Mark Alles begins his post-Celgene career on the board of a US-China biotech led by a former colleague
Antengene had Celgene written all over its brand. Its founder and CEO, Jay Mei, was the big biotech’s executive director of clinical development in hematology/oncology for eight years before launching his own startup in China with his former employer as a partner and investor. Celgene chipped into Antengene’s $120 million round last year, and just days ago, it also wooed Celgene’s China general manager to be its chief business officer.
You can add one more prominent illustration to the list. In one of his first moves since selling Celgene to Bristol-Myers Squibb for $74 billion, former CEO Mark Alles is joining Antengene’s board of directors.
“Mark brings outstanding governance and commercial experience that will help promote our development and commercial strategy in China, the Asia Pacific regions and the rest of the world,” Mei said in a statement.
While he was still working for the New Jersey biotech, Mei had accompanied Alles on a trip to Beijing to meet with John Oyler regarding an asset swap deal that would see BeiGene marketing some of Celgene’s cancer drugs in China, in exchange for a made-in-China PD-1 (which they eventually dropped). In fact, he recalls the exact date they met: May 14, 2016.
That partnership cemented BeiGene’s status as a pioneering US-China biotech acting as a bridge between American innovation and the vast Chinese market, contributing their share of R&D work along the way. Mei counts Antengene, based in Shanghai and Philadelphia, as a member of this camp — consisting of hybrids that work like a multinational drugmaker but understand the domestic market deeply.
“In fact I often say China is a country with three worlds,” he told reporters at the Endpoints-PharmCube BIIS conference in late 2018. “[Shanghai] is in the heart of the first world; you drive an hour or two and it might be the second world; drive three to four hours and you arrive at the third world. China is very complex.”
But the country has gone a long way in embracing emerging biotechs from overseas — speeding up regulatory processes and approvals drastically — as well as nurturing its own.
“Ten years ago when I first came to China to introduce Celgene’s products, the experts had heard of our drugs because they’d been to ASH and ASCO,” Mei recalled. “But nobody had heard of the company.”
Thanks in part to Alles’ business development strategies, that is no longer the case. And the industry vet, who’s also taken a board role at Syros, said he’s now excited to bring all that experience to Antengene now that it’s ever closer to commercialization.
The first anticipated launch would be of selinexor, or ATG-010, a controversial multiple myeloma drug licensed from Karyopharm. Also working toward that goal is new CBO John Chin, who spent 15 years with Celgene and was credited for managing the Revlimid franchise.