooped up a new approval from the FDA for Spravato today. But this latest advance will likely bring fresh scrutiny to a drug that’s spurred some serious questions about the data, as well as the price.

First, the approval.

Regulators stamped their OK on the use of Spravato — developed as esketamine, a nasal spray version of the party drug Special K or ketamine — for patients suffering from major depressive disorder with acute suicidal ideation or behavior.

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Ben Dake (Source: Aerovate)

RA Cap­i­tal-backed Aerovate launch­es with $72.6M to treat PAH with a re­pur­posed can­cer med

The landmark cancer drug imatinib has been on the market since 2001, first sold by Novartis as Gleevec and in recent years as a generic. Now, a new Boston biotech is aiming to repurpose the drug as a treatment for pulmonary arterial hypertension.

Aerovate emerged from stealth Thursday and announced a $72.6 million Series A, which will be used to develop and run trials for its candidate AV-101 — a dry powder version of imatinib meant to be used with an inhaler. The company emerged from RA Capital’s incubator and funding was led by Sofinnova.