Mer­ck vet Thomas Can­nell takes the reins at Sesen Bio; Post-tur­bu­lence, Rock­well Med­ical ap­points new CEO

→ It’s been a year of change for Sesen Bio — or, un­til three months ago, Eleven Bio — and they are now adding a new CEO to that list. Mer­ck vet Thomas Can­nell is step­ping in to steer the com­pa­ny through a Phase III tri­al they hope will take their blad­der can­cer treat­ment, Vicini­um (VB4-845), to reg­u­la­to­ry sub­mis­sion in 2019. Can­nell jumps from a stint as COO and pres­i­dent of glob­al com­mer­cial prod­ucts at Orex­i­gen, the bank­rupt di­et pill mak­er that just sold to Nal­pro­pi­on. He re­places Stephen Hurly, the for­mer CEO of Viven­tia Biotech who took the reins when Sesen ac­quired Viven­tia and switched its fo­cus from oph­thal­mol­o­gy to on­col­o­gy. Mark­ing the be­gin­ning of the new era, two board di­rec­tors — Third Rock part­ner Ab­bie Cel­niker and eye dis­ease ex­pert Paul Chaney — are al­so leav­ing their role.

→ Re­mem­ber when Rock­well Med­ical CEO Robert Chioi­ni un­fired him­self af­ter get­ting oust­ed by the board? Af­ter weeks un­der the radar, it seems like the De­troit biotech $RMTI is ready to turn a new leaf with the ap­point­ment of Stu­art Paul to the top job. A court had barred Chioi­ni, a founder of the com­pa­ny, from any con­tact with his for­mer col­leagues out­side of me­di­a­tion. Now Paul, a life sci­ences vet with stints at Bax­ter, Gam­bro, Quest Di­ag­nos­tics and Ab­bott Lab­o­ra­to­ries, has the tall or­der of putting the com­mer­cial op­er­a­tion back on track. “While there re­mains sig­nif­i­cant work ahead to strength­en the busi­ness and en­hance val­ue, I be­lieve the Com­pa­ny ben­e­fits from a unique mar­ket po­si­tion due to its two in­no­v­a­tive re­nal drug ther­a­pies,” he said, re­fer­ring to Trifer­ic and Cal­citri­ol.

Glax­o­SmithK­line CEO Em­ma Walm­s­ley is reach­ing in­to the glob­al bank­ing world to fin­ish round­ing out the top team she ex­pects to re­verse the phar­ma gi­ant’s steady ero­sion over the past decade. HS­BC’s Iain Mack­ay will grad­u­al­ly take the CFO reins by next spring, when he’ll be slow­ly re­plac­ing the de­part­ing Si­mon Dinge­mans. Walm­s­ley, CEO now since April, 2017, said this about Mack­ay in a state­ment: “As a proven CFO of a com­plex, reg­u­lat­ed glob­al or­ga­ni­za­tion, he brings tremen­dous fi­nance ex­pe­ri­ence and will be a great ad­di­tion to the team. He is a strong leader with a track record of dri­ving cost, cash and cap­i­tal al­lo­ca­tion dis­ci­pline to de­liv­er strat­e­gy. These ca­pa­bil­i­ties will be vi­tal as we con­tin­ue to im­ple­ment our in­no­va­tion, per­for­mance and trust pri­or­i­ties for the ben­e­fit of pa­tients and share­hold­ers.”

→ Boul­der, CO-based i2 Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals has tapped David Stover to lead its nascent op­er­a­tion. Not much is out there about i2’s an­ti­body-based im­muno-on­col­o­gy as­sets, but chair­man Bruce Eaton said Stover’s ar­rival co­in­cides with a “strate­gic growth-phase.” While this will be Stover’s first time as CEO, he brings ex­pe­ri­ence head­ing an Astel­las af­fil­i­ate called Agen­sys, which al­so fo­cused on an­ti­body and an­ti­body drug con­ju­gate de­vel­op­ment.

→ Fol­low­ing a deal spree, Ad­lai Nortye has wooed Lars Birg­er­son from Bris­tol-My­ers Squibb to guide clin­i­cal de­vel­op­ment for its beefed up pipeline of can­cer treat­ments. As pres­i­dent and CEO of the Chi­nese biotech’s US op­er­a­tions, as well as its chief de­vel­op­ment of­fi­cer, Birg­er­son in­her­its a port­fo­lio that in­cludes an im­muno-on­colyt­ic virus and a PI3K drug cast-off from No­var­tis.

→ Af­ter help­ing dri­ve Agios’ two acute myeloid leukemia drugs — Id­hi­fa and Tib­so­vo — through the clin­ic to ap­provals, Samuel Agres­ta is start­ing fresh at In­fin­i­ty Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals, where he’s been named CMO. Agres­ta is tasked with over­see­ing glob­al clin­i­cal de­vel­op­ment and reg­u­la­to­ry af­fairs for the Cam­bridge, MA-based com­pa­ny, which is still in ear­ly-stage stud­ies for its sole as­set IPI-549. The drug is be­ing test­ed as both a monother­a­py and in com­bi­na­tion with Bris­tol-My­ers’ Op­di­vo.

→ BioX­cel Ther­a­peu­tics has brought in a for­mer Pfiz­er di­rec­tor to lead the com­pa­ny’s neu­ro­science ef­forts. Michael De Vi­vo will serve as vice pres­i­dent of neu­ro­science, aid­ing the com­pa­ny’s CSO Frank Yoc­ca in ex­e­cut­ing BioX­cel’s neu­ro­science strat­e­gy. De Vi­vo was di­rec­tor of neu­ro­science at Pfiz­er, where he led trans­la­tion­al re­search and pre­clin­i­cal stud­ies, and over­saw a Parkin­son’s dis­ease project, ac­cord­ing to BioX­cel’s state­ment.

Robert Lee has been pro­mot­ed to pres­i­dent at Par­ti­cle Sci­ences af­ter 10 years at the con­tract de­vel­op­ment and man­u­fac­tur­ing or­ga­ni­za­tion. 

→ Bel­gium’s CAR-T cell ther­a­py play­er Celyad $CYAD has tapped Wells Far­go in­vest­ment banker Fil­ip­po Pet­ti to fill the CFO seat va­cat­ed by Patrick Jean­mart.

→ As On­copep­tides moves be­yond its Stock­holm base to ex­pand its or­ga­ni­za­tion in­to Eu­rope and the US, Bir­git­ta Ståhl is pass­ing the CFO ba­ton to An­ders Mar­tin-Löf, for­mer­ly of Wil­son Ther­a­peu­tics and medtech com­pa­ny Ray­search. Ståhl, who helped pre­pare and ex­e­cute the can­cer drug­mak­er’s re­cent IPO, will con­tin­ue to work in the com­pa­ny.

→ Cas­ma Ther­a­peu­tics has re­cruit­ed two new ex­ec­u­tives: Jef­frey Saun­ders as se­nior vice pres­i­dent of drug dis­cov­ery, and Daniel Ory as se­nior vice pres­i­dent of trans­la­tion­al med­i­cine. Saun­ders comes from Nu­va­lent Ther­a­peu­tics, where he worked as vice pres­i­dent of chem­istry. Ory is join­ing from Wash­ing­ton Uni­ver­si­ty School of Med­i­cine, where he served as a pro­fes­sor of med­i­cine, cell bi­ol­o­gy, phys­i­ol­o­gy and car­di­ol­o­gy.

→ Por­to­la Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals has hired Ernie Mey­er, a for­mer Cel­gene HR ex­ec, to serve as the com­pa­ny’s vice pres­i­dent and chief hu­man re­sources of­fi­cer. At Cel­gene, Mey­er most re­cent­ly served as VP of hu­man re­sources and cor­po­rate ser­vices.

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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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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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.

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.

David Meline (file photo)

Mod­er­na’s new CFO took a cut in salary to jump to the mR­NA rev­o­lu­tion­ary. But then there’s the rest of the com­pen­sa­tion pack­age

David Meline took a little off the top of his salary when he jumped from the CFO post at giant Amgen to become the numbers czar at the upstart vaccines revolutionary Moderna. But the SEC filing that goes with a major hire also illustrates how it puts him in line for a fortune — provided the biotech player makes good as a promising game changer.

To be sure, there’s nothing wrong with the base salary: $600,000. Or the up-to 50% annual cash bonus — an industry standard — that comes with it. True, the 62-year-old earned $999,000 at Amgen in 2019, but it’s the stock options that really count in the current market bliss for all things biopharma. And there Meline did well.

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