Peer Re­view: GSK re­cruits a star can­cer sci­en­tist to its board ahead of R&D re­or­ga­ni­za­tion

Lau­rie Glim­ch­er FRANCK FIFE/AFP/Get­ty

Glax­o­SmithK­line has just ap­point­ed Lau­rie Glim­ch­er — a pi­o­neer­ing sci­en­tist and a cham­pi­on for ad­vanc­ing women to se­nior po­si­tions in the bio­med­ical world — to its board. Up un­til just 7 days ago, she was al­so on the board of Bris­tol-My­ers Squibb, a trend­set­ter in the block­buster im­muno-on­col­o­gy world. And the move just may say some­thing about GSK CEO Em­ma Walm­s­ley’s ideas about the fu­ture of the com­pa­ny, which now re­port­ed­ly in­clude a plan to re­vamp the pipeline.

Glim­ch­er is the CEO of Dana-Far­ber, one of the most pres­ti­gious can­cer re­search cen­ters in the world. She is al­so a re­searcher who has de­vot­ed a con­sid­er­able amount of lab time to im­muno-on­col­o­gy, a sub­ject she helped cov­er dur­ing her 20 years on the board of Bris­tol-My­ers Squibb, a post which she abrupt­ly jumped out of a week ago with a note about her “re­tire­ment.”

GSK Chair­man Philip Hamp­ton spot­light­ed her “wealth of ex­per­tise in sci­en­tif­ic and med­ical in­no­va­tion” for her new board role as a sci­en­tif­ic and med­ical ex­pert.

GSK com­plet­ed a high-pro­file as­set swap with No­var­tis a few years ago, ex­chang­ing its ma­ture can­cer projects and com­mer­cial prod­ucts with No­var­tis in ex­change for vac­cines. Since then, it’s made lit­tle head­way in the late-stage pipeline out­side of vac­cines and HIV, through its ma­jor­i­ty-owned sub­sidiary Vi­iV. Af­ter the Phase III washout of a slate of ma­jor can­di­dates, GSK slashed its US R&D group in North Car­oli­na as it cut costs and re­grouped. Since then phar­ma R&D has be­come one of its least ex­cit­ing fields, with no big prod­ucts in the late-stage pipeline to ex­cite in­vestors.

Ac­cord­ing to a re­port from Reuters, Walm­s­ley is qui­et­ly plan­ning a re­vamp of the pipeline, look­ing to dump mar­gin­al projects and bring in new ones.

GSK, though, nev­er got out of on­col­o­gy. The phar­ma gi­ant re­tained a sig­nif­i­cant ear­ly-stage R&D group in can­cer, ex­e­cut­ing a part­ner­ship with the UK’s Adap­ti­m­mune. Any move to switch the spot­light back to on­col­o­gy would be a ma­jor change­up in the Big Phar­ma world. So you can ex­pect at least a few peo­ple to be pay­ing close at­ten­tion to this news.

David Meek­er

→ Ra­dius put out the word that it is mak­ing a change at the helm, with long­time CEO Bob Ward out and No­vo US pres­i­dent Jes­per Høi­land step­ping in to or­ches­trate the cam­paign for Ra­dius’ first mar­ket launch. The news ar­rived just af­ter Am­gen an­nounced that the FDA had for­mer­ly re­ject­ed its ri­val os­teo­poro­sis drug.

→ David Meek­er, the for­mer chief of Sanofi-Gen­zyme, has an­oth­er chair­man’s role to fill. This time he’s tak­ing the lead board chair at Tre­vi Ther­a­peu­tics, which just raised a $50 mil­lion C round.  Meek­er was named chair­man of Rhythm in April, fol­low­ing up with a board ap­point­ment at San Fran­cis­co-based MyoKar­dia.

→ My­ovant Sci­ences CEO Lynn Seely has been build­ing out her team. This week she named Matthew Lang as gen­er­al coun­sel and cor­po­rate sec­re­tary; Juan Cami­lo Ar­jona Fer­reira, has joined as chief med­ical of­fi­cer; Tere­sa Per­ney, PhD, has joined as se­nior vice pres­i­dent of reg­u­la­to­ry af­fairs and qual­i­ty as­sur­ance; and An­dria Lan­gen­berg, has joined as head of drug safe­ty and phar­ma­covig­i­lance.

→ Sin­ga­pore-based Tes­sa Ther­a­peu­tics, an on­col­o­gy-fo­cused biotech which re­cent­ly part­nered with the Park­er In­sti­tute, an­nounced the ap­point­ment of Jen­nifer But­ler as chief com­mer­cial of­fi­cer. She’s in charge of build­ing the com­pa­ny’s US op­er­a­tions.

→ Lon­don-based Au­to­lus has been adding to the T-cell team this week. Its new ex­ecs are Christo­pher Vann, chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer; Matthias Alder, chief busi­ness of­fi­cer; Muham­mad Al-Ha­jj, SVP of trans­la­tion­al sci­ence and Nush­mia Khokar, VP of clin­i­cal de­vel­op­ment.

→ Austin-based Ae­glea Bio­Ther­a­peu­tics $AGLE says that David Lowe re­signed as the com­pa­ny’s pres­i­dent, chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer and di­rec­tor, ef­fec­tive im­me­di­ate­ly. An­tho­ny Quinn, has been ap­point­ed to serve as in­ter­im chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer while the com­pa­ny con­ducts a com­pre­hen­sive search for a per­ma­nent chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer.

Vlad Coric (Biohaven)

In an­oth­er dis­ap­point­ment for in­vestors, FDA slaps down Bio­haven’s re­vised ver­sion of an old ALS drug

Biohaven is at risk of making a habit of disappointing its investors. 

Late Friday the biotech $BHVN reported that the FDA had rejected its application for riluzole, an old drug that they had made over into a sublingual formulation that dissolves under the tongue. According to Biohaven, the FDA had a problem with the active ingredient used in a bioequivalence study back in 2017, which they got from the Canadian drugmaker Apotex.

Chas­ing Roche's ag­ing block­buster fran­chise, Am­gen/Al­ler­gan roll out Avastin, Her­ceptin knock­offs at dis­count

Let the long battle for biosimilars in the cancer space begin.

Amgen has launched its Avastin and Herceptin copycats — licensed from the predecessors of Allergan — almost two years after the FDA had stamped its approval on Mvasi (bevacizumab-awwb) and three months after the Kanjinti OK (trastuzumab-anns). While the biotech had been fielding biosimilars in Europe, this marks their first foray in the US — and the first oncology biosimilars in the country.

Seer adds ex-FDA chief Mark Mc­Clel­lan to the board; Her­cules Cap­i­tal makes it of­fi­cial for new CEO Scott Bluestein

→ On the same day it announced a $17.5 million Series C, life sciences and health data company Seer unveiled that it had lured former FDA commissioner and ex-CMS administrator Mark McClellan on to its board. “Mark’s deep understanding of the health care ecosystem and visionary insights on policy reform will be crucial in informing our thinking as we work to bring our liquid biopsy and life sciences products to market,” said Seer chief and founder Omid Farokhzad in a statement.

Daniel O'Day

No­var­tis hands off 3 pre­clin­i­cal pro­grams to the an­tivi­ral R&D mas­ters at Gilead

Gilead CEO Daniel O’Day’s new task hunting up a CSO for the company isn’t stopping the industry’s dominant antiviral player from doing pipeline deals.

The big biotech today snapped up 3 preclinical antiviral programs from pharma giant Novartis, with drugs promising to treat human rhinovirus, influenza and herpes viruses. We don’t know what the upfront is, but the back end has $291 million in milestones baked in.

Vas Narasimhan, AP Images

On a hot streak, No­var­tis ex­ecs run the odds on their two most im­por­tant PhI­II read­outs. Which is 0.01% more like­ly to suc­ceed?

Novartis CEO Vas Narasimhan is living in the sweet spot right now.

The numbers are running a bit better than expected, the pipeline — which he assembled as development chief — is performing and the stock popped more than 4% on Thursday as the executive team ran through their assessment of Q2 performance.

Year-to-date the stock is up 28%, so the investors will be beaming. Anyone looking for chinks in their armor — and there are plenty giving it a shot — right now focus on payer acceptance of their $2.1 million gene therapy Zolgensma, where it’s early days. And CAR-T continues to underperform, but Novartis doesn’t appear to be suffering from it.

So what could go wrong?

Actually, not much. But Tim Anderson at Wolfe pressed Narasimhan and his development chief John Tsai to pick which of two looming Phase III readouts with blockbuster implication had the better odds of success.

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Francesco De Rubertis

Medicxi is rolling out its biggest fund ever to back Eu­rope's top 'sci­en­tists with strange ideas'

Francesco De Rubertis built Medicxi to be the kind of biotech venture player he would have liked to have known back when he was a full time scientist.

“When I was a scientist 20 years ago I would have loved Medicxi,’ the co-founder tells me. It’s the kind of place run by and for investigators, what the Medicxi partner calls “scientists with strange ideas — a platform for the drug hunter and scientific entrepreneur. That’s what I wanted when I was a scientist.”

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Af­ter a decade, Vi­iV CSO John Pot­tage says it's time to step down — and he's hand­ing the job to long­time col­league Kim Smith

ViiV Healthcare has always been something unique in the global drug industry.

Owned by GlaxoSmithKline and Pfizer — with GSK in the lead as majority owner — it was created 10 years ago in a time of deep turmoil for the field as something independent of the pharma giants, but with access to lots of infrastructural support on demand. While R&D at the mother ship inside GSK was souring, a razor-focused ViiV provided a rare bright spot, challenging Gilead on a lucrative front in delivering new combinations that require fewer therapies with a more easily tolerated regimen.

They kept a massive number of people alive who would otherwise have been facing a death sentence. And they made money.

And throughout, John Pottage has been the chief scientific and chief medical officer.

Until now.

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H1 analy­sis: The high-stakes ta­ble in the biotech deals casi­no is pay­ing out some record-set­ting win­nings

For years the big trend among dealmakers at the major players has been centered on ratcheting down upfront payments in favor of bigger milestones. Better known as biobucks for some. But with the top 15 companies competing for the kind of “transformative” pacts that can whip up some excitement on Wall Street, with some big biotechs like Regeneron now weighing in as well, cash is king at the high stakes table.

We asked Chris Dokomajilar, the head of DealForma, to crunch the numbers for us, looking over the top 20 deals for the past decade and breaking it all down into the top alliances already created in 2019. Gilead has clearly tipped the scales in terms of the coin of the bio-realm, with its record-setting $5 billion upfront to tie up to Galapagos’ entire pipeline.

Dokomajilar notes:

We’re going to need a ‘three comma club’ for the deals with over $1 billion in total upfront cash and equity. The $100 million-plus club is getting crowded at 164 deals in the last decade with new deals being added towards the top of the chart. 2019 already has 14 deals with at least $100 million in upfront cash and equity for a total year-to-date of over $9 billion. That beats last year’s $8 billion and sets a record.

Add upfronts and equity payments and you get $11.5 billion for the year, just shy of last year’s record-setting $11.8 billion.

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Part club, part guide, part land­lord: Arie Bellde­grun is blue­print­ing a string of be­spoke biotech com­plex­es in glob­al boom­towns — start­ing with Boston

The biotech industry is getting a landlord, unlike anything it’s ever known before.

Inspired by his recent experiences scrounging for space in Boston and the Bay Area, master biotech builder, investor, and global dealmaker Arie Belldegrun has organized a new venture to build a new, 250,000 square foot biopharma building in Boston’s Seaport district — home to Vertex and a number of up-and-coming biotech players.

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