Peer Re­view: Don Hay­den com­mits to CEO role at Wind­MIL; X4 nabs new CMO Lynne Kel­ley from His­to­gen­ics ex­ile

→ Since leav­ing a 25-year ca­reer and the pres­i­dent of glob­al phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals ti­tle at Bris­tol-My­ers Squibb in 2005, Don Hay­den has kept him­self busy as a con­sul­tant and ad­vis­er to bio­phar­ma com­pa­nies, some­times jug­gling sev­en or eight board ap­point­ments. But af­ter a few months as in­ter­im CEO of Wind­MIL Ther­a­peu­tics, he’s ready to “sub­stan­tial­ly pull back” on all those com­mit­ments as he tran­si­tions to a full-time role.

Don Hay­den

“Every now and then in one’s ca­reer you come across a com­bi­na­tion of cir­cum­stances that con­vince you you just want to be a part of it, and that’s re­al­ly what hap­pened at Wind­MIL,” he told me.

The Bal­ti­more-based start­up was spun out of Johns Hop­kins and got its name, in part, from mar­row in­fil­trat­ing lym­pho­cytes, or MILs. These mem­o­ry T cells re­sid­ing in the bone mar­row have an in­nate abil­i­ty to rec­og­nize tu­mors, ren­der­ing them a po­tent can­cer killing agent both on its own and as a “base” for oth­er treat­ments like CAR-T.

His fo­cus now, Hay­den said, is to po­si­tion the com­pa­ny for a “very big year” in 2020, when the first da­ta read­out from a mul­ti­ple myelo­ma tri­al is due. Wind­MIL al­so plans to delve deep­er in­to sol­id tu­mor, fol­low­ing a non-small cell lung can­cer tri­al (in PD-1 re­frac­to­ry/re­lapsed pa­tients) it hopes to start this year.

Gra­ham Kel­ly

→ In prepa­ra­tion for a Nas­daq list­ing, Aus­tralian drug­mak­er Nox­opharm has re­as­signed some hats in top lead­er­ship. Founder Gra­ham Kel­ly is mov­ing up to the ex­ec­u­tive chair­man role, tap­ping Greg van Wyk — the cur­rent CMO — to dou­ble as chief ex­ec­u­tive. This way, the com­pa­ny says, Kel­ly can spend more time “look­ing to raise the com­pa­ny’s pro­file in the US cap­i­tal mar­kets,” where he’s led two IPOs al­most two decades ago.

No­var­tis’ Vas Narasimhan has raid­ed Glaso­SmithK­line’s se­nior ex­ec­u­tive crew for his new San­doz chief. Richard Saynor is mak­ing the leap from his last post as SVP clas­sic & es­tab­lished prod­ucts, com­mer­cial & dig­i­tal plat­forms at a time spec­u­la­tion about the fu­ture of San­doz has been ram­pant. But he may have some ideas on what can be done bet­ter. Ac­cord­ing to his LinkedIn page, he’s been at GSK for close to 9 years — af­ter jump­ing over from San­doz.

Jim Robin­son

→ Af­ter a stint at Alk­er­mes $ALKS that took him to Boston area for a lit­tle over a year, Jim Robin­son is mov­ing home. Re­port­ing at Paragon Bio­sciences’ Chica­go of­fice this week, Robin­son keeps the same ti­tle: pres­i­dent and chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer. But in­stead of over­see­ing one en­ti­ty, he will run a host of func­tion­al ser­vices to sup­port Paragon’s six and count­ing port­fo­lio com­pa­nies.

X4 Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals $XFOR has re­cruit­ed Lynne Kel­ley to steer a Phase III pro­gram for a rare ge­net­ic, pri­ma­ry im­mun­od­e­fi­cien­cy dis­ease known as WHIM syn­drome. The new CMO is one of the His­to­gen­ics ex­ecs who were dis­band­ed af­ter the mi­cro­cap es­sen­tial­ly sold its shell to Ocu­gen in a re­verse merg­er.

John Cur­nutte

John Cur­nutte is hang­ing up his R&D boots at Por­to­la Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals $PT­LA, trad­ing a lead role for a con­sul­tant po­si­tion. His re­tire­ment comes al­most a year af­ter that of ex-CEO William Lis, which put Cur­nutte in charge briefly as a co-pres­i­dent. In their time, the two ex­ecs shep­herd­ed Beyvexxa — an an­ti­co­ag­u­lant — and An­dexxa — an an­ti-an­ti­co­ag­u­lant — to FDA ap­provals, de­spite some hic­cups along the way. Pamela Con­ley, a 15-year vet­er­an of the com­pa­ny and cur­rent SVP of re­search, will take over the re­search team while Jeff My­ers serves as in­ter­im CMO.

→ Af­ter kick­ing off its Phase III pro­gram, En­ta­sis Ther­a­peu­tics, the biotech spun out from As­traZeneca to house its an­tibi­otics group, is plan­ning for its com­mer­cial fu­ture — and hir­ing an ex­pe­ri­enced hand. Er­ic Kim­ble joins the biotech $ET­TX as the field is still rat­tling from Achao­gen’s bank­rupt­cy, yet an­oth­er stark re­minder of the grim con­di­tions that face an­tibi­otics de­vel­op­ers even when they man­age to bring their drugs to the mar­ket. Kim­ble, a Cu­bist Phar­ma alum who’s spent the past five years con­sult­ing for an­tibi­otics star­tups, said he wel­comes the chal­lenge.

→ A trou­bled Aduro has re­cruit­ed Pfiz­er can­cer R&D ex­ec to take the chief med­ical of­fi­cer’s job. Dim­it­ry Nuyten is mov­ing from his job as vice pres­i­dent and im­muno-on­col­o­gy clin­i­cal de­vel­op­ment leader to the biotech. His stint at Pfiz­er put Nuyten in charge of its Baven­cio work, part­nered with Mer­ck KGaA. “We are ex­treme­ly pleased to wel­come Dim­it­ry as we pre­pare to broad­en our de­vel­op­ment plans for STING ag­o­nist ADU-S100 and ini­ti­ate our first in hu­man study of an­ti-APRIL an­ti­body BION-1301 in IgA nephropa­thy,” not­ed CEO Stephen Isaacs in a state­ment.

→ The crew at Ju­ve­nes­cence has brought on David El­lam on their an­ti-ag­ing cru­sade. El­lam jumps from the same role at Lon­don-based Si­lence Ther­a­peu­tics, which he joined af­ter stints at Bio­Marin and Ark Ther­a­peu­tics. With over $110 mil­lion to spend on ex­ist­ing and fu­ture port­fo­lio com­pa­nies, El­lam will work along­side CEO Greg Bai­ley to build up Ju­ve­nes­cence’s in­fra­struc­ture and cor­po­rate gov­er­nance as it ex­plores “a list­ing on an in­ter­na­tion­al ex­change.”

Thomas Le­ung is the new CFO at Men­lo Park, CA-based Ad­verum Biotech­nolo­gies $AD­VM, play­ing a big role in shap­ing the com­pa­ny as it charts a clin­i­cal path for its gene ther­a­py for the eye. A for­mer VP at TPG Cap­i­tal, Le­ung’s most re­cent job was in busi­ness op­er­a­tions at a women’s health ge­net­ic test­ing com­pa­ny.

→ Keen on get­ting its wet age-re­lat­ed mac­u­lar de­gen­er­a­tion drug ap­proved around the world next year, Out­look Ther­a­peu­tics $OTLK has ap­point­ed Jen­nifer Kiss­ner as SVP clin­i­cal de­vel­op­ment. As CMO Ken­neth Bahrt heads out the door (with no re­place­ment planned), Kiss­ner will ef­fec­tive­ly take up the re­spon­si­bil­i­ty to work with con­tract­ed ser­vices to dri­ve ONS-5010 for­ward, lever­ag­ing lessons she learned at Al­con, Acucela and most re­cent­ly Clear­side Bio­med­ical.

→ Hav­ing learned the ins and outs of can­cer di­ag­nos­tics at Foun­da­tion Med­i­cine, Al­fred “Fred­di” Bowie is bring­ing his busi­ness skillset to Ve­r­a­cyte $VCYT. As VP, cor­po­rate and busi­ness de­vel­op­ment, Bowie is tasked with as­sess­ing and man­ag­ing part­ner­ships, li­cens­ing and ac­qui­si­tions. One of them will be a lung can­cer de­tec­tion project al­lied with J&J in an al­liance an­nounced this Jan­u­ary.

→ Rare dis­ease-fo­cused Log­icBio Ther­a­peu­tics $LOGC has hired five se­nior ex­ecs to help man­age its ex­pand­ed lab op­er­a­tions, from CMC and tech­nol­o­gy de­vel­op­ment to pro­gram and clin­i­cal man­age­ment. They in­clude Matthias Hebben, VP of tech­nol­o­gy de­vel­op­ment, jump­ing from Genethon; Marie Pay­ton, VP of clin­i­cal op­er­a­tions, for­mer­ly of Mil­len­ni­um; Sanofi Gen­zyme vet Car­ol Sher­ako, se­nior di­rec­tor, pro­gram man­age­ment; Sven Loe­brich, a CMC ex­pert with ex­pe­ri­ence at Im­muno­Gen; and Voy­ager’s Lau­ren Drouin, who will fo­cus on an­a­lyt­i­cal de­vel­op­ment. To­geth­er, they will push Log­icBio’s first drug in­to clin­i­cal de­vel­op­ment while re­fin­ing its gene edit­ing plat­form.

Yposke­si, a French CD­MO spe­cial­iz­ing in gene ther­a­py vi­ral vec­tor man­u­fac­tur­ing, has ap­point­ed Morad El Gued­dari as pro­duc­tion di­rec­tor of its core op­er­a­tion. A vet­er­an of Cell­for­Cure — now a No­var­tis sub­sidiary — El Gued­dari joins as the com­pa­ny is dou­bling its glob­al foot­print.

Biotech Half­time Re­port: Af­ter a bumpy year, is biotech ready to re­bound?

The biotech sector has come down firmly from the highs of February as negative sentiment takes hold. The sector had a major boost of optimism from the success of the COVID-19 vaccines, making investors keenly aware of the potential of biopharma R&D engines. But from early this year, clinical trial, regulatory and access setbacks have reminded investors of the sector’s inherent risks.

RBC Capital Markets recently surveyed investors to take the temperature of the market, a mix of specialists/generalists and long-only/ long-short investment strategies. Heading into the second half of the year, investors mostly see the sector as undervalued (49%), a large change from the first half of the year when only 20% rated it as undervalued. Around 41% of investors now believe that biotech will underperform the S&P500 in the second half of 2021. Despite that view, 54% plan to maintain their position in the market and 41% still plan to increase their holdings.

Covid-19 vac­cine boost­ers earn big thumbs up, but Mod­er­na draws ire over world sup­ply; What's next for Mer­ck’s Covid pill?; The C-suite view on biotech; and more

Welcome back to Endpoints Weekly, your review of the week’s top biopharma headlines. Want this in your inbox every Saturday morning? Current Endpoints readers can visit their reader profile to add Endpoints Weekly. New to Endpoints? Sign up here.

You may remember that at the beginning of this year, Endpoints News set a goal to go broader and deeper. We are still working towards that, and are excited to share that Beth Snyder Bulik will be joining us on Monday to cover all things pharma marketing. You can sign up for her weekly Endpoints MarketingRx newsletter in your reader profile.

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No­var­tis de­vel­op­ment chief John Tsai: 'We go deep in the new plat­form­s'

During our recent European Biopharma Summit, I talked with Novartis development chief John Tsai about his experiences over the 3-plus years he’s been at the pharma giant. You can read the transcript below or listen to the exchange in the link above.

John Carroll: I followed your career for quite some time. You’ve had more than 20 years in big pharma R&D and you’ve obviously seen quite a lot. I really was curious about what it was like for you three and a half years ago when you took over as R&D chief at Novartis. Obviously a big move, a lot of changes. You went to work for the former R&D chief of Novartis, Vas Narasimhan, who had his own track record there. So what was the biggest adjustment when you went into this position?

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Amit Etkin, Alto Neuroscience CEO (Alto via Vimeo)

A star Stan­ford pro­fes­sor leaves his lab for a start­up out to re­make psy­chi­a­try

About five years ago, Amit Etkin had a breakthrough.

The Stanford neurologist, a soft-spoken demi-prodigy who became a professor while still a resident, had been obsessed for a decade with how to better define psychiatric disorders. Drugs for depression or bipolar disorder didn’t work for many patients with the conditions, and he suspected the reason was how traditional diagnoses didn’t actually get at the heart of what was going on in a patient’s brain.

Susan Galbraith, Executive VP, Oncology R&D, AstraZeneca

As­traZeneca on­col­o­gy R&D chief Su­san Gal­braith: 'Y­ou're go­ing to need or­thog­o­nal com­bi­na­tion­s'

 

Earlier in the week we broadcast our 4th annual European Biopharma Summit with a great lineup of top execs. One of the one-on-one conversations I set up was with Susan Galbraith, the oncology research chief at AstraZeneca. In a wide-ranging discussion, Galbraith reviewed the cancer drug pipeline and key trends influencing development work at the pharma giant. You can watch the video, above, or stick with the script below. — JC

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Roche's Tecen­triq cross­es the fin­ish line first in ad­ju­vant lung can­cer, po­ten­tial­ly kick­ing off gold rush

While falling behind the biggest PD-(L)1 drugs in terms of sales, Roche has looked to carve out a space for its Tecentriq with a growing expertise in lung cancer. The drug will now take an early lead in the sought-after adjuvant setting — but competitors are on the way.

The FDA on Friday approved Tecentriq as an adjuvant therapy for patients with Stage II-IIIA non small cell lung cancer with PD-(L)1 scores greater than or equal to 1, making it the first drug of its kind approved in an early setting that covers around 40% of all NSCLC patients.

Tillman Gerngross, Adagio CEO

Q&A: Till­man Gern­gross ex­plains why his Covid mAb will have an edge over an al­ready crowd­ed field

If anyone knows about monoclonal antibodies, it’s serial entrepreneur, Adimab CEO, and Dartmouth professor of bioengineering Tillman Gerngross.

Even the name of Gerngross’ new antibody startup Adagio Therapeutics is meant to reflect his vision behind the development of his Covid-19 mAb: slowly, he said, explaining that “everyone else, whether it’s Regeneron, Lilly, or AstraZeneca, Vir, they all valued speed over everything.”

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FDA ad­comm votes unan­i­mous­ly in sup­port of a J&J Covid-19 boost­er two months af­ter one-dose shot

The FDA’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee (VRBPAC) on Friday voted 19-0 in favor of authorizing a second shot of J&J’s Covid-19 vaccine to follow at least two months after the initial dose.

Regulators don’t have to follow VRBPAC’s recommendation, but they almost always do. Considering that the CDC’s advisory committee has already been set to review the expanded EUA, VRBPAC’s recommendation is likely to be adopted.

FDA ad­comm to de­cide on mol­nupi­ravir EUA; Can­cer at­las un­veils new po­ten­tial drug tar­get

The FDA has another adcomm coming down the pipeline — this time on Covid-19 oral antiviral molnupiravir.

The federal agency’s advisory committee will meet on November 30th to go over Merck and Ridgeback’s EUA request for their investigational antiviral drug, and discuss the available data supporting its use in Covid-19 patients.

This comes two weeks after Merck claimed that their antiviral pill reduced the chance that newly diagnosed Covid-19 patients would be hospitalized or die by 50%. The pharma made the announcement after interim data on 775 patients in their clinical trial showed the antiviral’s potential.