Lau­ra Shawver on why she came back af­ter an $88M wind­fall; Mor­phoSys taps Am­gen vet as CCO

Lau­ra Shawver

Lau­ra Shawver didn’t quite un­der­stand can­cer un­til she had it.

By that point, in 2006, she had al­ready been mak­ing on­col­o­gy drugs for over 15 years, a dyed-in-the-wool re­searcher who had ob­tained a PhD in phar­ma­col­o­gy be­fore re­train­ing her­self as a mol­e­c­u­lar bi­ol­o­gist in the heady pre-Dol­ly days of cloning. She knew all about tu­mors. She knew the genes that drove them and the drugs that halt­ed them. Her pre­vi­ous com­pa­ny, Sug­en, had se­quenced can­cers to de­vel­op suni­tinib, one of the first ki­nase in­hibitors.

”So I thought, oh, I’ll just go to get my tu­mor pro­filed,” Shawver told End­points News in an in­ter­view this week. “What I found out was that Lau­ra Shawver could get oth­er peo­ple’s tu­mors se­quenced, but Lau­ra Shawver the pa­tient — I couldn’t get my tu­mor pro­filed to save my soul. And that pissed me off.”

There was al­so a sec­ond rev­e­la­tion, one marked per­haps less by anger than by a sort of trag­ic clar­i­ty: Sud­den­ly, the year or so you could buy some­one with the drugs biotech was de­vel­op­ing didn’t seem as great a gift.

“I start­ed look­ing quite dif­fer­ent­ly at this, and said, ‘Wait a minute, these tar­get­ed agents — they don’t last that long,’” she said. “We don’t want to treat peo­ple for just 6 to 12 months, we want to pro­vide them cures.”

The can­cer would go — treat­ed with surgery and chemother­a­py, which she took while rais­ing a Se­ries C for her sec­ond ma­jor com­pa­ny, Phe­nomix — but the im­print would stay. Af­ter fi­nal­ly get­ting her tu­mor se­quenced by Ven­tana founder Thomas Gro­gan, Shawver found­ed Clear­i­ty, an or­ga­ni­za­tion ded­i­cat­ed to get­ting women ac­cess to tu­mor pro­fil­ing that can point to­ward treat­ments. And she be­came ob­sessed with im­muno-on­col­o­gy, a field that seemed to hold the promise to bring­ing pa­tients the clos­est thing to a cure.

Now, Shawver will get her first chance to run a biotech fo­cused square­ly on im­muno-on­col­o­gy. This week, af­ter the briefest of hia­tus­es from biotech, she was named CEO of Sil­ver­back Ther­a­peu­tics, the long-stealthy Or­biMed-found­ed Seat­tle can­cer start­up.

It’s a re­union of sorts for Shawver, who worked with Sil­ver­back founder and Or­biMed part­ner Pe­ter Thomp­son at her two pre­vi­ous com­pa­nies, Cleave Ther­a­peu­tics and Syn­thorx. The two had al­ready de­cid­ed, over din­ner one night while she was still at Syn­thorx, that they didn’t want this to be their last project to­geth­er. And sure enough, in Feb­ru­ary, less than 3 months af­ter Shawver ex­e­cut­ed a $2.5 bil­lion sale of Syn­thorx to Sanofi — a deal that land­ed her an $88 mil­lion wind­fall — she was land­ing in Seat­tle to meet the team Thomp­son had amassed.

Thomp­son, who served as CEO since found­ing the com­pa­ny in 2016, told End­points he want­ed some­one who could “push the en­ve­lope of sci­ence” for pa­tients while stick­ing to the facts. She praised Shawver as “frank and hon­est,” both as a men­tor and with the board.

“I know very suc­cess­ful folks in this in­dus­try who are very com­pelling sales peo­ple,” Thomp­son said. “And Lau­ra is a sci­en­tist. She is go­ing to tell you ex­act­ly what the da­ta shows and she won’t shy away from telling you what isn’t well known.”

Shawver is as fas­ci­nat­ed by the sci­ence as she is by any­thing else. “When has that been done be­fore? Oh not since the be­gin­ning of life,” she said of her days at Syn­thorx, a biotech built around the in­ven­tion of a new DNA base pair. Thomp­son point­ed out both of them had lived through the en­tire de­vel­op­ment of mod­ern can­cer ther­a­py, from high dose chemother­a­py to CAR-T. So she was par­tic­u­lar­ly in­ter­est­ed in Sil­ver­back, which is try­ing to take an­ti­body drug con­ju­gates — an idea first con­ceived in the ear­ly 2000s to de­liv­er chemother­a­py di­rect­ly to tu­mors — and use it to send the im­mune sys­tem di­rect­ly af­ter tu­mors.

Of course Shawver didn’t know when she vis­it­ed Seat­tle in Feb­ru­ary that the city was about to be­come the first US hotspot for Covid-19, and that soon af­ter, trav­el any­where would be­come un­ten­able and she would take over as CEO in dig­i­tal ab­sen­tia. But she said it’s been large­ly seam­less. The on­ly kinks were hav­ing to do a cou­ple in­tro­duc­tions and a cou­ple hires via Zoom. Much of the staff is now re­mote, al­though some lab work­ers still go in.

”It’s like be­ing a sci­en­tist,” Shawver said. “You do what you have to do.”

Even­tu­al­ly, though, Shawver will move up to Seat­tle. It will be the fifth time run­ning a biotech and it’ll be a choice. The $2.5 bil­lion Syn­thorx land­ed her a huge per­son­al for­tune. She could’ve tak­en it and lived out re­tire­ment on a beach in San Diego, where she’s spent much of her ca­reer.

In­stead, she’ll work to get their lead HER2-tar­get­ing drug in­to the clin­ic by year’s end. The goal is to treat sol­id tu­mors that have been re­sis­tant to im­munother­a­py thus far. Shawver said it wasn’t even a choice.

“For­get the wind­fall,” she said. “I just want­ed to do it again.” — Ja­son Mast


→ With the FDA giv­ing pri­or­i­ty re­view to its an­ti­body taf­a­sita­m­ab, Mor­phoSys has found a new chief com­mer­cial of­fi­cer. Roland Wan­del­er will step in­to the role ef­fec­tive May 5 and will be re­spon­si­ble for all com­mer­cial­iza­tion ac­tiv­i­ties world­wide. Be­fore Mor­phoSys, Wan­del­er held var­i­ous po­si­tions at Am­gen for al­most 15 years, most re­cent­ly as cor­po­rate VP and GM of Am­gen’s US Bone Health and Car­di­ol­o­gy Busi­ness Unit.

Rus­sell El­li­son

Rus­sell El­li­son has re­ceived the ba­ton at Rock­well Med­ical as pres­i­dent and CEO. El­li­son has sim­i­lar ex­pe­ri­ence at Prome­dior (CEO) and Bond Bio­sciences (pres­i­dent and CEO), and al­so spent time at Sanofi and Roche, both as CMO and VP, med­ical af­fairs. El­li­son suc­ceeds Stu­art Paul, who re­signed from the metro De­troit biotech af­ter re­plac­ing Robert Chioi­ni, who tried to un­fire him­self in 2018 be­fore reach­ing a set­tle­ment.

Jen­nifer Creel has left Cel­gene to be­come CFO of ADC Ther­a­peu­tics as the Swiss on­col­o­gy biotech works to­ward sub­mit­ting a BLA for its lead drug, lon­cas­tux­imab tesirine. Creel was at Cel­gene for more than a decade, most re­cent­ly as fran­chise CFO and cor­po­rate VP, glob­al fi­nance & busi­ness plan­ning. Oth­er stops where she held fi­nance po­si­tions in­clude Wat­son Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals and Pfiz­er.

→ Fo­cused on the treat­ment of di­a­bet­ic and oth­er pe­riph­er­al neu­ropathies, Re­ge­na­cy Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals has en­list­ed for­mer Mer­ck ex­ec David Michel­son as CMO. Pri­or to his new post, Michel­son served as CMO of Proclara Bio­sciences. Dur­ing his 11 year stint at Mer­ck, Michel­son was the neu­ro­science ther­a­peu­tic area head and VP for clin­i­cal de­vel­op­ment. Michel­son jump­start­ed his ca­reer at Eli Lil­ly.

Greg Guy­er

Bio­Marin, whose he­mo­phil­ia A gene ther­a­py val­rox has ob­tained pri­or­i­ty re­view al­beit with a steep price, has ap­point­ed Greg Guy­er to be chief tech­ni­cal of­fi­cer, EVP of glob­al man­u­fac­tur­ing and tech­ni­cal op­er­a­tions, ef­fec­tive May 4. He suc­ceeds Robert Baf­fi, who stays on full-time as a spe­cial ad­vi­sor to the chair­man and CEO for the rest of the year as he heads to­ward re­tire­ment. Pri­or to join­ing Bio­Marin, Guy­er had been SVP, op­er­a­tions at Bris­tol My­ers Squibb.

→ Af­ter snag­ging a $75.2 mil­lion IPO ear­ly last month, NEA-found­ed Imara has an­nounced that their CMO Willem Scheele will be hit­ting the ex­it. Scheele joined the com­pa­ny in March 2019. In ad­di­tion, SVP and CMO of Au­dentes Ther­a­peu­tics Ed­ward Con­ner has joined the com­pa­ny’s board of di­rec­tors.

Megan Bai­ley

Megan Bai­ley has been pro­mot­ed to CEO of Per­son­al Genome Di­ag­nos­tics (PGDx), suc­ceed­ing Dou­glas Ward. Bai­ley start­ed at PGDx, which fo­cus­es on can­cer ge­nomics, in 2018 as VP of mar­ket­ing and was even­tu­al­ly pro­mot­ed to chief com­mer­cial of­fi­cer. Be­fore her time at the Bal­ti­more-based PGDx, she had var­i­ous roles at Roche for more than 14 years.

Karen Smith

Emer­gent BioSo­lu­tions, called up­on by J&J to help pro­duce 1 bil­lion vac­cine dos­es by 2021 to com­bat Covid-19, has wel­comed Karen Smith as its CMO. She had pre­vi­ous­ly been CMO at Jazz Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals and has most re­cent­ly been CEO of Mede­or Ther­a­peu­tics. Smith has made the rounds at nu­mer­ous play­ers, in­clud­ing Al­ler­gan, As­traZeneca and Bris­tol My­ers Squibb.

→ In­fec­tious dis­ease spe­cial­ist Yoav Golan is mov­ing his way up to Ap­pili Ther­a­peu­tics as CMO. Golan has been an at­tend­ing physi­cian in the Di­vi­sion of Ge­o­graph­ic Med­i­cine and In­fec­tious Dis­eases at Tufts Med­ical Cen­ter since 2002 and an as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor at Tufts Uni­ver­si­ty School of Med­i­cine. In oth­er ex­ec­u­tive roles, Golan was CEO of ExAr­ca Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals and CSO of Pro­fil­i­ty.

Ser­e­na Hung

Arku­da Ther­a­peu­tics, which launched in No­vem­ber with a $44 mil­lion Se­ries A round, has ex­pand­ed its man­age­ment team with two new faces. Ser­e­na Hung has been named head of clin­i­cal de­vel­op­ment and Ray­mond Hurst will be VP of phar­ma­col­o­gy for Arku­da, which tar­gets neu­rode­gen­er­a­tive dis­eases. Hung makes the tran­si­tion to the Cam­bridge, MA-based start­up from WAVE Life Sci­ences, where she led clin­i­cal de­vel­op­ment for CNS pro­grams. Hurst heads to Arku­da from Con­cert Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals, where he served as di­rec­tor of bi­ol­o­gy and phar­ma­col­o­gy.

Im­vax, the Philadel­phia biotech de­vel­op­ing IGV-001 to treat new­ly-di­ag­nosed glioblas­toma mul­ti­forme, has re­cruit­ed Mark Ex­ley as CSO af­ter bring­ing on John Furey as CEO last fall. Ex­ley comes to Im­vax from Agen­Tus Ther­a­peu­tics, where he was VP, cel­lu­lar im­munol­o­gy.

→ Cam­bridge, MA-based Reper­toire Im­mune Med­i­cines, a T cell-fo­cused Flag­ship Pi­o­neer­ing com­pa­ny, has added new mem­bers to the team. An­drea Di­Fabio joins Reper­toire as EVP, chief le­gal and cor­po­rate ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cer; Tim Har­ris takes on the role of EVP, cor­po­rate de­vel­op­ment; and Lu­cia Celona is now EVP, chief hu­man re­sources of­fi­cer.

Gen­prex, an Austin-based gene ther­a­py biotech, has brought in Shan­non In­man as VP of glob­al clin­i­cal op­er­a­tions. No stranger to Texas, In­man comes to Gen­prex af­ter be­ing VP of glob­al clin­i­cal op­er­a­tions at Cell Med­ica (now Ku­ur Ther­a­peu­tics). She al­so was as­so­ciate di­rec­tor of clin­i­cal op­er­a­tions at Opexa Ther­a­peu­tics out of The Wood­lands, Texas.

Bi­cy­cle Ther­a­peu­tics, which an­nounced a $1.7 bil­lion im­muno-on­col­o­gy col­lab­o­ra­tion with Genen­tech in Feb­ru­ary, has se­lect­ed Za­far Qadir as its gen­er­al coun­sel. Be­fore join­ing Bi­cy­cle, Qadir was at UK’s Cell and Gene Ther­a­py Cat­a­pult as le­gal and busi­ness ad­vis­er. He al­so spent near­ly five years at Cell Med­ica and was their VP, le­gal coun­sel & com­pa­ny sec­re­tary.

Ra­jiv De Sil­va has been named chair­man of Co­vis Phar­ma‘s board of di­rec­tors. De Sil­va, the man­ag­ing part­ner of Asiri Ad­vi­sors, was the pres­i­dent, CEO and di­rec­tor at En­do In­ter­na­tion­al and the pres­i­dent of Valeant Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals. Pri­or to that, he held sev­er­al po­si­tions at No­var­tis.

James McArthur

James McArthur, step­ping down from Imara’s board of di­rec­tors, has joined the board of di­rec­tors at T-Cure Bio­science, an im­muno-on­col­o­gy com­pa­ny in the Los An­ge­les area. The founder and one-time CEO of Imara, McArthur has al­so found­ed Cy­dan and rare dis­ease biotech Vtesse. The lat­est com­pa­ny McArthur has found­ed is Tibu­rio, which fo­cus­es on rare neu­roen­docrine dis­or­ders.

→ Buoyed by en­cour­ag­ing Phase III da­ta with its lead drug vo­closporin for the treat­ment of lu­pus nephri­tis, Au­rinia has ap­point­ed Tim Wal­bert to its board of di­rec­tors. Wal­bert has been pres­i­dent and CEO of Hori­zon Ther­a­peu­tics since 2008. He has al­so been pres­i­dent, CEO and di­rec­tor of IDM Phar­ma, which was ac­quired by Take­da, and the EVP of com­mer­cial op­er­a­tions at NeoPharm.

Ro­mesh Sub­ra­man­ian’s new biotech start­up, Dyne Ther­a­peu­tics, which is us­ing oligonu­cleotides to de­grade RNA re­spon­si­ble for dis­ease, has ap­point­ed David Lub­n­er to its board of di­rec­tors. Lub­n­er serves as the EVP and CFO of Ra Phar­ma (ac­quired by UCB).

Julie Ham­ble­ton

→ Cal­i­for­nia biotech Arch On­col­o­gy, fo­cused on an­ti-CD47 an­ti­body ther­a­pies with its lead can­di­date AO-176, has named Julie Ham­ble­ton to its board of di­rec­tors. Ham­ble­ton is the CMO at Ideaya Bio­sciences, and be­fore that, she was at Bris­tol My­ers Squibb as VP, head of US med­ical. She has al­so been EVP and CMO at Five Prime Ther­a­peu­tics.

IDC: Life Sci­ences Firms Must Em­brace Dig­i­tal Trans­for­ma­tion Now

Pre-pandemic, the life sciences industry had settled into a pattern. The average drug took 12 years and $2.9 billion to bring to market, and it was an acceptable mode of operations, according to Nimita Limaye, Research Vice President for Life Sciences R&D Strategy and Technology at IDC.

COVID-19 changed that, and served as a proof-of-concept for how technology can truly help life sciences companies succeed and grow, Limaye said. She recently spoke about industry trends at Egnyte’s Life Sciences Summit 2022. You should watch the entire session, free and on-demand, but here’s a brief recap of why she’s urging life sciences companies to embrace digital transformation.

Tom Barnes, Orna Therapeutics CEO

UP­DAT­ED: 'We have failed to fail': Mer­ck gam­bles $250M cash on a next-gen ap­proach to mR­NA — af­ter punt­ing its big al­liance with Mod­er­na

Merck went in deep on its collaboration with Moderna on new mRNA programs, and dropped them all over time, including their RSV partnership. But after writing off what turned out as one of the most successful infectious disease players in the business, Merck is coming in this morning with a new preclinical alliance — this time embracing a biotech that hopes to eventually outdo the famously successful mRNA in a new run at vaccines and therapeutics.

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Bayer's first DTC ad campaign for chronic kidney disease drug Kerendia spells out its benefits

Bay­er aims to sim­pli­fy the com­plex­i­ties of CKD with an ABC-themed ad cam­paign

Do you know the ABCs of CKD in T2D? Bayer’s first ad campaign for Kerendia tackles the complexity of chronic kidney disease with a play on the acronym (CKD) and its connection to type 2 diabetes (T2D).

Kerendia was approved last year as the first and only non-steroidal mineralocorticoid receptor antagonist to treat CKD in people with type 2 diabetes.

In the TV commercial launched this week, A is for awareness, B is for belief and C is for cardiovascular, explained in the ad as awareness of the connection between type 2 and kidney disease, belief that something can be done about it, and cardiovascular events that may be reduced with treatment.

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James Mock, incoming CFO at Moderna

Mod­er­na taps new CFO from PerkinElmer af­ter for­mer one-day CFO oust­ed

When Moderna hired a new CFO last year,  it didn’t expect to see him gone after only one day. Today the biotech named his — likely much more vetted — replacement.

The mRNA company put out word early Wednesday that after the untimely departure of then brand-new CFO Jorge Gomez, it has now found a replacement in James Mock, the soon-to-be former CFO at diagnostics and analytics company PerkinElmer.

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Etleva Kadilli, director of UNICEF’s supply division

GSK lands first-ever UNICEF con­tract for malar­ia vac­cine worth $170M

GSK has landed a new first from UNICEF the first-ever contract for malaria vaccines, worth up to $170 million for 18 million vaccine doses distributed over the next three years.

The vaccine, known as Mosquirix or RTS,S, won WHO’s backing last October after a controversial start, but UNICEF said these doses will potentially save thousands of lives every year.

“We hope this is just the beginning,” Etleva Kadilli, director of UNICEF’s supply division, said. “Continued innovation is needed to develop new and next-generation vaccines to increase available supply, and enable a healthier vaccine market. This is a giant step forward in our collective efforts to save children’s lives and reduce the burden of malaria as part of wider malaria prevention and control programmes.”

Joe Jonas (Photo by Anthony Behar/Sipa USA)(Sipa via AP Images)

So­lo Jonas broth­er car­ries Merz's new tune in Botox ri­val cam­paign

As the lyrics of his band’s 2019 pop-rock single suggest, Joe Jonas is only human — and that means even he gets frown lines. The 33-year-old singer-songwriter is Merz’s newest celebrity brand partner for its Botox rival Xeomin, as medical aesthetics brands target a younger audience.

Merz kicked off its “Beauty on Your Terms” campaign on Tuesday, featuring the Jonas brother in a video ad for its double-filtered anti-wrinkle injection Xeomin.

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Paul Perreault, CSL Behring CEO

CSL CEO Paul Per­reault de­ter­mined to grow plas­ma col­lec­tion af­ter full-year sales dip

As the ink dries on CSL’s $11.7 billion Vifor buyout, the company posted a dip in profits, due in part to a drop in plasma donations amid the pandemic.

However, CEO Paul Perreault assured investors and analysts on the full-year call that the team has left “no stone unturned” when assessing options to grow plasma volumes. The chief executive also spelled out positive results for the company’s monoclonal antibody garadacimab in hereditary angioedema (HAE), though he isn’t revealing the exact numbers just yet.

Blaise Coleman, Endo International CEO

En­do files for Chap­ter 11 as it looks to fin­ish off its opi­oid lit­i­ga­tion

Irish drugmaker Endo International is entering into bankruptcy as it faces the weight of serious litigation related to its involvement in the opioid epidemic in the US.

The company has filed Chapter 11 proceedings in the US Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York, with the company expected to file recognition proceedings in Canada, the UK and Australia. The company’s bankruptcy filing showed the company had assets and liabilities in the range of $1 billion to $10 billion.

FDA ap­proves one of the prici­est new treat­ments of all time — blue­bird's gene ther­a­py for be­ta tha­lassemia

The FDA on Wednesday approved the first gene therapy for a chronic condition — bluebird bio’s new Zynteglo (beti-cel) as a potentially curative treatment for those with transfusion-dependent thalassemia.

The thumbs up from the FDA follows a unanimous adcomm vote in June, with outside experts pointing to extraordinary efficacy, with 89% of subjects with TDT who received beti-cel having achieved transfusion independence.

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