Helsinn, the Braglia family pharma, sees some big changes in leadership as it unveils a new R&D strategy
For anyone who’s been paying close attention, Helsinn’s shift to targeted cancer therapies has been a long time coming. But on Thursday, the company officially unveiled its new strategy — and with it, some big structural and leadership changes.
Helsinn is straying away from its success as a cancer supportive care company and turning to a new so-called Fully Integrated Targeted Therapy (FITT) strategy, the Braglia family announced Thursday. Giorgio Calderari, who’s been with the company for the last 36 years, has been tapped to lead the charge as CEO, while Riccardo Braglia steps into his dad’s old role as executive chairman.
Gabriele Braglia, founder and father to Riccardo Braglia, has been named “honorary chairman,” while his grandson, Gabriele Edoardo Braglia, joins the board of directors. Siddharth Kaul, who hails from P&G and Novartis, is also joining the board.
“As part of our strategic evolution, we will remain fully committed to supplying our marketed supportive cancer care and cancer therapeutic products to patients in need and this will also support the development of our fully integrated targeted therapies as we continue to reinvest approximately 35 percent of our revenues in R&D,” Calderari said in a statement.
The strategy relies on three recent deals, the company said, the first being one struck back in March for co-development and co-commercialization rights to QED Therapeutics’ Truseltiq, a new therapy approved to treat cases of cholangiocarcinoma harboring an FGFR2 fusion or rearrangement.
Helsinn also has a Phase I/II RET tyrosine kinase inhibitor up its sleeve, which it’s co-developing with the Japanese pharma company Taiho Pharmaceutical from a 2017 deal. The duo dosed the first patients a year ago in a study targeting RET-altered non-small cell lung cancer and RET-altered solid tumors.
Then, there’s Helsinn’s partnership with BridgeBio, which has birthed its first preclinical program, a potentially first-in-class GPX4 inhibitor.
Helsinn will still market its supportive cancer drugs — Akynzeo and Aloxi — for preventing nausea and vomiting associated with anti-cancer drugs like chemotherapy. And execs have committed to reinvesting 35% of its income from existing products into targeted therapeutics R&D for the next five years.
“Delivering vital cancer supportive care products to patients is still very close to our hearts, and we will continue to do so in conjunction with our strategy evolution,” Riccardo Braglia said in a statement.
Over the last 45 years, the family-owned and operated business has quietly built a prominent place for itself in the biopharma world. But in an exclusive with Endpoints News this past June, Riccardo Braglia revealed plans to build up R&D ops and make a coordinated attack on the oncology market.
“I would like to thank my father Gabriele, who founded and led the Helsinn group for 40 years and I am honored to succeed him and steer Helsinn through the next step in its journey from the position of Executive Chairman as we focus our efforts on developing next generation targeted therapies,” he said in a statement on Thursday.
As part of the shift, Helsinn is spinning out its full-service contract manufacturing subsidiary HAS Healthcare Advanced Synthesis SA, which will be launched as a separate business together with Luxembourg’s 3B Future Health Fund SA.
“Being part of the Helsinn journey together with Riccardo and the Braglia family for more than 30 years, it is now an honor for me to be appointed as Chief Executive Officer. We are truly excited to be focusing on targeted therapies and on Helsinn’s future prospects as we focus our efforts to be at the forefront of innovative cancer therapeutics,” Calderari said.