As blue­bird plans its big split, rare dis­ease head An­drew Oben­shain re­cruits Iron­wood vet as CFO

As Nick Leschly counts down his fi­nal month as chief blue­bird — be­fore tak­ing on the new role of 2sev­en­ty CEO — he has un­veiled a key hire and a cou­ple of up­dates.

Gi­na Con­syl­man

The planned spin­out, which is now set to take place in mid-Oc­to­ber, will split the cur­rent blue­bird in­to two com­pa­nies, keep­ing the rare dis­ease and gene ther­a­py pipeline un­der the orig­i­nal blue­bird moniker while Leschly steers the ship at on­col­o­gy-fo­cused new­co 2sev­en­ty. Fol­low­ing “an in­tense pe­ri­od” of in­ter­nal prep work, it’s time to share plans with out­siders, he said.

That in­cludes a $75 mil­lion pri­vate place­ment by an un­named health­care in­vest­ment fund, which will sup­port “on­go­ing R&D and com­mer­cial­iza­tion” work at both blue­bird and 2sev­en­ty. An SEC fil­ing sug­gests the fund is af­fil­i­at­ed with Bak­er Broth­ers.

Mean­while, the blue­bird team is flesh­ing out the ex­ec­u­tive team that will lead it in­to the fu­ture. An­drew Oben­shain, the long­time Eu­ro­pean chief who’s been tapped to lead the new blue­bird, has brought on Gi­na Con­syl­man as CFO. For now, she is still CFO, se­vere ge­net­ic dis­ease — mod­el­ing af­ter Oben­shain’s own ti­tle of pres­i­dent, se­vere ge­net­ic dis­ease.

An­drew Oben­shain

“Her pri­or ex­pe­ri­ence in a sim­i­lar spin trans­ac­tion and help­ing lead a suc­cess­ful com­mer­cial or­ga­ni­za­tion through pe­ri­ods of change has al­ready made her an in­valu­able part­ner as we move through an im­por­tant ex­e­cu­tion phase at blue­bird,” Oben­shain said in a state­ment, re­fer­ring to the spin­off of Cy­cle­ri­on from Iron­wood, where Con­syl­man served the same role.

An ac­coun­tant by train­ing, her pre­vi­ous stints have brought her to Bio­gen and the tech­nol­o­gy so­lu­tions com­pa­ny Ana­log­ic.

At 2sev­en­ty, Leschly will be ad­vised by Har­vard on­col­o­gist and cell ther­a­py spe­cial­ist Marcela Maus, who’s join­ing the board.

With a CAR-T ther­a­py ap­proval un­der its belt for re­lapsed or re­frac­to­ry mul­ti­ple myelo­ma in the Bris­tol My­ers Squibb-part­nered Abec­ma, 2sev­en­ty still has a lot to prove as a nascent on­col­o­gy play­er. Leschly re­cruit­ed three mem­bers of his C-suite to jump with him, al­though a num­ber of oth­er top ex­ecs in the can­cer unit left in the wake of the de­ci­sion to split.

Both com­pa­nies will have lots to prove, es­pe­cial­ly to skep­ti­cal an­a­lysts who doubt their re­spec­tive pipelines will be “ro­bust enough to sus­tain the in­de­pen­dent en­ti­ties.”

One thing they won’t be lack­ing, though, is mon­ey. When adding the lat­est fi­nanc­ing, Leschly ex­pects to have around $975 mil­lion of cash on hand at the time of sep­a­ra­tion.

Health­care Dis­par­i­ties and Sick­le Cell Dis­ease

In the complicated U.S. healthcare system, navigating a serious illness such as cancer or heart disease can be remarkably challenging for patients and caregivers. When that illness is classified as a rare disease, those challenges can become even more acute. And when that rare disease occurs in a population that experiences health disparities, such as people with sickle cell disease (SCD) who are primarily Black and Latino, challenges can become almost insurmountable.

David Meek, new Mirati CEO (Marlene Awaad/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Fresh off Fer­Gene's melt­down, David Meek takes over at Mi­rati with lead KRAS drug rac­ing to an ap­proval

In the insular world of biotech, a spectacular failure can sometimes stay on any executive’s record for a long time. But for David Meek, the man at the helm of FerGene’s recent implosion, two questionable exits made way for what could be an excellent rebound.

Meek, most recently FerGene’s CEO and a past head at Ipsen, has become CEO at Mirati Therapeutics, taking the reins from founding CEO Charles Baum, who will step over into the role of president and head of R&D, according to a release.

Jacob Van Naarden (Eli Lilly)

Ex­clu­sives: Eli Lil­ly out to crash the megablock­buster PD-(L)1 par­ty with 'dis­rup­tive' pric­ing; re­veals can­cer biotech buy­out

It’s taken 7 years, but Eli Lilly is promising to finally start hammering the small and affluent PD-(L)1 club with a “disruptive” pricing strategy for their checkpoint therapy allied with China’s Innovent.

Lilly in-licensed global rights to sintilimab a year ago, building on the China alliance they have with Innovent. That cost the pharma giant $200 million in cash upfront, which they plan to capitalize on now with a long-awaited plan to bust up the high-price market in lung cancer and other cancers that have created a market worth tens of billions of dollars.

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Jay Bradner (Jeff Rumans for Endpoints News)

Div­ing deep­er in­to in­her­it­ed reti­nal dis­or­ders, No­var­tis gob­bles up an­oth­er bite-sized op­to­ge­net­ics biotech

Right about a year ago, a Novartis team led by Jay Bradner and Cynthia Grosskreutz at NIBR swooped in to scoop up a Cambridge, MA-based opthalmology gene therapy company called Vedere. Their focus was on a rather narrow market niche: inherited retinal dystrophies that include a wide range of genetic retinal disorders marked by the loss of photoreceptor cells and progressive vision loss.

But that was just the first deal that whet their appetite.

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FDA hands ac­cel­er­at­ed nod to Seagen, Gen­mab's so­lo ADC in cer­vi­cal can­cer, but com­bo stud­ies look even more promis­ing

Biopharma’s resident antibody-drug conjugate expert Seagen has scored a clutch of oncology approvals in recent years, finding gold in what are known as “third-gen” ADCs. Now, another of their partnered conjugates is ready for prime time.

The FDA on Monday handed an accelerated approval to Seagen and Genmab’s Tivdak (tisotumab vedotin-tftv, or “TV”) in second-line patients with recurrent or metastatic cervical cancer who previously progressed after chemotherapy rather than PD-(L)1 systemic therapy, the companies said in a release.

Dave Lennon, former president of Novartis Gene Therapies

Zol­gens­ma patent spat brews be­tween No­var­tis and Re­genxbio as top No­var­tis gene ther­a­py ex­ec de­parts

Regenxbio, a small licensor of gene therapy viral vectors spun out from the University of Pennsylvania, is now finding itself in the middle of some major league patent fights.

In addition to a patent suit with Sarepta Therapeutics from last September, Novartis, is now trying to push its smaller partner out of the way. The Swiss biopharma licensed Regenxbio’s AAV9 vector for its $2.1 million spinal muscular atrophy therapy Zolgensma.

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Volker Wagner (L) and Jeff Legos

As Bay­er, No­var­tis stack up their ra­dio­phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal da­ta at #ES­MO21, a key de­bate takes shape

Ten years ago, a small Norwegian biotech by the name of Algeta showed up at ESMO — then the European Multidisciplinary Cancer Conference 2011 — and declared that its Bayer-partnered targeted radionuclide therapy, radium-223 chloride, boosted the overall survival of castration-resistant prostate cancer patients with symptomatic bone metastases.

In a Phase III study dubbed ALSYMPCA, patients who were treated with radium-223 chloride lived a median of 14 months compared to 11.2 months. The FDA would stamp an approval on it based on those data two years later, after Bayer snapped up Algeta and christened the drug Xofigo.

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Rafaèle Tordjman (Jeito Capital)

Con­ti­nu­ity and di­ver­si­ty: Rafaèle Tord­j­man's women-led VC firm tops out first fund at $630M

For a first-time fund, Jeito Capital talks a lot about continuity.

Rafaèle Tordjman had spotlighted that concept ever since she started building the firm in 2018, promising to go the extra mile(s) with biotech entrepreneurs while pushing them to reach patients faster.

Coincidentally, the lack of continuity was one of the sore spots listed in a report about the European healthcare sector published that same year by the European Investment Bank — whose fund is one of the LPs, alongside the American pension fund Teacher Retirement System of Texas and Singapore’s Temasek, to help Jeito close its first fund at $630 million (€534 million). As previously reported, Sanofi had chimed in €50 million, marking its first investment in a French life sciences fund.

Mi­rati tri­umphs again in KRAS-mu­tat­ed lung can­cer with a close­ly watched FDA fil­ing now in the cards

After a busy weekend at #ESMO21, which included a big readout for its KRAS drug adagrasib in colon cancer, Mirati Therapeutics is ready to keep the pressure on competitor Amgen with lung cancer data that will undergird an upcoming filing.

In topline results from a Phase II cohort of its KRYSTAL-1 study, adagrasib posted a response rate of 43% in second-line-or-later patients with metastatic non-small cell lung cancer containing a KRAS-G12C mutation, Mirati said Monday.