Richard Pas­coe takes the helm at His­to­gen; Lon­za COO steps up at CEO Richard Ridinger re­tires

Richard Pas­coe

→ Hav­ing hand­ed off trou­bled mi­cro­cap biotech Apri­cus Bio­sciences to See­los Ther­a­peu­tics via a merg­er, Richard Pas­coe is mov­ing on to his next CEO (and chair­man) gig at His­to­gen. The re­gen­er­a­tive med­i­cine de­vel­op­er is an­tic­i­pat­ing da­ta from a clin­i­cal tri­al in fe­male hair loss this year, and the board likes Pas­coe’s ex­pe­ri­ence in both fundrais­ing and reg­u­la­to­ry deal­ings. Pas­coe al­so ap­pears to have a pen­chant for com­pa­nies that get ab­sorbed, in­clud­ing So­max­on Phar­ma, Ari­ad and Pfiz­er-ac­quired King Phar­ma.  

→ While Lon­za had in­vestors’ at­ten­tion with its full-year re­sults, the Swiss drug man­u­fac­tur­er has an­nounced that CEO Richard Ridinger is re­tir­ing from the com­pa­ny af­ter sev­en years. Marc Funk, the cur­rent COO of the phar­ma and biotech di­vi­sion, will step up to the role on 1 March. Lon­za adds that Ridinger, who has po­si­tioned the com­pa­ny for big roles in drug de­liv­ery tech as well as cell and gene ther­a­py, “in­tends to build a port­fo­lio of non-ex­ec­u­tive po­si­tions” mov­ing for­ward.

→ Fi­brot­ic dis­ease drug de­vel­op­er In­da­lo Ther­a­peu­tics has ap­point­ed Robert Jacks as its pres­i­dent and CEO, who comes from Sym­bio­mix Ther­a­peu­tics where he served as co-founder, pres­i­dent and CFO. The com­pa­ny is ex­pect­ed to take its lead drug, IDL-2965, in­to the clin­ic in ear­ly 2019.

Aarif Khakoo

Arthur Levin­son has re­cruit­ed an Am­gen vet as Cal­i­co’s new head of de­vel­op­ment for every­thing in pre­clin­i­cal through Phase II de­vel­op­ment at Google’s buzzy an­ti-ag­ing biotech. Aarif Khakoo, who most re­cent­ly head­ed a team of 100 in­ves­ti­ga­tors do­ing the trans­la­tion­al work at Am­gen, is head­ed over to Cal­i­co, which has its base in South San Fran­cis­co. His ear­li­er work left him in charge of every­thing from first-in-hu­man to proof-of-con­cept stud­ies for car­diometa­bol­ic, in­flam­ma­tion, neu­ro­science and on­col­o­gy, as well as clin­i­cal bio­mark­ers, in vit­ro di­ag­nos­tics, and dig­i­tal health.

→ Af­ter a brief stint at Cel­gene, Alek­san­dra Ri­zo is jump­ing over to Geron to head up late-stage de­vel­op­ment work for ime­tel­stat. The new CMO worked on myeloid com­pound de­vel­op­ment dur­ing a lengthy ca­reer at J&J’s Janssen, where she over­saw this pre­cise pro­gram be­fore the phar­ma gi­ant dumped its once high­ly tout­ed pact with Geron. The set­backs, though, have not de­terred the Men­lo Park, CA-based biotech from open­ing up a New Jer­sey of­fice to sup­port the new clin­i­cal team un­der Ri­zo.

Corvus Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals $CRVS has scooped Mehrdad Mobash­er from Genen­tech to be its CMO. As the de­vel­op­ment lead for vene­to­clax (Ven­clex­ta), Mobash­er brings some fresh ex­pe­ri­ence hus­tling blood can­cer drugs through the clin­ic. Corvus’ most ad­vanced ex­per­i­men­tal ther­a­pies, now in Phase I/Ib and Ib/II tri­als, both tar­get the adeno­sine path­way.

Por­to­la has ap­point­ed Mer­ck vet Shel­don Koenig to fill the chief com­mer­cial of­fi­cer po­si­tion, which has been va­cant since Tao Fu left for Zai Lab. In ad­di­tion to 25 years at Mer­ck’s car­dio­vas­cu­lar unit, Koenig al­so brings ex­pe­ri­ence lead­ing busi­ness op­er­a­tions and in­ter­na­tion­al prod­uct launch­es for Sanofi. He will hit the ground run­ning with the roll­out of An­dexxa, Por­to­la’s $PT­LA re­ver­sal agent for Fac­tor Xa an­ti­co­ag­u­lants.

Dim­itris Vo­li­o­tis

→ Af­ter ded­i­cat­ing years of his aca­d­e­m­ic and bio­phar­ma ca­reer to on­col­o­gy, Dim­itris Vo­li­o­tis is broad­en­ing his ther­a­peu­tic fo­cus at mR­NA spe­cial­ist Cure­Vac. The Bay­er vet — who was most re­cent­ly at Ei­sai — has been tapped as chief de­vel­op­ment of­fi­cer, a role that gives him im­mense R&D re­spon­si­bil­i­ty from dis­cov­ery to reg­u­la­to­ry fil­ing for the com­pa­ny’s pipeline of can­cer as well as rare and in­fec­tious dis­ease treat­ments. He will be based in the Boston of­fice and make reg­u­lar trips to the Ger­man biotech’s sites in Tübin­gen and Frank­furt.

Gi­ga­Gen has el­e­vat­ed Adam Adler to CSO in recog­ni­tion of his con­tri­bu­tion to the com­pa­ny’s dis­cov­ery re­search and grow­ing R&D team — of mi­croflu­idic en­gi­neers, mol­e­c­u­lar bi­ol­o­gists, im­mu­nol­o­gists, and can­cer bi­ol­o­gists — dur­ing his last five years as VP. A Genen­tech alum, Adler has been cred­it­ed for cre­at­ing Gi­ga­Gen’s im­mune analy­sis and drug dis­cov­ery tech­nol­o­gy, a big boost to its poly­clon­al an­ti­body work, which is now part­nered with Gri­fols. Oth­er pro­mo­tions in­clude Re­na Mizrahi, the new VP of process de­vel­op­ment, and Cather­ine Med­i­na, VP of op­er­a­tions.

→ As Apel­lis Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals $APLS read­ies a pitch for its Phase III pro­grams in ge­o­graph­ic at­ro­phy and parox­ys­mal noc­tur­nal he­mo­glo­bin­uria, the Ken­tucky biotech is open­ing an of­fice in Switzer­land. Thomas Lack­n­er, the new­ly ap­point­ed SVP and head of Eu­rope, will spear­head that ef­fort as well as glob­al com­mer­cial­iza­tion for Apel­lis’ com­ple­ment in­hibitors. Lack­n­er has been on the ground in the Swiss city of Zug for the past two years prep­ping a launch for Prothena’s ill-fat­ed lead pro­gram, fol­low­ing a 15-year ca­reer at Bio­gen.

IQVIA vet Mile­na Kano­va-Petro­va is tak­ing her 21 years of ex­pe­ri­ence in project man­age­ment to the young team at Nu­ve­lu­tion. As SVP of op­er­a­tions, she will con­sult with the late-stage as­sets that Nu­ve­lu­tion has brought un­der its wing through risk-shar­ing pro­grams.

→ Look­ing to up its game in trans­la­tion­al der­ma­tol­ogy and im­munol­o­gy, Den­mark’s LEO Phar­ma has re­cruit­ed Thomas Hultsch, Sanofi’s clin­i­cal lead on Dupix­ent, to be its head of trans­la­tion­al med­i­cine. Hultsch, who be­gan his in­dus­try ca­reer at No­var­tis, will help es­tab­lish a new group in Boston.

→ San Diego-based Turn­ing Point Ther­a­peu­tics has hired Robert Xin to over­see ear­ly-stage stud­ies and IND fil­ings for its ki­nase in­hibitors. Hav­ing filled a num­ber of on­col­o­gy roles at Pfiz­er, Roche/Genen­tech and Eli Lil­ly, Xin will now as­sume the ti­tle SVP of clin­i­cal de­vel­op­ment at Turn­ing Point.

Ka­ma­da has ap­point­ed Te­va vet Michal Ay­alon to suc­ceed Lil­iana Bar as the VP R&D re­tires from the com­pa­ny, which is fo­cused on plas­ma-de­rived pro­tein ther­a­peu­tics.

→ Fol­low­ing a string of stints in the bio­phar­ma ser­vices world, Michael Rasche has tak­en a job as in­ter­na­tion­al busi­ness head Metabolon, a Tri­an­gle Park, NC-based com­pa­ny ap­ply­ing its metabolomics plat­form in re­search, drug dis­cov­ery and de­vel­op­ment, di­ag­nos­tics and ther­a­py re­sponse.

Dy­navax has named Heather Rowe, a sea­soned ex­ec with re­cent stints at Five Prime and Kythera, as its VP of in­vestor re­la­tions and cor­po­rate com­mu­ni­ca­tions.  

Roger Perlmutter. Merck via webcast

'Our lega­cy mat­ter­s': Mer­ck maps out Keytru­da king­dom while spot­light­ing ad­vances in vac­cines, hos­pi­tal care

“You can for the mo­ment stop tak­ing notes. You can put down your pens and your pad. I have no slides. I have no sub­stan­tive da­ta. I have no pitch.”

So be­gan Roger Perl­mut­ter’s brief ap­pear­ance on­stage at Mer­ck’s first in­vestor day in five years, where he dived in­to the com­pa­ny’s his­to­ry dat­ing back to 1933. The first em­ploy­ees at Mer­ck Re­search Lab­o­ra­to­ries, hand­picked by founder George W. Mer­ck, were crit­i­cal to Mer­ck’s abil­i­ty to achieve clin­i­cal and com­mer­cial suc­cess.

How small- to mid-sized biotechs can adopt pa­tient cen­tric­i­ty in their on­col­o­gy tri­als

By Lucy Clos­sick Thom­son, Se­nior Di­rec­tor of On­col­o­gy Pro­ject Man­age­ment, Icon

Clin­i­cal tri­als in on­col­o­gy can be cost­ly and chal­leng­ing to man­age. One fac­tor that could re­duce costs and re­duce bar­ri­ers is har­ness­ing the pa­tient voice in tri­al de­sign to help ac­cel­er­ate pa­tient en­roll­ment. Now is the time to adopt pa­tient-cen­tric strate­gies that not on­ly fo­cus on pa­tient needs, but al­so can main­tain cost ef­fi­cien­cy.

Eli Casdin, Casdin Capital

Eli Cas­din backs Codex­is' plat­form tech with $50M eq­ui­ty buy

About a month af­ter Codex­is notched a deal with No­var­tis $NVS, the Cal­i­for­nia com­pa­ny $CDXS on Thurs­day said long-time in­vestor Cas­din Cap­i­tal is putting up $50 mil­lion in a pri­vate place­ment, which puts the New York-based in­vest­ment firm in con­trol of more than 5% of the pro­tein en­gi­neer­ing play­er’s stock.

Eli Cas­din start­ed his epony­mous in­vest­ment firm in 2012 and dates his re­la­tion­ship with Codex­is back to at least a decade. About three years ago, Cas­din Cap­i­tal be­gan in­vest­ing in the in­dus­tri­al biotech com­pa­ny, af­ter it piv­ot­ed its fo­cus to the life sci­ences — un­der the aus­pices of new chief John Nicols — away from the en­er­gy in­dus­try.

In­vestors pony up $476M for the lat­est round of biotech IPOs to hit the Street

Three biotechs — and a genome se­quenc­ing play­er — have caught the lat­est tide to the Gold Coast of IPOs, round­ing out the first half of 2019 with 23 new drug de­vel­op­ers mak­ing it on Nas­daq.

Most of these com­pa­nies filed their IPOs al­most si­mul­ta­ne­ous­ly, though we’re still wait­ing on word of fel­low class­mate Bridge­Bio’s pric­ing af­ter CEO Neil Ku­mar set the terms at $14 to $16 a share on Mon­day in search of a $240 mil­lion (or so) wind­fall. If he’s suc­cess­ful, that would take the one-week haul past the $700 mil­lion mark, a fresh sign that in­vestors’ en­thu­si­asm for new­ly coined pub­lic biotechs hasn’t cooled.

John Reed at JPM 2019. Jeff Rumans for Endpoints News

Sanofi's John Reed con­tin­ues to re­or­ga­nize R&D, cut­ting 466 jobs while boost­ing can­cer, gene ther­a­py re­search

The R&D reorganization inside Sanofi is continuing, more than a year after the pharma giant brought in John Reed to head the research arm of the Paris-based company.
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The top 10 block­buster drugs in the late-stage pipeline — Eval­u­ate adds 6 new ther­a­pies to heavy-hit­ter list

Vertex comes in for a substantial amount of criticism for its no-holds-barred tactical approach toward wresting the price it wants for its commercial drugs in Europe. But the flip side of that coin is a highly admired R&D and commercial operation that regularly wins kudos from analysts for their ability to engineer greater cash flow from the breakthrough drugs they create.

Both aspects needed for success in this business are on display in the program backing Vertex’s triple for cystic fibrosis. VX-659/VX-445 + Tezacaftor + Ivacaftor — it’s been whittled down to 445 now — was singled out by Evaluate Pharma as the late-stage therapy most likely to win the crown for drug sales in 5 years, with a projected peak revenue forecast of $4.3 billion.

The latest annual list, which you can see here in their latest world preview, includes a roster of some of the most closely watched development programs in biopharma. And Evaluate has added 6 must-watch experimental drugs to the top 10 as drugs fail or go on to a first approval. With apologies to the list maker, I revamped this to rank the top 10 by projected 2024 sales, instead of Evaluate's net present value rankings.

It's how we roll at Endpoints News.

Here is a quick summary of the rest of the top 10:

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Robert Forrester, Verastem

Ve­rastem CEO For­rester steps to the ex­it as the board hunts com­mer­cial-savvy ex­ec for the be­lea­guered biotech

Robert For­rester is step­ping down as CEO of Ve­rastem On­col­o­gy $VSTM just 8 months af­ter the com­pa­ny nabbed an ap­proval for du­velis­ib, a PI3K drug with a sto­ried past — and what ap­pears as not much of a fu­ture.

The biotech put out word this morn­ing that For­rester will take an ad­vi­so­ry role with Ve­rastem while COO Dan Pa­ter­son steps up to take charge of the lead­er­ship team and the board looks around for a new CEO.

Ken Frazier appears before the Senate Committee on Finance for a hearing on prescription drug pricing on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, February 26, 2019. Chris Kleponis for CNP via AP Images

Who’s next in line to suc­ceed Ken Fra­zier as CEO of the Keytru­da-blessed Mer­ck?

When Merck waved off a looming forced retirement for Ken Frazier last September, the board cited flexibility in CEO transition as a key factor in the decision. Having Frazier — who’s also chairman of the company — around beyond his 65th birthday in 2019 would ensure they install the best person at the best time, they said.

The board has evidently begun that process with a clear preference for internal candidates, sources told Bloomberg. CFO Robert Davis, chief marketing officer Michael Nally, and chief commercial officer Frank Clyburn are all in the running, according to an insider.

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In starved an­tibi­ot­ic field, Melin­ta soars as FDA grants speedy drug re­view

Such is the state of af­fairs in an­tibi­ot­ic land that the FDA agree­ing to pri­or­i­ty re­view an ap­pli­ca­tion to ex­pand the use of an an­tibi­ot­ic can rock­et up a stock more than two-fold.

On Wednes­day, Melin­ta Ther­a­peu­tics said its ap­proved an­tibi­ot­ic Baxdela had been grant­ed pri­or­i­ty re­view for use in com­mu­ni­ty-ac­quired bac­te­r­i­al pneu­mo­nia (CAPB). The FDA is ex­pect­ed to make its de­ci­sion by Oc­to­ber 24. Shares of the Con­necti­cut drug­mak­er $ML­NT cat­a­pult­ed, clos­ing up near­ly 224% at $6.41.