Sanofi loses its German CSO and diabetes chief to Grünenthal; Roche touts longterm advantages of Ocrevus in treating multiple sclerosis

Sanofi has lost its global diabetes R&D chief and regional CSO Philip Just Larsen to German pharma giant Grünenthal, leaving the company in a lurch to fill his shoes at the company’s Frankfurt office. At Grünenthal, Larsen will serve as chief scientific officer, where he will get to flex his neuro background.

Philip Just Larsen

“As an MD PhD with clinical neurology expertise, I have first-hand experience in pain management, the core competence at Grünenthal,” Larsen said in a statement. “I am thrilled to contribute to the development of innovative medicines for high unmet medical needs in pain.” Before joining Grünenthal, Larsen spent six years at Sanofi — first as SVP and global head of its diabetes division, and later as CSO of the German hub in addition to his former role.

By exiting Sanofi for the German drugmaker, Larsen gets to helm an active R&D group. Grünenthal plans to introduce four or five new products by 2022 with hopes of becoming a $2 billion business. Larsen will likely stay busy as the company dumps more investment in R&D — along with buying up specialty drug programs.

Roche is touting a 4-year scan of the data from its pivotal work on their MS drug Ocrevus, demonstrating a continuous decline in disease activity. Significantly, researchers also noted that among patients who switched from Rebif, there was a “near-complete silencing of T1Gd+ lesions per scan at one and two years (0.476 pre-OLE to 0.007 and 0.004 T1Gd+ lesions per scan), as well as an 85 and 97 percent decrease in N/ET2 lesions per scan at years one and two, respectively.”

→ The Brisbane, CA-based anti-aging company Unity Biotechnology has set the terms for its upcoming IPO. Unity plans to sell 5 million shares at $16 to $18 per share, looking for around $85 million and a market cap of around $786 million. Unless they can do better. 

→ South Korea’s Peptron has raised $24 million to back development work on a new formulation of the GLP-1 diabetes drug exenatide for CNS diseases. The biotech says it landed an exclusive license from the National Institute on Aging on IP covering the delivery of a sustained released version of the drug that will be aimed through the blood-brain barrier to get at Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. “The support we have received from our NIH collaborators as well as our investors has allowed us to make significant progress in advancing a novel proprietary formulation of SR-exenatide to GMP manufacturing and Phase 2 clinical studies in Parkinson’s disease,” said CEO Ho-Il Choi.

Alder Biopharmaceuticals $ALDR is piecing together its interim team in the lead-up to an NDA for their CGRP migraine drug eptinezumab. Eric Carter, a biotech vet who’s been consulting for the company, is stepping in as interim CMO. He’ll be reporting to interim CEO Paul B. Cleveland, who took the top spot following the abrupt departure a few weeks ago of CEO Randy Schatzman, who founded the company. Alder is widely viewed as a big step behind the leaders in this field, with Amgen/Novartis in the lead.

With additional reporting by Brittany Meiling.

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