Ovid ex­ec Yaron Wer­ber cross­es back to Cowen; Saqib Is­lam pro­mot­ed to Spring­Work­s' first CEO slot

Yaron Wer­ber

→ While a num­ber of an­a­lysts have been seen mi­grat­ing to the front lines of biotech, Yaron Wer­ber is mov­ing in the op­po­site di­rec­tion. Af­ter ro­tat­ing through a cou­ple of roles at rare dis­ease biotech Ovid Ther­a­peu­tics  and help­ing put to­geth­er its $75 mil­lion IPO $OVID — he’s head­ed back to Wall Street.

The for­mer Cit­i­group an­a­lyst is land­ing at Cowen as a man­ag­ing di­rec­tor and se­nior mem­ber of its biotech team, at a time in­vest­ment banks are pay­ing big dol­lars to scoop pop­u­lar biotech boost­ers from each oth­er.

“We are thrilled to wel­come Yaron back to eq­ui­ty re­search and back to Cowen, where he be­gan his im­pres­sive ca­reer in biotech. As a trained med­ical doc­tor, re­spect­ed pub­lic com­pa­ny CFO and a proven sell-side an­a­lyst, Yaron is an out­stand­ing ad­di­tion to Cowen’s lead­ing health­care and biotech re­search team,” said Cowen CEO Jef­frey Solomon in a state­ment.

Wer­ber, who first joined Ovid as CFO in 2015, has since added CBO and trea­sur­er to his ti­tle in ad­di­tion to a stint as sec­re­tary.

Spring­Works Ther­a­peu­tics will be cel­e­brat­ing its one-year an­niver­sary with their first per­ma­nent CEO in place. Tak­ing the helm is Saqib Is­lam, an ex-Mod­er­na ex­ec who’s been over­see­ing fi­nance and busi­ness de­vel­op­ment since the biotech spun out with four rare dis­ease as­sets from Pfiz­er. He will join the board of di­rec­tors, work­ing with ex­ec­u­tive chair­man Dan Lynch, and lead the charge for find­ing more promis­ing clin­i­cal-stage drugs from oth­er in­dus­try play­ers to grow their pipeline, which cur­rent­ly fea­tures lead pro­grams in desmoid tu­mors and neu­rofi­bro­mato­sis type 1. Spring­Works has al­so just en­tered a pact with BeiGene to test its MEK in­hibitor in com­bi­na­tion with the Bei­jing-based biotech’s RAF dimer in­hibitor to tar­get ad­vanced sol­id tu­mors with RAS mu­ta­tions.  

Lisa Ric­cia­r­di

→ As Suono Bio en­ters a new phase of its busi­ness marked by a new strate­gic in­vest­ment from Fu­ji­film, Carl Schoell­ham­mer is step­ping aside from the CEO role to make room for Lisa Ric­cia­r­di. Schoell­ham­mer, who helped found the com­pa­ny along­side MIT’s Robert Langer, Gio­van­ni Tra­ver­so of Brigham and Women’s Hos­pi­tal and Po­laris part­ner Amy Schul­man, will re­main as COO. A Pfiz­er vet with stints at Es­sex Wood­lands Health Ven­tures, Ex­press Scripts and Foun­da­tion Med­i­cine, Ric­cia­r­di is tasked with steer­ing Suono’s for­mu­la­tion-in­de­pen­dent de­liv­ery tech to the clin­ic.

David Schenkein’s long run as Agios CEO — grow­ing the com­pa­ny from his leg­endary blank sheet of pa­per to a high pro­file pub­lic biotech with close to 500 staffers, two ap­proved drugs on the mar­ket and more ad­vanc­ing in the pipeline — is com­ing to an end. In five months Schenkein is pass­ing the reins of the Cam­bridge, MA-based com­pa­ny $AGIO to Jack­ie Fouse, the ex-Cel­gene ex­ec who went on to run one of Vivek Ra­maswamy’s biotechs for a short stint. Af­ter Fouse jumped on the Agios board late last year, he says, reg­u­lar dis­cus­sions with the board about a tran­si­tion plan be­gan to gel. And “it be­came clear that Jack­ie had an in­ter­est in that role.” At Ra­maswamy’s Der­ma­vant, Fouse was in charge of grow­ing the Phoenix, AZ-based start­up. Af­ter she takes the new job at Agios Feb­ru­ary 1, she’ll be ex­pect­ed to con­tin­ue to build on Schenkein’s vi­sion for the com­pa­ny, look­ing to keep build­ing a sci­ence-dri­ven, re­search-ori­ent­ed bio­phar­ma along the lines of Genen­tech. Frank Tor­ti, who re­cent­ly joined Roivant as Vant In­vest­ment Chair, will step in as Der­ma­vant’s board chair­man.

→ Five months af­ter Third Rock part­ner Ab­bie Cel­niker of­fi­cial­ly launched Rheos Med­i­cines with an aim at be­com­ing a leader in im­munome­tab­o­lism, the start­up has wooed a top Roche sci­en­tist to the helm. San­jay Keswani has been named CEO at the Cam­bridge, MA-based com­pa­ny, join­ing a large mi­gra­tion of top ex­ec­u­tives leav­ing Big Phar­ma for the fast-grow­ing start-up crowd. He had been a se­nior vice pres­i­dent and glob­al head of the neu­ro­science, oph­thal­mol­o­gy and rare dis­eases unit for Roche’s pRED or­ga­ni­za­tion, based in Basel. Be­fore that he had a broad port­fo­lio at Bris­tol-My­ers Squibb, with ear­li­er gigs at Eli Lil­ly and Am­gen.

David Goren

→ Is­rael’s Vax­il has tapped Big Phar­ma vet David Goren to suc­ceed se­r­i­al en­tre­pre­neur Isaac Maresky as CEO. Goren first moved from New York to es­tab­lish and grow Pfiz­er’s Is­raeli com­mer­cial pres­ence. He stayed on to serve as gen­er­al man­ag­er in the coun­try for As­traZeneca and has re­cent­ly start­ed his own bou­tique con­sult­ing firm called Epi­one Strat­e­gy.

Found­ed on a plat­form de­vel­oped by Weiz­mann In­sti­tute sci­en­tists, Vax­il’s lead as­set is an or­phan drug des­ig­nat­ed im­munother­a­py that tar­gets a neoanti­gen known as MUC1. Hav­ing com­plet­ed a Phase I/II tri­al in mul­ti­ple myelo­ma, the biotech is look­ing to test Im­mucin in Phase II for ad­di­tion­al sol­id tu­mor in­di­ca­tions.

Gos­samer Bio has re­cruit­ed in­dus­try vet Luisa Salter-Cid to lead re­search and pre­clin­i­cal de­vel­op­ment ef­forts for its fledg­ling op­er­a­tion that’s mov­ing “at light speed,” ac­cord­ing to founder Fa­heem Has­nain. The new CSO jumps from a 13-year run at the im­munol­o­gy unit of Bris­tol-My­ers Squibb, where her path crossed with Gos­samer Bio CEO Sheila Gu­jrathi. She will be re­spon­si­ble for trans­lat­ing some of the pre­clin­i­cal pro­grams that Has­nain and Gu­jrathi have been busy snap­ping up, many of which re­main tight­ly un­der wraps. But one thing we know for cer­tain is that the biotech will have plen­ty of cash — $330 mil­lion at last count — to see them through.

Gin­na La­port

Gin­na La­port is tak­ing up her first CMO job since leav­ing acad­e­mia at Ver­sant-backed Tem­pest Ther­a­peu­tics as the biotech eyes its first clin­i­cal tri­als in 2019. A for­mer mem­ber of the FDA’s on­co­log­ic drugs ad­vi­so­ry com­mit­tee, La­port is ex­pect­ed to lever­age both her ex­per­tise in hema­tol­ogy/on­col­o­gy and re­cent ex­pe­ri­ence man­ag­ing clin­i­cal de­vel­op­ment at Corvus Phar­ma to ad­vance Tem­pest’s im­muno-on­col­o­gy as­sets in­clud­ing TPST-1120, a PPARα block­er de­signed to in­flame the tu­mor mi­croen­vi­ron­ment and ac­ti­vates im­por­tant tu­mor‐killing im­mune cells (the for­mer lead as­set, an IDO in­hibitor, ap­pears to have been dropped). Join­ing her in the C-suite will be Ali­cia Lev­ey, who’s been pro­mot­ed to chief busi­ness of­fi­cer from a VP po­si­tion.

→ The cell ther­a­py ex­perts at Tmu­ni­ty have brought in an ex­pe­ri­enced ex­ec to man­age the biotech’s fi­nan­cial op­er­a­tions, con­nect with the fi­nan­cial mar­kets and over­see IT and oth­er day-to-day tasks. Graeme Bell comes to the EVP and CFO af­ter serv­ing in the same roles at Ana­cor Phar­ma and In­tel­lia fol­low­ing a 20-year ca­reer at Mer­ck. CEO Us­man “Oz” Azam has this to say about his ap­point­ment: “Graeme’s ex­ten­sive knowl­edge in fi­nance and proven suc­cess in deal-mak­ing will be a tremen­dous as­set to Tmu­ni­ty as we con­tin­ue to cre­ate and pur­sue strate­gic busi­ness op­por­tu­ni­ties that align with our vi­sion” — to use CRISPR gene edit­ing tech to mod­i­fy im­mune cells.

→ Back in busi­ness af­ter a spell in lim­bo, Iron­shore Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals has re­cruit­ed Scott Evan­ge­lista to lead the com­mer­cial roll­out of its AD­HD drug as pres­i­dent and COO. Ex­ecs like Evan­ge­lista’s years of ex­pe­ri­ence pro­vid­ing com­mer­cial­iza­tion sup­port at what is now IQVIA, which he will now use to launch Jor­nay, a ver­sion of a gener­ic stim­u­lant with a de­layed-re­lease tech that Iron­shore hopes will dis­tin­guish it from the crowd..

Hu­bert Chen

→ Days af­ter an­nounc­ing his de­par­ture from Pfenex, Hu­bert Chen is show­ing up as the new chief med­ical of­fi­cer at fel­low San Diego biotech Metacrine. The new job will take Chen back to his roots in en­docrinol­o­gy while lean­ing on the clin­i­cal de­vel­op­ment skills he’s built over the years with treat­ments for he­pati­tis, fi­bro­sis, and in­flam­ma­to­ry dis­ease at places like Aileron, Reg­u­lus, Amylin and Am­gen.

→ Af­ter eight years in the CSO seat at Amipo Phar­ma $AMPE, David Bar-Or says “the time is right” to re­tire. Though the lit­tle biotech’s BLA for Am­pi­on, its drug for os­teoarthri­tis in the knee, was spurned by from the FDA weeks ago, Bar-Or notes that prepa­ra­tion for an­oth­er fil­ing is on­go­ing. While stay­ing on Am­pio’s board of di­rec­tors and sci­en­tif­ic ad­vi­so­ry board, he will turn his at­ten­tion to some projects in trau­ma re­search at the Swedish Med­ical Cen­ter.

Ra­dius Health, the Waltham, MA-based biotech best known for its fierce os­teo­poro­sis ri­val­ry with Am­gen, has ap­point­ed can­cer ex­pert Charles Mor­ris to guide its ex­pan­sion in­to on­col­o­gy. As CMO, he will shep­herd all clin­i­cal, reg­u­la­to­ry and med­ical af­fairs for the com­pa­ny. “I be­lieve elaces­trant is unique­ly po­si­tioned to po­ten­tial­ly ad­dress un­met needs in the treat­ment of hor­mon­al breast can­cer,” said Mor­ris, who’s run a num­ber of ear­ly-stage pro­grams at Al­los Ther­a­peu­tics, Im­muno­Gen and most re­cent­ly PsiOxus Ther­a­peu­tics. “I have al­ready had the chance to re­view and pro­vide in­put to op­ti­mize elaces­trant’s clin­i­cal de­vel­op­ment plan and look for­ward to ini­ti­at­ing our Phase 3 study in the fourth quar­ter of this year.”

→ With the com­bo of its lead drug PEGPH20 with Abrax­ane near­ing Phase III, Halozyme $HA­LO has poached long­time Bris­tol-My­ers Squibb ex­ec Ben­jamin Hick­ey to be its chief com­mer­cial of­fi­cer. Hick­ey, who’s been man­ag­ing the phar­ma gi­ant’s UK and Ire­land op­er­a­tions in re­cent years, is join­ing the San Diego biotech’s com­mer­cial unit at ground ze­ro, with a broad man­date to build the sales, mar­ket­ing and mar­ket ac­cess teams.

→ Brain­Storm Cell Ther­a­peu­tics $BCLI has ap­point­ed No­var­tis vet Ar­turo Araya as chief com­mer­cial of­fi­cer. Araya had been glob­al head of com­mer­cial of No­var­tis’ Cell and Gene Ther­a­pies Unit and has been on the board at Brain­storm since Feb­ru­ary of last year.

→ Still in search for a CEO to re­place William Lis, Por­to­la will now be look­ing for a new chief com­mer­cial and busi­ness of­fi­cer as well. Tao Fu re­signed, ef­fec­tive lat­er this month, just as the biotech is be­gin­ning to roll out its blood thin­ner an­ti­dote An­dexxa and an­ti­co­ag­u­lant Bevyxxa. CFO Mar­di Di­er, who’s al­ready shoul­der­ing half of the in­ter­im pres­i­dent role,  will lead the com­mer­cial ac­tiv­i­ties in the in­ter­im.

John Na­son just got a pro­mo­tion at gener­ics gi­ant Te­va to head up its API unit, which de­vel­ops, man­u­fac­tures and mar­kets bulk API for both third-par­ty clients and the com­pa­ny it­self, as well as its bi­o­log­ics op­er­a­tions. Na­son held sim­i­lar roles for Bris­tol-My­ers Squibb and No­var­tis in Ire­land be­fore join­ing the Is­raeli com­pa­ny in 2015.

Welling­ton Sun

→ Fol­low­ing a decades-long ca­reer in gov­ern­ment agen­cies — capped by 10 years di­rect­ing the FDA’s di­vi­sion of vac­cines and re­lat­ed prod­uct ap­pli­ca­tions — Welling­ton Sun is mov­ing to the oth­er side of the ta­ble, tak­ing a job at biotech uni­corn Mod­er­na as head of vac­cine strat­e­gy and reg­u­la­to­ry af­fairs. His in­fec­tious dis­ease spe­cial­ty is es­pe­cial­ly ap­peal­ing to Mod­er­na as nine of its 21 de­vel­op­ment can­di­dates — sev­en out of the 10 in clin­i­cal de­vel­op­ment — fall in the field.

Mer­ck vet John Hunter is the new CSO at SiteOne Ther­a­peu­tics, a de­vel­op­er of non-opi­oid pain ther­a­pies. While his re­cent role in­volves car­dio-re­nal re­search, he has a back­ground in neu­ro­science and has led dis­cov­ery re­search in the area for both Scher­ing-Plough and Roche.  

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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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.

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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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.

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.