Part­ner­ing with Am­gen vet Sean Harp­er, vet­er­an VC Beth Sei­den­berg un­veils a $320M fund and a unique fo­cus on…wait for it…LA

Beth Sei­den­berg is end­ing a brief qui­et spell this morn­ing, ful­fill­ing ex­pec­ta­tions that she was piec­ing to­geth­er her own biotech ven­ture fund — and adding a few big twists that might take you by sur­prise.

First, Sei­den­berg told me in a pre­view to to­day’s an­nounce­ment, she is launch­ing West­lake Vil­lage BioPart­ners with a new and very high pro­file part­ner: Sean Harp­er, who re­cent­ly stepped down from his perch as Am­gen R&D chief to take a hands-on role as a new­ly re­born ven­ture cap­i­tal­ist. Sec­ond, she plans to play a lead­ing role in turn­ing Los An­ge­les in­to the next sig­nif­i­cant biotech hub to be reck­oned with, and they have $320 mil­lion to help light the fire.

What’s dif­fer­ent from her for­mer role at Klein­er Perkins?

“A num­ber of things,” says Sei­den­berg. “First and most im­por­tant­ly I will have more cap­i­tal to de­ploy that’s ded­i­cat­ed to life sci­ences than I had at Klein­er Perkins. Sec­ond­ly, I have a great part­ner with Sean, with in­creased ca­pac­i­ty to do more in­vest­ing.”

And the third new con­sid­er­a­tion? Los An­ge­les.

“We’re sit­ing the firm in Los An­ge­les,” she says, “which gives us a unique op­por­tu­ni­ty to start and build com­pa­nies in LA.”

To be sure, West­lake isn’t re­strict­ing it­self to LA. “We’re go­ing to do in­vest­ing where the best com­pa­nies and the best en­tre­pre­neurs are,” says Sei­den­berg. But af­ter watch­ing the likes of Kite and Cougar and Am­gen spin­off Atara take flight in the area, it’s time to start build­ing a re­al hub around the tal­ent pool at Am­gen. And a ded­i­cat­ed life sci­ences firm can play a big role in that.

“If you’re build­ing an ecosys­tem,” says Sei­den­berg, “build­ing big com­pa­nies, thats how you cre­ate the mo­men­tum and den­si­ty of com­pa­nies.”

“I think life is all about tim­ing and I’m re­al­ly ready for some­thing,” says Harp­er, who’s look­ing for­ward to open­ing a new chap­ter in his own ca­reer that will oc­cu­py the next 10 to 15 years of his life.

Harp­er met Sei­den­berg at the start of his last ca­reer chap­ter, when he left Mass Gen­er­al to join Mer­ck. They con­tin­ued to work to­geth­er at Am­gen. 

“We’ve al­ways worked well to­geth­er,” says Harp­er, “al­ways had this sense that one day we would work to­geth­er again.”

And while Harp­er’s quick to ac­knowl­edge that he has a lot to learn about the nit­ty-grit­ty about ven­ture in­vest­ing, he’s hap­py that Sei­den­berg will be there to ed­u­cate him. The sci­ence? He has that part down.

The two are al­so be­ing joined by Scott Ryles, chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer at Klein­er Perkins, who will be West­lake’s chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer.

Talk­ing to her group of new LPs, Sei­den­berg — who’s en­joyed back­ing some key cell ther­a­py com­pa­nies — hit hard on the no­tion that we’ve en­tered the “gold­en age” of biotech.

“I’ve nev­er seen a bet­ter time for the pro­lif­er­a­tion of new tech­nol­o­gy,” she says. The in­vestors were al­so at­tract­ed to an ex­ec­u­tive with a track record for help­ing in­cu­bate and grow com­pa­nies that reached liq­uid­i­ty on av­er­age af­ter about four years.

I asked Sei­den­berg about her biggest chal­lenge, but she prefers to talk about op­por­tu­ni­ties right now.

“It’s more look­ing at it as what the op­por­tu­ni­ty is here,” she says. “The big op­por­tu­ni­ty and dif­fer­en­tia­tor is re­al­ly Sean and me.”

It’s not the mon­ey they have to in­vest, you see. At $320 mil­lion, West­lake will have a shot at in­vest­ing in about 15 biotech com­pa­nies — fair­ly stan­dard in the field. But at a time mon­ey is pour­ing in­to biotech from all sides, there’s no short­age of cash out there for ex­pe­ri­enced teams with good sci­ence. But these are two in­di­vid­u­als who are in­stant­ly rec­og­niz­able in their com­mu­ni­ty of in­vestors, and that makes them play­ers to reck­on with from day one.

In fact, Sei­den­berg ac­knowl­edged that they’ve al­ready done a cou­ple of deals. But that news will have to wait awhile longer.

Im­age: Beth Sei­den­berg and Sean Harp­er. WEST­LAKE VIL­LAGE BIOPART­NERS

Daniel O'Day [via AP Images]

UP­DAT­ED: Look­ing to re­solve lin­ger­ing doubts, Gilead un­leash­es a $5B late-stage cash al­liance with Gala­pa­gos

Daniel O’Day is executing his first major development deal since taking over as CEO of Gilead $GILD. And he’s going in deep to ally himself with a longstanding partner.

O’Day announced today that he is spending $5 billion in cash to add new late-stage drugs to Gilead’s pipeline, picking up rights to Galapagos’ $GLPG Phase III IPF drug GLPG1690 alongside adoption of the biotech’s Phase IIb drug GLPG1972 for osteoarthritis. And Gilead is also putting billions more on the table for milestones, gaining options for everything else in Galapagos’ pipeline, with a shot at all rights outside of Europe.

Altogether, Gilead is gaining rights to 6 clinical-stage assets, 20 preclinical programs and everything else being hatched in translation.

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UP­DAT­ED: Am­gen, No­var­tis scrap Alzheimer's stud­ies — is BACE fi­nal­ly dead or will Bio­gen and Ei­sai car­ry on?

The BACE theory of controlling Alzheimer’s died with failed pivotal projects at Merck, Eli Lilly and their partners at AstraZeneca. Now Amgen and Novartis have come along to bulldoze it under a mound of safety threats — leaving only Biogen and Eisai to carry on with a less than zero chance of success — with the notable addition that they may actually be doing harm to patients.

After the market closed Thursday, Amgen and Novartis announced that they were dumping two pivotal programs underway with the Banner Alzheimer’s Institute on their BACE drug CNP520 (umibecestat) after an independent review of the data indicated that patients’ cognitive abilities were actually worsening at a faster pace than the placebo arm.

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Christi Shaw at JP Morgan 2019. Jeff Rumans for Endpoints News

Fresh out of Eli Lil­ly, Christi Shaw sur­faces as Daniel O'­Day's new CEO at CAR-T pi­o­neer Kite

Well, that didn’t take long. 

We found out Thursday evening that Christi Shaw has given up her top post as the head of the Bio-Medicines group at Eli Lilly for the helm at CAR-T pioneer Kite. New Gilead CEO Daniel O’Day, a Roche veteran, had made finding a Kite CEO a top priority on his arrival at Gilead. And he went right for a headliner.

O’Day was clearly excited about the coup.

“We conducted an extensive search for a new leader at Kite and we believe that Christi’s unique set of skills will allow us to continue to build on our leadership position in cell therapy,” he said in a prepared statement. “Christi’s vast experience across complex therapeutic areas, and particularly in oncology, will serve Kite very well. She is clearly a leader who will bring teams and individuals together and I am confident she will build upon the entrepreneurial spirit at Kite as we seek to help more people with cancer around the world.”

Christi Shaw at JP Morgan 2019. Jeff Rumans for Endpoints News

Eli Lil­ly's Christi Shaw bows out of top post at the Bio-Med­i­cines unit

Less than 3 years after Eli Lilly CEO David Ricks recruited Novartis vet Christi Shaw to run their big Bio-Medicines business, she’s out.

In a statement put out Thursday morning, Lilly said that Shaw’s last day will come at the end of August. Patrik Jonsson, currently president and general manager of Lilly Japan, will succeed Shaw once he gets the paperwork sorted out.

Lilly’s shares dropped 4% on the news.

Jeff Poulton

Al­ny­lam’s Maraganore switch­es ‘per­haps the best CFO in mid-cap biotech’ with Shire vet Jeff Poul­ton

There’s a new CFO taking charge of the numbers at RNAi pioneer Alnylam.

Alnylam chief John Maraganore says that CFO Manmeet S. Soni is leaving in the proverbial pursuit of new opportunities. And he’s being replaced by ex-Shire CFO Jeff Poulton, not long after the Takeda takeover obliterated that position.

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Analy­sis: In most of the Big Phar­ma world, R&D spend­ing tow­ers over rev­enue from new drugs. Guess who beat the odds

It’s always been the case that there’s no medicine less useful than one that doesn’t make it to patients (unless you regard the task of R&D to be perpetually learning about swimming, while under water…). Yet, launching new medicines that physicians want, that payers will cover, and that patients will take, is a discipline that is unevenly distributed among the big players.

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President Donald Trump at State of the Union. AP Images

White House changes course to kill re­bate re­form

So what exactly is the White House’s plan to tackle rising drug prices? It doesn’t look like we will get definitive answers anytime soon. On the heels of President Donald Trump’s surprise revelation that an executive order is in the works to implement a “favored nations clause,” his administration is now putting out word that it has abandoned an earlier proposal to overhaul rebates.

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Janet Woodcock, AP Images

The FDA's Janet Wood­cock talks about some big changes she's push­ing for in drug de­vel­op­ment, and agency re­views

Janet Woodcock is perhaps the most influential regulator at the FDA. And when the head of CDER talks about the changes being made at the agency when it comes to clinical trial designs, or the need to reorganize for a specific disease arena, an assessment of the expansion of gene therapy or I/O, common development mistakes, and so on, you can be sure the industry pays attention to every word.

So it was with some eagerness that I opened up Geoffrey Porges’ summary of their recent conversation about the FDA. And I wasn’t disappointed. In a wide-ranging exchange with the SVB Leerink analyst, Woodcock discussed the growing importance of patient-reported outcomes in clinical trials, a campaign underway now to see if CROs would help spur more basket studies to compare drugs head-to-head, and much, much more.

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Ex-DARPA di­rec­tor pur­sues all-in-one can­cer pill as NED CEO; Karyopharm los­es com­mer­cial chief ahead of drug roll­out

“Why not try?”

That’s what Geoffrey Ling told me over the phone when asked about what led him to his journey to the position of CEO at NED Biosciences — a company with a lofty goal of creating an all-in-one oral drug to treat all types of cancer and making this drug available to not only developed nations, but also the developing world. 

Ling comes from an extensive background in medicine and the government. He is the co-leader of The Brain Health Project, a professor of neurology and an attending neurocritical care physician at John Hopkins University and Hospital, as well as the assistant director for Medical Innovation of the Science Division in president Obama’s White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP).