José Baselga (Getty Images)

José Basel­ga, ac­claimed drug hunter, physi­cian and As­traZeneca's pi­o­neer­ing can­cer R&D chief, has died

José Basel­ga, the bril­liant on­col­o­gy R&D chief at As­traZeneca and a tow­er­ing fig­ure in can­cer drug de­vel­op­ment who had ear­li­er been chief med­ical of­fi­cer at Memo­r­i­al Sloan Ket­ter­ing, has died at the age of 61.

Basel­ga suc­cumbed to Creutzfeldt-Jakob dis­ease, a rapid­ly pro­gres­sive and lethal neu­rode­gen­er­a­tive dis­ease close­ly as­so­ci­at­ed with mad cow dis­ease that is trig­gered in about 1 in every mil­lion peo­ple.

Pas­cal So­ri­ot moved swift­ly to re­or­ga­nize As­traZeneca’s R&D op­er­a­tions around Basel­ga af­ter he joined from Memo­r­i­al Sloan Ket­ter­ing, where he had gar­nered ac­co­lades for his work in can­cer R&D.

News of his sud­den and shock­ing death spread swift­ly on Twit­ter, as col­leagues and friends weighed in with their farewells.

The Barcelona na­tive had an in­stant im­pact on the pipeline at As­traZeneca, di­rect­ing the phar­ma gi­ant to a late-stage al­liance on En­her­tu, which was quick­ly re­ward­ed with an ap­proval and a shot at a rapid­ly ex­pand­ing fran­chise. So­ri­ot hailed him at the time he joined the com­pa­ny as an “out­stand­ing sci­en­tif­ic leader” whose work at MSK had led to a va­ri­ety of sig­nif­i­cant new can­cer drugs. He had worked as an ad­vis­er with some of the biggest play­ers in on­col­o­gy, though his fail­ure to con­sis­tent­ly cite those re­la­tion­ships in the lit­er­a­ture would lead to a dust-up that led to his ex­it from MSK.

Basel­ga apol­o­gized di­rect­ly for that, and quite a num­ber of peo­ple in in­dus­try had felt that the con­tro­ver­sy was overblown at the time.

A not­ed breast can­cer spe­cial­ist, Basel­ga has been cit­ed for his ef­forts around PI3K re­search, which has more re­cent­ly in­spired fur­ther in­ves­ti­ga­tion around mTOR and AKT in­hi­bi­tion.

So­ri­ot of­fered a heart­felt trib­ute to­day:

José cham­pi­oned our trans­for­ma­tive col­lab­o­ra­tions with Dai­ichi-Sankyo in re­la­tion to the clin­i­cal de­vel­op­ment of En­her­tu (trastuzum­ab derux­te­can) and datopotam­ab derux­te­can, two med­i­cines which have demon­strat­ed great po­ten­tial to ben­e­fit can­cer pa­tients. He led a team to ac­cel­er­ate oth­er ex­cit­ing new sci­ence in an­ti­body-drug con­ju­gates, cell ther­a­py, epi­ge­net­ics, as well as new can­cer treat­ments. He al­so cham­pi­oned the use of re­al-world ev­i­dence and dig­i­tal tools to trans­form the way we de­sign and im­ple­ment clin­i­cal tri­als.

José built a world-class On­col­o­gy R&D team who will miss him dear­ly, just as all his col­leagues will through­out our en­tire Com­pa­ny.

José was more than a col­league to me. He was a friend, and some­one I im­mense­ly re­spect­ed and cher­ished. I will enor­mous­ly miss hav­ing him along­side me, and I will con­tin­ue to be in­spired by his work and vi­sion.

I had a chance to talk to Basel­ga about his work at As­traZeneca re­cent­ly, which you can see here.

Basel­ga’s daugh­ter — Clara Basel­ga-Gar­ri­ga — launched a fundrais­er Sun­day to sup­port re­search in­to Creutzfeldt-Jakob dis­ease (CJD). You can check it out here.

Has the mo­ment fi­nal­ly ar­rived for val­ue-based health­care?

RBC Capital Markets’ Healthcare Technology Analyst, Sean Dodge, spotlights a new breed of tech-enabled providers who are rapidly transforming the way clinicians deliver healthcare, and explores the key question: can this accelerating revolution overturn the US healthcare system?

Key points

Tech-enabled healthcare providers are poised to help the US transition to value, not volume, as the basis for reward.
The move to value-based care has policy momentum, but is risky and complex for clinicians.
Outsourced tech specialists are emerging to provide the required expertise, while healthcare and tech are also converging through M&A.
Value-based care remains in its early stages, but the transition is accelerating and represents a huge addressable market.

Alaa Halawaa, executive director at Mubadala’s US venture group

The ven­ture crew at Mubadala are up­ping their biotech cre­ation game, tak­ing care­ful aim at a new fron­tier in drug de­vel­op­ment

It started with a cup of coffee and a slow burning desire to go early and long in the biotech creation business.

Wrapping up a 15-year discovery stint at Genentech back in the summer of 2021, Rami Hannoush was treated to a caffeine-fueled review of the latest work UCSF’s Jim Wells had been doing on protein degradation — one of the hottest fields in drug development.

“Jim and I have known each other for the past 15 years through Genentech collaborations. We met over coffee, and he was telling me about this concept of the company that he was thinking of,” says Hannoush. “And I got immediately intrigued by it because I knew that this could open up a big space in terms of adding a new modality in drug discovery that is desperately needed in pharma.”

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'Band­ing to­geth­er': 50 fe­male biotech ex­ec­u­tives lay out plans for board di­ver­si­ty, new com­pa­nies and men­tor­ing founders

Earlier this month, during the Silicon Valley Bank meltdown, Angie You recalled the speed with which female biotech CEOs were helping each other connect with bankers, get their wires through and assuage concerns during a financial implosion.

This past weekend, 50 of about 125 women who are part of that Slack group and a broader coalition self-dubbed the Biotech Sisterhood met in person in Cancun for the second rendition of an annual summit connecting female biotech CEOs. The attendance list doubled that of the inaugural gathering in Arizona 12 months ago.

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Francesco Marincola, newly-appointed Sonata Therapeutics CSO

Kite's head of re­search leaves for Flag­ship start­up Sonata

Another leader is departing Kite Pharma, and will to spend the “last part” of his career exploring how cancer evades the immune system.

Kite’s senior VP and global head of cell therapy research Francesco Marincola left the Gilead CAR-T unit last week for Sonata Therapeutics. Flagship last May unveiled the startup, which was pieced together from two fledgling biotechs Inzen and Cygnal Therapeutics. As CSO, Marincola will lead Sonata’s push to reprogram cancer cells to make them more immunogenic.

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No­var­tis touts sev­en years of dura­bil­i­ty da­ta for Zol­gens­ma

The same day that Roche touted positive durability and safety data for its spinal muscular atrophy drug Evrysdi, Novartis also made a splash with its multi-million dollar gene therapy for the disease.

Novartis rolled out interim data from two long-term follow-up studies Monday at the 2023 Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA) Clinical and Scientific Conference. In the first study, LT-001, all children in the trial that were treated after showing symptoms of SMA “maintained all previously achieved motor milestones” up to 7.5 years after being dosed. The average time since Zolgensma was given was 6.86 years.

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Rohan Palekar, 89bio CEO

89bio’s PhII da­ta add to quick suc­ces­sion of NASH read­outs as field seeks turn­around

89bio said its drug was better than placebo at lessening fibrosis without worsening nonalcoholic steatohepatitis, or NASH, in two of three dose groups.

The San Francisco biotech said it thinks the Phase IIb data pave the way for a potential Phase III, following in the footsteps of another biotech in its drug class, Akero Therapeutics. To fund a late-stage study, CEO Rohan Palekar told Endpoints News 89bio “would need to raise additional capital,” with the company having about $188 million at the end of last year.

Flare Therapeutics biochemists Yong Li (L) and Valerie Vivat

A $123M Flare will get Third Rock on­col­o­gy biotech in­to the clin­ic this year

Flare Therapeutics will start its first human trial this year with an investigational urothelial cancer drug after pulling together a $123 million Series B from Big Pharmas, VCs and its incubator, Third Rock Ventures.

Launched in 2021 on the idea that a biotech could finally succeed at drugging the much-sought-after but stubborn transcription factor, Flare Therapeutics said Wednesday it is now primed for the clinic after closing its large financing haul earlier this year. The raise is a relatively stark figure in a tough startup financing environment but further buoys the upbeat signals coming out of other Third Rock biotechs in recent weeks, including the $200 million CARGO Therapeutics and $100 million Rapport Therapeutics rounds.

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FDA in­di­cates will­ing­ness to ap­prove Bio­gen ALS drug de­spite failed PhI­II study

Ahead of Wednesday’s advisory committee hearing to discuss Biogen’s ALS drug tofersen, the FDA appeared open to approving the drug, newly released briefing documents show.

Citing the need for flexibility in a devastating disease like ALS, regulators signaled a willingness to consider greenlighting tofersen based on its effect on a certain protein associated with ALS despite a failed pivotal trial. The documents come after regulatory flexibility was part of the same rationale the agency expressed when approving an ALS drug last September from Amylyx Pharmaceuticals, indicating the FDA’s openness to approving new treatments for the disease.

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Who are the women break­ing bar­ri­ers in drug de­vel­op­ment? Nom­i­nate them for End­points' an­nu­al re­port

Today, we’re opening nominations for our fifth annual Women in Biopharma R&D special report.

Over the last four years, we’ve honored 80 women whose extraordinary accomplishments have changed the game in biopharma R&D. We’re looking for big thinkers, scientists, executives and other enterprising women who are breaking barriers in drug development and inspiring the next generation of leaders.