In high-lev­el reshuf­fle, Roche gives James Sabry the glob­al reins on deal-mak­ing — over­see­ing pRED and gRED

In the 9 years since Roche bought up all of Genen­tech, the Swiss phar­ma gi­ant has been care­ful to leave its lega­cy R&D group pRED sep­a­rate from the folks at the gRED op­er­a­tions they ac­quired in San Fran­cis­co. But in a star­tling shift to­day the ex­ec­u­tive team knit­ted the two groups’ BD teams in­to one, com­bin­ing part­ner­ing ops and mak­ing Genen­tech’s James Sabry their glob­al deal czar for phar­ma.

So­phie Ko­rnows­ki-Bon­net, the French na­tive who had been head of part­ner­ing at Roche and sat on the ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee, is leav­ing for a “new op­por­tu­ni­ty,” just weeks af­ter the re­search chief John Reed leaped to run Sanofi’s re­search group as that phar­ma gi­ant looks to be­come more self-re­liant. And Sabry, a high-pro­file fig­ure in the US biotech scene — par­tic­u­lar­ly Cal­i­for­nia — is jump­ing on­to the ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee and mov­ing to Basel.

I queried Sabry by e-mail about his new job, and he replied:

“There is much to dis­cuss as this is a new­ly cre­at­ed role. Very much ex­cit­ed to be tak­ing this on at this par­tic­u­lar time.”

Sabry struck a string of deals in the 8 years he’s been in charge of part­ner­ing at Genen­tech. He tends to avoid the splashy stuff — mega-deals are out of fa­vor at Roche, with bolt-ons the fa­vored ap­proach to M&A. He’s been on the look­out for deals to fill des­ig­nat­ed seg­ments of the pipeline at Genen­tech, which has eas­i­ly been the dom­i­nant play­er at Roche in pro­duc­ing new block­busters. Over at pRED, the phar­ma team has had sig­nif­i­cant­ly less suc­cess, though ex­ecs have voiced their sat­is­fac­tion with the group re­cent­ly.

“We are not lim­it­ed by cap­i­tal,” Sabry told me back in 2015 as he ex­plained his ap­proach to deal­mak­ing. Roche is, af­ter all, one of the biggest spenders in phar­ma, with a re­search bud­get of about $9 bil­lion.

But they are aw­ful­ly hard to im­press.

The biotech vet set up the $1.7 bil­lion buy­out for Ser­agon (which has not been a suc­cess), and was hap­py to play in the $1.5 bil­lion to $3 bil­lion range, along with a string of much small­er pacts. Reach up to the $8 bil­lion and $10 bil­lion are­na and CEO Sev­erin Schwan ex­pects plen­ty of hands-on in­volve­ment. Now, though, Sabry’s re­mit has ex­pand­ed con­sid­er­ably.

Much more com­mon was the $534 mil­lion mi­cro­bio­me pact Sabry struck with Mi­cro­bi­ot­i­ca a few days ago, part­ner­ing on a field where the com­pa­ny has demon­strat­ed a re­al ap­petite for ex­per­tise.

The move on the BD side comes at a crit­i­cal point of play for Roche. Their three big drug fran­chis­es are be­ing dec­i­mat­ed by gener­ics, and it’s re­ly­ing on new drugs like Hem­li­bra to make mega-cash as they dis­rupt old mar­kets. The pres­sure on per­for­mance will re­main very high.

It’s in­ter­est­ing that Sabry is be­ing giv­en a glob­al man­date for the com­pa­ny just af­ter CEO Schwan ve­he­ment­ly re­ject­ed the idea of meld­ing the two re­search groups in­to one. 

“Over my dead body,” was his re­ac­tion. But that can change, too.

Tower Bridge in London [Shutterstock]

#UK­BIO19: Join GSK’s Hal Bar­ron and a group of top biotech ex­ecs for our 2nd an­nu­al biotech sum­mit in Lon­don

Over the past 10 years I’ve made a point of getting to know the Golden Triangle and the special role the UK biopharma industry plays there in drug development. The concentration of world class research institutes, some of the most accomplished scientists I’ve ever seen at work and a rising tide of global investment cash leaves an impression that there’s much, much more to come as biotech hubs are birthed and nurtured.

Deborah Dunsire. Lundbeck

UP­DAT­ED: Deb­o­rah Dun­sire is pay­ing $2B for a chance to leap di­rect­ly in­to a block­buster show­down with a few of the world's biggest phar­ma gi­ants

A year after taking the reins as CEO of Lundbeck, Deborah Dunsire is making a bold bid to beef up the Danish biotech’s portfolio of drugs in what will likely be a direct leap into an intense rivalry with a group of giants now carving up a growing market for new migraine drugs.

Bright and early European time Monday morning the company announced that it will pay up to about $2 billion to buy Alder, a little biotech that is far along the path in developing a quarterly IV formulation of a CGRP drug aimed at cutting back the number of crippling migraines patients experience each month. In a followup call, Dunsire also noted that the company will likely need 200 to 250 reps for this marketing task on both sides of the Atlantic. And analysts were quick to note that the dealmaking at Lundbeck isn’t done, with another $2 billion to $3 billion available for more deals to beef up the pipeline.

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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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Scott Gottlieb, AP Images

Scott Got­tlieb has a new board po­si­tion to add to the re­sume — and this one is fo­cused on a fa­vorite sub­ject

Scott Gottlieb has another position to add to his lengthy roster of boards and advisory roles in the wake of his departure from the helm of the FDA.

He’ll be joining the advisory board of FasterCures, a think tank which former junk bond king Michael Milken set up to help drive more drugs to the market, looking to accelerate drug R&D. That’s a subject close to the heart of Gottlieb, who blazed a trail at the FDA focused on hustling up the process. That helped endear him to the industry, making him one of the most popular commissioners in FDA history.

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Karyopharm lines up $150 mil­lion cash in­jec­tion to back con­tro­ver­sial drug launch

Karyopharm has entered into a royalty agreement worth up to $150 million to back the launch of their multiple myeloma drug — recently approved by the FDA over the objections of a majority of the agency’s outside experts.

The deal with HealthCare Royalty Partners, worth $75 million now and $75 million once certain regulatory and commercial milestones have been reached, will fund the commercialization of Karyopharm’s oral SINE compound Xpovio (selinexor) for patients with multiple myeloma who have already had at least four prior therapies. The money will help Karyopharm as it markets its newly approved drug and pushes through clinical trials testing the drug on refractory multiple myeloma patients with one to three therapies and patients with treatment-resistant diffuse large B-cell lymphoma. It will give Karyopharm a cushion through mid-2021.

Af­ter a run of CT­LA-4 com­bo fail­ures, sci­en­tists spot­light a way to make it work — in se­lect pa­tients

CTLA-4/PD-(L)1 combinations have been one of the El Dorados of oncology, its promise forever behind that next hill but apparently unattainable after a series of pivotal clinical failures. But researchers at New York’s Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and the Technical University of Munich think they may know how to fix what’s wrong and boost the drive to next-gen cancer combos.

In a preclinical animal research program, researchers found that within a cell, checkpoints rely on a specific molecule — RNA-sensing molecule RIG-I — to work. If that sounds familiar, it’s because it has already been identified as a target for boosting immune responses and was subject to at least one Phase I/II trial. Pfizer in December allied itself with Kineta with $15 million upfront and $505 million in potential milestones to develop RIG-I immunotherapies, and three years ago Merck purchased German upstart Rigontec for $137 million upfront and over $400 million in potential milestones for the same purpose.

Pur­due Phar­ma files for bank­rupt­cy as first step in $10B opi­oid set­tle­ment

It’s settled. Purdue Pharma has filed for bankruptcy as part of a deal that would see the OxyContin maker hand over $10 billion in cash and other contributions to mitigate the opioid crisis — without acknowledging any wrongdoing in the protracted epidemic that’s resulted in hundreds of thousands of deaths.

The announcement came two weeks after news of a proposed settlement surfaced and largely confirm what’s already been reported.

Lisa M. DeAngelis, MSKCC

MSK picks brain can­cer ex­pert Lisa DeAn­ge­lis as its next CMO — fol­low­ing José Basel­ga’s con­tro­ver­sial ex­it

It’s official. Memorial Sloan Kettering has picked a brain cancer expert as its new physician-in-chief and CMO, replacing José Baselga, who left under a cloud after being singled out by The New York Times and ProPublica for failing to properly air his lucrative industry ties.

His replacement, who now will be in charge of MSK’s cutting-edge research work as well as the cancer care delivered by hundreds of practitioners, is Lisa M. DeAngelis. DeAngelis had been chair of the neurology department and co-founder of MSK’s brain tumor center and was moved in to the acting CMO role in the wake of Baselga’s departure.

Penn team adapts CAR-T tech, reengi­neer­ing mouse cells to treat car­diac fi­bro­sis

After establishing itself as one of the pioneer research centers in the world for CAR-T cancer therapies, creating new attack vehicles to eradicate cancer cells, a team at Penn Medicine has begun the tricky transition of using the basic technology for heart repair work.

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