GSK vac­cine chief heads for AIDS vac­cine ini­tia­tive; Pfiz­er en­lists Sue Desmond-Hell­mann to its board of di­rec­tors

Rip Bal­lou

Rip Bal­lou, who un­til very re­cent­ly led vac­cine re­search and de­vel­op­ment at Glax­o­SmithK­line, is join­ing the In­ter­na­tion­al AIDS Vac­cine Ini­tia­tive (IAVI) to lead its US­AID-fund­ed AD­VANCE pro­gram. The pro­gram us­es a net­work of re­searchers and in­sti­tu­tions in Africa to help de­vel­op a vac­cine for HIV. Bal­lou had worked at GSK since 2010 and has led glob­al vac­cine R&D since 2015. Pri­or to that he held posts at the Bill & Melin­da Gates Foun­da­tion, a dif­fer­ent post at GSK, Med­im­mune, and Wal­ter Reed Army In­sti­tute of Re­search.  IAVI is led by Mark Fein­berg, the for­mer CSO of Mer­ck Vac­cines. 

→ As we re­port­ed yes­ter­day, Sue Desmond-Hell­mann has been elect­ed to Pfiz­er’s board of di­rec­tors along­side a ver­i­ta­ble who’s-who that in­cludes Co­ca-Co­la CEO James Quincey and for­mer FDA chief Scott Got­tlieb. Desmond-Hell­mann was CEO of the Bill & Melin­da Gates Foun­da­tion from 2014 un­til she an­nounced her de­par­ture in De­cem­ber, and be­fore sign­ing on there, was chan­cel­lor of the Uni­ver­si­ty of Cal­i­for­nia, San Fran­cis­co. In her 14-year tenure at Genen­tech, she led the de­vel­op­ment of two land­mark can­cer drugs, Avastin and Her­ceptin.

Lo­cana, which con­cen­trates on an RNA-tar­get­ing gene ther­a­py plat­form, has ap­point­ed Mic­ah Mack­i­son as its CBO. Mack­i­son leaves As­sem­bly Bio­sciences, where he was SVP, cor­po­rate de­vel­op­ment & strat­e­gy since 2015. He had been at a cor­nu­copia of bio­phar­ma play­ers be­fore As­sem­bly: H. Lund­beck A/S, as head of cor­po­rate strat­e­gy and se­nior di­rec­tor, new ven­tures; Ova­tion Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals, as di­rec­tor, cor­po­rate de­vel­op­ment and M&A; and fi­nan­cial roles at Eli Lil­ly and Pfiz­er.

Mic­ah Mack­i­son

Jesse Mc­Cool has been pro­mot­ed to CEO of Cy­to­vance Bi­o­log­ics, a CD­MO that de­vel­ops and man­u­fac­tures ac­tive phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal in­gre­di­ents (APIs) from both mam­malian cell cul­ture and mi­cro­bial fer­men­ta­tion. He re­places Yan Wang, who is step­ping down from the in­ter­im CEO post. Mc­Cool, who was pre­vi­ous­ly chief tech­nol­o­gy of­fi­cer at Ok­la­homa City-based Cy­to­vance, al­so held po­si­tions at Lon­za and Mas­co­ma Corp.

Owl­stone Med­ical gets a breath of fresh air as it wel­comes Neil Tween as its CFO. Owl­stone is the de­vel­op­er of Breath Biop­sy, which acts as a breath­a­lyz­er to mea­sure chem­i­cals in the breath for ear­ly dis­ease de­tec­tion and pre­ci­sion med­i­cine. Tween jumps to Owl­stone from GW Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals, where he was VP and group fi­nan­cial con­troller. He al­so spent time at Jagex and De­loitte.

Neil Tween Owl­stone

→ Seneca Bio­phar­ma has made some new changes to its lead­er­ship team. The com­pa­ny wel­comed Matthew Kalnik as pres­i­dent and COO and Dane Saglio as CFO. In ad­di­tion, Seneca pro­mot­ed Thomas Hazel — who joined the com­pa­ny in 1998 — to the new po­si­tion of SVP of re­search and de­vel­op­ment. Kalnik joins the com­pa­ny from An­ti­dote Ther­a­peu­tics and held po­si­tions at Pfiz­er and Nabi Bio­phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals. Pre­vi­ous­ly, Saglio served as the CFO of Re­gen­eRx Bio­phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals.

→ AAV gene ther­a­py de­vel­op­er Stride­Bio has added Mar­itza McIn­tyre to its ex­ec­u­tive team as chief de­vel­op­ment of­fi­cer. McIn­tyre brings more than 20 years of ex­pe­ri­ence in the in­dus­try to the Re­search Tri­an­gle-based biotech. The for­mer pres­i­dent of Ad­vanced Ther­a­pies Part­ners, she al­so held VP po­si­tions at Bam­boo Ther­a­peu­tics and Re­genxbio, and was al­so chief of the gene ther­a­py branch at the FDA.

→ Af­ter a short stint at Gy­ro­scope Ther­a­peu­tics, Lau­ra Ro­ca-Alon­so has made the leap to CBO at the AI drug dis­cov­ery biotech e-ther­a­peu­tics. She was Gy­ro­scope’s di­rec­tor of busi­ness de­vel­op­ment, and be­fore that, she had a num­ber of roles at Si­lence Ther­a­peu­tics, most re­cent­ly as VP, head of cor­po­rate de­vel­op­ment.

Mar­itza McIn­tyre

→ Chi­na-based bi­o­log­ics de­vel­op­er and man­u­fac­tur­er CMAB Bio­phar­ma has tapped Ye Shi as the head of qual­i­ty. Be­fore mak­ing the leap to CMAB, Shi served as deputy gen­er­al man­ag­er and qual­i­ty as­sur­ance di­rec­tor at QILU Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal. In ad­di­tion, Shi held posts at the PDI Com­pa­ny and Im­munomedics.

Joseph Mc­Crack­en has hopped aboard Lu­mos Phar­ma‘s board of di­rec­tors. Mc­Crack­en brings ex­pe­ri­ence from stints at Roche, Genen­tech and Aven­tis Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals. In ad­di­tion, the com­pa­ny has tapped its CEO Rick Hawkins as chair­man of the board.

→ For­mer pres­i­dent of Pfiz­er On­col­o­gy Gar­ry Nichol­son has joined NextCure‘s board of di­rec­tors. In ad­di­tion, board mem­ber Tim­o­thy Shan­non will be step­ping down from his po­si­tion.

Kim Popovits, for­mer CEO of Ge­nom­ic Health, is join­ing the board of di­rec­tors of se­quenc­ing com­pa­ny 10x Ge­nomics.  Popovits al­so serves on the boards of Kiniksa Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals and MyoKar­dia.

5AM Ven­tures: Fu­el­ing the Next Gen­er­a­tion of In­no­va­tors

By RBC Capital Markets
With Andy Schwab, Co-Founder and Managing Partner at 5AM Ventures

Key Points

Prescription Digital Therapeutics, cell therapy technologies, and in silico medicines will be a vital part of future treatment modalities.
Unlocking the potential of the microbiome could be the missing link to better disease diagnosis.
Growing links between academia, industry, and venture capital are spinning out more innovative biotech companies.
Biotech is now seen by investors as a growth space as well as a safe haven, fuelling the recent IPO boom.

Hal Barron, GSK via YouTube

What does $29B buy you in Big Phar­ma? In Glax­o­SmithK­line’s case, a whole lot of un­com­fort­able ques­tions about the pipeline

Talk about your bad timing.

A little over a week ago, GSK R&D chief Hal Barron marked his third anniversary at the research helm by taking a turn at the virtual podium during JP Morgan to make the case that he and his team had built a valuable late-stage pipeline capable of churning out more than 10 blockbusters in the next 5 years.

And then, just days later, one of the cancer drugs he bet big on as a top prospect — bintrafusp, partnered with Merck KGaA — failed its first pivotal test in non-small cell lung cancer.

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Eli Lil­ly's an­ti­body cuts risk of Covid-19 by up to 80% among the most vul­ner­a­ble — but will it have a place next to vac­cines?

Eli Lilly says bamlanivimab lowered the risk of contracting symptomatic Covid-19 in a first-of-its-kind trial involving nursing home residents and staff, paving the way for a new option to protect against the virus.

But how big of an impact it might have, and what role it will play, at a time vaccines are being rolled out to the exact population it is targeting still remains unclear.

Among 965 participants in the study — all of whom tested negative for the coronavirus at baseline — the number of symptomatic cases reported in the bamlanivimab arm was 57% lower than that in the placebo arm (odds ratio 0.43, p=0.00021). In addition to that primary endpoint, all secondary endpoints reached statistical significance.

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Janet Woodcock (AP Images)

End­points poll: Janet Wood­cock takes the (in­ter­im) helm at the FDA. And a large ma­jor­i­ty of our read­ers want her to stay there

It’s official: Janet Woodcock is now the acting chief of the FDA.

And — according to an Endpoints poll — most industry readers would like her to stay there, although a significant minority is strongly opposed.

To recap: Joe Biden is reportedly choosing between Woodcock and former deputy FDA commissioner Joshua Sharfstein as his nominee for the permanent position. Given their respective track records, the decision is set to determine the agency’s lodestar for years to come.

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What’s next for End­points — and how to sup­port our in­de­pen­dent bio­phar­ma news mis­sion

The firehose of biopharma news is gushing these days.

That’s why broader and deeper is the theme for 2021 at Endpoints. You can expect new coverage outside our core R&D focus, with deeper reporting in some key areas. When John Carroll and I launched Endpoints nearly five years ago, we were wading in waist-high waters. Now we’re a team of 25 full-time staffers (and growing) with plans to cover the flood of biopharma news, Endpoints-style.

Charlie Fuchs, Roche and Genentech global head of product development for oncology and hematology (Yale Cancer Center)

Yale can­cer spe­cial­ist Char­lie Fuchs tapped as new glob­al de­vel­op­ment chief for Roche/Genen­tech

Roche and their big sub Genentech have just recruited a top cancer specialist at Yale to head up global product development in oncology and hematology.

I just got word that the pharma giant, which leads one of the most active cancer research operations in the world, recruited Charlie Fuchs, director of the Yale Cancer Center and physician-in-chief of Smilow Cancer Hospital. He’ll join the global operation March 1 and will be based in South San Francisco, where Genentech is based.

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Jonathan Weissman (MIT)

Can a new CRISPR tech­nique un­lock the se­crets of how can­cer spreads?

Jonathan Weissman’s team watched the cancer cells spread across the doomed mouse. Engineered with a bioluminescent enzyme, they appeared in scans first as a small navy blue diamond lodged near the heart; a week later, as a triangle splayed across the mouse’s upper body, with streaks of green and two distinct bright red hubs of activity. By day 54, the mouse resembled a lava lamp.

The images would have been familiar to any cancer biologist, but they didn’t actually tell you much about what was going on: why the cancer was metastasizing or which cells were responsible. For that, Weissman’s team had designed a new tool. Inside the original navy blue diamond, they had engineered the microbiological equivalent of an airplane’s black box — a “molecular recorder” that, after the mouse’s death, could allow them to extract the cells and wind back intimate footage of a single cancer’s ascent.

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Diem Nguyen tapped to lead 'point of in­flec­tion' at Xalud Ther­a­peu­tics; Di­ana Es­co­lar dances her way to Avro­bio CMO

Diem Nguyen considers herself a “point of inflection seer.”

Helping businesses strategize and scale up is “where my sweet spot is,” the Pfizer veteran said. So when she was tapped to take the helm at gene therapy-focused Xalud Therapeutics, she knew it would be a great fit.

Xalud, founded in 2009 and headquartered in New York City, is working on non-viral gene therapies to treat pathologic inflammation. The company’s lead candidate, XT-150, is a locally injectable plasmid DNA gene therapy expressing Interleukin 10 (IL-10) — an upstream modulator for many pro-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory mediators.

Janet Woodcock and Joshua Sharfstein (AP, Images)

Poll: Should Joshua Sharf­stein or Janet Wood­cock lead the FDA from here?

It’s time for a new FDA commissioner to come on board, a rite of passage for Joe Biden’s administration that should help seal the new president’s rep on seeking out the experts to lead the government over the next 4 years.

As of now, the competition for the top job appears to have narrowed down to 2 people: The longtime CDER chief Janet Woodcock and Joshua Sharfstein, the former principal deputy at the FDA under Peggy Hamburg. Both were appointed by Barack Obama.