Hu­man Longevi­ty blasts Craig Ven­ter, claim­ing he was fired, then stole trade se­crets — poach­ing staffers for ri­val op­er­a­tion

Af­ter two months of smoke, we’re see­ing the 5-alarm fire that’s been burn­ing at Hu­man Longevi­ty.

On Fri­day, the com­pa­ny fired a bit­ter sal­vo at ex-CEO and ex­ec­u­tive chair­man Craig Ven­ter — the leg­endary ge­nom­ic re­searcher who re­turned to his epony­mous in­sti­tute in May — fil­ing suit claim­ing that Ven­ter had stolen trade se­crets, re­cruit­ed staffers and planned to set up a ri­val or­ga­ni­za­tion.

How did they know? Ac­cord­ing to the law­suit, Ven­ter kept his com­pa­ny Leno­vo lap­top, and used it in his cam­paign, which they could track. And now they’re blast­ing him with the de­tails.

Ac­cord­ing to Ven­ter, he re­signed from Hu­man Longevi­ty. Ac­cord­ing to the com­pa­ny’s law­suit, he was fired af­ter Ven­ter had tried to rush through an in­vest­ment deal that gave him some dis­tinct fi­nan­cial priv­i­leges.

Here’s the time­line in the law­suit:

— On May 25, 2018, HLI dis­abled Ven­ter’s ac­cess to the HLI serv­er and stopped for­ward­ing of any e-mails. How­ev­er, HLI still had ac­cess to the HLI com­put­er re­tained by Ven­ter through its Crash Re­cov­ery Pro­gram and Of­fice 365.

— Even af­ter his HLI ter­mi­na­tion, Ven­ter used the HLI com­put­er, ac­cessed and sent HLI pro­pri­etary in­for­ma­tion and trade se­crets. This in­clud­ed HLI in­ter­nal priv­i­leged com­mu­ni­ca­tions in­volv­ing Se­ries C and Asia JV Se­ries A Docs. Ven­ter al­so con­tin­ued to com­mu­ni­cate with an HLI Board mem­ber and in­vit­ed him to his home in Nan­tuck­et us­ing the HLI com­put­er.

  Ven­ter al­so tried to so­lic­it to JCVI the very in­vestor who pulled out of the HLI deal. On June 14, 2018 at 2:01 p.m., Ven­ter wrote in an e-mail: “i would like to find a way to work with you via the Ven­ter in­sti­tute. My brand is on­ly owned by me and pre­ven­ta­tive med­i­cine move­ment has hard­ly start­ed. Craig”.

— Af­ter his HLI ter­mi­na­tion, Ven­ter arranged a meet­ing with as many as 9 HLI em­ploy­ees. On in­for­ma­tion and be­lief, Ven­ter in­tend­ed to so­lic­it these em­ploy­ees to JCVI to com­pete di­rect­ly with HLI. As a re­sult of Ven­ter’s so­lic­i­ta­tion, on Ju­ly 16, 2018, HLI em­ploy­ee Li Weizhong an­nounced he was re­sign­ing from HLI to join JCVI.

— HLI is in­formed, be­lieves and based there­on al­leges that De­fen­dant re­ceived and is us­ing HLI’s Trade Se­crets in an at­tempt to set up a busi­ness . di­rect­ly com­pete with HLI. HLI is fur­ther in­formed, be­lieves and based there­on al­leges that De­fen­dant is us­ing HLI’s Trade Se­crets to: (1) es­tab­lish its com­pet­ing busi­ness, (2) so­lic­it and ne­go­ti­a­tion po­ten­tial fi­nanc­ing deals us­ing, among oth­er things, con­fi­den­tial and pro­pri­etary po­ten­tial deal terms, con­tact in­for­ma­tion, cus­tomer in­for­ma­tion, (3) so­lic­it HLI’s em­ploy­ees, and (4) so­lic­it HLI’s cus­tomers and po­ten­tial cus­tomers, whose in­ter­est in re­ceiv­ing ser­vices from HLI is non-pub­lic and pro­pri­etary and whose con­tact in­for­ma­tion is not pub­licly-avail­able.

There’s no im­me­di­ate word on Ven­ter’s po­si­tion in all this.

Im­age: J. Craig Ven­ter Get­ty

Brent Saunders [Getty Photos]

UP­DAT­ED: Ab­b­Vie seals $63B deal to buy a trou­bled Al­ler­gan — spelling out $1B in R&D cuts

Brent Saunders has found his way out of the current fix he’s in at Allergan $AGN. He’s selling the company to AbbVie for $63 billion in the latest example of the hot M&A market in biopharma.

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Top an­a­lyst of­fers a rare, up­beat in­ter­pre­ta­tion of Ab­b­Vie’s $63B Al­ler­gan deal — but there’s a catch

Af­ter get­ting beat up on all sides from mar­ket ob­servers who don’t much care for the lat­est mega-deal to ar­rive in bio­phar­ma, at least one promi­nent an­a­lyst now is start­ing to like what he sees in the num­bers for Ab­b­Vie/Al­ler­gan.

But it’s go­ing to take some en­cour­age­ment if Ab­b­Vie ex­ecs want it to last.

Ab­b­Vie’s mar­ket cap de­clined $20 bil­lion on Tues­day as the stock took at 17% hit dur­ing the day. And SVB Leerink’s Ge­of­frey Porges can see a dis­tinct out­line of an up­side af­ter re­view­ing the fun­da­men­tals of the deal.

While Ako­rn works to re­vive its for­tunes, the FDA hits it with an­oth­er warn­ing let­ter

Ako­rn just can’t dig it­self out of its hole.

The spe­cial­ty gener­ic drug­mak­er has re­ceived yet an­oth­er warn­ing let­ter from the FDA this year. With­out dis­clos­ing any specifics, the Lake For­est, Illi­nois-based drug­mak­er on Wednes­day said the US reg­u­la­tor had is­sued the let­ter, cit­ing an in­spec­tion of its Som­er­set, New Jer­sey man­u­fac­tur­ing fa­cil­i­ty in Ju­ly and Au­gust of 2018. The com­pa­ny’s shares $AKRX dipped about 1.7% to $4.65 be­fore the bell.

Af­ter rais­ing $158M, this up­start's founders have star back­ers and plans to break new ground in gene ther­a­py

Back in 2014, Stephanie Tagliatela opted to take an early exit out of her PhD program after working in Mark Bear’s lab at MIT, where she specialized in the synaptic connections between neuronal cells in the brain. She never finished that PhD, but she and fellow MIT student Kartik Ramamoorthi — who was on the founding team at Voyager — came away with some ideas for a gene therapy startup.

Today, fully 5 years later, she and Ramamoorthi are taking the wraps off of a $104 million mega-round designed to take the cumulative work of their preclinical formative stage for Encoded Therapeutics into human studies. They’ve now raised $158 million since starting out in Illumina’s incubator in the Bay Area, and they believe they are firmly on track to do something unique in gene therapy.

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Richard Gonzalez testifying in front of Senate Finance Committee, February 2019 [AP Images]

Ab­b­Vie's $63B buy­out spot­lights the re­turn of ma­jor M&A deals — de­spite the back­lash

Big time M&A is back. But for how long?

Over the past 18 months we’ve now seen three major buyouts announced: Takeda/Shire; Bristol-Myers/Celgene and now AbbVie/Allergan. And with this latest deal it’s increasingly clear that the sharp fall from grace suffered by high-profile players which have seen their share prices blasted has created an opening for the growth players in big pharma to up their game — in sharp contrast to the popular bolt-on deals that have been driving the growth strategy at Novartis, Merck, Roche and others.

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Novotech CEO Dr. John Moller

Novotech CRO Award­ed Frost & Sul­li­van Best Biotech CRO Asia-Pa­cif­ic 2019

Known in the in­dus­try as the Asia-Pa­cif­ic CRO, Novotech is now lead CRO ser­vices provider for the grow­ing num­ber of in­ter­na­tion­al biotechs se­lect­ing the re­gion for their stud­ies.

Re­flect­ing this Asia-Pa­cif­ic growth, Novotech staff num­bers are up 20% since De­cem­ber 2018 to 600 in-house clin­i­cal re­search peo­ple across a full range of ser­vices, across the re­gion.

Novotech’s ca­pa­bil­i­ties have been rec­og­nized by an­a­lysts like Frost & Sul­li­van, most re­cent­ly with the pres­ti­gious Asia-Pa­cif­ic CRO Biotech of the year award for best prac­tices in clin­i­cal re­search for biotechs for the fifth year. See oth­er awards here.

UP­DAT­ED: In sur­prise switch, Bris­tol-My­ers is sell­ing off block­buster Ote­zla, promis­ing to com­plete Cel­gene ac­qui­si­tion — just lat­er

Apart from revealing its checkpoint inhibitor Opdivo blew a big liver cancer study on Monday, Bristol-Myers Squibb said its plans to swallow Celgene will require the sale of blockbuster psoriasis treatment Otezla to keep the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at bay.

The announcement — which has potentially delayed the completion of the takeover to early 2020 — irked investors, triggering the New York-based drugmaker’s shares to tumble Monday morning in premarket trading.

Celgene’s Otezla, approved in 2014 for psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis, is a rising star. It generated global sales of $1.6 billion last year, up from the nearly $1.3 billion in 2017. Apart from the partial overlap of Bristol-Myers injectable Orencia, the company’s rival oral TYK2 psoriasis drug is in late-stage development, after the firm posted encouraging mid-stage data on the drug, BMS-986165, last fall. With Monday’s decision, it appears Bristol-Myers is favoring its experimental drug, and discounting Otezla’s future.

The move blindsided some analysts. Credit Suisse’s Vamil Divan noted just days ago:

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Image: Chris Varma. Frontier

UP­DAT­ED: Chris Var­ma un­veils MP­M's lat­est start­up — eye­ing 'un­drug­gable' can­cer tar­gets and pow­ered by ma­chine learn­ing, $67M

Two years af­ter MPM Cap­i­tal en­list­ed Chris Var­ma on its busy on­col­o­gy team, the for­mer en­tre­pre­neur-in-res­i­dence is un­veil­ing his first ven­ture project out of his new stomp­ing grounds in the Bay Area: Fron­tier Med­i­cines.

For Var­ma, who’s al­so co-found­ed Blue­print Med­i­cines and built com­pa­nies at Third Rock and Flag­ship, this marks an­oth­er op­por­tu­ni­ty to ap­ply some cut­ting-edge sci­ence to “sev­er­al of the most im­por­tant and dif­fi­cult tar­gets in can­cer” — tar­gets that oth­ers have tried to tack­le with more clas­si­cal meth­ods and failed. The launch round comes in at $67 mil­lion, which should go some way in scaf­fold­ing a pre­clin­i­cal pipeline and push one or more as­sets in­to the clin­ic three years from now, he tells me.

The top 15 mega-deals in bio­phar­ma: Ab­b­Vie and Bris­tol-My­ers ac­qui­si­tions stir fresh de­bate over what's too big to buy

The debate over what’s too big to buy in biotech is back. A number of top analysts went right after AbbVie’s rationale for the Allergan deal today, just as Bristol-Myers Squibb stirred immediate debate over the worth and wisdom of acquiring Celgene.

To help provide some added context to this discussion, we asked DealForma chief Chris Dokomajilar to look over the past decade of major M&A in biopharma to decipher the top 15 plays.

The new numbers, unadjusted for inflation, harken back to the days of the Pfizer-Wyeth buyout and Merck’s decision to absorb Schering-Plough — both triggered in 2009. The heat over those acquisitions made the big pharma mega-deal highly unpopular for most everyone — except Pfizer — as industry leaders swore off almost all but the handy bolt-on acquisition.

Until recently.

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