Lonnie Moulder (L) and Hua Mu

UP­DAT­ED: Lon­nie Moul­der woos a sea­soned de­vel­op­ment ex­pert from Hill­house­'s US/Chi­na play to helm his start­up

Back in 2010, when Tesaro was still a nascent biotech start­up, Lon­nie Moul­der re­mem­bers tak­ing due dili­gence trips to Chi­na to meet and un­der­stand com­pa­nies that could be po­ten­tial com­mer­cial­iza­tion part­ners for their im­muno-on­col­o­gy pro­grams. One of them was Hutchi­son Chi­na MediTech, or Chi-Med, which was then led by CEO Saman­tha Du and CMO Hua Mu.

A lot has changed since then.

Tesaro end­ed up strik­ing a pact with Zai Lab — Du’s pi­o­neer­ing US/Chi­na biotech — be­fore get­ting snapped up by Glax­o­SmithK­line for $5 bil­lion. Chi-Med has just re­named it­self to HutchMed. Moul­der him­self set up his lat­est biotech start­up, dubbed Zenas, to have a go at a ver­sion 2.0 of the glob­al ap­proach he had ex­per­i­ment­ed with at Tesaro.

And Mu has just been re­cruit­ed as the pres­i­dent, CEO and act­ing chief med­ical of­fi­cer of Zenas, where he will be tasked with over­see­ing a de­vel­op­ment-stage pipeline in im­munol­o­gy. Joe Farmer, a for­mer col­league of Moul­der’s at Tesaro, is al­so com­ing on board as chief busi­ness and ad­min­si­tra­tive of­fi­cer.

“As a cross bor­der com­pa­ny, it’s im­por­tant to us that we have the right mix of ex­ec­u­tives that have deep ex­pe­ri­ence and knowl­edge in both West­ern mar­kets, specif­i­cal­ly the US, and al­so in Chi­na,” Moul­der, who’s mov­ing from in­ter­im CEO to the ex­ec­u­tive chair­man seat, told End­points News.

With 20 peo­ple split be­tween Shang­hai and state­side, Zenas is fo­cused on mov­ing the mol­e­cules it’s li­censed in­to clin­i­cal tri­als through 2022. Some of them will be ex­e­cut­ed in Chi­na on­ly, while the rest will have glob­al plans an­chored by Chi­nese sites.

Just be­fore he jumped ship, Mu had helped Hill­house Cap­i­tal put to­geth­er an­oth­er cross bor­der com­pa­ny at Over­land Phar­ma, hail­ing a new kind of in-li­cens­ing mod­el that promised West­ern biotech en­tre­pre­neurs a way in­to Chi­na that was at once faster, more flex­i­ble and at a larg­er scale. The propo­si­tion was at­trac­tive enough that ADC Ther­a­peu­tics and Al­lo­gene both signed on for joint ven­ture deals.

“In the past, I think the fo­cus was more on the ex­e­cu­tion, op­er­a­tional fu­tures, right, be­cause those as­sets had al­ready mit­i­gat­ed risk be­fore,” Mu said at the time, giv­ing the ex­am­ple of Ze­ju­la, which Zai Lab li­censed from Tesaro when it was in Phase III. “The key was how to ex­e­cute the pro­gram, de­vel­op­ment and reg­is­tra­tion in Chi­na.”

These days, he added, “it’s more so­phis­ti­cat­ed as we talk about one of our fo­cus is on those tru­ly in­no­v­a­tive, for ex­am­ple first in class drugs ei­ther just POC or near POC, rel­a­tive­ly ear­li­er. In this way, the two sides of the col­lab­o­ra­tion, they have to work more close­ly. In oth­er words, it re­quires greater in­te­gra­tion of the glob­al ex­per­tise ex­pe­ri­ence and the lo­cal ex­per­tise.”

Be­fore tak­ing on the in­ter­im CEO/CMO role at Over­land, Mu has held a se­ries of top roles at Sim­cere, WuXi, Bio­gen and Genen­tech. His de­par­ture leaves co-founder Ed Zhang sole­ly in charge. Al­ready the COO and CBO, Zhang has al­so been ap­point­ed in­ter­im CEO while a new CMO should ar­rive in the com­ing weeks.

“We are grate­ful to Hua for all of his con­tri­bu­tions to help­ing get Over­land off the ground,” he wrote in an email to End­points. “His de­par­ture from Over­land was re­cent and un­der a mu­tu­al agree­ment. We wish him all the best with his new role at Zenas.”

Spe­cial re­port: Meet 20 ex­tra­or­di­nary women who are su­per­charg­ing bio­phar­ma R&D

Even though many biopharma leaders have come together in recent years to address its gender gap, the consensus is clear: We still have a long way to go.

Companies this year were 2.5 times more likely than last year to have a diversity and inclusion program in place, according to a recent BIO survey, but women are still largely absent from executive roles. Getting women to enter the industry isn’t the problem — studies show that they represent just under half of all biotech employees around the world. But climbing through the ranks can be challenging, as women still report facing stereotypes, and, unfortunately, harassment.

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Op­ti­miz­ing Oral Drug De­liv­ery us­ing Zy­dis® Oral­ly Dis­in­te­grat­ing Tablet Tech­nol­o­gy to Ad­dress Pa­tient Chal­lenges

KEY POINTS

Patients prefer oral dosing, but swallowing tablets can be a challenge for many patients.
The Zydis® orally disintegrating tablet (ODT) platform addresses challenges associated with oral dosing, expanding benefits for patients and options for healthcare providers.
A strong growth trajectory is expected for ODTs given therapeutic innovation and continued technology development.

Many patients prefer conventional tablets for the administration of medications, but some geriatric and pediatric patients and those with altered mental status and physical impairments find swallowing tablets to be difficult. Orally disintegrating tablets (ODTs), which dissolve completely without chewing or sucking, offer a patient-friendly dosage form for the administration of small-molecule drugs, peptides and proteins. With the potential for multiple sites of drug absorption, often faster onset action for the active pharmaceutical ingredient (API), and potentially greater bioavailability, ODTs are an attractive option for drug developers considering first-to-market formulations or product line extensions of existing drugs with compatible API. In this report, we look at how innovation in the industry-leading Zydis ODT platform is expanding oral formulation options and bringing benefits to patients.

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Geoffrey Porges (SVB Leerink)

The 2022 wave com­ing? Top an­a­lyst says Big Phar­ma will have more than $1T avail­able to sat­is­fy its grow­ing ap­petite for biotech M&A

All through this year you could practically feel the frustration of the biotech investor class as M&A activity continued to drag behind expectations — or desires. Buyouts of public companies provide the essential juice for keeping stocks lively, and there’s been a notable lack of juice in 2021.

So is all that about to change, big time?

SVB Leerink’s Geoffrey Porges, a longtime student of biotech M&A, thinks so. In a lengthy analysis he put out last week, Porges totted up the cash flow of the major pharmas and determined that there was a good long list of industry buyers who would have around a half trillion dollars of cash to play with in 2022. Leverage that up with added debt and you could get that deal cache to $1.6 trillion.

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Richard Lerner (Scott Audette/AP Images)

Richard Lern­er, an­ti­body pi­o­neer and long­time pres­i­dent of Scripps Re­search, dies at 83

Richard Lerner, the esteemed biochemist who pioneered a new way to develop monoclonal antibodies and led Scripps Research Institute to prominence, has passed away.

A spokesperson for Scripps told the San Diego Union-Tribune that Lerner died of cancer in his La Jolla home. He was 83 years old.

Among other things, Lerner’s lab was known for devising a new technique for creating antibodies — deployed as cancer treatments as well as in immunology and disease research — one that the New York Times called a “major advance in biotechnology.” It led to companies making mAbs a thousand times faster, more accurately, at a lower cost. That foundational research cemented the discovery of Humira, which went on to become the world’s best-selling treatment.

Gary Glick, Odyssey Therapeutics founder

Al­ways busy, Gary Glick re­cruits Or­biMed in a mas­sive $218M Se­ries A for enig­mat­ic da­ta sci­ence biotech

Gary Glick is back at it again, founding yet another biotech company. And by the sheer size of its first raise, this may be the biggest one yet.

Glick has assembled what he calls an all-star roster and recruited one of the biggest healthcare investors in OrbiMed to put together a massive $218 million Series A for his newest venture, Odyssey Therapeutics. The launch, announced Tuesday morning and co-led by SR One Capital Management, comes not three months after Glick sold First Wave Bio to AzurRx for $229 million.

Mar­ket­ingRx Matchup: How Ab­b­Vie and Bio­haven ads rank in head-to-head mi­graine chal­lenge

Are you ready to rumble? DTC brands that is. MarketingRx is launching a new monthly feature today called MarketingRx Matchup. We’re pitting two pharma brands’ DTC advertising in the same therapeutic category against each other to find out what consumers and patients really think.

Market research company Leger is handling the polling and analysis each month, and I’ll be writing up the results — along with my own take — inside MRx on the first Tuesday of the month.

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Wendy Lund, Organon chief communications officer

Q&A: Organon chief com­mu­ni­ca­tions of­fi­cer Wendy Lund talks about the Mer­ck spin­off, women’s health and why it mat­ters

One of Wendy Lund’s earliest jobs was head of marketing at Planned Parenthood. As the youngest person on its management team, she introduced them to emerging new technologies, and in return, she learned the importance of fighting for what you believe in.

Now as chief communications officer at Organon, the women’s health company recently spun off by Merck, Lund is keeping that point top of mind. That’s in part because women’s health hasn’t been a spotlight therapy area for Big Pharma in years. Several companies have spun off, sold or at least considered selling women’s health assets to focus on “core” products.

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Mar­ket­ingRx roundup: Pfiz­er re-ups pneu­mo­nia ads as Mer­ck threat looms; Re­al Chem­istry founder CEO Jim Weiss steps back

Every autumn, leaves fall from the trees and people start holiday shopping – and for the last few years Pfizer debuts a new “Know Pneumonia” awareness TV ad. This year the commercial, launched a week ago, features different people who talk about why they got vaccinated against pneumococcal pneumonia. Actors portray a young female firefighter with asthma, a mechanic with heart disease and an older woman with her grandchild. A Pfizer spokesperson declined comment on the latest iteration of the long-running campaign.

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Mer­ck pumps the brakes on two more PhI­II tri­als for its lead an­ti-HIV drug

After trial investigators flagged a drop in immune cell counts that an external committee determined was related to treatment last month, Merck has been pausing HIV-related Phase II and III trials ever since.

On Monday, the biopharma company announced it’s pausing enrollment in two of its Phase III trials evaluating its leading anti-HIV drug candidate, which is the once-monthly, oral islatravir.

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