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.  

BiTE® Plat­form and the Evo­lu­tion To­ward Off-The-Shelf Im­muno-On­col­o­gy Ap­proach­es

Despite rapid advances in the field of immuno-oncology that have transformed the cancer treatment landscape, many cancer patients are still left behind.1,2 Not every person has access to innovative therapies designed specifically to treat his or her disease. Many currently available immuno-oncology-based approaches and chemotherapies have brought long-term benefits to some patients — but many patients still need other therapeutic options.3

Pfiz­er’s Doug Gior­dano has $500M — and some ad­vice — to of­fer a cer­tain breed of 'break­through' biotech

So let’s say you’re running a cutting-edge, clinical-stage biotech, probably public, but not necessarily so, which could see some big advantages teaming up with some marquee researchers, picking up say $50 million to $75 million dollars in a non-threatening minority equity investment that could take you to the next level.

Doug Giordano might have some thoughts on how that could work out.

The SVP of business development at the pharma giant has helped forge a new fund called the Pfizer Breakthrough Growth Initiative. And he has $500 million of Pfizer’s money to put behind 7 to 10 — or so — biotech stocks that fit that general description.

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Ken Frazier, AP Images

Why Mer­ck wait­ed, and what they now bring to the Covid-19 fight

Nicholas Kartsonis had been running clinical infectious disease research at Merck for almost 2 years when, in mid-January, he got a new assignment: searching the pharma giant’s vast libraries for something that could treat the novel coronavirus.

The outbreak was barely two weeks old when Kartsonis and a few dozen others got to work, first in small teams and then in a larger task force that sucked in more and more parts of the sprawling company as Covid-19 infected more and more of the globe. By late February, the group began formally searching for vaccine and antiviral candidates to license. Still, while other companies jumped out to announce their programs and, eventually and sometimes controversially, early glimpses at human data, Merck remained silent. They made only a brief announcement about a data collection partnership in April and mentioned vaguely a vaccine and antiviral search in their April 28 earnings call.

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Mark Genovese (Stanford via Twitter)

Gilead woos fil­go­tinib clin­i­cal in­ves­ti­ga­tor from Stan­ford to lead the charge on NASH, in­flam­ma­to­ry dis­eases

With an FDA OK for the use of filgotinib in rheumatoid arthritis expected to drop any day now, Gilead has recruited a new leader from academia to lead its foray into inflammatory diseases.

Mark Genovese — a longtime Stanford professor and most recently the clinical chief in the division of immunology and rheumatology — was the principal investigator in FINCH 2, one of three studies that supported Gilead’s NDA filing. In his new role as SVP, inflammation, he will oversee the clinical development of the entire portfolio.

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Stephen Isaacs, Aduro president and CEO (Aduro)

Once a high fly­er, a stag­ger­ing Aduro is auc­tion­ing off most of the pipeline as CEO Stephen Isaacs hands off the shell to new own­ers

After a drumbeat of failure, setbacks and reorganizations over the last few years, Aduro CEO Stephen Isaacs is handing over his largely gutted-out shell of a public company to another biotech company and putting up some questionable assets in a going-out-of-business sale.

Isaacs —who forged a string of high-profile Big Pharma deals along the way — has wrapped a 13-year run at the biotech with one program for kidney disease going to the new owners at Chinook Therapeutics. A host of once-heralded assets like their STING agonist program partnered with Novartis (which dumped their work on ADU-S100 after looking over weak clinical results), the Lilly-allied cGAS-STING inhibitor program and the anti-CD27 program out-licensed to Merck will all be posted for auction under a strategic review process.

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Hill­house re­casts spot­light on Chi­na's biotech scene with $160M round for Shang­hai-based an­ti­body mak­er

Almost two years after first buying into Genor Biopharma’s pipeline of cancer and autoimmune therapies, Hillhouse Capital has led a $160 million cash injection to push the late-stage assets over the finish line while continuing to fund both internal R&D and dealmaking.

The Series B has landed right around the time Genor would have listed on the Hong Kong stock exchange, according to plans reported by Bloomberg late last year. Insiders had said that the company was looking to raise about $200 million.

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Fangliang Zhang (Imaginechina via AP Images)

The big mon­ey: Poised to make drug R&D his­to­ry, a Chi­na biotech un­veils uni­corn rac­ing am­bi­tions in a bid to raise $350M-plus on Nas­daq

Almost exactly three years after Shanghai-based Legend came out of nowhere to steal the show at ASCO with jaw-dropping data on their BCMA-targeted CAR-T for multiple myeloma, the little player with Big Pharma connections is taking a giant step toward making it big on Wall Street. And this time they want to seal the deal on a global rep after staking out a unicorn valuation in what’s turned out to be a bull market for biotech IPOs — in the middle of a pandemic.

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Federico Mingozzi (Spark)

Spark touts an­i­mal da­ta for a so­lu­tion to AAV gene ther­a­py's an­ti­body prob­lem

Among all the limitations of using an adeno-associated virus as a vector to deliver a gene — still the most established modality in gene therapy given years of trial and error and finally success — the presence of neutralizing antibodies, whether pre-existing or induced, looms large.

“When I think about the immune responses in AAV, I try to sort of layer them,” Federico Mingozzi, the CSO at Spark Therapeutics, told Endpoints News. “The antibody is the first layer. It’s the first block that you find when you’re trying to do gene transfer.”

Gilead re­leas­es an­oth­er round of murky remde­sivir re­sults

A month after the NIH declared the first trial on remdesivir in Covid-19 a success, Gilead is out with new results on their antiviral. But although the study met one of its primary endpoints, the data are likely to only add to a growing debate over how effective the drug actually is.

In a Phase III trial, patients given a 5-day dose of remdesivir were 65% more likely to show “clinical improvement” compared to an arm given standard-of-care. The trial, though, gave little indication for whether the drug had an impact on key endpoints such as survival or time-to-recovery. And in a surprising twist, a 10-day dosing arm of remdesivir didn’t lead to a statistically significant improvement over standard of care.

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