Igny­ta founder boosts team at his new can­cer start­up; Cy­tomx CMO hits the ex­it

Jonathan Lim Eras­ca

Igny­ta founder and ex-CEO Jonathan Lim is beef­ing up the team at Eras­ca, his new start­up ded­i­cat­ed to eras­ing can­cer. Genen­tech vet Gary Ye­ung has been pro­mot­ed to chief op­er­at­ing and fi­nan­cial of­fi­cer, leav­ing an open CBO role for David Chacko to step in. Chacko joins from Ver­sant Ven­tures, where, as a prin­ci­pal, he was cred­it­ed for ad­vanc­ing sev­er­al port­fo­lio com­pa­nies through fundrais­ing, busi­ness de­vel­op­ment and oth­er af­fairs. Les Brail, who has been work­ing on Neon’s per­son­al­ized neoanti­gen vac­cine, will be the VP of clin­i­cal de­vel­op­ment; Karen Gilmore, one of Lim’s old col­leagues at Igny­ta, has been tapped as VP of fi­nance.

Eras­ca has al­so as­sem­bled an R&D ad­vi­so­ry board: Bruce Roth (chem­istry), Dave Matthews (crys­tal­log­ra­phy), Greg Cos­ma (de­vel­op­ment), Paul Pear­son (ADME/PK), Jane Chang (tox­i­col­o­gy), James Fred­do (med­ical) and Lin­da Robert­son (reg­u­la­to­ry af­fairs).

Cy­tomX Ther­a­peu­tics has qui­et­ly part­ed ways with Rachel Humphrey, SVP and CMO. No rea­son was giv­en for her de­par­ture in the mid­dle of the week, which comes months af­ter Bris­tol-My­ers Squibb broke off a part­ner­ship on three col­lab­o­ra­tion dis­cov­ery tar­gets (though a Phase I/II for a part­nered CT­LA-4 Pro­body — in­tend­ed to be a safer, gen­tler ver­sion of Yer­voy — re­mains on track). Humphrey joined the biotech in 2015 af­ter stints at As­traZeneca and Bris­tol-My­ers, where she led clin­i­cal de­vel­op­ment of Yer­voy. 

→ Flush with $142 mil­lion in new fi­nanc­ing and part­ner­ship dol­lars, Fre­quen­cy Ther­a­peu­tics has brought in new ex­ecs to guide the up­com­ing Phase II study of its re­gen­er­a­tive drug for hear­ing loss. CMO Bill Chin, who jumped out of re­tire­ment more than a year ago to join the biotech, is mov­ing over to EVP of clin­i­cal and trans­la­tion­al sci­ence, with broad­er re­spon­si­bil­i­ties around the whole prog­en­i­tor cell ac­ti­va­tion (PCA) plat­form. Dana Hilt will as­sume that role, in which he will al­so es­tab­lish oth­er ap­pli­ca­tions of the tech, in­clud­ing a re­myeli­na­tion pro­gram in mul­ti­ple scle­ro­sis. His back­ground in neu­rol­o­gy and CNS drug de­vel­op­ment — ac­crued at Lyso­so­mal Ther­a­peu­tics, Fo­rum Phar­ma, Am­gen and oth­ers — will bol­ster Fre­quen­cy’s for­ay in­to de­gen­er­a­tive dis­eases, ac­cord­ing to CEO David Lucchi­no. Oth­er ap­point­ments place Mod­er­na alums Jeff Hrkach as SVP of tech­ni­cal de­vel­op­ment and Ja­son Glashow as SVP of cor­po­rate af­fairs.

uniQure made some changes to its lead­er­ship team with the pro­mo­tion of Sander van De­ven­ter to ex­ec­u­tive vice pres­i­dent, re­search and prod­uct de­vel­op­ment and Gen­zyme vet Alex Ku­ta to ex­ec­u­tive vice pres­i­dent, op­er­a­tions. With these changes, the com­pa­ny is elim­i­nat­ing the COO role, and Scott McMil­lan, the cur­rent hold­er of the job, will be re­tir­ing. Both van De­ven­ter and Ku­ta joined uniQure in 2017 as CSO and gen­er­al man­ag­er, Am­s­ter­dam; and SVP, reg­u­la­to­ry af­fairs, re­spec­tive­ly. Van De­ven­ter was a co-founder of uniQure’s pre­de­ces­sor Am­s­ter­dam Mol­e­c­u­lar Ther­a­peu­tics (AMT) in 1998 and pre­vi­ous­ly served on the com­pa­ny’s board of di­rec­tors. He is cur­rent­ly the op­er­at­ing part­ner at For­bion Cap­i­tal part­ners and pro­fes­sor of trans­la­tion­al gas­troen­terol­o­gy at Lei­den Uni­ver­si­ty Med­ical Cen­ter. Ku­ta pre­vi­ous­ly served stints at EMD Serono, AM­AG Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals and Gen­zyme. Pri­or to those roles, he was the chief of the Cy­tokine and Gene Ther­a­py Branch in the Cen­ter for Bi­o­log­ics at the FDA. 

→ Boston-based Bio­four­mis has scooped up two Roche ex­ecs to grow its dig­i­tal ther­a­peu­tics busi­ness and health an­a­lyt­ics plat­form. John Varak­lis is trad­ing glob­al head of clin­i­cal op­er­a­tions for the chief strat­e­gy of­fi­cer job as Bio­four­mis seeks more phar­ma part­ners to lever­age its tech­nol­o­gy in­te­grat­ing phar­ma­cother­a­py with re­mote pa­tient mon­i­tor­ing and dig­i­tal prod­ucts. Pe­ter Braun — whose 28-year ca­reer at the Swiss phar­ma gi­ant cul­mi­nat­ed in a po­si­tion lead glob­al ac­cess strat­e­gy, health pol­i­cy and com­mu­ni­ca­tions — will be­come chief com­mer­cial of­fi­cer. In this new role he will con­tin­ue to fo­cus on com­mu­ni­cat­ing with pay­ers, health­care providers and pa­tients.

Com­plexa has wooed Clarus CMO Theodore Danoff to steer its lead drug can­di­date through late-stage de­vel­op­ment. As CMO, Danoff is ex­pect­ed to lever­age his clin­i­cal de­vel­op­ment knowl­edge across ther­a­peu­tic ar­eas to ush­er not just CXA-10 in pul­monary ar­te­r­i­al hy­per­ten­sion and fo­cal seg­men­tal glomeru­loscle­ro­sis but al­so oth­er tri­als of ni­trat­ed fat­ty acids to treat fi­brot­ic and in­flam­ma­to­ry dis­eases. 

→ Hav­ing laid low since its two ini­tial rounds of fi­nanc­ing last year, T cell ther­a­py play­er Torque is ready to make some moves on the clin­i­cal tri­al and cell man­u­fac­tur­ing fronts. And it’s re­cruit­ed Sok Cheng Soh as CFO to help ex­e­cute those plans while Ana Radel­je­vic is com­ing on board to man­age busi­ness op­er­a­tions. Be­tween Biover­a­tiv and Boston Sci­en­tif­ic, Soh has ac­cu­mu­lat­ed ex­pe­ri­ence build­ing tax and trea­sury ca­pa­bil­i­ties as well as bal­anc­ing fi­nan­cial risk and li­ais­ing with cap­i­tal mar­kets. Radel­je­vic, who had start­ed her own ad­vi­so­ry firm, has a re­sume that spans PerkinElmer, Sanofi/Gen­zyme and De­loitte.

→ A year af­ter Mil­len­do Ther­a­peu­tics’ — a com­pa­ny fo­cused on treat­ments for or­phan en­docrine dis­eases — re­verse merged with Ova­Science, the com­pa­ny has tapped Tama­ra Joseph to suc­ceed Jef­fery Brin­za as gen­er­al coun­sel and cor­po­rate sec­re­tary, as well as nam­ing Ryan Zei­dan as chief de­vel­op­ment of­fi­cer. Pri­or to join­ing Mil­len­do, Joseph served as gen­er­al coun­sel at En­zy­vant Ther­a­peu­tics and in the same role at In­Vi­vo Ther­a­peu­tics, Cu­bist Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals, Mayne Phar­ma and Tran­skary­ot­ic Ther­a­pies (TKT). She played ad­vi­so­ry roles in Mayne Phar­ma’s ac­qui­si­tion by Hos­pi­ra and TKT’s sale to Shire. Zei­dan has served as Mil­len­do’s SVP of de­vel­op­ment since join­ing the com­pa­ny in 2018. Pri­or to Mil­len­do, he had stints at Cel­gene, No­var­tis On­col­o­gy, Boston Con­sult­ing Group and Ca­lan­do Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals.

→ Con­sumer pack­aged goods cannabis com­pa­ny, Piv­ot Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals — which is plan­ning to grow and ex­pand mar­kets in Cana­da, the US and the EU — has tapped Toni Ri­now as CEO. Ri­now has held var­i­ous lead­er­ship roles in which she head­ed ac­qui­si­tions across Cana­da, Latin Amer­i­ca, Eu­rope and In­dia. In ad­di­tion, CMO Wolf­gang Renz will be serv­ing as re­gion­al man­ag­er Eu­rope along with his cur­rent tasks. Renz was a for­mer cor­po­rate vice pres­i­dent at Boehringer In­gel­heim.

→ Cam­bridge, Mass­a­chu­setts-based, AVRO­BIO — cur­rent­ly fo­cused on the de­vel­op­ment of their gene ther­a­py, AVR-RD-01, in Fab­ry dis­ease — wel­comed Geor­gette Verdin as chief hu­man re­sources of­fi­cer. Verdin joins the com­pa­ny af­ter stints at No­var­tis In­sti­tutes of Bio­med­ical Re­search, Bio­gen, Ama­zon and Mi­crosoft

→ Com­put­er sci­en­tist Im­ran Haque has found a new home at Re­cur­sion as their vice pres­i­dent of da­ta sci­ence. Haque hops over to the role af­ter a stint as CSO of Freenome. Pri­or to his time at Freenome, Haque served in var­i­ous roles at Coun­syl, in­clud­ing vice pres­i­dent, sci­en­tif­ic af­fairs. 

Sher­ron Kell has hopped on board to Proven­tion Bio as SVP of clin­i­cal de­vel­op­ment. She will lead the an­ti-CD3 mon­o­clon­al an­ti­body PRV-031 (teplizum­ab) pro­gram — which was grant­ed break­through ther­a­py des­ig­na­tion — for the in­ter­cep­tion and pre­ven­tion of clin­i­cal type 1 di­a­betes. Most re­cent­ly, Kell served as the vice pres­i­dent at Im­pax Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals (now Am­neal Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals). She al­so brings ex­pe­ri­ence from John­son & John­son and No­var­tis to the role. 

Eli Lil­ly vet Fred La­ri­more is mak­ing the jump from Van­cou­ver, Wash­ing­ton-based Ab­Sci’s sci­en­tif­ic ad­vi­so­ry board to his new role as the com­pa­ny’s vice pres­i­dent, process de­vel­op­ment.  Ab­Sci is a syn­thet­ic bi­ol­o­gy com­pa­ny with an E. coli cell line for rapid and low-cost bio­man­u­fac­tur­ing of com­plex pro­tein ther­a­peu­tics. At Lil­ly, La­ri­more served as a re­search fel­low and se­nior sci­en­tif­ic leader. He over­saw the man­u­fac­tur­ing of Hu­mulin, Hu­ma­log, Hu­ma­t­rope, For­teo and re­com­bi­nant hu­man glucagon. Pre­vi­ous­ly, La­ri­more was the vice pres­i­dent of sci­en­tif­ic af­fairs and CSO of Cook Pharmi­ca. In ad­di­tion to La­ri­more’s ap­point­ment, Ab­Sci is plan­ning to make 14 ad­di­tion­al po­si­tions by the end of 2019. 

Ve­na­toRx Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals — fo­cused on the dis­cov­ery of an­ti-in­fec­tives to treat mul­tidrug re­sis­tant bac­te­r­i­al in­fec­tions and oth­er hard-to-treat vi­ral in­fec­tions — made some new ad­di­tions to its lead­er­ship team with the ap­point­ments of Jen­nifer El­lis as SVP, qual­i­ty; Paul Mc­Gov­ern as vice pres­i­dent, med­ical sci­ences and Lau­ren Tor­net­ta as vice pres­i­dent, reg­u­la­to­ry af­fairs. El­lis joined Ve­na­toRx af­ter stints at TRA­CON, Trius Ther­a­peu­tics (ac­quired by Cu­bist Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals), Pfiz­er, and Al­liance Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals. Pri­or to his new role with the com­pa­ny, Mc­Gov­ern served as the vice pres­i­dent, clin­i­cal & med­ical af­fairs at Paratek Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals, as well as a stint at Wyeth/Pfiz­er. Tor­net­ta was a for­mer reg­u­la­to­ry project man­ag­er of the di­vi­sion of anes­the­sia, anal­ge­sia and rheuma­tol­ogy prod­ucts at the FDA. She al­so served at Galera Ther­a­peu­tics, Pfiz­er, En­do Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals and Nabi Bio­phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals pri­or to jump­ing aboard Ve­na­toRx. 

→ San Fran­cis­co Bay area-based Vee­va Sys­tems — provider in cloud-based soft­ware for life sci­ences clients — made the ad­di­tion of pres­i­dent and COO of TESARO (ac­quired by GSK in 2019), Mary Lynne Hed­ley, to the board of di­rec­tors. 

An­dreessen Horowitz-backed Shield Di­ag­nos­tics has wel­comed David Es­pos­i­to to its board of di­rec­tors, join­ing its mis­sion to bring pre­ci­sion med­i­cine to in­fec­tious dis­eases. Es­pos­i­to is the cur­rent CEO of Ann Ar­bor-based ONL Ther­a­peu­tics.

→ We found out Mon­day morn­ing where Levi Gar­raway was head­ed af­ter he left Eli Lil­ly as head of on­col­o­gy R&D a few days ago. Roche named Gar­raway as their new chief med­ical of­fi­cer, re­plac­ing San­dra Horn­ing, who they say is re­tir­ing from the com­pa­ny. Gar­raway made the shift to the Big Phar­ma world less than three years ago af­ter a dis­tin­guished aca­d­e­m­ic ca­reer with stints at the Dana-Far­ber Can­cer In­sti­tute and Har­vard Med­ical School. Lil­ly, though, gave him a fast ed­u­ca­tion in the highs and lows of drug de­vel­op­ment. Horn­ing, mean­while, had a 10-year stint at Roche/Genen­tech, where she start­ed out as head of on­col­o­gy R&D fol­low­ing her own aca­d­e­m­ic ca­reer, with 21 years at Stan­ford

Ca­dent Ther­a­peu­tics — cur­rent­ly in col­lab­o­ra­tion with No­var­tis $NVS to de­vel­op a neg­a­tive al­losteric mod­u­la­tor, now in Phase II for the treat­ment of treat­ment-re­sis­tant de­pres­sion — wel­comed John McBride on board as CFO. McBride jumps over from the same role at Syn­tim­mune, where he helped with the com­pa­ny’s sale to Alex­ion $ALXN. Pri­or to his time at Syn­tim­mune, McBride served as the COO and CFO at Tokai Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals and had stints at Glouces­ter Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals, Phar­ma­cia, Cy­toTher­a­peu­tics and Phytera. In ad­di­tion, the com­pa­ny an­nounced sev­er­al oth­er hires, in­clud­ing Min­nie Mild­woff, Vice Pres­i­dent, Reg­u­la­to­ry Af­fairs and Qual­i­ty As­sur­ance; Robert Gaffey, Vice Pres­i­dent, Fi­nance and Ad­min­is­tra­tion; Nicole Lu­osey, Vice Pres­i­dent, Strate­gic and Pro­gram Op­er­a­tions and Noah Good­man, Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor, Busi­ness De­vel­op­ment.

A fa­vorite in Alex­ion’s C-suite is leav­ing, and some mighty sur­prised an­a­lysts aren’t the least bit hap­py about it

Analysts hate to lose a biotech CFO they’ve come to trust and admire — especially if they’re being blindsided by a surprise exit.

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While No­var­tis ban­ish­es Zol­gens­ma scan­dal scars — Bio­gen goes on a Spin­raza 'of­fen­sive'

While Novartis painstakingly works to mop up the stench of the data manipulation scandal associated with its expensive gene therapy for spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) Zolgensma— rival Biogen is attempting to expand the use of its SMA therapy, Spinraza. 

The US drugmaker $BIIB secured US approval for Spinraza for use in the often fatal genetic disease in 2016. The approval covered a broad range of patients with infantile-onset (most likely to develop Type 1) SMA. 

Jason Kelly. Mike Blake/Reuters via Adobe

Eye­ing big ther­a­peu­tic push, Gink­go bags $290M to build a cell pro­gram­ming em­pire

Ginkgo Bioworks is on a roll. Days after publicizing a plan to nurture new startups via partnerships with accelerators Y Combinator and Petri, the Boston biotech says it has raised another $290 million for its cell programming platform to reach further and wider.

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UP­DAT­ED: Speak­er Nan­cy Pelosi to un­veil bill for fed­er­al­ly ne­go­ti­at­ed drug prices

After months of buzz from both sides of the aisle, Speaker Nancy Pelosi will today introduce her plan to allow the federal government to negotiate prices for 250 prescription drugs, setting up a showdown with a pharmaceutical industry working overtime to prevent it.

The need to limit drug prices is a rare point of agreement between President Trump and Democrats, although the president has yet to comment on the proposal and will likely face pressure to back a more conservative option or no bill at all. Republican Senator Chuck Grassley is reportedly lobbying his fellow party members on a more modest proposal he negotiated with Democratic Senator Ron Wyden in July.

David Grainger [file photo]

'Dis­con­nect the bas­tard­s' — one biotech's plan to break can­cer cell­s' uni­fied de­fens­es

Chemotherapy and radiotherapy are the current gladiators of cancer treatment, but they come with well-known limitations and side-effects. The emergence of immunotherapy — a ferocious new titan in oncologist’s toolbox — takes the brakes off the immune system to kill cancer cells with remarkable success in some cases, but the approach is not always effective. What makes certain forms of cancer so resilient? Scientists may have finally pieced together a tantalizing piece of the puzzle, and a new biotech is banking on a new approach to fill the gap.

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Jeff Kindler's Cen­trex­ion re­news bid to make pub­lic de­but

Jeffrey Kindler’s plan to take his biotech — which is developing a slate of non-opioid painkillers — public, is back on.

The Boston based company, led by former Pfizer $PFE chief Kindler, originally contemplated a $70 million to $80 million IPO last year— but eventually postponed that strategy. On Wednesday, the company revived its bid to make a public debut in a filing with the SEC — although no pricing details were disclosed.

Zachary Hornby. Boundless

'A fourth rev­o­lu­tion in can­cer ther­a­pies': ARCH-backed Bound­less Bio flash­es big check, makes big­ger promis­es in de­but

It was the cellular equivalent of opening your car door and finding an active, roaring engine in the driver seat.

Scientists learned strands of DNA could occasionally appear outside of its traditional home in the nucleus in the 1970s, when they appeared as little, innocuous circles on microscopes; inexplicable but apparently innate. But not until UC San Diego’s Paul Mischel published his first study in Science in 2014 did researchers realize these circles were not only active but potentially overactive and driving some cancer tumors’ superhuman growth.

It’s fi­nal­ly over: Bio­gen, Ei­sai scrap big Alzheimer’s PhI­I­Is af­ter a pre­dictable BACE cat­a­stro­phe rais­es safe­ty fears

Months after analysts and investors called on Biogen and Eisai to scrap their BACE drug for Alzheimer’s and move on in the wake of a string of late-stage failures and rising safety fears, the partners have called it quits. And they said they were dropping the drug — elenbecestat — after the independent monitoring board raised concerns about…safety.

We don’t know exactly what researchers found in this latest catastrophe, but the companies noted in their release that investigators had determined that the drug was flunking the risk/benefit analysis.

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Mer­ck helps bankroll new part­ner Themis' game plan to fin­ish the chikun­gun­ya race and be­gin on­colyt­ic virus quest

As Themis gears up for a Phase III trial of its chikungunya vaccine, the Vienna-based biotech has closed out €40 million ($44 million) to foot the clinical and manufacturing bills.

Its heavyweight partners at Merck — which signed a pact around a mysterious “blockbuster indication” last month — jumped into the Series D, led by new investors Farallon Capital and Hadean Ventures. Adjuvant Capital also joined, as did current investors Global Health Investment Fund, aws Gruenderfonds, Omnes Capital, Ventech and Wellington Partners Life Sciences.