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.

BiTE® Plat­form and the Evo­lu­tion To­ward Off-The-Shelf Im­muno-On­col­o­gy Ap­proach­es

Despite rapid advances in the field of immuno-oncology that have transformed the cancer treatment landscape, many cancer patients are still left behind.1,2 Not every person has access to innovative therapies designed specifically to treat his or her disease. Many currently available immuno-oncology-based approaches and chemotherapies have brought long-term benefits to some patients — but many patients still need other therapeutic options.3

President Donald Trump (left) and Moncef Slaoui, head of Operation Warp Speed (Alex Brandon, AP Images)

UP­DAT­ED: White House names fi­nal­ists for Op­er­a­tion Warp Speed — with 5 ex­pect­ed names and one no­table omis­sion

A month after word first broke of the Trump Administration’s plan to rapidly accelerate the development and production of a Covid-19 vaccine, the White House has selected the five vaccine candidates they consider most likely to succeed, The New York Times reported.

Most of the names in the plan, known as Operation Warp Speed, will come as little surprise to those who have watched the last four months of vaccine developments: Moderna, which was the first vaccine to reach humans and is now the furthest along of any US effort; J&J, which has not gone into trials but received around $500 million in funding from BARDA earlier this year; the joint AstraZeneca-Oxford venture which was granted $1.2 billion from BARDA two weeks ago; Pfizer, which has been working with the mRNA biotech BioNTech; and Merck, which just entered the race and expects to put their two vaccine candidates into humans later this year.

Is a pow­er­house Mer­ck team prepar­ing to leap past Roche — and leave Gilead and Bris­tol My­ers be­hind — in the race to TIG­IT dom­i­na­tion?

Roche caused quite a stir at ASCO with its first look at some positive — but not so impressive — data for their combination of Tecentriq with their anti-TIGIT drug tiragolumab. But some analysts believe that Merck is positioned to make a bid — soon — for the lead in the race to a second-wave combo immuno-oncology approach with its own ambitious early-stage program tied to a dominant Keytruda.

Endpoints Premium

Premium subscription required

Unlock this article along with other benefits by subscribing to one of our paid plans.

Leen Kawas, Athira CEO (Athira)

Can a small biotech suc­cess­ful­ly tack­le an Ever­est climb like Alzheimer’s? Athi­ra has $85M and some in­flu­en­tial back­ers ready to give it a shot

There haven’t been a lot of big venture rounds for biotech companies looking to run a Phase II study in Alzheimer’s.

The field has been a disaster over the past decade. Amyloid didn’t pan out as a target — going down in a litany of Phase III failures — and is now making its last stand at Biogen. Tau is a comer, but when you look around and all you see is destruction, the idea of backing a startup trying to find complex cocktails to swing the course of this devilishly complicated memory-wasting disease would daunt the pluckiest investors.

GSK presents case to ex­pand use of its lu­pus drug in pa­tients with kid­ney dis­ease, but the field is evolv­ing. How long will the mo­nop­oly last?

In 2011, GlaxoSmithKline’s Benlysta became the first biologic to win approval for lupus patients. Nine years on, the British drugmaker has unveiled detailed positive results from a study testing the drug in lupus patients with associated kidney disease — a post-marketing requirement from the initial FDA approval.

Lupus is a drug developer’s nightmare. In the last six decades, there has been just one FDA approval (Benlysta), with the field resembling a graveyard in recent years with a string of failures including UCB and Biogen’s late-stage flop, as well as defeats in Xencor and Sanofi’s programs. One of the main reasons the success has eluded researchers is because lupus, akin to cancer, is not just one disease — it really is a disease of many diseases, noted Al Roy, executive director of Lupus Clinical Investigators Network, an initiative of New York-based Lupus Research Alliance that claims it is the world’s leading private funder of lupus research, in an interview.

Covid-19 roundup: Mod­er­na read­ies to en­ter PhI­II in Ju­ly, As­traZeneca not far be­hind; EU ready to ne­go­ti­ate vac­cine ac­cess with $2.7B fund

Moderna may soon add another first to the Covid-19 vaccine race.

In March, the mRNA biotech was the first company to put a Covid-19 vaccine into humans. Next month, they may become the first company to put their vaccine into the large, late-stage trials that are needed to prove whether the vaccine is effective.

In an interview with JAMA editor Howard Bauchner, NIAID chief Anthony Fauci said that a 30,000-person, Phase III trial for Moderna’s vaccine could start in July. The news comes a week after Moderna began a Phase II study that will enroll several hundred people.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 83,000+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

José Basel­ga finds promise in new class of RNA-mod­i­fy­ing can­cer tar­gets, lock­ing in 3 pre­clin­i­cal pro­grams with $55M

Having dived early into some of the RNA breakthroughs of the last decades — betting on Moderna’s mRNA tech and teaming up with Silence on the siRNA front — AstraZeneca is jumping into a new arena: going after proteins that modify RNA.

Their partner of choice is Accent Therapeutics, which is receiving $55 million in upfront payment to steer a selected preclinical program through to the end of Phase I. After AstraZeneca takes over, the Lexington, MA-based startup has the option to co-develop and co-commercialize in the US — and collect up to $1.1 billion in milestones in the long run. The deal also covers two other potential drug candidates.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 83,000+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Pfiz­er’s Doug Gior­dano has $500M — and some ad­vice — to of­fer a cer­tain breed of 'break­through' biotech

So let’s say you’re running a cutting-edge, clinical-stage biotech, probably public, but not necessarily so, which could see some big advantages teaming up with some marquee researchers, picking up say $50 million to $75 million dollars in a non-threatening minority equity investment that could take you to the next level.

Doug Giordano might have some thoughts on how that could work out.

The SVP of business development at the pharma giant has helped forge a new fund called the Pfizer Breakthrough Growth Initiative. And he has $500 million of Pfizer’s money to put behind 7 to 10 — or so — biotech stocks that fit that general description.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 83,000+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

UP­DAT­ED: Es­ti­mat­ing a US price tag of $5K per course, remde­sivir is set to make bil­lions for Gilead, says key an­a­lyst

Data on remdesivir — the first drug shown to benefit Covid-19 patients in a randomized, controlled trial setting — may be murky, but its maker Gilead could reap billions from the sales of the failed Ebola therapy, according to an estimate by a prominent Wall Street analyst. However, the forecast, which is based on a $5,000-per-course US price tag, triggered the ire of one top drug price expert.