Gone away are the blue­bird ex­ecs as COO, CMO both leave the nest; Mike Nal­ly is lat­est ma­jor fig­ure to move on from Mer­ck

Joanne Smith-Far­rell

→ As blue­bird bio’s reg­u­la­to­ry con­cerns swell yet again by press­ing the pause but­ton for Lenti­Glo­bin a month ago, Joanne Smith-Far­rell won’t be around to see how the saga plays out with the FDA. Smith-Far­rell has tak­en the helm at Long­wood-backed B cell biotech Be Bio­phar­ma, which launched last Oc­to­ber with a $52 mil­lion Se­ries A round. She was pre­vi­ous­ly blue­bird’s COO and busi­ness unit head, on­col­o­gy, and she first came to Nick Leschly’s team as CBO in 2017 af­ter her Big Phar­ma ex­pe­ri­ence in busi­ness de­vel­op­ment with Mer­ck and Pfiz­er. Smith-Far­rell tells our Kyle Blanken­ship that her de­ci­sion to be­come CEO at Be Bio wasn’t re­lat­ed to the de­ci­sion to split blue­bird in­to two com­pa­nies in Jan­u­ary.

Else­where, Rick Mor­gan has de­cid­ed not to be part of the Jim Mullen Ex­pe­ri­ence at Ed­i­tas Med­i­cine af­ter join­ing Be Bio as CSO. Mor­gan, a blue­bird vet in his own right, had been the SVP of im­muno­genet­ics at Ed­i­tas since 2018.

→ Smith-Far­rell isn’t the on­ly blue­bird staffer that’s get­ting out of Dodge. CMO David David­son an­nounced his in­tent to leave blue­bird af­ter nine years on the job, ef­fec­tive April 16. The Gen­zyme vet will stay on as a con­sul­tant un­til his suc­ces­sor is found. While the sun part­ed from the clouds for blue­bird this week with pos­i­tive da­ta for its Loren­zo’s Oil dis­ease pro­gram, the Lenti­Glo­bin dra­ma and the sus­pen­sion of mar­ket­ing for Zyn­te­glo still rep­re­sent a stormy pat­tern at the biotech.

Frank Clyburn

Roger Perl­mut­ter sure ini­ti­at­ed a chang­ing of the guard at Mer­ck. Af­ter the R&D chief an­nounced he would hang it up, CEO Ken Fra­zier fol­lowed suit by plan­ning a June 30 de­par­ture. Mike Nal­ly, chief mar­ket­ing of­fi­cer for the Hu­man Health di­vi­sion, was on an in­ter­nal short list of can­di­dates to re­place Fra­zier. But with Robert Davis wait­ing in the wings as CEO, Nal­ly is on his way out too af­ter hold­ing nu­mer­ous gigs at the phar­ma gi­ant since 2003 be­fore be­com­ing the chief mar­ket­ing ex­ec two years ago. Frank Clyburn, who joined Mer­ck in 2008 and was chief com­mer­cial of­fi­cer, Hu­man Health, has been giv­en the ti­tle of pres­i­dent, Hu­man Health.

One oth­er note on Perl­mut­ter: Shang­hai-based CBC Group just named him as a sci­ence part­ner and a mem­ber of the sci­en­tif­ic ad­vi­so­ry board.

→ Jux­ta­posed with the pos­i­tive Phase III da­ta that were re­leased in the SHORE­LINE study for de­pres­sion drug zu­ra­nolone, Sage COO Mike Cloo­nan wants to set out on his own as a CEO (des­ti­na­tion un­known) and bids adieu on May 3. The MOUN­TAIN study for zu­ra­nolone failed in late 2019, gut­ting the stock. And Cloo­nan, an ex-Bio­gen com­mer­cial ex­ec who be­gan as Sage’s CBO in 2017, tran­si­tioned to COO af­ter a re­struc­tur­ing that re­sult­ed in more than half the work­force fac­ing the chop­ping block in April 2020. Three months ago, Bar­ry Greene stepped in to helm Sage, while ex-CEO Jeff Jonas took over as chief in­for­ma­tion of­fi­cer.

Lori Ma­comber

Frank Zhang was re­leased on bail last month, but he’s a man with­out a com­pa­ny now that Ying Huang has tak­en over as Leg­end’s CEO, and the Chi­nese biotech con­tin­ues life af­ter Zhang with Lori Ma­comber get­ting pro­mot­ed to VP, fi­nance. Since 2019, Ma­comber had been Leg­end’s VP of sup­ply chain fi­nance and con­troller, and she al­so brings sev­en years of fi­nan­cial ex­pe­ri­ence from Eli Lil­ly. The move comes two months af­ter Leg­end made Li­da Pacaud VP of clin­i­cal de­vel­op­ment af­ter wrap­ping up her tenure at No­var­tis On­col­o­gy as glob­al pro­gram clin­i­cal head, ex­ec­u­tive med­ical di­rec­tor of the cell & gene ther­a­py unit.

→ Co-found­ed by David Liu and fresh off the ac­qui­si­tion of Geor­gia Tech spin­out Guide Ther­a­peu­tics, base edit­ing biotech Beam Ther­a­peu­tics has named Amy Si­mon CMO. Si­mon had been with Al­ny­lam since 2010, start­ing as a clin­i­cal re­searcher and then mov­ing up to VP of clin­i­cal de­vel­op­ment, a ti­tle she had held for the past year. She was the lead clin­i­cian for givosir­an, mar­ket­ed as Givlaari af­ter the FDA ap­proved the drug in 2019 for acute he­pat­ic por­phyr­ia.

Aron Knicker­bock­er

→ For­mer Five Prime Ther­a­peu­tics pres­i­dent and CEO Aron Knicker­bock­er has tak­en the helm of Au­los Bio­science as CEO. Pri­or to his new role, Knicker­bock­er was co-founder, found­ing CEO and chair­man of Rayze­Bio. Pri­or to Rayze­Bio and Five Prime, Knicker­bock­er spent over eight years at Genen­tech.

Chris Garabe­di­an’s Per­cep­tive Xon­toge­ny Fund led the way on the Se­ries A last sum­mer, and now Steve Altschuler-chaired eye dis­ease biotech As­cle­piX out of Bal­ti­more has hand­ed the pres­i­dent and CEO reins to Robert Dempsey. Bel­licum founder Kevin Slaw­in had been in­ter­im CEO be­fore the ap­point­ment. Dempsey, who had helmed oph­thalmic com­pa­ny TearClear, was glob­al head of oph­thal­mol­o­gy at Shire and was at the fore­front of Take­da’s 2019 sale of Xi­idra to No­var­tis in an up to $5.3 bil­lion deal.

Mark Rus

→ Shire alum Mark Rus has be­come CEO of Boston-based Delix Ther­a­peu­tics, which is aimed at CNS dis­or­ders and us­es tech­nol­o­gy from David Ol­son’s lab at UC-Davis to de­vel­op “psy­choplas­to­gens,” or mol­e­cules that can pro­mote neu­ro­plas­tic­i­ty. Rus just served as an en­tre­pre­neur-in-res­i­dence and ad­vi­sor for At­las Ven­ture and logged 13 years at Shire un­til the Take­da buy­out, the last four of those years as group VP of neu­ro­science.

Nordic Nanovec­tor has reeled in Pe­ter Braun as CEO. Braun joins the com­pa­ny with three decades of ex­pe­ri­ence from Roche, where he served as SVP, head of ac­cess strat­e­gy, health pol­i­cy & com­mu­ni­ca­tions. In ad­di­tion to Roche, Braun served at Bio­four­mis as CCO.

→ There’s a new sher­iff in town at Swedish im­muno-on­col­o­gy out­fit Al­li­ga­tor Bio­science, with Søren Bre­gen­holt tak­ing com­mand as CEO af­ter helm­ing UK-based Macrophage Phar­ma since 2019. Pri­or to his first CEO job, Bre­gen­holt held cor­po­rate VP posts for eight years each at No­vo Nordisk and Sym­phogen. Bre­gen­holt suc­ceeds Per Nor­lén start­ing June 1, and in the mean­time, COO Ma­lin Carls­son will fill the in­ter­im CEO slot.

Syl­vain Celanire

→ Bel­gium-based Au­gus­tine Ther­a­peu­tics has se­lect­ed Syl­vain Celanire as its CEO. Celanire jump­start­ed his ca­reer at UCB New Med­i­cine be­fore hop­ping aboard Ad­dex Ther­a­peu­tics. In ad­di­tion, Celanire is the co-founder and CEO of Prag­ma Ther­a­peu­tics.

Yi Lar­son has joined Per­cep­tive start­up Lian­Bio, a “best-in-class sourc­ing and de­vel­op­ment en­gine” in Chi­na that launched last Au­gust, as CFO. A for­mer man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of health­care in­vest­ment bank­ing at Gold­man Sachs, Lar­son just com­plet­ed her first turn as a CFO with Turn­ing Point Ther­a­peu­tics. A few months af­ter con­tribut­ing to Lian­Bio’s de­but round, Pfiz­er forked over an ad­di­tion­al $70 mil­lion in a col­lab­o­ra­tion built around in-li­cens­ing and co-de­vel­op­ing new ther­a­pies.

→ While the coun­try fills out NCAA Tour­na­ment brack­ets, Ele­don Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals is fill­ing out its lead­er­ship team with Jeff Born­stein as CMO and Paul Lit­tle as CFO. Born­stein, a Bio­gen and Gilead alum, comes to Ele­don from Take­da, where he was the Japan­ese phar­ma’s VP and head of clin­i­cal sci­ences, gas­troen­terol­o­gy. Lit­tle is a long­time Al­ler­gan ex­ec in fi­nance and com­mer­cial op­er­a­tions who had pre­vi­ous­ly been CFO and trea­sur­er of Sien­tra. Ele­don, a biotech out of Irvine, CA, tar­gets the CD40L path­way to de­vel­op drugs for those with ALS, au­toim­mune dis­eases and or­gan or cell trans­plant re­cip­i­ents.

David Huang

→ Pitts­burgh-based biotech Pep­ti­log­ics, which fo­cus­es on pep­tide drug de­sign and de­vel­op­ment — and scored a $35.4 mil­lion Se­ries B that was boost­ed by Pe­ter Thielhas tapped David Huang as SVP and CMO. Huang is a long­time at­tend­ing physi­cian with the De­part­ment of Vet­er­ans Af­fairs and has been a CMO be­fore with Con­tra­Fect, Mo­tif Bio, and X-Bi­otix Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals.

Pep­ti­log­ics has made a cou­ple oth­er ap­point­ments with Nick Ny­s­trom as SVP, com­put­ing and da­ta, and Nicholas Pachu­da as SVP, port­fo­lio strat­e­gy and de­vel­op­ment. Ny­s­trom spent 28 years with the Pitts­burgh Su­per­com­put­ing Cen­ter, de­part­ing as chief sci­en­tist, while Pachu­da hails from J&J’s or­tho­pe­dic fran­chise, DePuy Syn­thes, serv­ing as world­wide VP of ex­ter­nal in­no­va­tion and en­abling tech­nolo­gies.

Christo­pher Rec­knor is get­ting pro­mot­ed to COO at Cy­to­Dyn, a week af­ter CEO Nad­er Pourhas­san cranked up the spin ma­chine to ex­plain how leron­limab miss­ing the mark on its pri­ma­ry end­point was a source of op­ti­mism. Rec­knor, who joined Cy­to­Dyn as VP of clin­i­cal de­vel­op­ment in Au­gust 2020, has al­so been a prin­ci­pal in­ves­ti­ga­tor for such Big Phar­mas as As­traZeneca, Eli Lil­ly and Am­gen in more than 100 clin­i­cal tri­als.

Manu Chakravarthy

→ Chalk­ing up $47 mil­lion in new fund­ing to tar­get meta­bol­ic dis­eases us­ing in­cretin re­cep­tor ag­o­nists, Berke­ley, CA-based Car­mot Ther­a­peu­tics has wel­comed Manu Chakravarthy as CMO and EVP of R&D. Chakravarthy, whose in­volve­ment in Big Phar­ma R&D be­gan at Mer­ck, had pre­vi­ous­ly been CMO of Ax­cel­la Health. Be­fore Ax­cel­la, he was Eli Lil­ly’s VP and glob­al head of ex­ter­nal R&D and in­no­va­tion strat­e­gy in di­a­betes and car­dio­vas­cu­lar re­search.

Io­vance makes their sec­ond C-suite hire in three months, with Ig­or Bilin­sky jump­ing on board as COO (back in De­cem­ber, Jean Marc Bellemin was ap­point­ed CFO at the Cal­i­for­nia cell ther­a­py biotech). Bilin­sky had most re­cent­ly been CBO at Onc­ter­nal Ther­a­peu­tics, and he’s been a CEO be­fore at An­dro­clus Ther­a­peu­tics, which closed up shop in 2007. Bilin­sky’s pre­vi­ous COO ex­pe­ri­ence was with Am­pliPhi Bio­sciences be­fore his short stay at Onc­ter­nal.

Andy Mey­er

→ T cell en­gager biotech Janux — join­ing forces on a $1 bil­lion pact with Mer­ck in one of Roger Perl­mut­ter’s part­ing deals — has brought on Andy Mey­er as CBO. Mey­er was Ever­core’s man­ag­ing di­rec­tor in life sci­ences in­vest­ment bank­ing and spent near­ly six years there af­ter his time at Bank of Amer­i­ca. A cou­ple weeks ago, Janux gath­ered up $56 mil­lion in a Se­ries A raise that was spurred by the Mer­ck deal.

Ed­ward Smith has signed on to Ver­santbacked bis­pe­cif­ic gam­ma-delta T cell en­gager (or bsTCEs) biotech La­va Ther­a­peu­tics to be­come its CFO. Be­fore head­ing to the Dutch out­fit, which just made Kapil Dhin­gra chair­man of the board last month, Smith had spent eight years as CFO of Mar­i­nus Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals, which read out pos­i­tive da­ta last fall with its lone drug that fo­cus­es on CD­KL5 de­fi­cien­cy dis­or­der.

Robert Wil­lette

Robert Wil­lette has tacked on the role of CSO at APIE Ther­a­peu­tics. Wil­lette joins the com­pa­ny from Com­plexa Ther­a­peu­tics and Im­mu­niMet Ther­a­peu­tics, where he served as in­ter­im CSO. Pri­or to that, Wil­lette had a 30-year long stint at GSK, where he most re­cent­ly served as VP and head of the com­pa­ny’s heart fail­ure and re­nal dis­cov­ery per­for­mance unit.

Lisa Deck­er has left Atre­ca to be­come CBO at Sil­i­con Val­ley-based IGM Bio­sciences, which — you guessed it — fo­cus­es on IgM an­ti­bod­ies and de­buted on Nas­daq in 2019 with a $175 mil­lion IPO. Be­fore her time as CBO at Atre­ca, she held var­i­ous ti­tles in 11 years at Nek­tar, with her fi­nal role be­ing VP, busi­ness de­vel­op­ment.

Miny­oung Kim

→ Shang­hai-based An­ten­gene made a few key hires last sum­mer, in­clud­ing CMO Don­ald Lung and med­ical af­fairs VP Dirk Hoen­e­mann. Now the hema­tol­ogy and on­col­o­gy play­er has wel­comed Miny­oung Kim as gen­er­al man­ag­er of An­ten­gene South Ko­rea. She had pre­vi­ous­ly been gen­er­al man­ag­er of Ipsen Ko­rea since 2015 and al­so brings mar­ket­ing ex­pe­ri­ence from Eli Lil­ly Ko­rea.

→ Spin­ning its wheels in Phase III of its Covid-19 vac­cine can­di­date while promis­ing to re­spond to the FDA’s clin­i­cal hold, In­ovio has re­cruit­ed Michael Cordera as EVP and gen­er­al coun­sel. Cordera, who had soared to EVP and gen­er­al coun­sel at Ea­gle Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals, joined the biotech as its deputy gen­er­al coun­sel five years ago. In ad­di­tion to the reg­u­la­to­ry is­sues that be­set In­ovio, Joseph Kim’s bunch al­so squab­bled with its con­tract man­u­fac­tur­er, fil­ing suit against VGXI to get un­shack­led from the re­la­tion­ship.

Shaila­ja Ka­sib­hat­la

Bound­less Bio has named Shaila­ja Ka­sib­hat­la as VP, dis­cov­ery and trans­la­tion­al de­vel­op­ment. Pri­or to her new role, Ka­sib­hat­la was se­nior di­rec­tor of trans­la­tion­al de­vel­op­ment at Bris­tol My­ers Squibb. Be­fore that, she had an eight-year stint at No­var­tis and served at Mer­ck Re­search Labs.

→ Dig­i­tal health-fo­cused Well­doc has named Ma­ri­na Dorotheo its chief mar­ket­ing of­fi­cer. Dorotheo jumps aboard af­ter a 22-year stint at Ot­su­ka, most re­cent­ly serv­ing as head of com­mer­cial strat­e­gy and mar­ket­ing with­in Ot­su­ka’s Dig­i­tal Med­i­cine hub.

Rick Klaus­ner-chaired Lyell Im­munophar­ma — fo­cused on us­ing T cells to cure sol­id tu­mors — has en­list­ed Richard Sher­ry as SVP, TIL spe­cial­ist and clin­i­cal lead. Most re­cent­ly, Sher­ry served as re­search physi­cian and at­tend­ing sur­geon in the surgery branch at the NCI Cen­ter for Can­cer Re­search and the NCI Clin­i­cal Cen­ter. In ad­di­tion, he has held roles at the NIH, the NIH Sur­gi­cal Ad­min­is­tra­tive Com­mit­tee, the Saftey Mon­i­tor­ing Com­mit­tee for the Na­tion­al In­sti­tute of Neu­ro­log­ic Dis­or­ders and Stroke and as a melanoma ex­pert for the FDA’s Drug Ad­vi­so­ry Com­mit­tee.

Sue Hager

→ Ven­ture cap­i­tal fund Sec­tion 23 has added two new hires to its team with the ap­point­ments of Andy Har­ri­son as man­ag­ing part­ner and Sue Hager as chief in­vestor re­la­tions and com­mu­ni­ca­tions of­fi­cer. Har­ri­son hops aboard with lead­er­ship ex­pe­ri­ence from Al­pha­bet, Ver­i­ly Life Sci­ences and X (for­mer­ly GoogleX). Mean­while, Hager most re­cent­ly served at EQRx and Foun­da­tion Med­i­cine.

Ko­mo­do Health has re­cruit­ed Lau­rent Bride as chief tech­nol­o­gy of­fi­cer (CTO). Bride joins the group from soft­ware com­pa­ny Tal­end, where he al­so served as CTO.

→ San Diego-based on­col­o­gy biotech Ap­tose has a pair of new ex­ecs with George Melko (VP, reg­u­la­to­ry af­fairs) and Robert Kil­lion (VP, CMC). A reg­u­la­to­ry alum at As­traZeneca and In­cyte, Melko has re­cent­ly served as VP of reg­u­la­to­ry af­fairs at Tmu­ni­ty and Tes­sa Ther­a­peu­tics. Kil­lion lands this pro­mo­tion to a new­ly-cre­at­ed gig af­ter com­ing on­to the scene at Ap­tose last year. He’s held CMC po­si­tions at Roche/Genen­tech — where he spent near­ly two decades com­bined— and Gilead.

Matthew Pat­ter­son

→ Ex-Au­dentes chair­man and CEO Matthew Pat­ter­son has been named ex­ec­u­tive chair­man of the board at Remix Ther­a­peu­tics, the Cam­bridge, MA RNA pro­cess­ing biotech that hauled in $81 mil­lion for its De­cem­ber 2020 launch. Pat­ter­son has since moved in­to a strate­gic ad­vi­so­ry role with Au­dentes.

Lau­ra Shawver has a new board mem­ber at Seat­tle-based Sil­ver­back — a late en­trant in 2020’s IPO bo­nan­za — with the ad­di­tion of Re­pare Ther­a­peu­tics CMO Maria Koehler. The ex-CMO of Bi­cy­cle Ther­a­peu­tics was al­so an ex­ec with Pfiz­er On­col­o­gy from 2009-17.

Er­ic Dube

GSK vet and Tra­vere Ther­a­peu­tics CEO Er­ic Dube has joined the board of di­rec­tors at mi­to­chon­dr­i­al dis­ease-fo­cused Re­neo Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals. In two years at the biotech, Dube has led the post-Mar­tin Shkre­li re­brand­ing of Retrophin, which be­came Tra­vere back in No­vem­ber.

→ For­mer Mer­ck CMO Michael Rosen­blatt is join­ing the board of di­rec­tors at PYC Ther­a­peu­tics, adding an­oth­er board seat to his ré­sumé. Rosen­blatt left his role at Mer­ck in 2016 to join Flag­ship Pi­o­neer­ing, where he now serves as a se­nior part­ner. Rosen­blatt cur­rent­ly sits on the boards of Ru­bius Ther­a­peu­tics, Cyg­nal Ther­a­peu­tics and Ohana Bio­sciences.

Alex­is Thomp­son

Sanofi de­liv­ered two sick­le-cell pro­grams from the Biover­a­tiv deal to Glob­al Blood Ther­a­peu­tics this week, and Ted Love’s crew has re­served a place for Alex­is Thomp­son on the board of di­rec­tors. A past pres­i­dent of the Amer­i­can So­ci­ety of Hema­tol­ogy, Thomp­son is head of the hema­tol­ogy sec­tion and di­rec­tor of the Com­pre­hen­sive Tha­lassemia Pro­gram at the Lurie Chil­dren’s Hos­pi­tal in Chica­go.

Mu­na Bhan­ji, who de­vot­ed more than 30 years to Mer­ck, has an­oth­er board ap­point­ment to her cred­it with Arde­lyx as Gor­don Ringold steps aside from the board. Bhan­ji, who capped her ca­reer at the phar­ma gi­ant as SVP, glob­al mar­ket ac­cess and pol­i­cy, al­so joined the board at Cy­to­ki­net­ics a month ago.

Ele­na Ridloff

→ Sev­er­al months af­ter adding Replimune’s Pamela Es­pos­i­to and Blue­print Med­i­cines CEO Jeff Al­bers to the board of di­rec­tors, Kymera Ther­a­peu­tics has made room for Ele­na Ridloff on the board as well. Ridloff joined Aca­dia as VP, in­vestor re­la­tions in 2018 and is cur­rent­ly CFO.

Treve­na is bring­ing Mar­vin John­son in­to the fold on the board of di­rec­tors, as found­ing CEO Max­ine Gowen and Julie McHugh both re­tire from the board. John­son re­tired from Mer­ck in 2018 as chief learn­ing of­fi­cer in the phar­ma gi­ant’s glob­al learn­ing and de­vel­op­ment de­part­ment.

José-Car­los Gutiér­rez Ramos

José-Car­los Gutiér­rez Ramos has locked in a seat on the board of di­rec­tors at Genen­tech im­muno-on­col­o­gy part­ner Bi­cy­cle Ther­a­peu­tics. The ex-CEO of Syn­log­ic and Reper­toire Im­mune Med­i­cines is now CSO at Dana­her.

→ Wait­ing out a par­tial clin­i­cal hold from the FDA on its head and neck squa­mous cell car­ci­no­ma study, ALX On­col­o­gy has elect­ed Sophia Ran­dolph to the board of di­rec­tors. The Pfiz­er and Mer­ck on­col­o­gy alum has been ALX’s CMO for near­ly five years.

→ Woburn, MA-based Re­Form Bi­o­log­ics has cho­sen Bar­bara Finck to be a part of its board of di­rec­tors. Cur­rent­ly, Finck serves as the act­ing CMO at Co­herus Bio­Sciences. Finck has al­so held roles at Im­munex and Eos Biotech­nol­o­gy among oth­ers.

How Pa­tients with Epilep­sy Ben­e­fit from Re­al-World Da­ta

Amanda Shields, Principal Data Scientist, Scientific Data Steward

Keith Wenzel, Senior Business Operations Director

Andy Wilson, Scientific Lead

Real-world data (RWD) has the potential to transform the drug development industry’s efforts to predict and treat seizures for patients with epilepsy. Anticipating or controlling an impending seizure can significantly increase quality of life for patients with epilepsy. However, because RWD is secondary data originally collected for other purposes, the challenge is selecting, harmonizing, and analyzing the data from multiple sources in a way that helps support patients.

$DNA is once again on NYSE; FDA clears Soliris chal­lenger for the mar­ket; Flag­ship’s think­ing big again with eR­NA; 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.

I still remember the uncertainty in the air last year when nobody was sure whether ASCO would cancel their in-person meeting. But it’s now back again for the second virtual conference, and Endpoints News is here for it. Check out our 2-day event reviewing the landscape of cancer R&D and send news our way.

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Gene ther­a­py from Bio­gen's $800M buy­out flops in mid-stage study, deal­ing blow to new am­bi­tions

The #2 candidate from Biogen’s $800 million ocular gene therapy buyout has failed in a mid-stage trial, dealing an early blow to the big biotech’s plans to revitalize its pipeline with new technologies.

Biogen announced that the candidate, an experimental treatment for a rare and progressive form of blindness called X-linked retinitis pigmentosa (XLRP), failed to sufficiently improve vision in patients’ treated eye — patients only received an injection in one eye — after a year, on a standard scale, compared to their untreated eye. The company said they saw “positive trends” on several secondary endpoints, including visual acuity, but declined to say whether the trial actually hit any of those endpoints.

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Vas Narasimhan (Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

No­var­tis whiffs on En­tresto study af­ter heart at­tacks — but that does­n't mean it's go­ing down qui­et­ly

If Novartis learned one thing from its interaction with the FDA over its latest heart failure approval for Entresto, it was that missing a primary endpoint may not be the nail in the coffin. Now, Entresto has missed again on a late-stage study in high-risk heart patients, and it’s already sowing the seeds for a path forward regardless.

Novartis’ Entresto couldn’t best standard-of-care ramipril in staving off a composite of deaths and heart failure events in patients with left ventricular systolic dysfunction and/or pulmonary congestion who have had a prior heart attack, according to topline data from the Phase III PARADISE-MI study revealed Saturday at the virtual American College of Cardiology meeting.

Michael Dell (Richard Drew, AP Images)

'Dude, you're get­ting a Del­l' — as a new deep-pock­et biotech in­vestor

What happens when you marry longtime insiders in the global biotech VC game with the family fund of tech billionaire Michael Dell, a synthetic biology legend out of MIT and Harvard and the former director of the NCI?

Today, the answer is a newly financed, $200 million biotech SPAC now cruising the industry for a top player interested in finding a short cut to Nasdaq.

Orion Biotech Opportunities priced their blank check company today, raising $200 million with Dell’s multibillion-dollar MSD group’s commitment on investing another $20 million in a forward-purchase agreement.

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BAR­DA slows its $9B en­gine for new Covid-19 ther­a­peu­tics

The Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority is cooling its jets in looking for new, potential Covid-19 treatments, at least in the near term.

An HHS spokesperson told Endpoints News via email, “to date, BARDA has obligated more than $9 billion for the development and/or purchase of 13 therapeutics, beginning in February 2020 with support to develop Regeneron’s monoclonal antibody therapeutic. Therapeutics are an important element of the COVID-19 response, and we are focused on the programs currently underway and/or in negotiation using the funds available to us.”

As Co­di­ak en­ters 'next phase of growth,' Jen­nifer Whel­er steps in­to CMO role; Mark Tim­ney lines up his sec­ond CEO op­por­tu­ni­ty af­ter Pur­due Phar­ma reign

Most CMOs don’t start out as art students. But after getting her bachelor’s in art history from Princeton University, Jennifer Wheler decided to go after an MD from Cornell, kicking off a decades-long career in biopharma. Her next move? Leading the team at Codiak BioSciences to deliver therapeutics using a form of cellular postal service called exosomes.

“I was captivated by the science and the potential for exosomes to have transformational impact in cancer and other disease areas,” the incoming CMO told Endpoints News via email. “Codiak has a potent combination of great science and wonderfully experienced and kind people — it doesn’t get much better.”

Bris­tol My­ers backs up its case for heart drug mava­camten as FDA weighs app in car­diomy­opa­thy

When Bristol Myers Squibb signed off on its $13 billion acquisition of MyoKardia back in October, it was making a big bet that lead drug mavacamten could prove a game changer in cardiac myopathy. Now, with the drug up for FDA review, Bristol Myers is backing up its case with new quality of life data.

Patients dosed with myosin inhibitor mavacamten posted a clinically significant increase in scores on the Kansas City Cardiomyopathy Questionnaire, a catch-all summary of symptoms and quality of life markers, over placebo at 30 weeks, according to data from the Phase III EXPLORER-HCM study presented Saturday at the virtual American College of Cardiology meeting.

UP­DAT­ED: Apel­lis bags FDA nod for Soliris chal­lenger with a dif­fer­ent path­way to PNH — but can it slay the gi­ant?

With a blockbuster rare disease giant in its sights in Alexion’s Soliris, small biotech Apellis has reason to think its competitor is worthy of the spotlight. Now, with the FDA on its side, Apellis will get its chance to be the David to Alexion’s Goliath.

The FDA on Friday approved Empaveli (pegcetacoplan), a C3 complement inhibitor the biotech thinks can prove a worthy challenger to Alexion’s C5 inhibitors Soliris and follow-up drug Ultomiris in rare disease paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria (PNH).