Medi­vir taps ex-Aca­dia chief Uli Hack­sell as in­ter­im CEO; Mer­ck on­boards chief dig­i­tal of­fi­cer

Leone Pat­ter­son

→ Fol­low­ing a five-month search for a full-time chief ex­ec­u­tive, Ad­verum Biotech­nolo­gies $AD­VM has de­cid­ed in­ter­im CEO Leone Pat­ter­son is the best can­di­date for the job af­ter all. Pat­ter­son, who first joined Ad­verum in 2016, is now re­spon­si­ble for scal­ing its nascent clin­i­cal op­er­a­tion. The gene ther­a­py com­pa­ny will now search for a CFO in­stead to take over Pat­ter­son’s old re­spon­si­bil­i­ties.

Uli Hack­sell

→ As Medi­vir $MVIR places a re­newed fo­cus on clin­i­cal de­vel­op­ment, it’s tapped board mem­ber Uli Hack­sell as act­ing CEO, less than two years af­ter pro­mot­ing for­mer BD head Chris­tine Lind to the role. “The Board of Di­rec­tors has worked on a plan that will con­cen­trate Medi­vir’s at­ten­tion on the com­pa­ny’s ro­bust clin­i­cal pipeline com­posed of trans­for­ma­tive can­cer drugs with mul­ti-bil­lion dol­lar sales po­ten­tial,” said Hack­sell, pre­vi­ous­ly CEO of Aca­dia Phar­ma, in a state­ment.

→ Cam­bridge, UK-based al­ler­gy med de­vel­op­er Ca­mal­ler­gy has named biotech vet Bax­ter Phillips as CEO, tak­ing over from co-founder Sher­den Tim­mins, who now moves to a new COO role. Phillips brings fresh ex­pe­ri­ence from the helm of Neu­ro­gas­trx, as well as a deal­mak­ing record at Am­pliPhi Bio­sciences and De­pomed.

Tetra Bio-Phar­ma has for­mal­ly in­stalled its CSO Guy Cham­ber­land as per­ma­nent CEO, build­ing on “tremen­dous mo­men­tum” he’s es­tab­lished for the cannabi­noid-based drug com­pa­ny. While serv­ing at the helm on an in­ter­im ba­sis, Cham­ber­land was cred­it­ed with boost­ing the com­pa­ny’s share price and de­vis­ing a reg­u­la­to­ry strat­e­gy in both Cana­da and the US.

Jonathan Gold­man has land­ed his next CEO job at Abzena, con­tin­u­ing his work in the bi­o­log­ics out­sourced ser­vices field af­ter his last com­pa­ny, Ap­tu­it, was bought out by Evotec. Suc­ceed­ing John Burt, Gold­man is tasked with “es­tab­lish­ing new part­ner­ships with clients, build­ing in­ter­nal man­u­fac­tur­ing ca­pac­i­ty and pur­su­ing strate­gic ac­qui­si­tions.”

→ De­spite gar­ner­ing the avid at­ten­tion of a line­up of both big and re­mark­able de­vel­op­ment part­ners, F-star nev­er raised much cash for its op­er­a­tions from in­vestors. But that might change with the ap­point­ment of Eliot Forster, the high-pro­file biotech ex­ec who re­cent­ly left the helm at Im­muno­core, as he steps up to the CEO’s job. He’s tak­ing the top spot at a time the biotech is march­ing to­ward its first clin­i­cal de­vel­op­ment work on an in-house pipeline — putting the com­pa­ny at the cross­roads.

→ Trav­el­ing down what now seems like an in­creas­ing­ly pop­u­lar path, Mer­ck $MRK has re­cruit­ed a Nike ex­ec to be its chief in­for­ma­tion and dig­i­tal of­fi­cer. As a mem­ber of the ex­ec com­mit­tee, Jim Sc­hole­field will call the shots over Mer­ck’s in­for­ma­tion tech­nol­o­gy and dig­i­tal strat­e­gy.

→ Fresh off the heels of an R&D re­or­ga­ni­za­tion an­nounced last month, Dan­ish drug­mak­er No­vo Nordisk has ap­point­ed As­traZeneca’s Lu­dovic Helf­gott as ex­ec­u­tive vice pres­i­dent of its fledg­ling bio­phar­ma busi­ness. Helf­gott is set to re­place com­pa­ny vet­er­an and for­mer No­vo CFO Jes­per Brandgaard in April next year, who is re­tir­ing fol­low­ing a twen­ty-year stint with the Dan­ish com­pa­ny best known for its raft of di­a­betes treat­ments.

Kit­ty Yale

Kit­ty Yale is tak­ing her clin­i­cal R&D ex­per­tise to up­start biotech Akero Ther­a­peu­tics, new­ly re­lo­cat­ed to San Fran­cis­co af­ter fel­low Gilead vet An­drew Cheng was ap­point­ed CEO last month. As chief de­vel­op­ment of­fi­cer, she will steer Akero’s lead pro­gram for NASH in­to a Phase II planned for next year.

→ In an­tic­i­pa­tion of sev­er­al reg­u­la­to­ry fil­ings, Spec­trum Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals $SP­PI has scooped Fran­cois Lebel from Zio­pharm On­col­o­gy to be its CMO. Lebel, a sea­soned on­col­o­gy drug de­vel­op­ment ex­ec with stints at Bax­ter and Med­Im­mune, will have ex­ten­sive re­spon­si­bil­i­ties cov­er­ing both clin­i­cal af­fairs and busi­ness de­vel­op­ment ac­tiv­i­ties.

David King has re­signed as CSO of aTyr Phar­ma $LIFE to start his own biotech “in a non-com­pet­i­tive area and in bi­ol­o­gy dis­tinct from” the im­muno­log­i­cal path­ways aTyr is pur­su­ing, the com­pa­ny em­pha­sizes. He will help with the tran­si­tion and re­cruit­ment of a new leader un­til the end of the year.  

Mus­tang Bio $MBIO has wooed Mar­ti­na Ser­sch, for­mer­ly of Am­gen, Genen­tech and Pfiz­er, to be its CMO. In the role, she will over­see pro­grams in im­muno-on­col­o­gy— a field she’s in­ti­mate­ly fa­mil­iar with — as well as a rare dis­ease gene ther­a­py.

→ Look­ing to bake com­mer­cial and re­im­burse­ment plans in­to its late-stage clin­i­cal work, Tyme has re­cruit­ed ex-Cel­gene sales ex­ec Michele Ko­rfin as chief com­mer­cial of­fi­cer. Ko­rfin joins the can­cer biotech from Kite Phar­ma, where she helped map the mar­ket ac­cess strat­e­gy, in­clud­ing pay­er re­la­tions and re­im­burse­ment, for the pi­o­neer­ing CAR-T ther­a­py Yescar­ta.

Abeona Ther­a­peu­tics $ABEO is bring­ing in João Sif­fert as head of R&D and chief med­ical of­fi­cer, free­ing Juan Ruiz up to be­come the head of Eu­ro­pean med­ical af­fairs. Jump­ing from a sim­i­lar role at Nes­tle Health Sci­ence, Sif­fert will be wel­comed along­side new gen­er­al coun­sel Neena Patil.

→ Af­ter a 10-year tenure at Janssen — pre­ced­ed by stints at Bio­gen and Glax­o­SmithK­lineAdam Hack­er is join­ing the small team at Au­to­lus. As SVP for reg­u­la­to­ry af­fairs and qual­i­ty, he is charged with dri­ving more of the biotech’s T cell ther­a­pies through the clin­ic.

Fangliang Zhang, AP Images

UP­DAT­ED: Leg­end fetch­es $424 mil­lion, emerges as biggest win­ner yet in pan­dem­ic IPO boom as shares soar

Amid a flurry of splashy pandemic IPOs, a J&J-partnered Chinese biotech has emerged with one of the largest public raises in biotech history.

Legend Biotech, the Nanjing-based CAR-T developer, has raised $424 million on NASDAQ. The biotech had originally filed for a still-hefty $350 million, based on a range of $18-$20, but managed to fetch $23 per share, allowing them to well-eclipse the massive raises from companies like Allogene, Juno, Galapagos, though they’ll still fall a few dollars short of Moderna’s record-setting $600 million raise from 2018.

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As it hap­pened: A bid­ding war for an an­tibi­ot­ic mak­er in a mar­ket that has rav­aged its peers

In a bewildering twist to the long-suffering market for antibiotics — there has actually been a bidding war for an antibiotic company: Tetraphase.

It all started back in March, when the maker of Xerava (an FDA approved therapy for complicated intra-abdominal infections) said it had received an offer from AcelRx for an all-stock deal valued at $14.4 million.

The offer was well-timed. Xerava was approved in 2018, four years after Tetraphase posted its first batch of pivotal trial data, and sales were nowhere near where they needed to be in order for the company to keep its head above water.

Drug man­u­fac­tur­ing gi­ant Lon­za taps Roche/phar­ma ‘rein­ven­tion’ vet as its new CEO

Lonza chairman Albert Baehny took his time headhunting a new CEO for the company, making it absolutely clear he wanted a Big Pharma or biotech CEO with a good long track record in the business for the top spot. In the end, he went with the gold standard, turning to Roche’s ranks to recruit Pierre-Alain Ruffieux for the job.

Ruffieux, a member of the pharma leadership team at Roche, spent close to 5 years at the company. But like a small army of manufacturing execs, he gained much of his experience at the other Big Pharma in Basel, remaining at Novartis for 12 years before expanding his horizons.

Covid-19 roundup: Ab­b­Vie jumps in­to Covid-19 an­ti­body hunt; As­traZeneca shoots for 2B dos­es of Ox­ford vac­cine — with $750M from CEPI, Gavi

Another Big Pharma is entering the Covid-19 antibody hunt.

AbbVie has announced a collaboration with the Netherlands’ Utrecht University and Erasmus Medical Center and the Chinese-Dutch biotech Harbour Biomed to develop a neutralizing antibody that can treat Covid-19. The antibody, called 47D11, was discovered by AbbVie’s three partners, and AbbVie will support early preclinical work, while preparing for later preclinical and clinical development. Researchers described the antibody in Nature Communications last month.

President Donald Trump (left) and Moncef Slaoui, head of Operation Warp Speed (Alex Brandon, AP Images)

UP­DAT­ED: White House names fi­nal­ists for Op­er­a­tion Warp Speed — with 5 ex­pect­ed names and one no­table omis­sion

A month after word first broke of the Trump Administration’s plan to rapidly accelerate the development and production of a Covid-19 vaccine, the White House has selected the five vaccine candidates they consider most likely to succeed, The New York Times reported.

Most of the names in the plan, known as Operation Warp Speed, will come as little surprise to those who have watched the last four months of vaccine developments: Moderna, which was the first vaccine to reach humans and is now the furthest along of any US effort; J&J, which has not gone into trials but received around $500 million in funding from BARDA earlier this year; the joint AstraZeneca-Oxford venture which was granted $1.2 billion from BARDA two weeks ago; Pfizer, which has been working with the mRNA biotech BioNTech; and Merck, which just entered the race and expects to put their two vaccine candidates into humans later this year.

Is a pow­er­house Mer­ck team prepar­ing to leap past Roche — and leave Gilead and Bris­tol My­ers be­hind — in the race to TIG­IT dom­i­na­tion?

Roche caused quite a stir at ASCO with its first look at some positive — but not so impressive — data for their combination of Tecentriq with their anti-TIGIT drug tiragolumab. But some analysts believe that Merck is positioned to make a bid — soon — for the lead in the race to a second-wave combo immuno-oncology approach with its own ambitious early-stage program tied to a dominant Keytruda.

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Pfiz­er’s Doug Gior­dano has $500M — and some ad­vice — to of­fer a cer­tain breed of 'break­through' biotech

So let’s say you’re running a cutting-edge, clinical-stage biotech, probably public, but not necessarily so, which could see some big advantages teaming up with some marquee researchers, picking up say $50 million to $75 million dollars in a non-threatening minority equity investment that could take you to the next level.

Doug Giordano might have some thoughts on how that could work out.

The SVP of business development at the pharma giant has helped forge a new fund called the Pfizer Breakthrough Growth Initiative. And he has $500 million of Pfizer’s money to put behind 7 to 10 — or so — biotech stocks that fit that general description.

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Mer­ck wins a third FDA nod for an­tibi­ot­ic; Mereo tack­les TIG­IT with $70M raise in hand

Merck — one of the last big pharma bastions in the beleaguered field of antibiotic drug development — on Friday said the FDA had signed off on using its combination drug, Recarbrio, with hospital-acquired bacterial pneumonia and ventilator-associated bacterial pneumonia. The drug could come handy for use in hospitalized patients who are afflicted with Covid-19, who carry a higher risk of contracting secondary bacterial infections. Once SARS-CoV-2, the virus behind Covid-19, infects the airways, it engages the immune system, giving other pathogens free rein to pillage and plunder as they please — the issue is particularly pertinent in patients on ventilators, which in any case are breeding grounds for infectious bacteria.

RA Cap­i­tal, Hill­house join $310M rush to back Ever­est's climb to com­mer­cial heights in Chi­na

Money has never been an issue for Everest Medicines. With an essentially open tab from their founders at C-Bridge Capital, the biotech has gone two and a half years racking up drug after drug, bringing in top exec after top exec, and issuing clinical update after update.

But now other investors want in — and they’re betting big.

Everest is closing its Series C at $310 million. The first $50 million comes from the Jiashan National Economic and Technological Development Zone; the remaining C-2 tranche was led by Janchor Partners, with RA Capital Management and Hillhouse Capital as co-leaders. Decheng Capital, GT Fund, Janus Henderson Investors, Rock Springs Capital, Octagon Investments all joined.