Re­cur­sion CSO heads west for mi­ni-brain up­start; No­var­tis vet steps up to the plate as CFO for An­drew Hirsch at C4 Ther­a­peu­tics

Sharath Hegde

A few months ago, as Re­cur­sion ham­mered out an IPO that would val­ue them at over $3 bil­lion, its CSO, Sharath Hegde, hopped on a plane and flew to San Fran­cis­co to vis­it a small, mod­est­ly backed start­up, work­ing out of an un­marked ware­house be­tween a brew­ery and an air-con­di­tion­ing sell­er off the high­way.

Hegde had joined Re­cur­sion in June 2019, a month be­fore they hauled in a $121 mil­lion Se­ries C. It was an odd choice for the AI biotech. Re­cur­sion claimed they could re­make the drug in­dus­try by gen­er­at­ing huge datasets from their au­to­mat­ed labs and run­ning them through state of-the-art ma­chine learn­ing al­go­rithms. Hegde was an old-fash­ioned drug dis­cov­er­er, a phar­ma­col­o­gist who had spent the last 20 years play­ing with mol­e­cules the tra­di­tion­al way at Ther­a­vance.

As Re­cur­sion ad­vanced drugs in­to the clin­ic and to­ward the FDA, though, they want­ed a chief sci­en­tist who had done it be­fore. And Hegde says he took quick­ly to the new en­vi­ron­ment, even if it took a while to learn what the com­put­er sci­en­tists were talk­ing about, their slang and shop-talk. “I’m a very an­a­lyt­i­cal phar­ma­col­o­gist. I be­lieve in ap­ply­ing quan­ti­ta­tive sci­ences to any­thing and every­thing,” he says. “So the da­ta sci­en­tists and com­put­er sci­en­tists, they’re not a prob­lem, they think an­a­lyt­i­cal­ly just like I do.”

Then in the win­ter, a mu­tu­al ac­quain­tance put him in touch with Saul Ka­to, a neu­ro­sci­en­tist at UC-San Fran­cis­co who had spun out a small com­pa­ny ded­i­cat­ed to find­ing cures for neu­rode­gen­er­a­tive dis­eases. Called Herophilus, they re­ceived $25 mil­lion from Pfiz­er’s VC unit and oth­ers in 2018 and since built out a garage lab by the Mis­sion in San Fran­cis­co. Would Hegde want to come out?

In­side the ware­house, Hegde found a large, dim­ly lit hall, where sleek white ta­bles, lap­tops, and shelves en­cir­cled a glass box about the size of a bed­room, with pipe run­ning in and out of it and an ar­ray of com­plex ma­chin­ery. Ro­bot­ic arms moved around and var­i­ous ex­per­i­ments on 96-well plates con­tained what looked like any or­di­nary cell cul­ture but were minia­ture “brains”: cells ex­tract­ed from pa­tients with dev­as­tat­ing neu­rode­gen­er­a­tive dis­eases, chem­i­cal­ly re­vert­ed in­to stem cells, and then re­grown in­to 3-D organoids meant to mim­ic those pa­tients’ con­di­tions.

The promise of this ap­proach, al­ready play­ing out for oth­er or­gans and oth­er dis­eases, was that re­searchers would study con­di­tions like Alzheimer’s and Parkin­son’s with a nim­ble­ness and, in the­o­ry, a fi­deli­ty to the ac­tu­al dis­ease you can’t get from sim­ple flat cell cul­tures or the oft-crit­i­cized an­i­mal mod­els phar­ma has re­lied on through decades of failed neu­ro­science re­search. “They pre­serve the cy­to ar­chi­tec­ture” — which cell types are lo­cat­ed where — “the spa­tial ar­chi­tec­ture, the cel­lu­lar cross-talk and al­so the cel­lu­lar di­ver­si­ty which is in­trin­sic to the brain,” Hegde says of the organoids. “This is some­thing the 2D mod­els and an­i­mal mod­els do not re­ca­pit­u­late.”

Re­ly­ing, like Re­cur­sion, on new an­a­lyt­i­cal and ma­chine learn­ing tools to an­a­lyze these mi­ni-brains, Herophilus hopes to come up with new tar­gets and new treat­ments for dis­eases like Alzheimer’s and fron­totem­po­ral de­men­tia. Hegde, tak­en by the ap­proach and af­fect­ed in his per­son­al life by these dev­as­tat­ing con­di­tions, will now help Ka­to and his team, leav­ing the CSO gig at the buzzy, and now mon­strous­ly backed Re­cur­sion to be CSO of a lit­tle-known biotech he says he be­lieves in.

The com­pa­ny, now at 30 em­ploy­ees, is work­ing on a lead pro­gram for the rare ge­net­ic dis­ease Rett syn­drome, while team­ing with a phar­ma part­ner on Alzheimer’s, though they have yet to re­lease specifics on their ap­proach. Be­fore Re­cur­sion, Hegde some­times evinced skep­ti­cism about ma­chine learn­ing or AI, won­der­ing whether the tools were pow­er­ful. Now, he says, the field has reached a tip­ping point.

“This is the way to do it, to dis­cov­er drugs for neu­ro­log­i­cal dis­eases,” he says. “And it’s not go­ing to be easy, but this is the way to do it.”

— Ja­son Mast


Lau­ren White

An­drew Hirsch’s first move away from Agios was tak­ing com­mand at C4 Ther­a­peu­tics, swift­ly guid­ing them to a hefty IPO that closed near $210 mil­lion less than a month in­to the job. In C4’s next big lead­er­ship change, Bill Mc­K­ee will no longer be in­ter­im CFO and No­var­tis alum Lau­ren White will be his per­ma­nent re­place­ment start­ing June 21. White has spent the last four years as VP and glob­al head of busi­ness plan­ning and analy­sis at No­var­tis In­sti­tutes for Bio­Med­ical Re­search and 11 years with the phar­ma gi­ant over­all. Mc­K­ee shifts to a con­sul­tan­cy role af­ter hold­ing the in­ter­im po­si­tion since last March.

Omar Khwa­ja

Lu­ca Santarel­li’s Vec­tivBio has ap­point­ed Omar Khwa­ja as CMO and Chris­t­ian Mey­er as the com­pa­ny’s first COO. The Swiss-based biotech poached Khwa­ja from em­bat­tled Voy­ager Ther­a­peu­tics — which has been be­set by prob­lems with its gene ther­a­py pro­grams and is re­cal­i­brat­ing af­ter CEO An­dre Turenne’s de­par­ture — serv­ing as CMO and R&D chief since April 2019. Dur­ing his time at Roche, Khwa­ja was glob­al head of rare dis­eases and neu­ro­science trans­la­tion­al med­i­cine.

A No­vo Nordisk vet, Mey­er grabs hold of the new­ly-cre­at­ed role af­ter be­ing CMO with Santarel­li at Ther­a­chon, as well as with uniQure and Car­doz.

John Ed­wards

→ Macrophage-fo­cused Verseau Ther­a­peu­tics, co-found­ed by Bob Langer, has tapped John Ed­wards as CEO, suc­ceed­ing Chris­tine Bunt. Ed­wards, the ex­ec­u­tive chair at Abcuro — which pulled in what they called a Se­ries A-1 worth $42 mil­lion in Jan­u­ary — was al­so the ex­ec­u­tive chair­man at F-star and Ti­los Ther­a­peu­tics, a biotech that Mer­ck gob­bled up for $773 mil­lion two years ago. Fur­ther back, Ed­wards was COO of Ad­nexus, and af­ter Bris­tol My­ers Squibb bought the com­pa­ny in 2007, he be­came Ad­nexus’ pres­i­dent.

Jonas Hannes­tad

→ Found­ed by Stan­ford’s Ed En­gle­man, led by CEO San­jay Kakkar and fo­cused on neu­rode­gen­er­a­tion, Cal­i­for­nia-based Tran­quis Ther­a­peu­tics has re­cruit­ed Fred­er­ic God­deris as COO and Jonas Hannes­tad as CMO. God­deris, who co-found­ed and helmed LARRK Bio, had a near­ly 19-year run at J&J and was al­so glob­al head of R&D op­er­a­tions at Jazz Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals. Un­til this ap­point­ment, Hannes­tad was SVP of clin­i­cal de­vel­op­ment at Alka­h­est and has al­so been med­ical di­rec­tor at De­nali and di­rec­tor of neu­ro­science dis­cov­ery med­i­cine at UCB. Tran­quis de­buted last sum­mer with a $30 mil­lion launch round.

Ma­gen­ta Ther­a­peu­tics — fo­cused on steer­ing its stem cell trans­plant hope­fuls through ear­ly-stage hu­man tri­als — has an­nounced that their CMO and head of R&D John Davis is hit­ting the ex­it for “fam­i­ly rea­sons.” Davis joined the Cam­bridge, MA-based com­pa­ny in Feb­ru­ary 2018. Pri­or to his role at Ma­gen­ta, Davis served in roles at Pfiz­er, Genen­tech and Bax­al­ta — where he was for­mer­ly glob­al area head of im­munol­o­gy. Davis will re­main on the com­pa­ny’s sci­en­tif­ic ad­vi­so­ry board.

Alex Kel­ly

Alex Kel­ly graces Peer Re­view with his pres­ence in this space again, get­ting the bump to CFO at off-the-shelf CAR-T play­er Pre­ci­sion Bio­Sciences af­ter serv­ing on an in­ter­im ba­sis since De­cem­ber and first hit­ting the scene in Oc­to­ber as chief cor­po­rate af­fairs of­fi­cer. Kel­ly — who re­places Abid Ansari — did in­vestor re­la­tions work at No­var­tis, Scher­ing-Plough (and then Mer­ck af­ter the merg­er), and Bausch + Lomb, and then spent five years at Al­ler­gan as EVP, cor­po­rate af­fairs and chief com­mu­ni­ca­tions of­fi­cer while serv­ing as pres­i­dent of the Al­ler­gan Foun­da­tion. Else­where at Pre­ci­sion Bio­Sciences, the in­ter­im tag has al­so been re­moved for prin­ci­pal ac­count­ing of­fi­cer Shane Bar­ton, adding to his re­spon­si­bil­i­ties as VP and cor­po­rate con­troller.

Pe­ter Mc­Na­ma­ra is head­ed to Tec­ton­ic Ther­a­peu­ticTim Springer’s new start­up cen­tered on GPCRs (G pro­tein-cou­pled re­cep­tors) with CEO Alise Re­icin adding to the star wattage — as SVP, head of re­search. Since 2005, Mc­Na­ma­ra had filled a num­ber of roles at Ge­nomics In­sti­tute of the No­var­tis Re­search Foun­da­tion, the most re­cent of which was head of bio­ther­a­peu­tics and biotech­nol­o­gy. In the nine years pre­ced­ing this, he was GNF’s head of phar­ma­col­o­gy and head of gen­er­al med­ical bi­ol­o­gy in suc­ces­sion.

Brent Pfeif­f­en­berg­er

→ Af­ter ris­ing through the ranks in a ca­reer at Bris­tol My­ers that spanned close to 19 years, Brent Pfeif­f­en­berg­er is mov­ing on to a new chap­ter as COO at Carsten Lin­ne­mann’s Neo­gene Ther­a­peu­tics, helped in part by Arie Bellde­grun and David Chang in its mas­sive $110 mil­lion Se­ries A. Start­ing out in sales com­mu­ni­ca­tions at BMS in 2002, Pfeif­f­en­berg­er con­tin­u­al­ly vault­ed to high­er po­si­tions, even­tu­al­ly be­ing named head of US on­col­o­gy at the phar­ma gi­ant in 2019 af­ter some time as gen­er­al man­ag­er in Aus­tralia and New Zealand. Pfeif­f­en­berg­er will be based out of Neo­gene’s San­ta Mon­i­ca head­quar­ters.

Part­ner­ing with No­var­tis on de­vel­op­ing new TCRs and fil­ing for an IPO last month, TScan has pegged Bill Des­marais as CBO. Des­marais moves on to TScan af­ter be­ing in­flu­en­tial in the J&J ac­qui­si­tion as VP, busi­ness de­vel­op­ment at Mo­men­ta and 11 years in busi­ness de­vel­op­ment and R&D with Eli Lil­ly. Ear­li­er this month, Bri­an Sil­ver’s CFO tenure at TScan got un­der­way af­ter hold­ing the same po­si­tion at Free­line.

One more TScan note: Long­time No­var­tis alum Gabriela Gruia has made a path to the board of di­rec­tors, while ex-Sepra­cor CEO Tim­o­thy Bar­berich has been named chair­man.

Sumathi Siva­palasingam

Franz Gern­er has been giv­en the dual roles of chief tech­nol­o­gy of­fi­cer & head of man­u­fac­tur­ing at Ex­ci­sion Bio­Ther­a­peu­tics, just weeks af­ter Chris­tine Sil­ver­stein stepped in­to the CFO role at the CRISPR play­er. Since 2019 Gern­er had been VP, tech­ni­cal op­er­a­tions at Sio Gene Ther­a­pies, once known as Ax­o­vant Gene Ther­a­pies, and as part of five years at Re­genxbio, he was se­nior di­rec­tor of tech­ni­cal in­no­va­tion and new tech­nolo­gies.

Ex­ci­sion has al­so ush­ered in Sumathi Siva­palasingam as head of trans­la­tion­al med­i­cine. Siva­palasingam hails from Re­gen­eron, hav­ing been the New York biotech’s se­nior di­rec­tor in ear­ly clin­i­cal de­vel­op­ment and ex­per­i­men­tal sci­ences.

→ Shang­hai-based bis­pe­cif­ic an­ti­body biotech EpimAb Bio­ther­a­peu­tics has turned to Jer­ry Su to be chief tech­nol­o­gy of­fi­cer. Su had been CEO of Zhe­jiang Hua­hai Bio­phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals in Hangzhou, and he brings R&D, man­u­fac­tur­ing and CMC ex­per­tise from Pfiz­er, Gen­zyme, Mer­ck and WuXi Bi­o­log­ics. In March, EpimAb racked up $120 mil­lion in a Se­ries C haul, bring­ing its three-round to­tal to $219 mil­lion.

Tim Kel­ly

→ CNS-fo­cused Prax­is Pre­ci­sion Med­i­cines has hand­ed CFO du­ties to Tim Kel­ly. A Roche and Genen­tech fi­nance alum, Kel­ly comes to Prax­is af­ter two years as CFO at Foun­da­tion Med­i­cine. In March, The FDA lift­ed the clin­i­cal hold that was placed in No­vem­ber for the de­pres­sion drug PRAX-114, and the Cam­bridge, MA biotech scored an or­phan drug des­ig­na­tion one month lat­er with PRAX-562 for SCN2A de­vel­op­ment and epilep­tic en­cephalopa­thy (SCN2A-DEE).

Stephen Palmer

Mer­ck KGaA vet Stephen Palmer has signed on as CSO of New York-based women’s health biotech Cel­matix, plac­ing its em­pha­sis on ovar­i­an bi­ol­o­gy with its AMHR2 ag­o­nist pro­gram. Af­ter his work at the Ger­man phar­ma as glob­al head of re­pro­duc­tive health re­search, Palmer was sci­en­tif­ic founder and CSO of To­co­pheRx, which fo­cused on male and fe­male in­fer­til­i­ty treat­ments. He’s al­so been an as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor and di­rec­tor of lead dis­cov­ery and de­vel­op­ment at Bay­lor Col­lege of Med­i­cine’s Cen­ter for Drug Dis­cov­ery.

→ ALS-cen­tered QurAlis is mak­ing sev­er­al ap­point­ments with Vikas Shar­ma (CBO), Shirley Lasch (se­nior di­rec­tor of pro­gram man­age­ment) and Tim O’Brien (se­nior di­rec­tor of fi­nance) all jump­ing on board. Shar­ma comes to the Cam­bridge, MA biotech af­ter al­most three years as BioX­cel’s VP, busi­ness de­vel­op­ment, and was di­rec­tor of busi­ness de­vel­op­ment at Macro­Gen­ics from 2015-18. Lasch was pre­vi­ous­ly di­rec­tor of clin­i­cal op­er­a­tions at XingImag­ing, while O’Brien’s cred­its in­clude stops as con­troller at In­otek Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals and di­rec­tor of fi­nan­cial plan­ning & analy­sis for Parex­el.

Muham­mad Al-Ha­jj

→ Copen­hagen’s IO Biotech, with €127 mil­lion ($154.5 mil­lion) worth of Se­ries B fund­ing at its dis­pos­al and a BTD in un­re­sectable or metasta­t­ic melanoma, has brought on Muham­mad Al-Ha­jj as CSO. Al-Ha­jj, who has Big Phar­ma on­col­o­gy R&D ex­pe­ri­ence from Glax­o­SmithK­line, As­traZeneca and No­var­tis, has spent the last four years as SVP, trans­la­tion­al sci­ences at Au­to­lus.

Launch­ing in De­cem­ber with a $20 mil­lion Se­ries A and tar­get­ing skele­tal dis­eases like spondy­loepi­phy­seal dys­pla­sia con­geni­ta — the sec­ond lead­ing cause of dwarfism — In­noskel has made David Favre CSO and Saman­tha Park­er chief pa­tient ac­cess of­fi­cer. Favre be­comes chief sci­en­tist at the Nice, France-based biotech af­ter leav­ing AskBio as VP, trans­la­tion­al med­i­cine, and he was GSK’s di­rec­tor, HIV bi­ol­o­gy, drug dis­cov­ery for im­mune ther­a­py and cure from 2012-18. Park­er was pre­vi­ous­ly the chief pa­tient ac­cess of­fi­cer for Lyso­gene.

Kia Mote­sharei

→ Peren­ni­al Peer Re­view oc­cu­pant NeuBase Ther­a­peu­tics out of Pitts­burgh has paved the way for Kia Mote­sharei to be chief busi­ness and strat­e­gy of­fi­cer. Mote­sharei briefly passed through Akcea Ther­a­peu­tics as SVP, busi­ness de­vel­op­ment & cor­po­rate strat­e­gy, get­ting hired just be­fore Io­n­is bought back the com­pa­ny. He has al­so led glob­al li­cens­ing and busi­ness de­vel­op­ment in neu­rol­o­gy & im­munol­o­gy at Mer­ck KGaA sub­sidiary EMD Serono. In less than a year, NeuBase has al­so named a new COO (William Mann), CSO (Curt Brad­shaw) and CMO (San­dra Ro­jas-Caro, last week).

→ With KRAS among their tar­gets, Sung Joo Lee’s Orum Ther­a­peu­tics has ap­point­ed Jae Won Kim as CFO. Kim had spent the last eight years at Citi, wrap­ping up her time as di­rec­tor on their health­care in­vest­ment bank­ing team. “RAS is such a huge space there’s a pock­et for every sort of play­er,” Lee told End­points News lead­ing up to Orum’s $30 mil­lion Se­ries B. “We’re not fo­cused on one mu­ta­tion. We’re not small mol­e­cule; we’re an­ti­body. We’re go­ing af­ter some­thing more com­pre­hen­sive.

Rachel Cer­vantes

→ Buck­le up for an ex­ten­sive list of ap­point­ments at Jonathan Lim’s can­cer biotech Eras­ca: Bri­an Bak­er (SVP of fi­nance) had logged al­most four years as Turn­ing Point’s SVP, fi­nance and ad­min­is­tra­tion; Rachel Cer­vantes (VP of busi­ness de­vel­op­ment) is a Mer­ck and In­ovio vet who was head of busi­ness de­vel­op­ment at GW Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals; Nik Chetwyn (SVP of op­er­a­tions) has a Big Phar­ma back­ground that in­cludes GSK and Pfiz­er, and he led small mol­e­cule drug de­vel­op­ment dur­ing his 12 years at Genen­tech; and Ebun Gar­ner (gen­er­al coun­sel and cor­po­rate sec­re­tary) has le­gal ex­pe­ri­ence from Neu­ro­crine, Im­bria and Aca­dia.

Ebun Gar­ner

But wait, there’s more: Chan­dra Love­joy (SVP, reg­u­la­to­ry af­fairs) was pre­vi­ous­ly a reg­u­la­to­ry ex­ec with G1 Ther­a­peu­tics; Min­li Xie (VP of phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal de­vel­op­ment and op­er­a­tions) was with My­ovant in its in­fan­cy, tak­ing con­trol of CMC ac­tiv­i­ties; Like Bak­er, Dawei Xu­an (VP of clin­i­cal phar­ma­col­o­gy) is a Turn­ing Point vet who held the same ti­tle there for two years; and last but cer­tain­ly not least, Jing Yi (VP of da­ta sci­ence) comes to Eras­ca af­ter al­most 15 years in prod­uct de­vel­op­ment and bio­sta­tis­tics at Roche/Genen­tech.

Napo Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals — a sub­sidiary of Jaguar Healthhas en­list­ed Dar­lene Hor­ton as CMO. Hor­ton comes aboard with CMO ex­pe­ri­ence from Co­herus Bio­sciences, Itero Bio­phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals, and SMC Biotech­nol­o­gy. In ad­di­tion to those roles, Hor­ton was CEO at Nile Ther­a­peu­tics and Tu­lang­Co.

Kathryn Gre­go­ry

→ Found­ed by chair­man and CEO Jay Mei af­ter his time at Cel­gene, An­ten­gene has wel­comed Kathryn Gre­go­ry as VP and head of cor­po­rate busi­ness de­vel­op­ment. Gre­go­ry co-found­ed Seneb Bio­Sciences in 2009 and was the com­pa­ny’s CBO and CEO. Turn­ing to the present, she has been an ex­ec­u­tive ad­vi­sor at re­Vi­sion Ther­a­peu­tics and since 2019 was CBO of Aileron Ther­a­peu­tics. Along with Gre­go­ry, Mei has con­tin­ued to build his staff in 2021 with such ad­di­tions as CSO Bo Shan and CMO Kevin Lynch.

→ Los An­ge­les-based Ace­lyrin has pulled in Paul Peloso as the com­pa­ny’s CMO. Peloso hops aboard from Hori­zon Ther­a­peu­tics, where he served as VP and ther­a­peu­tic area head for rheuma­tol­ogy. Pri­or to that, Peloso was group med­ical di­rec­tor at Ab­b­Vie and group med­ical di­rec­tor, clin­i­cal de­vel­op­ment at Mer­ck.

Bradley Perkins

→ Right at the tail end of rak­ing in $165 mil­lion from a Se­ries B fund­ing round, liq­uid biop­sy com­pa­ny Kar­ius has named Bradley Perkins as CMO. Perkins joins the Red­wood City, CA-based com­pa­ny from The Com­mons Pro­ject Foun­da­tion, where he was co-founder and CMO. Pri­or to that, he was with Sapi­ens Da­ta Sci­ence and Hu­man Longevi­ty. Ad­di­tion­al­ly, Perkins was chief strat­e­gy and in­no­va­tion of­fi­cer for the CDC.

→ In a year that has seen Shan­non Blalock get pro­mot­ed to steer the com­pa­ny, among oth­er ex­ec­u­tive hires, New­port Beach, CA eye dis­ease biotech jCyte has en­list­ed John Shol­ar as gen­er­al coun­sel. Shol­ar rep­re­sent­ed phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pa­nies as a part­ner at Husch Black­well be­fore he be­came head of North Amer­i­can le­gal with San­ten Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals and glob­al head of le­gal and cor­po­rate sec­re­tary for San­ten Ven­tures.

Marie Bernard

→ NIH health di­rec­tor Fran­cis Collins has tapped Marie Bernard as the NIH’s chief of­fi­cer for sci­en­tif­ic work­force di­ver­si­ty (COSWD), suc­ceed­ing re­tir­ing COSWD Han­nah Valan­tine. Bernard is the found­ing mem­ber of the di­ver­si­ty work­ing group and NIH Eq­ui­ty Com­mit­tee, as well as co-chair of the NIH In­clu­sion Gov­er­nance Com­mit­tee. In ad­di­tion, Bernard leads the Women of Col­or Com­mit­tee of the Work­ing Group on Women in Bio­med­ical Ca­reers. Be­sides her roles at the NIH, Bernard served as the NIA’s se­nior geri­a­tri­cian and prin­ci­pal ad­vi­sor to the NIA di­rec­tor.

Re­lief Ther­a­peu­tics has pulled in Taneli Jouhikainen as its first-ever COO. Jouhikainen joins the com­pa­ny from Savara, where he was co-founder, pres­i­dent and COO. Pri­or to that, Jouhikainen was with Akela Phar­ma, LAB In­ter­na­tion­al and Scher­ing, among oth­ers.

She­lagh Fras­er

→ In­di­anapo­lis-based LifeOm­ic has named She­lagh Fras­er as the com­pa­ny’s first CMO. Fras­er is a physi­cian prac­tic­ing in­ter­nal med­i­cine for Pri­or­i­ty Physi­cians, and she ad­di­tion­al­ly serves on the boards of As­pire In­di­ana and Karuna Well­ness Cen­ter.

→ Big fish Ste­fan Os­chmann is step­ping in as chair­man of the board of Ai­Curis, suc­ceed­ing in­ter­im chair­man Hel­mut Jeg­gle — who will con­tin­ue to serve as board mem­ber and vice-chair­man. Os­chmann, the for­mer CEO and chair­man of the ex­ec­u­tive board of Mer­ck KGaA, hand­ed the reins to Belén Gar­i­jo this month.

Mark Alles

→ A week af­ter Ku­mar Srini­vasan’s CBO ap­point­ment, San Diego on­col­o­gy play­er Turn­ing Point Ther­a­peu­tics has a new chair­man of the board: ex-Cel­gene CEO Mark Alles. With the dust set­tling from Bris­tol My­ers’ $74 bil­lion ac­qui­si­tion of Cel­gene, Alles joined the board at An­ten­gene in Jan­u­ary 2020 and is al­so a board mem­ber at Sy­ros Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals. Long­time Eli Lil­ly and Pfiz­er alum Gar­ry Nichol­son will stay on the board af­ter his stint as in­ter­im chair­man.

Shire vet Kathy McGee, who as­sumed the role of COO at Avi­ta Med­ical in De­cem­ber, has a seat on Fre­mont, CA-based Zosano Phar­ma’s board of di­rec­tors. McGee was for­mer­ly VP, strate­gic plan­ning, re­al es­tate and cap­i­tal projects at Shire Re­gen­er­a­tive Med­i­cine’s West Coast cam­pus.

An­abel­la Vil­lalo­bos

An­abel­la Vil­lalo­bos is the lat­est to have a seat saved on the board of di­rec­tors at Hous­ton-based Coya Ther­a­peu­tics, fol­low­ing the in­clu­sion of Prothena CMO Hide­ki Gar­ren and In­dap­ta chief fi­nan­cial and busi­ness of­fi­cer Dov Gold­stein. Vil­lalo­bos, who is Bio­gen’s head of bio­ther­a­peu­tics and med­i­c­i­nal sci­ences, is a 28-year Pfiz­er vet­er­an.

→ Fo­cused on de­cod­ing the dark mat­ter of the hu­man genome to treat dis­ease, Nu­cle­ome Ther­a­peu­tics has named Jonathan Hep­ple as non-ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of its board. Hep­ple hails from Roset­ta Cap­i­tal, where he is co-founder and di­rec­tor. In ad­di­tion to his new role, Hep­ple sits on the boards of Mis­sion Ther­a­peu­tics and Car­rick Ther­a­peu­tics.

Joy Cav­agnaro

Je­re­my Levin-led Ovid Ther­a­peu­tics has added two new faces to its sci­en­tif­ic ad­vi­so­ry board: Joy Cav­agnaro and Bruce Sul­lenger. Cav­agnaro is the pres­i­dent of Ac­cess BIO and has pre­vi­ous­ly served at the FDA as a mem­ber of the se­nior bio­med­ical re­search ser­vice. Mean­while, Sul­lenger is a pro­fes­sor in the de­part­ment of surgery at the Duke Uni­ver­si­ty School of Med­i­cine and a found­ing di­rec­tor of the Duke Trans­la­tion­al Re­search In­sti­tute.

→ A Dan­ish com­pa­ny us­ing ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence to de­vel­op im­muno-on­col­o­gy ther­a­pies, Evax­ion has re­cruit­ed Lars Holtug to its board of di­rec­tors. Holtug had a 35-year stint as a part­ner of PwC in Den­mark. Ad­di­tion­al­ly, Holtug serves as a board mem­ber of As­cendis Phar­ma.

Jiong Ma is adding an­oth­er board seat to her ré­sumé with her ap­point­ment at Anavex Life Sci­ences. Cur­rent­ly, Ma serves on the boards of Link­in­Vax, Ale­dia, Vox­el8 and Lo3 En­er­gy, among oth­ers. Pre­vi­ous­ly, Ma served as a part­ner at Brae­mar En­er­gy Ven­tures.

At the In­flec­tion Point for the Next Gen­er­a­tion of Can­cer Im­munother­a­py

While oncology researchers have long pursued the potential of cellular immunotherapies for the treatment of cancer, it was unclear whether these therapies would ever reach patients due to the complexity of manufacturing and costs of development. Fortunately, the recent successful development and regulatory approval of chimeric antigen receptor-engineered T (CAR-T) cells have demonstrated the significant benefit of these therapies to patients.

Tillman Gerngross (Adagio)

Till­man Gern­gross on Omi­cron: 'It is a grim sit­u­a­tion...we’re go­ing to see a sig­nif­i­cant drop in vac­cine ef­fi­ca­cy'

Tillman Gerngross, the rarely shy Dartmouth professor, biotech entrepreneur and antibody expert, has been warning for over a year that the virus behind Covid-19 would likely continue to mutate, potentially in ways that avoid immunity from infection and the best defenses scientists developed. He spun out a company, Adagio, to build a universal antibody, one that could snuff out any potential mutation.

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In­cor­po­rat­ing Ex­ter­nal Da­ta in­to Clin­i­cal Tri­als: Com­par­ing Dig­i­tal Twins to Ex­ter­nal Con­trol Arms

Most drug development professionals are familiar with the nerve-racking wait for the read-out of a large trial. If it’s negative, is the investigational therapy ineffective? Or could the failure result from an unforeseen flaw in the design or execution of the protocol, rather than a lack of efficacy? The team could spend weeks analyzing data, but a definitive answer may be elusive due to insufficient power for such analyses in the already completed trial. These problems are only made worse if the trial had lower enrollment, or higher dropout than expected due to an unanticipated event like COVID-19. And if a trial is negative, the next one is likely to be larger and more costly — if it happens at all.

Like the flu vac­cine every year, the FDA could move quick­ly on a vari­ant-tar­get­ed Covid vac­cine

In the same way that the FDA signs off on flu vaccines every year without requiring large clinical trials to measure their efficacy, the FDA may employ a similar strategy in authorizing variant-focused versions of the mRNA vaccines.

As the world braces for more data on the latest variant Omicron, which may reduce vaccine efficacy, top vaccine developers like Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech have promised they can pull together a new vaccine targeted against a specific Covid variant in about 100 days. Since Omicron emerged last week, Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and J&J have all said they’ve begun work on Omicron-specific vaccines, if needed.

Thanks­giv­ing edi­tion: Top 15 End­points sto­ries of 2021; Can you name that vac­cine?; Mer­ck­'s Covid an­tivi­ral dis­ap­points; FDA nom­i­nee's in­dus­try ties; 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.

Happy Thanksgiving to all those who are celebrating it — although, if we are being honest, this week’s abbreviated edition is really for those who are not. Wherever you’re tuning in from, we appreciate your support, hope you find this recap helpful and we wish you a wonderful weekend.

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What were End­points read­ers tun­ing in­to this year? Here’s a look at our 15 most pop­u­lar re­ports of the year (so far)

At the beginning of this year, I laid out a basic objective for Endpoints News as we headed to our 5th anniversary. We’ve long been doing a fine job covering the breaking news in R&D — if I do say so myself — but we needed to expand our horizons on industry coverage, increase the staff and go much, much deeper when the stories demanded it.

In a phrase: broader and deeper.

It’s safe to say, based on our daily web traffic, that you all seemed to like this idea. We’ve doubled the staff — thanks to a growing group of paid subscribers — ramped up the daily report and now publish a regular slate of in-depth articles. And traffic — those clicks you always read about — have gone up in volume too. Monthly sessions are up 43%, to close to 1.5 million. Unique readers are up 63%, to 874,480 in October, after setting a record of close to a million the month before. Page views are running at 3 million-plus a month. And the overall number of subscribers has surged to 124,000.

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Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission

Omi­cron: Re­searchers scram­ble as new coro­n­avirus mu­ta­tion takes flight around the globe — Pfiz­er/BioN­Tech, Mod­er­na vow swift re­sponse

As Americans were waking up for their Black Friday rituals, they were greeted with the news that a new mutation of the Covid-19 virus has appeared and been sequenced — after it caught an international flight to Hong Kong. And two of the leading Covid-19 vaccine developers promised delivery of a new vaccine “within 100 days” if necessary while a third spelled out its 3-prong strategy hours later.

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Nev­er too late: For­bion pitch­es $100M SPAC; Kro­nos Bio re­leas­es ear­ly in­ter­im da­ta on CDK9 in­hibitor

Dutch VC Forbion is hopping on the ever-lengthening SPAC train.

To be led by Jasper Bos, who joined Forbion Growth as a general partner back in May just after the fund closed at $428 million, Forbion European Acquisition will target late-stage opportunities in the life sciences industry in Europe to merge with and bring onto Nasdaq.

Cyril Lesser, senior controller at Forbion, will be the CFO while Bos serves as CEO.

Jeff Albers, Blueprint Medicines CEO

Look­ing past Big Phar­ma ri­vals, Blue­print buys a pre­clin­i­cal biotech for $250M+

J&J’s Rybrevant scored the first approval back in May for a small group of lung cancer patients with a rare EGFR mutation. Despite a swarm of other biopharma companies angling for a piece of that market, Blueprint Medicines is betting nearly $500 million on a candidate it thinks will stand out.

Blueprint is putting down $250 million in cash and another $215 million in biobucks for Lengo Therapeutics and its preclinical non-small cell lung cancer program LNG-451. Though it hasn’t been tested in humans, Blueprint says the candidate was “highly brain-penetrant” in preclinical trials, and has the potential to inhibit all common EGFR exon 20 insertion variants — which are found in just 2% to 3% of NSCLC patients.

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