Kel­ly Mar­tin skips to a new CEO suite as his last biotech team rais­es the white flag

A few months af­ter step­ping away from the helm of a biotech with a flut­ter­ing pulse, ex-Elan chief Kel­ly Mar­tin is back in charge of an­oth­er drug com­pa­ny with its own set of is­sues to deal with.

Kel­ly Mar­tin

Ra­dius Health in Waltham, MA an­nounced that the 61-year-old Mar­tin is step­ping in to re­place Jes­per Hoei­land, the No­vo vet who is now head­ed home to Den­mark. Hoei­land was brought in to lead the charge on a new os­teo­poro­sis drug mar­ket­ed as Tym­los, which hasn’t been go­ing well.

Ac­cord­ing to an SEC fil­ing, Mar­tin gets a salary of $600,000 and starts off with an op­tion on 575,000 shares, which he can buy at cur­rent mar­ket val­ue as they vest over 4 years — time he can use to add val­ue to the com­pa­ny.

Once a high fli­er in biotech — lit­er­al­ly, Mar­tin en­joyed the use of a pri­vate jet at Elan that drew quite a bit of heat from the ac­tivists be­fore he sold the com­pa­ny for $8.6 bil­lion — the ex-banker with roots in Mer­rill Lynch went on to man­age biotech in­vestor Ma­lin and then No­van, a biotech in North Car­oli­na that col­lapsed as its lead drug failed.

No­van $NOVN put out an SOS just a few days ago, an­nounc­ing a re­view of its (lim­it­ed) strate­gic op­tions as the share price with­ered to around 38 cents.

Ac­cord­ing to the last proxy state­ment avail­able from No­van, Mar­tin picked up $730,000 in salary and bonus for 2018, with about as much in stock op­tions. He held eq­ui­ty val­ued at more than $15 mil­lion — though the cur­rent share price would in­di­cate a col­lapse on that score.

At Ra­dius $RDUS, Mar­tin gets a com­pa­ny that has seen its stock price slide steadi­ly since win­ning the race with Am­gen (which had ro­mo) on os­teo­poro­sis and jump­ing in­to the mar­ket with Tym­los (abaloparatide). When it was first ap­proved, sell-side con­sen­sus es­ti­mat­ed peak sales in 2022 at $467 mil­lion.

Mar­tin and his new team have a long way to go be­fore they get there, though. To­tal sales for 2019 were $173 mil­lion, but grow­ing.

So­cial im­age: Kel­ly Mar­tin, in­com­ing Ra­dius CEO (An­dre Ca­ma­ra, The Times)

Jude Samulski, Marianne De Backer

Bay­er buys a biotech ‘race horse’ with a $4B deal — $2B in cash — aimed at go­ing big in­to gene ther­a­py

In the latest sign that Big Pharma wants a leading place in the push to develop a new generation of cell and gene therapies, Bayer is stepping up today with a $2 billion cash deal to buy out one of the fast-moving pioneers in the field, while adding up to $2 billion more in milestones if the new pharma subsidiary can deliver the goods.

As part of a continuing series of deals engineered by Bayer BD chief Marianne De Backer, the pharma player has snapped up Asklepios, more commonly referred to in more casual fashion as AskBio. And they are paying top dollar for a Research Triangle Park-based company that raised $225 million a little more than a year ago to back the brainchild of Jude Samulski, the gene therapy pioneer out of the University of North Carolina Gene Therapy Center.

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Patrick Soon-Shiong at the JP Morgan Healthcare Conference, Jan. 13, 2020 (David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Af­ter falling be­hind the lead­ers, dissed by some ex­perts, biotech show­man Patrick Soon-Sh­iong fi­nal­ly gets his Covid-19 vac­cine ready for a tri­al. But can it live up to the hype?

In January, when dozens of scientists rushed to start making a vaccine for the then-novel coronavirus, they were joined by an unlikely compatriot: Patrick Soon-Shiong, the billionaire doctor most famous for making big, controversial promises on cancer research.

Soon-Shiong had spent the last 4 years on his “Cancer Moonshot,” but part of his project meant buying a small Seattle biotech that specialized in making common-cold vectors, called adenoviruses, to train the immune system. The billionaire had been using those vectors for oncology, but the company had also developed vaccine candidates for H1N1, Lassa fever and other viruses. When the outbreak began, he pivoted.

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No­var­tis CEO Vas Narasimhan signs off on a $231M deal to try some­thing new in the R&D fight against SARS-CoV-2

Patrick Amstutz was baptized by pandemic fire early on.

He and colleagues attended the notorious Cowen conference in early March that included some of the top Biogen execs who helped trigger a superspreader event in Boston. Heading back to his post as CEO of Molecular Partners in Switzerland, the outbreak was sweeping through Italy, triggering near panic in some quarters and creeping into the voices of people he knew, including one friend on the Italian side of the country.

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Covid-19 roundup: Sanofi and GSK pledge 200 mil­lion vac­cine dos­es for a glob­al dis­tri­b­u­tion cam­paign

Sanofi and GSK have agreed to give 200 million doses of their vaccine candidate to the COVAX Facility, which is part of a program set up by CEPI, the WHO and Gavi to equitably distribute vaccines around the world.

The idea behind COVAX is to give all participating countries equal access to vaccines, regardless of income level. As of Oct 14, more than 180 countries had signed agreements to the COVAX Facility, including France and the UK. China joined earlier this month, pledging to make its vaccines a “global public good.” One country notably off the list is the United States.

Christian Rommel (via Roche)

Bay­er fol­lows R&D deal spree by raid­ing Roche's can­cer group for its new re­search chief

The day after Bayer signed off on a $4 billion deal designed to put the company among the leaders in gene therapy development, the pharma giant has recruited a new chief for its R&D division. And they opted for an expert in the cancer field.

Christian Rommel, Roche’s head of discovery and early-stage oncology development, has been tapped to take over the job. Joerg Moeller, who got the top research post after early and late-stage development roles were combined 2 years ago, is hitting the exit “to pursue other career opportunities.”

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Cedric Francois, Apellis CEO (Optum via YouTube)

UP­DAT­ED: So­bi bets $250M cash, about $1B in mile­stones for rights to a C3 ther­a­py be­ing pushed through 5 piv­otal tri­als

A couple years after licensing Novimmune’s emapalumab and turning around a quick FDA OK, Stockholm-based Sobi is betting up to $1.2 billion for rights to another rare disease drug.

The company is shelling out $250 million upfront and adding up to $915 million in milestones for rights to develop and commercialize Apellis Pharmaceuticals’ drug pegcetacoplan outside the US. Together, the companies will see the systemic C3 therapy through five registrational trials in hematology, nephrology and neurology.

Albert Bourla, AP

UP­DAT­ED: Where's the Pfiz­er ef­fi­ca­cy read­out? CEO Bourla says 'soon,' but you're go­ing to have to wait for it

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla had promised repeatedly that the pharma giant would know if its leading Covid-19 vaccine is effective by the end of this month — now just a few days away.

Instead, the company reported early Tuesday that it has yet to conduct any interim efficacy analyses. And it won’t now until sometime next month.

The news was included in a slide for their Q3 report.

In the morning Q3 call with analysts, Bourla says that they expect efficacy data “soon,” but noted that they wouldn’t be able to say anything until all the administrative work was done on the interim, which would take about a week. And he added that Pfizer isn’t going to say anything else about that hot topic until they have the data in hand.

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Patrick Soon-Sh­iong steps down as CEO of Nan­tK­west, a linch­pin of his 'Cancer Moon­shot'

Five years after he took public what was then the most valuable IPO in biotech history, billionaire surgeon Patrick Soon-Shiong is stepping down as CEO of NantKwest.

Soon-Shiong’s sudden departure comes as NantKwest adds a clinical-stage Covid-19 vaccine effort to the natural killer immunotherapies they’ve been developing for years. He remains the majority shareholder and he’ll stay on as executive chairman, but he leaves behind a complicated legacy and few tangible results from a company that briefly captured the attention of many in and outside of biotech. Richard Adcock, former CEO of Verity Health Systems and a longtime healthcare — albeit not biotech — executive, will take over the helm.

Charles Baum, Mirati CEO

UP­DAT­ED: Mi­rati plots a march to the FDA for its KRAS G12C drug, breath­ing down Am­gen’s neck with bet­ter da­ta

Mirati Therapeutics $MRTX took another closely-watched step toward a now clearly defined goal to file for an approval for its KRAS G12C cancer drug adagrasib (MRTX849), scoring a higher response rate than the last readout from the class-leading rival at Amgen but still leaving open a raft of important questions about its future.

Following a snapshot of the first handful of responses, where the drug scored a tumor response in 3 of 5 patients with non-small cell lung cancer, the response rate has now slid to 45% among a pooled group of 51 early-stage and Phase II patients, 43% — 6 of 14 — when looking solely at the Phase I/Ib. Those 14 patients had a median treatment duration of 8.2 months, with half still on therapy and 5 of 6 responders still in response.

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