NextCure hires Cel­gene vet as CMO; José Ve­ga leaves Mer­ck to be­come Mod­er­na's chief safe­ty of­fi­cer

NextCure has found its new CMO af­ter the pre­vi­ous ex­ec­u­tive re­signed last Au­gust.

Han Myint, a bio­phar­ma and acad­e­mia vet­er­an of more than 20 years, joined the com­pa­ny Thurs­day af­ter serv­ing as CMO at Nex­Im­mune for a lit­tle over a year. Myint had over­seen the com­pa­ny’s Phase I/II tri­al for a cell ther­a­py in acute myeloid leukemia be­fore hop­ping over to NextCure.

“Han’s strong in­dus­try track record is high­light­ed by his in­volve­ment in the de­vel­op­ment of mul­ti­ple U.S. Food and Drug ap­proved prod­ucts,” CEO Michael Rich­man said in a state­ment.

At NextCure, Myint will turn his at­ten­tion to­ward the com­pa­ny’s two lead pro­grams: NC318, an im­munother­a­py tar­get­ing Siglec-15, and NC410, a re­com­bi­nant LAIR-2 fu­sion pro­tein de­signed to block im­mune sup­pres­sion me­di­at­ed by the im­mune mod­u­la­tor LAIR-1.

Be­fore join­ing Nex­Im­mune, Myint had a se­nior role at Cel­gene, serv­ing as VP of glob­al med­ical af­fairs and the myeloid dis­eases lead for more than six years. He helped shep­herd through a num­ber of FDA-ap­proved prod­ucts dur­ing his time there, NextCure said.

Myint had pre­vi­ous­ly worked at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Col­orado-Den­ver be­tween 2005 and 2012 as a pro­fes­sor and as the di­rec­tor of hema­to­log­i­cal ma­lig­nan­cies and stem cell trans­plant pro­gram, build­ing the pro­gram out.

NextCure’s for­mer CMO Kevin Heller re­signed af­ter be­ing named ex­ec­u­tive VP of R&D at Jasper Ther­a­peu­tics last year. — Max Gel­man

José Ve­ga

Stéphane Ban­cel is fill­ing out Mod­er­na’s ex­ec­u­tive team fur­ther af­ter the roll­out of their mR­NA Covid-19 vac­cine, bring­ing in José Ve­ga from Mer­ck to be chief safe­ty of­fi­cer. Re­port­ing to CMO Tal Zaks, Ve­ga had pre­vi­ous­ly been chief safe­ty of­fi­cer at Mer­ck Re­search Lab­o­ra­to­ries since 2013 in what was ac­tu­al­ly his sec­ond stint with the Big Phar­ma — from 1997-2003, he was a di­rec­tor first in clin­i­cal phar­ma­col­o­gy and then in clin­i­cal me­tab­o­lism. For the 10 years in be­tween, Ve­ga oc­cu­pied mul­ti­ple roles at Am­gen, the last five as VP, glob­al safe­ty be­fore his Mer­ck re­turn.

David Lawrence

→ Just when he thought he was out, they pull him back in: David Lawrence had orig­i­nal­ly planned to re­tire at the end of 2020 as CFO of French vac­cine biotech Val­ne­va, but he has been re-ap­point­ed act­ing CFO “po­ten­tial­ly un­til mid-2021,” ac­cord­ing to a re­lease this week. Lawrence an­nounced his re­tire­ment in Sep­tem­ber at Val­ne­va, which is claim­ing to de­vel­op the on­ly Ly­me dis­ease vac­cine in the in­dus­try and has inked a $308 mil­lion deal with Pfiz­er to com­mer­cial­ize it. In oth­er Val­ne­va de­vel­op­ments, Per­ry Ce­len­tano — who brings ex­pe­ri­ence from such phar­ma gi­ants as Mer­ck and No­var­tis — has joined the fray as in­ter­im COO.

→ Fol­low­ing this week’s sur­prise news that blue­bird bio will di­vide in­to two com­pa­nies — one for on­col­o­gy, one for rare dis­eases — CEO Nick Leschly will take the helm on the on­col­o­gy side while Sanofi Gen­zyme vet and Leschly’s head of Eu­rope An­drew Oben­shain will take over at blue­bird bio. Leschly latch­es on to blue­bird as ex­ec­u­tive chair, while Daniel Lynch has been cho­sen as chair of the new on­col­o­gy com­pa­ny. Ramy Ibrahim, who’s been CMO at the Park­er In­sti­tute for Can­cer Im­munother­a­py, has been elect­ed to the board of di­rec­tors to add some heft in the on­col­o­gy space.

Frank Neu­mann

→ Right when blue­bird bio is un­der­go­ing this new on­col­o­gy en­deav­or, Leschly ends up los­ing his head of clin­i­cal on­col­o­gy re­search. Frank Neu­mann has been tapped as CMO for Bri­an Stug­lik out at Ve­rastem On­col­o­gy. Be­fore his tenure at blue­bird, Neu­mann de­vot­ed five years to Take­da, lead­ing clin­i­cal de­vel­op­ment across their cell ther­a­py spec­trum in his fi­nal year there. He was Take­da’s glob­al clin­i­cal lead for Iclusig (pona­tinib) and med­ical team lead for Nin­laro (ix­a­zomib).

Si­mon Pim­stone

→ British Co­lum­bia neu­rol­o­gy out­fit Xenon Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals is get­ting way out in front of a change at the top, an­nounc­ing that CEO Si­mon Pim­stone will step aside and Ian Mor­timer will of­fi­cial­ly take over as pres­i­dent and CEO at Xenon’s share­hold­ers meet­ing in June. Mor­timer has been CFO along with his role as pres­i­dent since 2018 and ini­tial­ly came on board back in 2013. Xenon and Neu­ro­crine took up a col­lab­o­ra­tion to de­vel­op epilep­sy drugs in De­cem­ber 2019, with Xenon col­lect­ing $50 mil­lion up­front.

→ On­col­o­gy, in­flam­ma­tion and in­fec­tious dis­ease biotech Tiziana Life Sci­ences has poached Neil Gra­ham from Re­gen­eron, mak­ing him CMO. Gra­ham had spent the last 10 years on Len Schleifer’s team as VP of strate­gic pro­gram di­rec­tion, im­munol­o­gy and in­flam­ma­tion, hav­ing a hand in de­vel­op­ing Dupix­ent and lead­ing prod­uct de­vel­op­ment of Kevzara. Be­fore his Re­gen­eron tenure, he was SVP, pro­gram and port­fo­lio man­age­ment for Ver­tex.

Louis Pas­carel­la

Louis Pas­carel­la is tak­ing con­trol as CEO of Gur­net Point Cap­i­tal-owned In­no­coll, suc­ceed­ing Rich Fante, who came on board as chief com­mer­cial of­fi­cer in 2015 and rose to the top spot in March 2019. A Janssen mar­ket­ing vet, Pas­carel­la makes the move to In­no­coll af­ter three years as an ex­ec at No­vo Nordisk, cul­mi­nat­ing in his time lead­ing US com­mer­cial op­er­a­tions.

James Frates

→ We now know where James Frates has land­ed af­ter his time was up at Alk­er­mes, and it’s at Amy­lyx as their new CFO. Join­ing a com­pa­ny fo­cused on ALS among oth­er neu­rode­gen­er­a­tive dis­eases is per­son­al for Frates, whose late cousin Pe­te Frates was in­stru­men­tal be­hind the ALS Ice Buck­et Chal­lenge. Frates had been the CFO at Alk­er­mes since 1998 be­fore be­ing re­placed by Iain Brown last week.

Ri­ta Jain

→ Ex-Ake­bia Ther­a­peu­tics CMO Ri­ta Jain is tak­ing on the same role at Im­muno­vant, the au­toim­mune dis­ease-fo­cused com­pa­ny in Vivek Ra­maswamy’s sta­ble of Vants that boast­ed pos­i­tive proof-of-con­cept da­ta last March in its thy­roid eye dis­ease study. Be­fore her two years at Ake­bia, Jain was Ab­b­Vie’s VP of men’s and women’s health and meta­bol­ic de­vel­op­ment, as well as VP, phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal de­vel­op­ment for Ab­bott Lab­o­ra­to­ries.

→ Backed by Fra­zier Health­care Part­ners with one of the first IPOs of 2020, Cal­i­for­nia der­ma­tol­ogy biotech Ar­cutis Bio­ther­a­peu­tics has pegged Matthew Moore to be CBO. Moore was with For­est Lab­o­ra­to­ries, then Ac­tavis, then Al­ler­gan af­ter the 2015 Ac­tavis merg­er, serv­ing as Al­ler­gan’s VP, cor­po­rate busi­ness de­vel­op­ment the last four years.

Abid Ansari

→ Here’s a fol­low-up on Abid Ansari’s next move af­ter de­cid­ing to step away from Pre­ci­sion Bio­Sciences a month ago: He’s now the CFO at Ar­tios Phar­ma, the can­cer-fo­cused biotech out of the UK backed by Pfiz­er and No­var­tis. Ansari, who had been CFO at Pre­ci­sion Bio­Sciences since 2016, was in­volved in deal fi­nance and port­fo­lio man­age­ment with GSK from 2011-16. And be­fore join­ing the Big Phar­ma, he spent five years at Med­Im­mune.

→ It didn’t take long for Bryan Laf­fitte to earn a pro­mo­tion at San Diego RNA-fo­cused biotech DTx Phar­ma. Just this past Ju­ly, Laf­fitte took on the role of VP, bi­ol­o­gy; now he’s been bumped up to CSO. The ex-VP of bi­ol­o­gy at In­cep­tion Ther­a­peu­tics, Laf­fitte was di­rec­tor of re­gen­er­a­tive med­i­cine for the Ge­nomics In­sti­tute of the No­var­tis Re­search Foun­da­tion.

Er­ic Mos­brook­er

→ Autism-fo­cused Cog­noa out of Pa­lo Al­to has brought on Er­ic Mos­brook­er as COO. Be­fore his move to Cog­noa, which re­ceived a break­through des­ig­na­tion from the FDA for its dig­i­tal autism di­ag­nos­tic, Mos­brook­er was chief com­mer­cial of­fi­cer at a be­lea­guered Au­dentes that just weeks ago saw the FDA lift a hold on its gene ther­a­py AT132. Mos­brook­er is al­so a Jazz Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals and Hori­zon Ther­a­peu­tics alum.

→ Fos­ter City, CA-based Mirum, which scooped up two of Shire’s liv­er dis­ease drugs af­ter launch­ing in No­vem­ber 2018, has made Alex­ey Ku­ta­hov gen­er­al man­ag­er of EMEA (Eu­rope, Mid­dle East and Africa). Ku­ta­hov re­cent­ly left Sarep­ta — hit­ting tur­bu­lence both with the FDA and with their da­ta re­vealed last week for their Duchenne mus­cu­lar dy­s­tro­phy gene ther­a­py — as their gen­er­al man­ag­er of Eu­rope. He has al­so been head of mar­ket ac­cess in­no­va­tion at Am­gen and head of cen­tral Eu­ro­pean mar­ket ac­cess at No­var­tis.

Jared Freed­berg

→ It’s a tu­mul­tuous time at In­ter­cept fol­low­ing last year’s NASH re­jec­tion at the FDA and de­part­ing CEO Mark Pruzan­s­ki’s salty words for the agency. This week the biotech has se­lect­ed a new gen­er­al coun­sel and sec­re­tary in 15-year Co­v­ance vet Jared Freed­berg. He comes off two years as gen­er­al coun­sel and sec­re­tary at Im­munomedics, and pri­or to that, he was Mallinck­rodt’s gen­er­al coun­sel, spe­cial­ty gener­ics op­er­at­ing di­vi­sion and VP, busi­ness de­vel­op­ment and li­cens­ing.

→ Is­rael-based MeMed has named Troy Boutelle as VP of com­mer­cial, North Amer­i­ca and gen­er­al man­ag­er, US. Boutelle’s pre­vi­ous ex­pe­ri­ence in­cludes roles at Eu­rofins-Vira­cor and Ther­mo Fish­er Sci­en­tif­ic.

→ France’s Trans­gene has pro­mot­ed Gaëlle Stadtler to the po­si­tion of di­rec­tor of hu­man re­sources. Stadtler joined the com­pa­ny as head of hu­man re­sources and in­ter­nal com­mu­ni­ca­tions in 2018. Pri­or to that, Stadtler served in roles at L&L Prod­ucts and Mars Inc.

→ UK-based Ax­ol Bio­science has made the ad­di­tions of Ross Wheat­croft as glob­al strate­gic ac­counts man­ag­er and Kim­ber­ly La­Pointe as glob­al head of prod­uct man­age­ment to its lead­er­ship team. Wheat­croft hails from Ab­cam, where he was com­mer­cial de­vel­op­ment man­ag­er, while La­Pointe comes from BBI So­lu­tions. 

→ As the dust set­tles on mi­nor­i­ty in­vestor Wa­ter­Mill’s suc­cess­ful ac­tivist at­tack and ouster of chair­man Scott Tar­riff, Zio­pharm On­col­o­gy has found Tar­riff’s re­place­ment: James Huang. A mem­ber of the board since Ju­ly, Huang is a dri­ving force be­hind Gen­Script, Leg­end Biotech and Zai Lab and has been man­ag­ing part­ner at Klein­er Perkins Cau­field & By­ers (KPCB) Chi­na since 2011. Ad­di­tion­al­ly, Vineti co-founder Hei­di Ha­gen has been cho­sen as Zio­pharm’s lead in­de­pen­dent di­rec­tor.

Tamar Thomp­son

→ As CSO Art Levin de­scribed his “dream” sce­nario work­ing on an­ti­body oligonu­cleotide con­ju­gates this week at JP Mor­gan, La Jol­la, CA-based Avid­i­ty Bio­sciences is mix­ing in some board news too with the de­par­tures of Todd Brady and Michael Mar­tin and the ad­di­tions of Tamar Thomp­son and Jean Kim to the board of di­rec­tors. Thomp­son, a Bris­tol My­ers Squibb alum, is Alex­ion’s VP, US gov­ern­ment af­fairs and pol­i­cy, while Kim was a part­ner at Deer­field Man­age­ment from 2006-20. Else­where, Ku­ra On­col­o­gy CEO Troy Wil­son is mov­ing from Avid­i­ty’s ex­ec­u­tive chair­man to chair­man.

Ryan Watts’ crew at De­nali has made Kally­ope CEO Nan­cy Thorn­ber­ry a mem­ber of the board of di­rec­tors. Be­fore lead­ing Kally­ope, Thorn­ber­ry end­ed a long ca­reer at Mer­ck in 2013 as SVP and fran­chise head, di­a­betes and en­docrinol­o­gy.

David Py­ott

→ Ex-Al­ler­gan chair­man and CEO David Py­ott has been giv­en a seat at the board of di­rec­tor of South San Fran­cis­co fi­bro­sis biotech Pli­ant Ther­a­peu­tics, which hauled in an IPO that end­ed up to­tal­ing near­ly $166 mil­lion back in June. Py­ott, who ran Al­ler­gan from 1998-2015, is a board mem­ber at Al­ny­lam and Bio­Marin.

Chris Now­ers-led nat­ur­al killer cell ther­a­py shop ONK Ther­a­peu­tics, which scored an $8 mil­lion fi­nanc­ing round in Oc­to­ber, has named long­time No­var­tis ex­ec Hugh O’Dowd chair­man. O’Dowd is com­ing off a four-year tenure as pres­i­dent and CEO of Neon Ther­a­peu­tics.

Tom Wig­gans

→ Ex-Der­mi­ra CEO Tom Wig­gans has been elect­ed ex­ec­u­tive chair­man of Boston-based an­dro­ge­net­ic alope­cia biotech Fol­li­ca. Wig­gans, who is al­so on the boards of An­nex­on Bio­sciences and For­ma Ther­a­peu­tics, will be joined on Fol­li­ca’s board by Michael Davin, the CEO of Cyno­sure from 2003-17.

→ Bel­gian CAR-T play­er Celyad On­col­o­gy has paved the way for Ma­ri­na Udi­er to be on their board of di­rec­tors. The CEO of Nous­com since last Febu­rary, Udi­er start­ed as the Swiss biotech’s COO in 2016.

Kate Walsh

Boston Med­ical Cen­ter Health Sys­tem pres­i­dent and CEO Kate Walsh is step­ping in as a board mem­ber of Cam­bridge, MA-based CRISPR base edit­ing play­er Beam Ther­a­peu­tics. Walsh is for­mer­ly COO of Brigham and Women’s Hos­pi­tal.

Anne Pren­er

→ Fol­low­ing its Se­ries D fund­ing with an $85 mil­lion IPO, fi­bro­sis biotech Galec­to has wel­comed Anne Pren­er to the board of di­rec­tors. The for­mer Free­line Ther­a­peu­tics CEO and No­vo Nordisk alum is pres­i­dent and CEO of Im­bria Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals.

Mod­u­lus On­col­o­gy has tapped Tim Ed­wards as chair­man of its board of di­rec­tors. Ed­wards cur­rent­ly serves as ex­ec­u­tive chair of Karus Ther­a­peu­tics, non-ex­ec­u­tive chair of Storm Ther­a­peu­tics and di­rec­tor of As­to­nauTX Lim­it­ed. Ed­wards has pre­vi­ous­ly served at In­no­va­teUK and Enara Bio among oth­ers.

Teon Ther­a­peu­tics has pulled in Glen Gio­van­net­ti to its board of di­rec­tors. Gio­van­net­ti joins the board af­ter his re­tire­ment from EY (Ernst & Young), for­mer­ly serv­ing as glob­al biotech­nol­o­gy and life sci­ences leader.

Tar­get­ing a Po­ten­tial Vul­ner­a­bil­i­ty of Cer­tain Can­cers with DNA Dam­age Re­sponse

Every individual’s DNA is unique, and because of this, every patient responds differently to disease and treatment. It is astonishing how four tiny building blocks of our DNA – A, T, C, G – dictate our health, disease, and how we age.

The tricky thing about DNA is that it is constantly exposed to damage by sources such as ultraviolet light, certain chemicals, toxins, and even natural biochemical processes inside our cells.¹ If ignored, DNA damage will accumulate in replicating cells, giving rise to mutations that can lead to premature aging, cancer, and other diseases.

Fol­low biotechs go­ing pub­lic with the End­points News IPO Track­er

The Endpoints News team is continuing to track IPO filings for 2021, and we’ve designed a new tracker page for the effort.

Check it out here: Biopharma IPOs 2021 from Endpoints News

You’ll be able to find all the biotechs that have filed and priced so far this year, sortable by quarter and listed by newest first. As of the time of publishing on Feb. 25, there have already been 16 biotechs debuting on Nasdaq so far this year, with an additional four having filed their S-1 paperwork.

Steve Cutler, Icon CEO (Icon)

In the biggest CRO takeover in years, Icon doles out $12B for PRA Health Sci­ences to fo­cus on de­cen­tral­ized clin­i­cal work

Contract research M&A had a healthy run in recent years before recently petering out. But with the market ripe for a big buyout and the Covid-19 pandemic emphasizing the importance of decentralized trials, Wednesday saw a tectonic shift in the CRO world.

Icon, the Dublin-based CRO, will acquire PRA Health Sciences for $12 billion in a move that will shake up the highest rungs of a fragmented market. The merger would combine the 5th- and 6th-largest CROs by 2020 revenue, according to Icon, and the merger will set the newco up to be the second-largest global CRO behind only IQVIA.

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Tom Barnes (Orna)

The mR­NA era is here. MPM be­lieves the fu­ture be­longs to oR­NA — and Big Phar­ma wants a seat at the ta­ble

If the ultra-fast clinical development of Covid-19 vaccines opened the world’s eyes to the promises of messenger RNA, the subsequent delays in supply offered a crash course on the ultra-complex process of producing them. Even before the formulation and fill-finish steps, mRNA is the precious end product from an arduous journey involving enzyme-aided transcription, modification and purification.

For Bristol Myers Squibb, Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research, Gilead’s Kite and Astellas, it’s time to rethink the way therapeutic RNA is engineered.

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S&P ex­pects steady ero­sion in Big Phar­ma's cred­it pro­file in 2021 as new M&A deals roll in — but don't un­der­es­ti­mate their un­der­ly­ing strength

S&P Global has taken a look at the dominant forces shaping the pharma market and come to the conclusion that there will be more downgrades than upgrades in 2021 — the 8th straight year of steady decline.

But it’s not all bad news. Some things are looking up, and there’s still plenty of money to be made in an industry that enjoys a 30% to 40% profit margin, once you factor in steep R&D expenses.

Tal Zaks, Moderna CMO (AP Photo/Rodrique Ngowi, via still image from video)

CMO Tal Zaks bids Mod­er­na a sur­prise adieu as biotech projects $18.4B in rev­enue, plots post-Covid ex­pan­sion

How do you exit a company after six years in style? Developing one of the most lucrative and life-saving products in pharma history is probably not the worst way to go.

Tal Zaks, Moderna’s CMO since 2015, will leave the mRNA biotech in September, the biotech disclosed in their annual report this morning. The company has already retained the recruitment firm Russell Reynolds to find a replacement.

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Ken Frazier, Merck CEO (Bess Adler/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

UP­DAT­ED: Mer­ck takes a swing at the IL-2 puz­zle­box with a $1.85B play for buzzy Pan­dion and its au­toim­mune hope­fuls

When Roger Perlmutter bid farewell to Merck late last year, the drugmaker perhaps best known now for sales giant Keytruda signaled its intent to take a swing at early-stage novelty with the appointment of discovery head Dean Li. Now, Merck is signing a decent-sized check to bring an IL-2 moonshot into the fold.

Merck will shell out roughly $1.85 billion for Pandion Pharmaceuticals, a biotech hoping to gin up regulatory T cells (Tregs) to treat a range of autoimmune disorders, the drugmaker said Thursday.

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Glax­o­SmithK­line re­thinks strat­e­gy for Covid-19 an­ti­body — not the Vir ones — af­ter tri­al flop. Is there hope in high-risk pa­tients?

In the search for a better Covid-19 therapeutic, GlaxoSmithKline and Vir have partnered up on two antibodies they hope have a chance. GSK is also testing its own in-house antibody, and early results may have shut the door on its widespread use.

A combination of GSK’s monoclonal antibody otilimab plus standard of care couldn’t best standard of care alone in preventing death and respiratory failure in hospitalized Covid-19 patients after 28 days, according to data from the Phase IIa OSCAR study unveiled Thursday.

Photo: Shutterstock

Bio­phar­ma's suc­cess rate in bring­ing drugs to mar­ket has long been abysmal. Can new tools help rewrite that trou­bled past?

In 2011, a team of researchers at British drugmaker AstraZeneca had a problem they were looking to solve.

For years, drug discovery and development were a wasteland for innovation. Novel drugs largely fell into one of two categories — monoclonal antibodies and small molecules — and new therapeutic modalities were hard to come by. After a rush of promising approvals in the late 1990s — including then-Biogen’s CD20 targeting antibody breakthrough Rituxan — the field stagnated and attrition rates stayed sky-high. What exactly is the industry doing wrong? AstraZeneca asked itself.

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