Mi­cro­bio­me play­er uBio­me puts founders on leave, in­ter­im CEO promis­es to as­sist in fed­er­al probe

When Joe Jimenez signed on to the board at uBio­me last fall, the new­ly ex-No­var­tis chief was clear­ly hop­ing to put the con­tro­ver­sy over his re­la­tion­ship with Pres­i­dent Trump’s per­son­al at­tor­ney — Michael Co­hen — be­hind him and start a new chap­ter in his sto­ried ca­reer.

Joe Jimenez

In­stead, he’s found him­self in­volved in a fresh scan­dal in­volv­ing an FBI in­ves­ti­ga­tion in­to uBio­me’s billing prac­tices. To­day, the com­pa­ny’s founders who re­cruit­ed Jimenez, Jes­si­ca Rich­man and Zac Apte, have been placed on leave while gen­er­al coun­sel John Rakow steps up as in­ter­im CEO in charge of an in­ter­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

John Rakow

In a state­ment out Wednes­day af­ter­noon, Rakow said:

As in­ter­im CEO of uBio­me, I want all of our stake­hold­ers to know that we in­tend to co­op­er­ate ful­ly with gov­ern­ment au­thor­i­ties and pri­vate pay­ors to sat­is­fac­to­ri­ly re­solve the ques­tions that have been raised, and we will take any cor­rec­tive ac­tions that are need­ed to en­sure we can be­come a stronger com­pa­ny bet­ter able to serve pa­tients and health­care providers.

The Wall Street Jour­nal first re­port­ed a few days ago about the fed­er­al probe.

Jes­si­can Rich­man

Billing it­self as the “lead­ing mi­cro­bial ge­nomics com­pa­ny,” uBio­me was launched 6 years ago from its base in the Bay Area, mar­ket­ing a pair of con­sumer tests that can do at-home tests on your gut or the STDs that women face, like chlamy­dia and gon­or­rhea. When I talked to Rich­man last fall, the com­pa­ny said it had raised $83 mil­lion from ven­ture back­ers — led by OS Fund — in a new dri­ve to join the pack de­vel­op­ing mi­cro­bio­me ther­a­pies. 

A few months lat­er, though, uBio­me was al­ready lay­ing off em­ploy­ees from its staff of some 300, say­ing it want­ed to fo­cus more on drugs and part­ner­ships with drug com­pa­nies, where Jimenez could help.

Zac Apte

I nev­er got a chance to talk to Jimenez last fall, but he told one oth­er writer that he had put the Co­hen af­fair be­hind him and moved on. Dur­ing his last year as CEO, No­var­tis paid Co­hen $1.2 mil­lion for what it said was a brief con­sult­ing pe­ri­od as they sought to learn more about Trump’s health­care pol­i­cy.

The mon­ey, though, went in­to the same ac­count that paid porn ac­tress Stormy Daniels hush mon­ey. And when that emerged, the phar­ma gi­ant and Jimenez were caught in one of the ugli­est scan­dals to hit Wash­ing­ton DC.

Co­hen told law­mak­ers that No­var­tis had want­ed him to open a back door to the White House, seek­ing help in mak­ing con­nec­tions with the top play­ers in the ad­min­is­tra­tion. He re­fused, and while No­var­tis paid out the con­tract, they even­tu­al­ly stopped talk­ing. By that time, No­var­tis spokes­peo­ple had shut the win­dow on com­ments.

A new at­tempt to reach Jimenez this af­ter­noon has so far been un­suc­cess­ful.

Illustration: Assistant Editor Kathy Wong for Endpoints News

How Pur­due's $272M ad­dic­tion pay­out fund­ed a new home for its dis­card­ed non-opi­oid re­search

Don Kyle spent more than 20 years working for Purdue Pharma, right through the US opioid epidemic that led to the company’s rise and eventual infamy. But contrary to Purdue’s focus on OxyContin, Kyle was researching non-opioid painkillers — that is, until the company shelved his research.

As the company’s legal troubles mounted, Kyle found an unlikely way to reboot the project. In 2019, he took his work to an Oklahoma State University center that’s slated to receive more than two-thirds of the state’s $272 million settlement with Purdue over claims that the drugmaker’s behavior ignited the epidemic of opioid use and abuse.

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President Joe Biden at the State of the Union address with Vice President Kamala Harris and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (Patrick Semansky/AP Images)

The drug pric­ing pres­i­dent: Biden warns of ve­to for any IRA re­peal at­tempts

President Joe Biden made clear in his “finish the job” State of the Union address last night that one of those jobs to be finished is insulin prices.

Biden’s push again to tackle insulin prices, after Republicans rebuffed the idea last summer and just after Biden won Medicare drug price negotiations/caps via the Inflation Reduction Act, shows how heavily he’s leaning into this work.

Utpal Koppikar, new Verily CFO

Ex­clu­sive: Ver­i­ly wel­comes Atara Bio­ther­a­peu­tics vet­er­an as new CFO

Verily, Alphabet’s life sciences outfit, has plucked a new CFO from the ranks of Atara Biotherapeutics, the company announced on Wednesday.

Utpal Koppikar joins Verily after a nearly five-year stint as CFO and senior VP at Atara, though his résumé also boasts roles at Gilead and Amgen.

The news follows a major reshuffling at Verily, including several senior departures earlier this year and a round of layoffs.

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Rupert Vessey, Bristol Myers Squibb head of research and early development

Up­dat­ed: R&D tur­bu­lence at Bris­tol My­ers now in­cludes the end of a $650M al­liance and the de­par­ture of a top re­search cham­pi­on

This morning biotech Dragonfly put out word that Bristol Myers Squibb has handed back all rights to its IL-12 clinical-stage drug after spending $650 million to advance it into the clinic.

The news arrives amid a turbulent R&D stage for the pharma giant, which late last week highlighted Rupert Vessey’s decision to depart this summer as head of early-stage R&D following a crucial three-year stretch after he jumped to Bristol Myers in the big Celgene buyout. During that time he struck a series of deals for Bristol Myers, and also shepherded a number of Celgene programs down the pipeline, playing a major role for a lineup of biotechs which depended on him to champion their drugs.

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Bill Anderson, incoming Bayer CEO (David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Bay­er taps Roche's Bill An­der­son to lead phar­ma gi­ant as CEO

We now know where Roche’s ex-pharma chief Bill Anderson is going.

German pharma giant Bayer announced Wednesday that Anderson will be taking on the role as CEO, less than six weeks after Anderson stepped down from his perch at Roche as head of the group’s pharmaceutical division.

Roche announced back in December that Anderson would depart on Dec. 31 to “pursue opportunities outside of Roche.” His replacement, Genentech vet and Roche’s current head of global product strategy, Teresa Graham, will start her role in March.

Iya Khalil, Merck VP and head of data, AI and genome sciences (Novartis)

Mer­ck-No­var­tis re­volv­ing door spins again as AI leader Iya Khalil switch­es phar­mas

As talk of AI this-and-that gobbles up headline after headline, one Big Pharma is losing its AI leader as she transitions to another drug giant: Iya Khalil will trade in her hat as Novartis’ go-to expert and leader in the space for Merck as VP and head of data, AI and genome sciences next week.

After nearly three years leading the artificial intelligence team at Novartis — as Big Pharma and biotechs alike latch onto the ripening AI-for-drug-discovery mode of operation — Khalil will switch employers to head up a similar post at Merck, where she’ll work out of Cambridge, MA beginning Feb. 13, the company tells Endpoints News.

Bill Haney, Dragonfly CEO (Dave Pedley/Getty Images for SXSW)

Drag­on­fly chief: Bris­tol My­ers shouldn’t blame IL-12’s clin­i­cal per­for­mance for de­ci­sion to scrap the deal — eco­nom­ics played a key role

Bristol Myers Squibb says the IL-12 drug they were developing out of Dragonfly Therapeutics was scrubbed from the pipeline for a simple reason: It didn’t measure up on clinical performance.

But Bill Haney, the CEO of Dragonfly, is taking issue with that.

The early-stage drug, still in Phase I development, has passed muster with Bristol Myers’ general clinical expectations, advancing successfully while still in Phase I, he says.

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Singer Nick Jonas is back at work for Dexcom, this time for its new G7 glucose monitor.

Dex­com's spokescelebri­ty Nick Jonas re­turns to Su­per Bowl in new glu­cose mon­i­tor com­mer­cial

Dexcom is going back to the Super Bowl with its pop singer and patient spokesperson Nick Jonas. Jonas takes center stage as the lone figure in the 30-second commercial showcasing Dexcom’s next-generation G7 continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) device.

Jonas’ sleight-of-hand tricks populate the commercial — he pinches his empty fingers together and pops them open to reveal the small CGM — even as he ends the ad, saying, “It’s not magic. It just feels that way.” Jonas then disappears in a puff of smoke.

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Richard Francis, newly-appointed Teva CEO (Novartis via Facebook)

New Te­va CEO Richard Fran­cis repri­or­i­tizes to 'get back to growth'

Six weeks into his new role at the helm of Teva Pharmaceutical, Richard Francis said it’s time to “get back to growth,” starting with a good look at the company’s priorities.

The chief executive has kicked off a strategic review, he announced during Teva’s quarterly call, which will continue over the next several months and produce results sometime in the middle of 2023. That means some pipeline cuts may be in store, he told Endpoints News, while declining to offer much more detail.