Ken Takeshita (Kite)

Kite de­vel­op­ment head Ken Takeshi­ta jumps to Dai­ichi Sankyo amid on­col­o­gy push

Months af­ter lead­ing Kite Phar­ma to a land­mark OK and es­tab­lish­ing the first-ever com­mer­cial CAR-T port­fo­lio, glob­al de­vel­op­ment head Ken Takeshi­ta vague­ly an­nounced he was leav­ing the helm for an­oth­er op­por­tu­ni­ty. Now we know what he’s been up to.

Ju­nichi Ko­ga

Takeshi­ta is jump­ing over to Dai­ichi Sankyo on April 1, where he’ll lead the com­pa­ny’s push to be­come an es­tab­lished on­col­o­gy play­er as glob­al head of R&D. He’s fill­ing the shoes of Ju­nichi Ko­ga, who’s re­tir­ing af­ter 12 years at the com­pa­ny.

“We are thrilled to wel­come Ken in­to the Dai­ichi Sankyo fam­i­ly to lead glob­al R&D in our con­tin­ued trans­for­ma­tion in­to a glob­al on­col­o­gy leader and to pur­sue world-class sci­ence and tech­nol­o­gy,” CEO Sunao Man­abe said in a state­ment. “Ken brings re­mark­able depth and breadth of ex­pe­ri­ence to our or­ga­ni­za­tion – from first-hand pa­tient care to over­see­ing more than 20 reg­is­tra­tional tri­als lead­ing to many reg­u­la­to­ry ap­provals.”

Takeshi­ta spent the last two years at Kite, steer­ing the com­pa­ny to an ap­proval for Tecar­tus in re­lapsed or re­frac­to­ry man­tle cell lym­phoma back in Ju­ly. He’s pass­ing the torch to Take­da vet Frank Neu­mann, just as the FDA is set to make a de­ci­sion on Kite’s sup­ple­men­tal BLA for three-year-old Yescar­ta in fol­lic­u­lar lym­phoma (FL) and mar­gin­al zone lym­phoma (MZL).

Man­abe has laid out big plans to so­lid­i­fy Dai­ichi Sankyo’s place in the can­cer space by 2025, with the main fo­cus on their bil­lion-dol­lar ADC En­her­tu. The As­traZeneca-part­nered drug, which was al­ready ap­proved in the US for third-line metasta­t­ic breast can­cer pa­tients, snagged a sec­ond ap­proval in gas­tric can­cer last month.

“DS-8201 (En­her­tu) and our ADC tech­nol­o­gy are cur­rent­ly vis­i­ble, but they are on­ly the tip of the ice­berg when it comes to Dai­ichi Sankyo’s R&D ca­pa­bil­i­ties with sci­ence and tech­nol­o­gy run­ning through­out them,” Man­abe wrote in the com­pa­ny’s 2019 val­ue re­port. The CEO named gene ther­a­py, next-gen AD­Cs and bis­pe­cif­ic an­ti­bod­ies as po­ten­tial ar­eas of growth.

Dai­ichi jumped in­to the gene ther­a­py space less than a year ago, when it dropped $200 mil­lion to ac­cess Ul­tragenyx’s man­u­fac­tur­ing tech­nol­o­gy. For $125 mil­lion in cash and a $75 mil­lion eq­ui­ty in­vest­ment, Dai­ichi Sankyo bought a non-ex­clu­sive li­cense to the IP around two plat­forms with which it plans to de­vel­op AAV-based gene ther­a­py prod­ucts.

“We are cur­rent­ly do­ing dis­cov­ery re­search for gene ther­a­py drugs us­ing AAV vec­tors as one of our fo­cused modal­i­ties to­ward sus­tained growth be­yond achieve­ment of our 2025 vi­sion,” Masayu­ki Yabu­ta, Dai­ichi Sankyo’s head of bi­o­log­ics, said at the time.

Takeshi­ta is tak­ing over from Ko­ga, who took the job amid an R&D shake­up back in 2019. A cou­ple of years pri­or, Dai­ichi Sankyo shut­tered a cou­ple of large re­search groups in In­dia and Japan, lay­ing off hun­dreds of staffers and re­dis­trib­ut­ing their work.

“I have watched Dai­ichi Sankyo build and grow with ad­mi­ra­tion,” Takeshi­ta said. “I am hon­ored to join the Dai­ichi Sankyo R&D or­ga­ni­za­tion to seek to ex­tend and im­prove lives of pa­tients and elim­i­nate can­cer al­to­geth­er.”

The top 100 bio­phar­ma VCs, Bob Brad­way places $2B bet in can­cer, gene edit­ing pi­o­neer's new big idea, and more

Welcome back to Endpoints Weekly, your review of the week’s top biopharma headlines. Want this in your inbox every Saturday morning? Current Endpoints readers can visit their reader profile to add Endpoints Weekly. New to Endpoints? Sign up here.

Before diving in, we had some news to share: Endpoints is launching a premium weekly report focusing on all things regulatory. Coverage will be led by our new senior editor, Zachary Brennan, who joins us from POLITICO. Arsalan Arif has more details in his Publisher’s Note.

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Robert Bradway (Photographer: Scott Eisen/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

UP­DAT­ED: Am­gen snaps up can­cer drug play­er Five Prime, adding PhI­II-ready FGFR2b drug in $2B M&A play

Amgen is making a long-awaited move on the M&A side, buying South San Francisco-based Five Prime $FPRX for close to $2 billion and adding a slate of new cancer drugs to the pipeline.

Amgen is paying $38 a share, putting the deal value at $1.9 billion. The stock closed at $21.26 last night, giving investors a 78% premium.

The jewel in the crown of this deal is bemarituzumab, which Amgen describes as a first-in-class, Phase III-ready anti-FGFR2b antibody. Amgen was drawn to the bargaining table by Five Prime’s mid-stage data on gastric cancer, satisfied by PFS and OS data helping to validate FGFR2b as a target. Amgen researchers will now expand on the R&D program in other epithelial cancers, including lung, breast, ovarian and other cancers.

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David Liu (Casey Atkins Photography courtesy Broad Institute)

David Liu has a new big idea: pro­teome edit­ing. It could one day shred tau, RAS and some of the worst dis­ease-caus­ing pro­teins

Before David Liu became famous for inventing new forms of gene editing, he was known around academia in part for a more obscure innovation: a Rube Goldberg-esque system that uses bacteria-infecting viruses to take one protein and turn it into another.

Since 2011, Liu’s lab has used the system, called PACE, to dream up fantastical new proteins: DNA base editors far more powerful than the original; more versatile forms of the gene editor Cas9; insecticides that kill insecticide-resistant bugs; enzymes that slide synthetic amino acids into living organisms. But they struggled throughout to master one of the most common and powerful proteins in the biological world: proteases, a set of Swiss army knife enzymes that cut, cleave or shred other proteins in everything from viruses to humans.

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The 2021 top 100 bio­phar­ma in­vestors: As the pan­dem­ic hit and IPOs boomed, VCs swung in­to ac­tion like nev­er be­fore

The global pandemic may have roiled economies, killed hundreds of thousands and throttled entire industries, but the only effect it had on biopharma venture investing was to help turbocharge the field to giddy new heights.

Below you’ll find the new top 100 venture investors in the industry, ranked by the number of deals they were publicly involved in, as tracked by DealForma chief Chris Dokomajilar. The numbers master then calculated the estimated amount of money they put into each deal — divvying up the cash by the number of players — to indicate how they managed their syndicates.

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Paul Hudson, Getty Images

How does Paul Hud­son's $13.5M comp pack­age stack up against oth­er CEOs? He's in the 'first quar­tile'

Paul Hudson arrived at Sanofi like a hurricane, chopping off duds in the pipeline, shaking up the C-suite, striking big M&A deals and jumping into the Covid-19 vaccine race — all in an attempt to reboot a pharma giant notorious for its setbacks.

Now, we’re getting a look at what the CEO brought home in his first year on the job.

When all is said and done, Hudson will have made about $6.7 million in 2020, about $2.5 million of which has already been paid. The bigger figure includes a $2.3 million bonus that’s subject to approval at an April meeting, and another $1.8 million in variable compensation that has yet to be paid.

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Bruce Cozadd, Jazz CEO (Jazz Pharmaceuticals)

Jazz CEO Bruce Cozadd cam­paigned for 6 months to buy GW Phar­ma. A 90% pre­mi­um sealed the deal — along with $17.6M in ‘re­ten­tion’ in­cen­tives

Jazz CEO Bruce Cozadd didn’t beat around the bush.

In his first video meeting with GW Pharma chief Justin Gover last July 8, he offered to pay $172 a share to get the company, which had beaten the odds in getting its remarkable cannabinoid drug Epidiolex across the regulatory finish line for epilepsy. GW’s stock closed at $129 that day.

Cozadd had already done his homework on the financing to make sure he could swing it the way he wanted. He just needed to do some due diligence before making the non-binding bid firm.

UP­DAT­ED: Not 3 weeks af­ter tak­ing Hu­ma­cyte pub­lic, Ra­jiv Shuk­la launch­es an­oth­er blank check com­pa­ny

One of biotech’s earliest SPAC investors is back with another blank-check company, less than a month after his last effort announced its intent to merge.

Rajiv Shukla is intending to take a third lucky winner public with Alpha Healthcare Acquisition III, filing to go public Thursday with a $150 million raise penciled in. The move comes just a couple of weeks after Shukla’s second SPAC said it would jump to Nasdaq in tandem with Laura Niklason’s Humacyte in a $255 million new investment.

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An Ar­ray co-founder re-emerges as CEO of a small aca­d­e­m­ic spin­out, look­ing to re­make an old class of can­cer drugs

Tony Piscopio hadn’t worked as a bench scientist in years when, around 2011, he got put in touch with a team at the University of Colorado trying to revitalize an old approach to treating cancer.

Piscopio, who had co-founded Array Biopharma before heading to South Korea to launch a new company, was back in the states, unattached and intrigued. He founded a three-person company with two professors, Xuedong Liu and Gail Eckhardt, and while they worked on the biology side, he returned to his old chemist chair and began drawing up potential compounds on a computer, along with manufacturing processes to make them. Outsourcing companies synthesized or analyzed the results.

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Af­ter three years of courtship (and turn­downs), Mer­ck pounced on the first glance of clin­i­cal da­ta in $1.85B Pan­dion takeover

It’s almost become cliché for biotech executives to talk about the importance of keeping your options open and being prepared to go all the way. But when it comes to negotiating with a giant like Merck, a little patience can indeed go a long way.

Just ask Pandion Therapeutics.

Days ago we already learned that Merck is shelling out $1.85 billion to pick up the biotech and its slate of autoimmune hopefuls. What we didn’t know until the SEC disclosure dropped Thursday is that the deal comes after Pandion turned down two other proposals from Merck over the past three years and held out until the last minute for a sweetened deal.

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