Pfiz­er on­col­o­gy head Liz Bar­rett jumps ship to No­var­tis as Bruno St­rig­i­ni steps aside

Liz Bar­rett

No­var­tis $NVS has found a suc­ces­sor to out­go­ing on­col­o­gy chief Bruno St­rig­i­ni — at Pfiz­er. Liz Bar­rett, cur­rent glob­al pres­i­dent of on­col­o­gy at Pfiz­er, has been tapped to run the show at No­var­tis.

Bruno St­rig­i­ni

Bar­rett has big shoes to fill. The Swiss drug­mak­er has tak­en up a large pres­ence in can­cer since hir­ing St­rig­i­ni — who’s says he’s re­tir­ing from the in­dus­try al­to­geth­er — from a se­nior Mer­ck po­si­tion in the sum­mer of 2014. Par­tic­u­lar­ly mem­o­rable are its role in spear­head­ing the first CAR-T to hit the mar­ket and the in­te­gra­tion of GSK’s on­col­o­gy port­fo­lio.

But Bar­rett’s CV sug­gests she’s well equipped for the task. A J&J vet­er­an, Bar­rett has been with Pfiz­er $PFE since 2009. Dur­ing the last three years when she was glob­al pres­i­dent of on­col­o­gy, the phar­ma gi­ant has man­aged to ac­com­plish some break­throughs in that field — first launch­ing breast can­cer ther­a­py Ibrance in­to block­buster ter­ri­to­ry, then mak­ing its way in­to the PD-1/L1 race with Mer­ck KGaA-part­nered Baven­cio. A few months ago Pfiz­er won an ac­cel­er­at­ed OK for its CD22-tar­get­ed can­cer drug Be­spon­sa (in­o­tuzum­ab), for which an­a­lysts are pre­dict­ing peak sales of $2 bil­lion.

Andy Schmeltz

Ac­cord­ing to a Pfiz­er spokesper­son, Andy Schmeltz will suc­ceed Bar­rett in run­ning Pfiz­er’s glob­al can­cer drug unit. Schmeltz is cur­rent­ly SVP, pa­tient & health im­pact, with pre­vi­ous ex­pe­ri­ence lead­ing the North Amer­i­ca on­col­o­gy busi­ness dur­ing his 15-year tenure at the com­pa­ny. In that post, he over­saw the launch­es of Xalko­ri, In­ly­ta and Bo­sulif.

“On­col­o­gy re­mains a pri­or­i­ty growth area for Pfiz­er sup­port­ed by ro­bust prod­uct port­fo­lio and de­vel­op­ment pipeline,” the spokesper­son told End­points. “We thank Liz for her con­tri­bu­tions dur­ing her tenure at Pfiz­er.”

The ap­point­ment will bring Bar­rett, who’s cur­rent­ly based in New York City, to Basel, Switzer­land. She’s no stranger to Eu­rope, as she had a short stint in the UK as Pfiz­er’s pres­i­dent in the con­ti­nent.

Vas­ant Narasimhan

She will start on Feb­ru­ary 1, the same day Vas Narasimhan, No­var­tis’ glob­al head of drug de­vel­op­ment, is of­fi­cial­ly el­e­vat­ed as CEO.

“[Liz] has been in­stru­men­tal in cre­at­ing new com­mer­cial mod­els, dri­ving in­no­va­tion in close part­ner­ship with re­search and de­vel­op­ment and lever­ag­ing busi­ness de­vel­op­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties,” Narasimhan said. “Her long-time com­mer­cial phar­ma in­dus­try ex­pe­ri­ence, mar­ket­ing skills and per­spec­tives make Liz a great fit to fur­ther de­vel­op our on­col­o­gy busi­ness.”

Jan Hatzius (Photographer: Christopher Goodney/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

When will it end? Gold­man econ­o­mist gives late-stage vac­cines a good shot at tar­get­ing 'large shares' of the US by mid-2021 — but the down­side is daunt­ing

It took decades for hepatitis B research to deliver a slate of late-stage candidates capable of reining the disease in.

With Covid-19, the same timeline has devoured all of 5 months. And the outcome will influence the lives of billions of people and a multitrillion-dollar world economy.

Count the economists at Goldman Sachs as optimistic that at least one of these leading vaccines will stay on this furiously accelerated pace and get over the regulatory goal line before the end of this year, with a shot at several more near-term OKs. That in turn should lead to the production of billions of doses of vaccines that can created herd immunity in the US by the middle of next year, with Europe following a few months later.

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J&J gets a fresh OK for es­ke­t­a­mine, but is it re­al­ly the game-chang­er for de­pres­sion Trump keeps tweet­ing about?

Backed by an enthusiastic set of tweets from President Trump and a landmark OK for depression, J&J scooped up a new approval from the FDA for Spravato today. But this latest advance will likely bring fresh scrutiny to a drug that’s spurred some serious questions about the data, as well as the price.

First, the approval.

Regulators stamped their OK on the use of Spravato — developed as esketamine, a nasal spray version of the party drug Special K or ketamine — for patients suffering from major depressive disorder with acute suicidal ideation or behavior.

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FDA hands Mor­phoSys and In­cyte a quick OK on their po­ten­tial block­buster CAR-T al­ter­na­tive

Nearly three years after okaying the CAR-Ts Yescarta and Kymriah, the FDA has approved a new CD19 therapy.

MorphoSys’ Monjuvi, or tafasitamab-cxix, was cleared Friday for use in refractory diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DBLCL). The approval sets up both MorphoSys and their commercial partner Incyte to compete with Gilead and Novartis in the ultra-competitive indication, where similar trial results and far easier delivery could allow them to cut a fair share of the market.

Rich Heyman (ARCH)

Rich Hey­man joins PMV Phar­ma, a p53 biotech, as it adds $70 mil­lion in Se­ries D

Less than a year after pulling in an impressive $62 million Series C round, PMV Pharma is back at it again.

The Cranbury, NJ-based biotech announced Monday an additional $70 million in Series D financing as it seeks to develop cancer therapies targeting p53 mutations. Additionally, PMV also introduced longtime biotech entrepreneur Rich Heyman as chairman of the board of directors.

“This financing provides PMV Pharma with the resources to expand our pipeline and to potentially advance multiple p53 therapies into the clinic,” said PMV president and CEO David Mack in a statement.

Covid-19 roundup: Eli Lil­ly retro­fits RVs for first-of-its-kind an­ti­body tri­al with NIH; Am­gen, Ab­b­Vie, Take­da team on a drug

Eli Lilly and the NIH are about to start a first-of-its-kind trial that researchers and developers have talked about for months as a way of providing temporary immunity to the most at-risk populations.

Lilly announced this morning that it will start a 2,400-person trial with the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases to test whether its experimental Covid-19 neutralizing antibody can prevent people in nursing homes and assisted living facilities from developing the disease. The idea, known as passive immunity, is that rather than waiting on a vaccine to induce people to develop antibodies, doctors can give them lab-grown antibodies. Ideally, those antibodies will either attack the new SARS-CoV-2 infection, if the patient has recently been exposed, or persist in the blood for several weeks and prevent infection or disease for that period.

Frank Zhang (AP Images)

CAR-T fil­ing in sight, Frank Zhang grabs full con­trol of J&J-part­nered Leg­end Biotech, steps down from Gen­Script

Two months after Yuan Xu steered Legend Biotech to a $424 million public debut on the Nasdaq, founder and chairman Frank Zhang is grabbing the reins as CEO.

In conjunction with the move, Zhang is also stepping down from the helm of GenScript — a position he’s held for 18 years. GenScript, a Hong Kong-listed CRO, hatched Legend as a subsidiary in 2015 before spinning it out, and remains a majority shareholder.

So Covid-19 leader BioN­Tech has a can­cer vac­cine in de­vel­op­ment? Yes, and Re­gen­eron just jumped in for the PhII com­bo study

Before the coronavirus global emergency stole the R&D show in biopharma, the leaders in the race to develop new mRNA therapies had a big interest in determining if their tech could be used to create an effective cancer vaccine after all the first-gen tries had failed to impress. So perhaps it’s not surprising that an early cut of the data at frontrunner BioNTech went largely unnoticed.

Unless you were at Regeneron.

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Sanofi un­der for­mal in­ves­ti­ga­tion for De­pakine al­le­ga­tions; Beam li­cens­es CAR-T tech from Ox­ford Bio­med­ica

Sanofi is facing a formal investigation on manslaughter charges, due to accusations that its epilepsy drug Depakine caused birth malfunctions and slow neurological development when taken during pregnancy.

The French pharma was formally charged in February, years after evidence surfaced that the drug, sodium valproate, posed neurodevelopmental risks. Sodium valproate first hit the market in 1967 for the treatment of epilepsy and bipolar disorder, and is currently prescribed in more than 100 countries.

Days af­ter seal­ing Sanofi pact, Kymera beats a path to the Nas­daq with $100M IPO pitch

Back in March, when Kymera Therapeutics closed $102 million in Series C funding led by Biotechnology Value Fund and Redmile Group, CEO Nello Mainolfi noted the protein degradation player was “at the cusp of transitioning” into a fully integrated R&D company. Five months and a major Sanofi pact later, he’s back asking for another little push to get there.

Kymera has penciled in $100 million in its first IPO pitch — although given the public market’s seemingly insatiable appetite for biotechs these days the final figure is anyone’s guess.