Gilead vet Alessandro Riva steers Glenmark's biotech spinoff on independent course
Alessandro Riva turned heads when he left his oncology post at Gilead to front a new Glenmark venture. What was one of the industry’s top cancer execs doing at a generic drugs company?
“Nobody knew — or few people knew — that Glenmark had and has 400 people dedicated to innovation,” Riva told Endpoints News.
The innovation arm is now trying to make its name known as it spins off from Glenmark and launches today as Ichnos Sciences. With a base in Paramus, New Jersey, a biologics wing in Switzerland and a new chemical entity research branch in India, Ichnos will clinically develop five molecules aimed at first in class treatments for cancer, auto-immune disorders and pain.
Glenmark approved the spinoff in February. Riva said the new company was formed so Glenmark could give sufficient attention to the research, from business strategy to development.
“I joined in the beginning of April and this was one of my first questions if not my only one,” Riva said, adding he saw the answer first hand in the months leading to the launch. “Glenmark has realized that doing innovation in auto-immune, in oncology and in pain is a different business than doing generic drugs and it requires a different approach.”
Glenmark, though, may have had broader and less rosy reasons for the change. Before the official launch, FiercePharma saw the move as part of a series of efforts by a debt-laden company to get leaner. The Indian giant also spun off its API business.
“We are divesting a number of noncore assets,” Glenmark chief executive Glenn Saldanha told FiercePharma last month.
Glenmark is the only investor in Ichnos so far, although Riva said they were planning to move an IPO when the data lets them. He emphasized they were a fully independent company.
At Gilead, Riva oversaw a cancer division pumped with cash in the wake of the Kite buyout, although one that struggled to establish its CAR-T therapy in the marketplace.
Two of Glenmark’s 5 compounds are oncological. They’re CD3-targeted treatments for multiple myeloma and refractory breast cancer, both in Phase IA/B. Roche, Amgen and J&J, among others, have explored or invested in CD3 therapies.
Two others are painkillers, both in Phase IIB. One is part of the wide-ranging search for a non-opioid painkiller and is an mPGES-1 inhibitor. The other is a TRPA1 antagonist that aims at neuropathic pain, a notoriously difficult target.
“To the best of my knowledge there are no companies that are as advanced as we are,” Riva said of developing a neuropathic painkiller. “This is kind of difficult.”
Also in Phase IIB is their OX40 antagonist for auto-immune disorders, currently being tested on atopic dermatitis. OX40’s central role on T cells has made them a popular target for both cancer and autoimmune treatments.