John Kaiser finds next CEO role at Duke spin­out Evecx­ia; Im­muno­core vet Namir Has­san moves to I/O biotech Zel­lu­na

Duke spin­out Evecx­ia has re­cruit­ed bio­phar­ma vet John Kaiser to steer clin­i­cal and busi­ness plans for its 5-hy­drox­ytryp­to­phan slow-re­lease de­pres­sion treat­ment. This will be his third time in a CEO role. Af­ter leav­ing a 28-year sales and mar­ket­ing ca­reer at Eli Lil­ly, Kaiser found­ed and ran a now-de­funct biotech, then had a stint as in­ter­im CEO at Cere­cor, where he had or­ches­trat­ed sev­er­al li­cens­ing deals as chief busi­ness of­fi­cer (Cere­cor is al­so de­vel­op­ing, among oth­er things, a de­pres­sion drug). Evecx­ia is now in the clin­ic with EVX-101, a first-line ad­junc­tive treat­ment for de­pressed pa­tients re­spond­ing in­ad­e­quate­ly to con­ven­tion­al an­ti­de­pres­sants, though it’s un­clear ex­act­ly what stage they are in.

Steven Paul has de­cid­ed to ex­tend a 35-year track record with one last shot at a big de­vel­op­ment pro­gram. He is the new chief ex­ec­u­tive of Karuna, a start­up which wants to show that one of the drugs he once cham­pi­oned at Eli Lil­ly can now be read­ied for prime time as a sig­nif­i­cant new an­ti-psy­chot­ic for schiz­o­phre­nia — and then some. Paul, who’s been serv­ing as chair­man at Karuna, stepped down near the be­gin­ning of the year as CEO of Voy­ager, the gene ther­a­py start­up he co-found­ed.

→ Strug­gling to shed a bad rep for a string of ethics scan­dals capped by the ex­plo­sive ac­cu­sa­tions of sev­er­al US Sen­a­tors that com­pa­ny ex­ecs re­cent­ly mis­rep­re­sent­ed the cozy re­la­tion­ship be­tween for­mer CEO Joe Jimenez and Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s per­son­al at­tor­ney Michael Co­hen, No­var­tis is once again look­ing to clean up its act. CEO Vas Narasimhan has re­cruit­ed a promi­nent Ger­man at­tor­ney to lead their ethics, risk and com­pli­ance ef­forts.

Klaus Moos­may­er will now be charged with keep­ing the com­pa­ny clear of any new ethics scan­dals, which have come fast and fre­quent­ly at the phar­ma gi­ant. The lawyer has spent the past few years as chief com­pli­ance of­fi­cer at Siemens and chairs the An­ti-Cor­rup­tion Task­force of the Busi­ness and In­dus­try Ad­vi­so­ry Com­mit­tee at the Or­ga­ni­za­tion for Eco­nom­ic Co-op­er­a­tion and De­vel­op­ment. Moos­may­er is tak­ing the place of Shan­non Thyme Klinger, new­ly pro­mot­ed to group gen­er­al coun­sel in the wake of Fe­lix Ehrat’s abrupt res­ig­na­tion dur­ing the cri­sis that hit No­var­tis as it strug­gled with rev­e­la­tions about their $1.2 mil­lion in pay­ments to Co­hen.

→ The ex­o­dus of top ex­ecs out of a high-per­form­ing Gilead is con­tin­u­ing. The biotech not­ed Tues­day night that Chief Med­ical Of­fi­cer An­drew Cheng is leav­ing the com­pa­ny “to pur­sue an­oth­er op­por­tu­ni­ty.” As of now, we don’t know what that oth­er op­por­tu­ni­ty is, but Gilead $GILD has re­cent­ly seen the de­par­ture of chief R&D ex­ec Nor­bert Bischof­berg­er (to a start­up) as well as the an­nounced ex­its of CEO John Mil­li­gan and long­time com­pa­ny ex­ec John Mar­tin, ex­ec­u­tive chair­man.

Cheng plans to stay on to Sep­tem­ber 7 to help with the tran­si­tion, ac­cord­ing to Gilead. Mean­while Gregg Al­ton has been ap­point­ed to the new­ly cre­at­ed po­si­tion of chief pa­tient of­fi­cer while Di­ana Brainard was pro­mot­ed to Se­nior Vice Pres­i­dent, HIV and Emerg­ing Vi­ral In­fec­tions. Cheng joined Gilead 19 years ago to lead the com­pa­ny’s de­vel­op­ment-stage pro­grams in HIV/AIDS. He was named Ex­ec­u­tive Vice Pres­i­dent in 2015 and CMO in March.

→ Af­ter tak­ing off the past 7 months to trav­el the world and spend time with fam­i­ly, for­mer Foun­da­tion Med­i­cine ex­ec Steve Kaf­ka is join­ing the start­up foundry Third Rock Ven­ture as their lat­est ven­ture part­ner. Kaf­ka has spent the bulk of his ca­reer in fi­nance and op­er­a­tions at var­i­ous bio­phar­ma out­fits, most re­cent­ly serv­ing as pres­i­dent and COO of Foun­da­tion. This will be Kaf­ka’s first post in the VC world, but that’s not un­usu­al for Third Rock part­ners, which prides it­self on op­er­at­ing like a “start­up stu­dio.” “For me, the ear­ly-stage com­pa­ny build is the best part,” Kaf­ka told us. “To be able to go do that again — and again and again — sounds so in­cred­i­bly fun and im­pact­ful to me.”

Al­ler­gan $AGN has re­cruit­ed top can­cer ex­ec­u­tive Charles Hugh-Jones, the guy who’s been lead­ing Pfiz­er On­col­o­gy as CMO, to serve as the phar­ma gi­ant’s new se­nior vice pres­i­dent and chief med­ical of­fi­cer. The move comes just 16 months af­ter Hugh-Jones joined Pfiz­er’s on­col­o­gy arm. Be­fore that, he was a long timer at Sanofi in New Jer­sey, where he held sev­er­al ex­ec­u­tive roles, end­ing up at chief med­ical of­fi­cer in North Amer­i­ca. The move to Al­ler­gan will take Hugh-Jones back to New Jer­sey, as the new gig is at Al­ler­gan’s US head­quar­ters in Madi­son. There, he’ll be re­port­ing to ex­ec­u­tive vice pres­i­dent and chief R&D of­fi­cer David Nichol­son.

→ Af­ter walk­ing away from a long ca­reer in Big Phar­ma last year — on­ly to bail from his start­up of choice on­ly 10 months lat­er — ex-Pfiz­er ex­ec Geno Ger­mano is back on the move. The re­spect­ed bio­phar­ma chief has joined New York-based Elu­ci­da On­col­o­gy, a tiny Cor­nell spin­out work­ing on some fas­ci­nat­ing nanopar­ti­cle tech with ap­pli­ca­tions in can­cer. At Elu­ci­da, Ger­mano will serve as pres­i­dent and CEO — the first full-time post he’s tak­en up since his ab­bre­vi­at­ed stint at In­trex­on, the flashy syn­thet­ic bio start­up he ex­it­ed from last No­vem­ber.

At Pfiz­er, he cul­ti­vat­ed a $14 bil­lion op­er­a­tion and over­saw a port­fo­lio of drugs span­ning sev­er­al ther­a­peu­tics ar­eas. He al­so worked at the top of Pfiz­er’s on­col­o­gy and spe­cial­ty care busi­ness units and di­rect­ed the in­te­gra­tion of in­dus­try gi­ant Wyeth af­ter the mas­sive $68 bil­lion ac­qui­si­tion.

→ As Sig­ilon CEO Paul Wot­ton leaves the post to han­dle a fam­i­ly health is­sue, the com­pa­ny is putting Roge­rio Vi­val­di — a for­mer se­nior ex­ec at Biover­a­tiv ahead of the Sanofi buy­out ear­li­er this year — in his place at the helm. It will be Vi­val­di’s job now to get the start­up in the clin­ic, look­ing to move the up­start’s stem cell ther­a­py pipeline be­yond its ini­tial for­ays in­to di­a­betes, he­mo­phil­ia and lyso­so­mal stor­age dis­or­ders. An en­docri­nol­o­gist by train­ing, Vi­val­di had been ex­ec­u­tive vice pres­i­dent, chief glob­al ther­a­peu­tic op­er­a­tions of­fi­cer at Biover­a­tiv. Vi­val­di al­so co-found­ed and helmed Min­er­va Ther­a­peu­tics.

→ Af­ter ris­ing up the ranks at British T cell re­cep­tor biotech Im­muno­core, Namir Has­san is mov­ing to Nor­way for his next gig in TCR. As chief sci­en­tif­ic of­fi­cer of Oslo-based Zel­lu­na Im­munother­a­py, Has­san is re­spon­si­ble for both man­ag­ing the ex­ist­ing port­fo­lio and lead­ing ef­forts to ex­pand it, all the while build­ing out the re­search team and fa­cil­i­ties. Im­muno­core, a biotech uni­corn not­ed for scor­ing a stun­ning $320 mil­lion Se­ries A, had seen the de­par­tures of CEO Eliot Forster and CFO Paul Fry in the past few months.

→ Now that Pfenex $PFNX looks set to file an NDA for its For­teo me-too, chief med­ical and sci­en­tif­ic of­fi­cer Hu­bert Chen is turn­ing in his no­tice. The San Diego-based com­pa­ny said that while they are search­ing for a suc­ces­sor, his de­par­ture will not af­fect the tra­jec­to­ry of PF708 as they be­lieve their lead as­set al­ready has the FDA’s bless­ing. Be­sides, he will re­main as an ad­vi­sor, sup­port­ing Pfenex’s reg­u­la­to­ry in­ter­ac­tions. Be­sides PF708, Jazz-part­nered Pfenex is de­vel­op­ing a hodge­podge of “ther­a­peu­tic equiv­a­lents,” biosim­i­lars and vac­cines.

Al­lo­gene Ther­a­peu­tics has en­list­ed an­oth­er es­teemed bio­phar­ma ex­ec in its am­bi­tious plan to bring the first al­lo­gene­ic CAR-T can­cer ther­a­pies to mar­ket. Named chief de­vel­op­ment of­fi­cer, Susie Jun is tasked with ac­cel­er­at­ing clin­i­cal de­vel­op­ment of Al­lo­gene’s pre­clin­i­cal as­sets by lever­ag­ing her ex­pe­ri­ence in trans­la­tion­al re­search. Well versed in hema­tol­ogy and on­col­o­gy, Jun had di­rect­ed clin­i­cal re­search at Am­gen and Gilead be­fore land­ing at her most re­cent role in Ab­b­Vie-Stem­cen­trx.

→ Hav­ing seen through Ar­mo Bio­sciences’ promis­ing im­muno-on­col­o­gy drug all the way to an ac­qui­si­tion by Eli Lil­ly, Joseph Lev­eque has found his next stop at Syn­thorx. While his deep I/O ex­per­tise — honed dur­ing stints at Bris­tol-My­ers Squibb and Mer­ck KGaA where he took a front-row seat in the de­vel­op­ment of Op­di­vo, Yer­voy and Baven­cio — made him a stand­out for the job, the new CMO will al­so be re­spon­si­ble for dri­ving the au­toim­mune ap­pli­ca­tions of Syn­thorx’s par­tial­ly syn­thet­ic bi­o­log­ics. The start­up, based in San Diego, builds its tech on a syn­thet­ic DNA base pair en­gi­neered by Scripps pro­fes­sor Floyd Romes­berg that has the po­ten­tial to tweak pro­teins by in­tro­duc­ing nov­el amino acids.

→ Long­time in­vest­ment banker An­tho­ny Gib­ney is jump­ing to the CBO seat at Achillion $ACHN for a change. Hav­ing ob­served the com­pa­ny from the oth­er side of the ta­ble as co-head of the biotech team at Leerink, Gib­ney will now be in­volved in cor­po­rate strat­e­gy, busi­ness de­vel­op­ment, in­vestor re­la­tions and cor­po­rate com­mu­ni­ca­tions. Bri­an Di­Do­na­to, an­oth­er for­mer banker, has been hired to work un­der Gib­ney.

Car­ol Suh is the lat­est mem­ber of the biotech in­vest­ment team at Arch Ven­ture Part­ners, where she’s worked as a con­sul­tant/in­tern since Feb­ru­ary. Fresh out of Stan­ford’s busi­ness school, the 28-year-old has pre­vi­ous­ly worked on Ma­gen­ta Ther­a­peu­tics’ launch and, be­fore that, served as an in­no­va­tion fel­low at Glax­o­SmithK­line spe­cial­iz­ing in stem cell and re­gen­er­a­tive med­i­cines.

→ We now know where Alan Mus­so is go­ing af­ter Bel­licum. Pelo­ton Ther­a­peu­tics has tapped the sea­soned fundrais­er as its first CFO. The Dal­las-based com­pa­ny, which is de­vel­op­ing what it hopes will be a first-in-class can­cer drug, is al­so count­ing on Mus­so for in­vestor re­la­tions, ac­count­ing, hu­man re­sources, in­for­ma­tion sys­tems, and op­er­a­tions.

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.

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UP­DAT­ED: Leg­end fetch­es $424 mil­lion, emerges as biggest win­ner yet in pan­dem­ic IPO boom as shares soar

Amid a flurry of splashy pandemic IPOs, a J&J-partnered Chinese biotech has emerged with one of the largest public raises in biotech history.

Legend Biotech, the Nanjing-based CAR-T developer, has raised $424 million on NASDAQ. The biotech had originally filed for a still-hefty $350 million, based on a range of $18-$20, but managed to fetch $23 per share, allowing them to well-eclipse the massive raises from companies like Allogene, Juno, Galapagos, though they’ll still fall a few dollars short of Moderna’s record-setting $600 million raise from 2018.

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As it hap­pened: A bid­ding war for an an­tibi­ot­ic mak­er in a mar­ket that has rav­aged its peers

In a bewildering twist to the long-suffering market for antibiotics — there has actually been a bidding war for an antibiotic company: Tetraphase.

It all started back in March, when the maker of Xerava (an FDA approved therapy for complicated intra-abdominal infections) said it had received an offer from AcelRx for an all-stock deal valued at $14.4 million.

The offer was well-timed. Xerava was approved in 2018, four years after Tetraphase posted its first batch of pivotal trial data, and sales were nowhere near where they needed to be in order for the company to keep its head above water.

Drug man­u­fac­tur­ing gi­ant Lon­za taps Roche/phar­ma ‘rein­ven­tion’ vet as its new CEO

Lonza chairman Albert Baehny took his time headhunting a new CEO for the company, making it absolutely clear he wanted a Big Pharma or biotech CEO with a good long track record in the business for the top spot. In the end, he went with the gold standard, turning to Roche’s ranks to recruit Pierre-Alain Ruffieux for the job.

Ruffieux, a member of the pharma leadership team at Roche, spent close to 5 years at the company. But like a small army of manufacturing execs, he gained much of his experience at the other Big Pharma in Basel, remaining at Novartis for 12 years before expanding his horizons.

Covid-19 roundup: Ab­b­Vie jumps in­to Covid-19 an­ti­body hunt; As­traZeneca shoots for 2B dos­es of Ox­ford vac­cine — with $750M from CEPI, Gavi

Another Big Pharma is entering the Covid-19 antibody hunt.

AbbVie has announced a collaboration with the Netherlands’ Utrecht University and Erasmus Medical Center and the Chinese-Dutch biotech Harbour Biomed to develop a neutralizing antibody that can treat Covid-19. The antibody, called 47D11, was discovered by AbbVie’s three partners, and AbbVie will support early preclinical work, while preparing for later preclinical and clinical development. Researchers described the antibody in Nature Communications last month.

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.

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Bris­tol My­ers is clean­ing up the post-Cel­gene merg­er pipeline, and they’re sweep­ing out an ex­per­i­men­tal check­point in the process

Back during the lead up to the $74 billion buyout of Celgene, the big biotech’s leadership did a little housecleaning with a major pact it had forged with Jounce. Out went the $2.6 billion deal and a collaboration on ICOS and PD-1.

Celgene, though, also added a $530 million deal — $50 million up front — to get the worldwide rights to JTX-8064, a drug that targets the LILRB2 receptor on macrophages.

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Mer­ck wins a third FDA nod for an­tibi­ot­ic; Mereo tack­les TIG­IT with $70M raise in hand

Merck — one of the last big pharma bastions in the beleaguered field of antibiotic drug development — on Friday said the FDA had signed off on using its combination drug, Recarbrio, with hospital-acquired bacterial pneumonia and ventilator-associated bacterial pneumonia. The drug could come handy for use in hospitalized patients who are afflicted with Covid-19, who carry a higher risk of contracting secondary bacterial infections. Once SARS-CoV-2, the virus behind Covid-19, infects the airways, it engages the immune system, giving other pathogens free rein to pillage and plunder as they please — the issue is particularly pertinent in patients on ventilators, which in any case are breeding grounds for infectious bacteria.

RA Cap­i­tal, Hill­house join $310M rush to back Ever­est's climb to com­mer­cial heights in Chi­na

Money has never been an issue for Everest Medicines. With an essentially open tab from their founders at C-Bridge Capital, the biotech has gone two and a half years racking up drug after drug, bringing in top exec after top exec, and issuing clinical update after update.

But now other investors want in — and they’re betting big.

Everest is closing its Series C at $310 million. The first $50 million comes from the Jiashan National Economic and Technological Development Zone; the remaining C-2 tranche was led by Janchor Partners, with RA Capital Management and Hillhouse Capital as co-leaders. Decheng Capital, GT Fund, Janus Henderson Investors, Rock Springs Capital, Octagon Investments all joined.