On an ex­ec­u­tive hir­ing spree, Sarep­ta snags Bio­gen's Gilmore O'Neill as new CMO

Gilmore O’Neill

Sarep­ta has snagged ex-Bio­gen ex­ec­u­tive Gilmore O’Neill to join the lead­er­ship as CMO, fill­ing the po­si­tion just one year af­ter its last CMO hire.

Last April, the com­pa­ny had brought in for­mer Re­gen­eron ex­ec Cather­ine Stehman-Breen to serve as its chief med­ical of­fi­cer, de­spite her in­ex­pe­ri­ence with Duchenne drugs. At the time, then-CEO Ed Kaye point­ed to her “ex­ten­sive ex­pe­ri­ence in glob­al de­vel­op­ment, clin­i­cal op­er­a­tions and re­search across mul­ti­ple ther­a­peu­tic ar­eas” as rea­son­ing for her hire. But it ap­pears Stehman-Breen qui­et­ly left Sarep­ta just 8 months lat­er, al­though Sarep­ta nev­er is­sued a press re­lease re­gard­ing her de­par­ture.

The com­pa­ny’s pres­i­dent and CEO Doug In­gram tells me Stehman-Breen’s po­si­tion was tem­porar­i­ly filled by Stan Bukofz­er on an in­ter­im ba­sis while Sarep­ta ini­ti­at­ed the hunt for a full-timer. No word on why Stehman-Breen left.

Cather­ine Stehman-Breen

Now, O’Neill will take a stab at the role. And the breadth of his clin­i­cal drug dev ex­pe­ri­ence is no­table — and should be a boon for Sarep­ta, con­sid­er­ing its R&D plans. Dur­ing his time at Bio­gen, O’Neill over­saw the de­vel­op­ment pro­grams for all Alzheimer’s dis­ease, move­ment dis­or­ders, acute neu­rol­o­gy, mul­ti­ple scle­ro­sis, pain, neu­ro­mus­cu­lar dis­ease, and rare dis­eases.  He al­so over­saw all gene and cell ther­a­py pro­grams, which is one of Sarep­ta’s fo­cus ar­eas go­ing for­ward.

O’Neill helped get glob­al mar­ket­ing OKs for Tec­fidera, Zin­bry­ta, Ple­gridy, and Spin­raza, the com­pa­ny said.

Doug In­gram

“Gilmore is unique­ly po­si­tioned to suc­cess­ful­ly lead our de­vel­op­ment strat­e­gy,” In­gram said in a state­ment. “He has deep ex­per­tise in neu­ro­bi­ol­o­gy, ge­net­ic med­i­cine and clin­i­cal de­vel­op­ment, hav­ing dri­ven some of biotech’s most suc­cess­ful clin­i­cal pro­grams. And his proven lead­er­ship abil­i­ty and pas­sion for our mis­sion of chang­ing lives through ge­net­ic med­i­cine will be es­sen­tial as we ad­vance to­ward our goals with a sense of ur­gency, cre­ativ­i­ty and pur­pose.”

O’Neill had this to say:

I was in­spired to join the Sarep­ta lead­er­ship team by the qual­i­ty of Sarep­ta’s pipeline and the sense of ur­gency with­in the com­pa­ny to ad­vance these pro­grams and im­prove the lives of pa­tients. I’m look­ing for­ward to mak­ing a fast start, and one of my most press­ing pri­or­i­ties will be to meet with and learn from the DMD pa­tient com­mu­ni­ty.

Sarep­ta ap­pears to be on a bit of an ex­ec­u­tive shake­up, as just Mon­day the com­pa­ny an­nounced Louise Rodi­no-Kla­pac as its new VP of gene ther­a­py. And In­gram said the com­pa­ny is hir­ing, on av­er­age, 1.5 peo­ple per day. Sarep­ta has grown from its staff by 100 peo­ple since the start of 2018, from 240 t0 340. He said the com­pa­ny has plans to reach near­ly 480 by the end of the year. The big add-ons are hap­pen­ing in the sci­ence side, In­gram said. It’s re­searchers, de­vel­op­ers, reg­u­la­to­ry folks, etc.

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.

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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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.

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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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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Bris­tol My­ers is clean­ing up the post-Cel­gene merg­er pipeline, and they’re sweep­ing out an ex­per­i­men­tal check­point in the process

Back during the lead up to the $74 billion buyout of Celgene, the big biotech’s leadership did a little housecleaning with a major pact it had forged with Jounce. Out went the $2.6 billion deal and a collaboration on ICOS and PD-1.

Celgene, though, also added a $530 million deal — $50 million up front — to get the worldwide rights to JTX-8064, a drug that targets the LILRB2 receptor on macrophages.

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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.