J&J R&D vet Pe­ter Tum­mi­no joins the Big Phar­ma ex­o­dus, leap­ing to Nim­bus as CSO; Ca­dent taps Jodie Mor­ri­son for CEO

→ Af­ter spend­ing the last 16 years as a re­searcher in Big Phar­ma, Pe­ter Tum­mi­no is go­ing biotech.

Pe­ter Tum­mi­no

Nim­bus re­ports that Tum­mi­no is join­ing the com­pa­ny as its new CSO af­ter his last stint at J&J, where he was glob­al head of lead dis­cov­ery and head­ed up re­search teams on both sides of the At­lantic. Ear­li­er he had a long stretch at GSK, where he ran the can­cer epi­ge­net­ics team, among oth­er things.

Nim­bus made head­lines in the in­dus­try with its $400 mil­lion up­front deal with Gilead on NASH. But it’s al­so been com­plete­ly re­vamp­ing the top team. CEO Don Nichol­son left last fall, short­ly af­ter a $65 mil­lion raise, re­placed by Jeb Keiper.  And found­ing CSO Rosana Kapeller fol­lowed  out the ex­it soon af­ter, lat­er join­ing Google’s GV as its first en­tre­pre­neur-in-res­i­dence for life sci­ences. 

We’ve seen a large ex­o­dus of R&D ex­ecs out of phar­ma in re­cent years, as se­nior re­searchers with years of ex­pe­ri­ence in large or­ga­ni­za­tions try their hand at the small­er biotechs, where new op­por­tu­ni­ties have abound­ed.

Jodie Mor­ri­son

Jodie Mor­ri­son has been tapped CEO of Ca­dent Ther­a­peu­tics, free­ing Michael Cur­tis to fo­cus on the R&D work the biotech start­up is do­ing on al­losteric mod­u­la­tors with the $40 mil­lion cash it re­cent­ly raised. Mor­ri­son brings fresh ex­pe­ri­ence at the helm from Keryx and Tokai, both of which have since be­come blend­ed in­to new, merged en­ti­ties. Part­nered with No­var­tis, Ca­dent is work­ing on “both fla­vors of the NM­DA re­cep­tor” to treat both de­pres­sion and schiz­o­phre­nia, though its most ad­vanced pro­gram tar­gets es­sen­tial tremor.

→ Look­ing for some sta­bil­i­ty in the C-suite af­ter go­ing through two CEOs in less than a year, Abeona Ther­a­peu­tics has asked in­ter­im CEO João Sif­fert to as­sume the post per­ma­nent­ly. For­mer­ly of fel­low gene ther­a­py com­pa­ny Cere­gene, Sif­fert joined Abeona in 2018 as CMO and head of R&D, then soon be­gan to dou­ble as chief ex­ec­u­tive when then-CEO Carsten Thiel got boot­ed six months in­to the job due to mis­con­duct. Sif­fert’s ex­pe­ri­ence on the board of AveX­is, the com­pa­ny says, po­si­tions him well for guid­ing the com­pa­ny in both the clin­ic and man­u­fac­tur­ing fa­cil­i­ty.

→ Over a 13-year ca­reer as a biotech an­a­lyst at Piper Jaf­fray, Cowen and Bank of Amer­i­ca Mer­rill Lynch, Rachel McMinn learned a lot about the in­dus­try and be­gan to won­der if she should be the one run­ning the com­pa­ny rather than just giv­ing ad­vice. Af­ter a short stint as chief busi­ness and strat­e­gy of­fi­cer at In­ter­cept, she’s ready to make the jump with the for­mal launch of a new biotech of her own. McMinn and the 20 staffers at New York-based Neu­ro­gene are tack­ling rare neu­ro­log­i­cal con­di­tions with a pipeline of gene ther­a­pies us­ing AAV tech.

Catal­ent $CTLT has pro­mot­ed Alessan­dro Masel­li to pres­i­dent and COO. For­mer­ly the SVP of glob­al op­er­a­tions, Masel­li will now over­see in­te­gra­tion of the com­pa­ny’s con­tract re­search ser­vice of­fer­ings — with a re­cent ac­qui­si­tion of Ju­niper Phar­ma — and take the bur­den of run­ning the day-to-day op­er­a­tions off CEO John Chimin­s­ki’s shoul­ders.

→ Fol­low­ing its peers in em­brac­ing dig­i­tal med­i­cine, France’s Sanofi said its chief med­ical of­fi­cer Ameet Nath­wani would al­so serve as the com­pa­ny’s first chief dig­i­tal of­fi­cer. Nath­wani, who was hired in 2016, is now al­so charged with in­te­grat­ing Sanofi’s ar­se­nal of med­i­cines with dig­i­tal tech­nolo­gies and ink­ing dig­i­tal part­ner­ships. Last year, Pfiz­er and Mer­ck named their CDOs, while No­var­tis and GSK an­nounced sim­i­lar ap­point­ments in 2017.

Gail McIn­tyre

→ Hav­ing man­aged Ar­a­vive’s $AR­AV R&D op­er­a­tions in Hous­ton for the past cou­ple of years, Gail McIn­tyre has earned a seat on the ex­ec­u­tive team as CSO. She will con­tin­ue to shep­herd the biotech’s can­cer ther­a­pies, one of which is now in Phase Ib, through lead op­ti­miza­tion and ear­ly de­vel­op­ment to the clin­ic.

Sam Wak­sal’s Kad­mon $KDMN has tapped one of its di­rec­tors to lead its fi­nance or­ga­ni­za­tion as CFO. Steven Mee­han, a for­mer in­vest­ment banker, brings both a deep un­der­stand­ing of the Kad­mon’s in­flam­ma­to­ry and fi­brot­ic dis­ease pipeline and “ex­pe­ri­ence in M&A, fi­nan­cial plan­ning and cap­i­tal rais­ing,” the com­pa­ny says.

→ T cell im­munother­a­py de­vel­op­er Medi­gene has con­vinced sea­soned in­vest­ment banker Ax­el-Sven Malkomes to jump back in­to biotech. In the dual role of chief fi­nan­cial of­fi­cer and chief busi­ness de­vel­op­ment of­fi­cer, Malkomes will have broad au­thor­i­ty over fi­nance, BD, le­gal af­fairs, IT and com­mer­cial op­er­a­tions from his of­fice in Mu­nich. Pre­vi­ous­ly, he led strat­e­gy plan­ning and M&D for Mer­ck KGaA.

Achilles Ther­a­peu­tics has poached Roche vet Markus Dan­gl from fel­low can­cer im­munother­a­py de­vel­op­er Medi­gene. The CSO ap­point­ment will trig­ger a move from Ger­many to the UK for Dan­gl, who’s been tasked with steer­ing the smooth en­try of two lead neoanti­gen pro­grams to the clin­ic — one in non-small cell lung can­cer and an­oth­er in melanoma.

→ As Achillion $ACHN plans for late-stage de­vel­op­ment and po­ten­tial com­mer­cial­iza­tion — de­spite re­cent­ly drop­ping a lead pro­gram — it has el­e­vat­ed for­mer cap­i­tal mar­kets banker Bri­an Di Do­na­to to CFO, months af­ter he joined the com­pa­ny.

→ Ready to em­bark on the clin­i­cal part of its T cell ther­a­py jour­ney, Eu­re­ka Ther­a­peu­tics has hired Hanzhong Li to help en­gage the fi­nan­cial com­mu­ni­ty. Li, whose of­fi­cial ti­tle will be SVP of cor­po­rate de­vel­op­ment, was CFO of Chi­na’s As­cen­t­age Phar­ma fol­low­ing stints as a strat­e­gy di­rec­tor at Bay­er and an an­a­lyst at Mor­gan Stan­ley.

→ Four for­mer FDA of­fi­cials have joined Parex­el’s reg­u­la­to­ry con­sult­ing team, in­clud­ing Kurt Bror­son, a 26-year agency vet­er­an steeped in chem­istry, man­u­fac­tur­ing and con­trols re­view for CDER; Changt­ing Hau­den­schild, who pri­mar­i­ly worked on clin­i­cal safe­ty and ef­fi­ca­cy as well as bio­mark­ers at CBER; cell and gene ther­a­py ex­pert Mo­ham­mad Hei­daran; and Mwan­go Kasho­ki, who brings per­spec­tive on post-ap­proval safe­ty re­quire­ments.

→ Not­ting­ham, UK-based pre­clin­i­cal ser­vice provider Syna­ture Dis­cov­ery has re­cruit­ed Al­lan Jor­dan from Can­cer Re­search UK to di­rect its on­col­o­gy drug dis­cov­ery arm. He will be joined by De­loitte vet Louisa Jordi­son, Syna­ture’s first di­rec­tor of strat­e­gy plan­ning.

With con­tri­bu­tion from John Car­roll.

Part club, part guide, part land­lord: Arie Bellde­grun is blue­print­ing a string of be­spoke biotech com­plex­es in glob­al boom­towns — start­ing with Boston

The biotech industry is getting a landlord, unlike anything it’s ever known before.

Inspired by his recent experiences scrounging for space in Boston and the Bay Area, master biotech builder, investor, and global dealmaker Arie Belldegrun has organized a new venture to build a new, 250,000 square foot biopharma building in Boston’s Seaport district — home to Vertex and a number of up-and-coming biotech players.

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Novotech CRO Ex­pands Chi­na Team as Biotech De­mand for Clin­i­cal Tri­als In­creas­es up to 79%

An increase in demand of up to 79% for clinical trials in China has prompted Novotech the Asia-Pacific CRO to rapidly expand the China team, appointing expert local clinical executives to their Shanghai and Hong Kong offices. The company is planning to expand their team by 30% over the next quarter.

Novotech China has seen considerable demand recently which is borne out by research from GlobalData:
A global migration of clinical research is occurring from high-income countries to low and middle-income countries with emerging economies. Over the period 2017 to 2018, for example, the number of clinical trial sites opened by biotech companies in Asia-Pacific increased by 35% compared to 8% in the rest of the world, with growth as high as 79% in China.
Novotech CEO Dr John Moller said China offers the largest population in the world, rapid economic growth, and an increasing willingness by government to invest in research and development.
Novotech’s 23 years of experience working in the region means we are the ideal CRO partner for USA biotechs wanting to tap the research expertise and opportunities that China offers.
There are over 22,000 active investigators in Greater China, with about 5,000 investigators with experience on at least 3 studies (source GlobalData).

H1 analy­sis: The high-stakes ta­ble in the biotech deals casi­no is pay­ing out some record-set­ting win­nings

For years the big trend among dealmakers at the major players has been centered on ratcheting down upfront payments in favor of bigger milestones. Better known as biobucks for some. But with the top 15 companies competing for the kind of “transformative” pacts that can whip up some excitement on Wall Street, with some big biotechs like Regeneron now weighing in as well, cash is king at the high stakes table.

We asked Chris Dokomajilar, the head of DealForma, to crunch the numbers for us, looking over the top 20 deals for the past decade and breaking it all down into the top alliances already created in 2019. Gilead has clearly tipped the scales in terms of the coin of the bio-realm, with its record-setting $5 billion upfront to tie up to Galapagos’ entire pipeline.

Dokomajilar notes:

We’re going to need a ‘three comma club’ for the deals with over $1 billion in total upfront cash and equity. The $100 million-plus club is getting crowded at 164 deals in the last decade with new deals being added towards the top of the chart. 2019 already has 14 deals with at least $100 million in upfront cash and equity for a total year-to-date of over $9 billion. That beats last year’s $8 billion and sets a record.

Add upfronts and equity payments and you get $11.5 billion for the year, just shy of last year’s record-setting $11.8 billion.

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UP­DAT­ED: With loom­ing ‘apoc­a­lypse of drug re­sis­tance,’ Mer­ck’s com­bi­na­tion an­tibi­ot­ic scores FDA ap­proval on two fronts

Merck — one of the last large biopharmaceuticals companies in the beleaguered field of antibiotic drug development — on Wednesday said the FDA had sanctioned the approval of its combination antibacterial for the treatment of complicated urinary tract and intra-abdominal infections.

To curb the rise of drug-resistant bacteria and maintain the efficacy of the therapy, Recarbrio (and other antibacterials) — the drug must be used to treat or prevent infections that are proven or strongly suspected to be caused by susceptible gram-negative bacteria, Merck $MRK said.

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John McHutchison in 2012. Getty Images

The $1.1M good­bye: Gilead CSO John McHutchi­son is out as Daniel O’Day shakes up the se­nior team

Just a little more than a year after John McHutchison grabbed a promotion to become CSO at Gilead in the wake of Norbert Bischofberger’s exit, he’s out amid a shakeup of the senior team that is also triggering the departure of two other top execs.

Gilead stated that McHutchison “has decided to step down” from the job as of August 2nd. And their SEC filing notes that he’ll be getting a $1.1 million check to settle up on his contract.

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Thomas Gajewski, David Steinberg. (CRI, Pyxis)

Bay­er, Long­wood back star re­searcher's deep dive in­to the tu­mor mi­croen­vi­ron­ment for new I/O tar­gets

From PD-1 targeting to the RAS pathway to the STING complex, Thomas Gajewski has spent the past two decades of his career decoding the various ways the immune system can be unleashed to defend against cancer. So when the University of Chicago professor comes around to putting all his findings into a new platform for finding new targets, VCs and pharma groups alike pay attention.

“He’s been studying T cells for 20 years, plus he’s one of the world’s leaders if not the world leader in the space,” David Steinberg, partner at Longwood Fund, said. “Furthermore, let me add he did a lot of the foundational research and also some of the seminal clinical trials in the existing set of I/O agents. He understands the space really well, he understands the current strengths, and I think he understood really well what was missing, so he knew where to look.”

Kamala Harris speaking yesterday at the Des Moines Register Iowa Presidential Candidate Forum [via Getty]

Who’s the tough­est on drug prices? A game of po­lit­i­cal one-up­man­ship is dri­ving the pol­i­cy de­bate in Wash­ing­ton

Earlier this week we got a look at Senator Kamala Harris’ position on drug prices. She’s proposing that HHS take an average price from single-payer systems like the UK, Germany and Canada — which leverage market access for lower prices — and use that to set the US price. Anything drug companies collect above that would be taxed at a rate of 100%.

And the rhetoric is scathing:
While families struggle to make it to the end of the month, pharmaceutical companies are turning record profits. They’re spending nearly as much on advertising as R&D. They’re manipulating their market power to hike prices on lifesaving generic drugs. They’re making twice the profit of the average industry in America and still increased drug prices by 10.5% over the past six months alone. Meanwhile, they are charging dramatically higher prices to American consumers.
That’s an escalation on Joe Biden’s plan, which includes drug importation from those cheaper markets as well as allowing Medicare to negotiate prices — something that virtually all Dems agree on now.

SJ Lee [File photo]

Go­ing in­side cells, Sung Joo Lee has sketched some big goals for his small — but glob­al — team of drug hunters

For a small biotech based in South Korea with a research arm in Cambridge, MA, Orum Therapeutics has sketched out some big goals aimed at developing antibodies for intracellular targets. And now they have a new $30 million round to push the work forward, aiming at a slate of currently undruggable quests.

Orum has been working on a platform tech out of Ajou University that relies on endocytosis to smuggle antibodies and their cargo inside a cell. They’ve published work in Nature that illustrates its preclinical potential in RAS mutations, and KRAS is on their list of targets. 

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Astel­las buys in­to Fre­quen­cy's re­gen­er­a­tive med strat­e­gy with a $625M al­liance on hear­ing loss

The executive team at Frequency Therapeutics never oversold the results of their maiden Phase I/II study for a new drug to rectify hearing loss. It was, they said back in April, primarily about safety and tolerability, where their drug FX-322 performed as they had hoped. 

That early glimpse of efficacy everyone searches for in their first try on humans? 

(I)mprovements in hearing function, including audiometry and word scores, were observed in multiple FX-322 treated patients.

We don’t know exactly what that means. But whatever the details, Astellas found enough in the data to jump in with a sizable collaboration deal.

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