One year in, Joanne Kotz as­sumes CEO role at Jnana; Pres­i­dent/Ex­ec­u­tive chair duo will now run Black­Thorn

Joanne Kotz

Jnana Ther­a­peu­tics is mark­ing its an­niver­sary with the in­stal­la­tion of a per­ma­nent chief, and it’s go­ing for some­one who’s been there since the be­gin­ning: co-founder and pres­i­dent Joanne Kotz. Amir Nashat, the in­ter­im CEO who will now fo­cus on his oth­er job as man­ag­ing part­ner of Po­laris, cred­its Kotz for build­ing “a tal­ent­ed team and a col­lab­o­ra­tive, em­pow­er­ing cul­ture, while al­so lead­ing im­por­tant work to val­i­date Jnana’s pro­pri­etary drug dis­cov­ery plat­form.” Be­fore launch­ing the SLC trans­porter-fo­cused biotech, Kotz had held lead­er­ship roles at the F-Prime Bio­med­ical Re­search Ini­tia­tive and the Broad In­sti­tute.

Greg Vontz has stepped down as pres­i­dent and CEO of Black­Thorn Ther­a­peu­tics, prompt­ing the pro­mo­tion of CSO Bill Mar­tin to the pres­i­dent and COO role. Mar­tin will now run the com­pa­ny along­side new ex­ec­u­tive chair­man Paul Berns, a vet­er­an biotech ex­ec­u­tive of ARCH, match­ing his fa­mil­iar­i­ty with Black­Thorn’s neu­robe­hav­ioral ther­a­pies with Berns’ prod­uct de­vel­op­ment, strate­gic and com­mer­cial ex­per­tise.

→ Sea­soned di­ag­nos­tics and phar­ma ex­ec Bern­hard Sixt is the new CEO at Ed­in­burgh Mol­e­c­u­lar Imag­ing, tasked with steer­ing its op­ti­cal imag­ing prod­uct on a path to ap­proval and even­tu­al com­mer­cial­iza­tion. EMI-137 has com­pared fa­vor­ably to colonoscopy in a can­cer de­tec­tion tri­al, the com­pa­ny says, and is be­ing test­ed in sev­er­al oth­er can­cer in­di­ca­tions.

Michael Lin­den

Michael Lin­den has cho­sen Touch­light Ge­net­ics as the next stop of his gene ther­a­py jour­ney. As CSO, he is re­spon­si­ble for ap­ply­ing Touch­light’s dog­gy­bone DNA tech on its dis­cov­ery pipeline and trans­la­tion­al re­search ef­forts. A for­mer aca­d­e­m­ic ac­tive­ly ad­vo­cat­ing for gene ther­a­py re­search, Lin­den re­cent­ly served as Pfiz­er’s VP of gene ther­a­py and head of its Ge­net­ics Med­i­cines In­sti­tute.

→ Af­ter months of search­ing for a per­ma­nent CFO, Five Prime Ther­a­peu­tics has de­cid­ed to lock in David Smith, a for­mer Genen­tech staffer and re­cent COO of foren­sics DNA com­pa­ny In­te­genx be­fore Ther­mo Fish­er snapped it up. The South San Fran­cis­co-based im­muno-on­col­o­gy biotech likes his breadth of ex­pe­ri­ence, hav­ing worked at a mix of com­pa­nies span­ning dif­fer­ent scales and stages. Lin­da Ru­bin­stein, who’s been fill­ing in from a CFO ser­vices firm, is sign­ing off.

→ As Steve Frucht­man piv­ots to the pres­i­dent’s job at On­cono­va $ON­TX, he’s tapped Richard Wood­man to suc­ceed him as CMO. Wood­man, a for­mer head of No­var­tis’ hema­tol­ogy fran­chise, in­her­its a late-stage pipeline fo­cused on myelodys­plas­tic syn­dromes. Two oth­er new hires will help him hus­tle the lead drug, rigosert­ib, to­ward an ap­proval: clin­i­cal op­er­a­tions di­rec­tor Matthew Par­ris, who joins from In­ovio; and Cel­gene vet David Evans, who will be as­so­ciate di­rec­tor, reg­u­la­to­ry af­fairs.

→ As Im­pel Neu­roPhar­ma gears up for a cou­ple of mid-stage read­outs of its cen­tral ner­vous sys­tem dis­or­der treat­ments, it has ap­point­ed Ellen Lub­man to scout deals for the drugs and its nasal drug de­liv­ery tech. As chief busi­ness of­fi­cer, Lub­man’s man­date will cov­er “part­ner­ing and ac­qui­si­tion strat­e­gy and ex­e­cu­tion,” not un­like what she did when she was VP of ex­ter­nal sci­ence and in­no­va­tion at Al­ler­gan.

→ With sev­er­al of its pro­grams lined up at the Phase II start­ing line, Alka­h­est has poached vet­er­an sales ex­ec Eliz­a­beth Jef­fords from Roche/Genen­tech to be its chief sales and strat­e­gy of­fi­cer. Jef­fords, who played a big role in mar­ket­ing the big age-re­lat­ed mac­u­lar de­gen­er­a­tion ther­a­py Lu­cen­tis, will now piv­ot to oth­er age-re­lat­ed dis­eases in­clud­ing Alzheimer’s and Parkin­son’s.

→ Cal­gary, Al­ber­ta-based Xortx Ther­a­peu­tics has ap­point­ed James Fair­barin to re­place out­go­ing CFO Dave Matthews. The com­pa­ny is de­vel­op­ing three treat­ments for dif­fer­ent types of pro­gres­sive kid­ney dis­ease.

Farah Ah­mad has jumped from Sy­neos Health to a COO po­si­tion at Strate­gikon Phar­ma, which mar­kets a tool for clin­i­cal tri­al plan­ning and ven­dor man­age­ment.

→ Fol­low­ing a mam­moth $200 mil­lion de­but on the Nas­daq, gene ther­a­py de­vel­op­er Or­chard Ther­a­peu­tics has re­cruit­ed two bio­phar­ma vets to man­age its com­mer­cial op­er­a­tions in the US and the mas­sive bloc re­gion Eu­rope, Mid­dle East and Africa (EMEA), re­spec­tive­ly. Both of them bring sig­nif­i­cant ex­pe­ri­ence with rare dis­eases, Or­chard’s spe­cial­ty. Robin Kense­laar, who spent the past 15 years at Sanofi Gen­zyme, comes on board as SVP of gen­er­al man­ag­er, EMEA com­mer­cial ops. His US coun­ter­part, Brad Math­is, re­cent­ly had a stint at Su­cam­po af­ter 10 years at Alex­ion.   

My­ovant, a mem­ber of Vivek Ra­maswamy’s biotech fam­i­ly fo­cused on women’s health and en­docrine dis­eases, has wooed GSK ex­ec Kim Sablick to be its chief com­mer­cial of­fi­cer. The R&D team is al­so gain­ing a new mem­ber in Jeff Norn­hold, who’s switch­ing a tech­ni­cal op­er­a­tions po­si­tion at Im­pax for a new role as SVP of phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal op­er­a­tions and de­vel­op­ment. Myr­tle Pot­ter and Frank Tor­ti — in­dus­try vets who have re­cent­ly tak­en se­nior roles at Roivant — are join­ing the board along­side Mark Guinan, with Pot­ter ap­point­ed chair­man.   

No­vavax $NVAX has ap­point­ed Rachel King, a sea­soned VC and founder of Gly­coMimet­ics, to its board of di­rec­tors.  

Grail CEO Jen­nifer Cook has tak­en a board seat at De­nali, the high-fly­ing neu­rode­gen­er­a­tion start­up run by some of her for­mer col­leagues from Genen­tech.

→ Hav­ing guid­ed Epizyme through a rough year at the FDA, CEO Robert Baze­more is tak­ing on a side gig as board di­rec­tor at neoanti­gen pi­o­neer Neon Ther­a­peu­tics.

BiTE® Plat­form and the Evo­lu­tion To­ward Off-The-Shelf Im­muno-On­col­o­gy Ap­proach­es

Despite rapid advances in the field of immuno-oncology that have transformed the cancer treatment landscape, many cancer patients are still left behind.1,2 Not every person has access to innovative therapies designed specifically to treat his or her disease. Many currently available immuno-oncology-based approaches and chemotherapies have brought long-term benefits to some patients — but many patients still need other therapeutic options.3

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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Gilead re­leas­es an­oth­er round of murky remde­sivir re­sults

A month after the NIH declared the first trial on remdesivir in Covid-19 a success, Gilead is out with new results on their antiviral. But although the study met one of its primary endpoints, the data are likely to only add to a growing debate over how effective the drug actually is.

In a Phase III trial, patients given a 5-day dose of remdesivir were 65% more likely to show “clinical improvement” compared to an arm given standard-of-care. The trial, though, gave little indication for whether the drug had an impact on key endpoints such as survival or time-to-recovery. And in a surprising twist, a 10-day dosing arm of remdesivir didn’t lead to a statistically significant improvement over standard of care.

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Why Mer­ck wait­ed, and what they now bring to the Covid-19 fight

Nicholas Kartsonis had been running clinical infectious disease research at Merck for almost 2 years when, in mid-January, he got a new assignment: searching the pharma giant’s vast libraries for something that could treat the novel coronavirus.

The outbreak was barely two weeks old when Kartsonis and a few dozen others got to work, first in small teams and then in a larger task force that sucked in more and more parts of the sprawling company as Covid-19 infected more and more of the globe. By late February, the group began formally searching for vaccine and antiviral candidates to license. Still, while other companies jumped out to announce their programs and, eventually and sometimes controversially, early glimpses at human data, Merck remained silent. They made only a brief announcement about a data collection partnership in April and mentioned vaguely a vaccine and antiviral search in their April 28 earnings call.

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Mark Genovese (Stanford via Twitter)

Gilead woos fil­go­tinib clin­i­cal in­ves­ti­ga­tor from Stan­ford to lead the charge on NASH, in­flam­ma­to­ry dis­eases

With an FDA OK for the use of filgotinib in rheumatoid arthritis expected to drop any day now, Gilead has recruited a new leader from academia to lead its foray into inflammatory diseases.

Mark Genovese — a longtime Stanford professor and most recently the clinical chief in the division of immunology and rheumatology — was the principal investigator in FINCH 2, one of three studies that supported Gilead’s NDA filing. In his new role as SVP, inflammation, he will oversee the clinical development of the entire portfolio.

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Stephen Isaacs, Aduro president and CEO (Aduro)

Once a high fly­er, a stag­ger­ing Aduro is auc­tion­ing off most of the pipeline as CEO Stephen Isaacs hands off the shell to new own­ers

After a drumbeat of failure, setbacks and reorganizations over the last few years, Aduro CEO Stephen Isaacs is handing over his largely gutted-out shell of a public company to another biotech company and putting up some questionable assets in a going-out-of-business sale.

Isaacs —who forged a string of high-profile Big Pharma deals along the way — has wrapped a 13-year run at the biotech with one program for kidney disease going to the new owners at Chinook Therapeutics. A host of once-heralded assets like their STING agonist program partnered with Novartis (which dumped their work on ADU-S100 after looking over weak clinical results), the Lilly-allied cGAS-STING inhibitor program and the anti-CD27 program out-licensed to Merck will all be posted for auction under a strategic review process.

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Hill­house re­casts spot­light on Chi­na's biotech scene with $160M round for Shang­hai-based an­ti­body mak­er

Almost two years after first buying into Genor Biopharma’s pipeline of cancer and autoimmune therapies, Hillhouse Capital has led a $160 million cash injection to push the late-stage assets over the finish line while continuing to fund both internal R&D and dealmaking.

The Series B has landed right around the time Genor would have listed on the Hong Kong stock exchange, according to plans reported by Bloomberg late last year. Insiders had said that the company was looking to raise about $200 million.

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Fangliang Zhang (Imaginechina via AP Images)

The big mon­ey: Poised to make drug R&D his­to­ry, a Chi­na biotech un­veils uni­corn rac­ing am­bi­tions in a bid to raise $350M-plus on Nas­daq

Almost exactly three years after Shanghai-based Legend came out of nowhere to steal the show at ASCO with jaw-dropping data on their BCMA-targeted CAR-T for multiple myeloma, the little player with Big Pharma connections is taking a giant step toward making it big on Wall Street. And this time they want to seal the deal on a global rep after staking out a unicorn valuation in what’s turned out to be a bull market for biotech IPOs — in the middle of a pandemic.

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No­var­tis chips in $10M for IPO-bound part­ner Pli­ant; Tenax shares soar on heart drug da­ta

Novartis is coming in with $10 million to help support the looming IPO of a partner. Pliant Therapeutics posted a new filing with the SEC showing that Novartis is buying the shares at $15, the mid-point of the range. It’s adding several million shares to the offering, bringing the total to around $135 million. Biotech companies have been enjoying quite a run on virtual Wall Street, with investors boosting new offerings to some big hauls.