Sun Bio­Phar­ma founder Michael Cullen steps up; Se­maThera set­tles on per­ma­nent CEO; On­coSec nabs Kel­lie Mal­loy Fo­ert­er from Sy­neos

Michael Cullen (LinkedIn)

David Kay­sen is step­ping down from Sun Bio­Phar­ma af­ter three years in the pres­i­dent and CEO of­fice, hand­ing the reins to ex­ec­u­tive chair­man and founder Michael Cullen. His de­par­ture is noth­ing against him, the com­pa­ny notes, but a re­sult of “the need for cost re­duc­tions to fo­cus fur­ther spend­ing on the cur­rent Phase 1a/1b clin­i­cal tri­al in the front-line com­bi­na­tion study of SBP-101 with gem­c­itabine and nab-pa­cli­tax­el for the treat­ment of metasta­t­ic pan­cre­at­ic can­cer.”

→ Mon­tre­al-based Se­maThera is ready to hire a per­ma­nent CEO, and it has tapped a vet­er­an Garth Cum­ber­lidge for the role. He is tasked with shep­herd­ing the com­pa­ny’s an­ti-SE­MA3A ther­a­pies in­to the clin­ic, start­ing with pro­grams in di­a­bet­ic mac­u­lar ede­ma and oth­er de­gen­er­a­tive retinopathies.

→ Hav­ing learned the ropes in the past few months, Chris Cargill is now the of­fi­cial ex­ec­u­tive vice pres­i­dent and CFO at So­sei, lead­ing the glob­al cor­po­rate fi­nance func­tions for the Tokyo-head­quar­tered com­pa­ny. Cargill first joined So­sei in 2017 af­ter a decade-long run as an in­vest­ment banker at JP Mor­gan.

Kel­lie Mal­loy Fo­ert­er (LinkedIn)

On­coSec has turned to the CRO world to hire its chief clin­i­cal de­vel­op­ment of­fi­cer, poach­ing In­Ven­tiv vet Kel­lie Mal­loy Fo­ert­er from Sy­neos Health. Brought in for her track record in clin­i­cal tri­al de­sign, ex­e­cu­tion and analy­sis, Mal­loy Fo­ert­er’s pri­or­i­ty will be to spear­head an on­go­ing Phase IIb study test­ing On­coSec’d IL-12 agent with Mer­ck’s Keytru­da in melanoma pa­tients who have failed pri­or an­ti-PD-1 treat­ment. She is al­so re­spon­si­ble for the rest of the pipeline, in­clud­ing a sec­ond com­bo tri­al in breast can­cer.

Glenn God­dard is the new CFO at gene edit­ing pi­o­neer In­tel­lia Ther­a­peu­tics $NT­LA. Still on the long ramp up to first-in-hu­man stud­ies of its CRISPR-Cas9-en­abled ther­a­peu­tics, In­tel­lia wants God­dard to flex some of the mus­cles he de­vel­oped in lead­ing Agios from an ear­ly-stage re­search com­pa­ny to a com­mer­cial-ready or­ga­ni­za­tion as the prin­ci­pal fi­nan­cial of­fi­cer. God­dard, who most re­cent­ly served as CFO of Gen­er­a­tion Bio, will al­so over­see IT and fa­cil­i­ties.

→ Just a month af­ter in­stalling Na­tal­ie Sacks as CMO, Har­poon Ther­a­peu­tics is adding two new ex­ecs to its C-suite. For­mer in­vest­ment banker Geor­gia Er­bez is tak­ing up the CFO post fol­low­ing sim­i­lar stints at Zosano Phar­ma, As­te­r­ias Bio­ther­a­peu­tics and Rap­tor Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals. Mean­while, Hol­ger Wesche has been pro­mot­ed from SVP of re­search — a ti­tle he held for the past three years — to CSO.

→ San Ma­teo, CA-based start­up CuraSen has named Gabriel Var­gas as CMO, tasked with de­vel­op­ing a stealthy pipeline that’s de­signed to tack­le some tough neu­rode­gen­er­a­tive dis­eases like Alzheimer’s and Parkin­son’s. The biotech vets who run CuraSen like Var­gas’ work at Am­gen, where he man­aged the pre­clin­i­cal and ear­ly de­vel­op­ment por­tion of the neu­ro­science port­fo­lio.

→ Ready to turn a new page af­ter a dra­mat­ic breakup with its ex-CEO, Rock­well Med­ical $RMTI is wrap­ping the year with the ap­point­ment of a new CFO. An­gus Smith joins from Pernix Ther­a­peu­tics, with busi­ness de­vel­op­ment as well as fi­nance ex­pe­ri­ence un­der his belt.   

In­scrip­ta, the start­up best known for dis­cov­er­ing an al­ter­na­tive CRISPR en­zyme to Cas9, has hired Ja­son Gam­mack from Qi­a­gen to mar­ket its re­search tools as its first chief com­mer­cial of­fi­cer.

Velox­is Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals has giv­en a for­mal pro­mo­tion to Ira Duarte, who’s been fill­ing in as CFO af­ter Morten Marott de­part­ed fol­low­ing a 5-month stint.

→ An­tic­i­pat­ing late-stage re­sults for its lead bone cell ther­a­py, Bel­gium’s Bone Ther­a­peu­tics has tapped Lin­da Lebon — for­mer­ly of ar­genx and Quin­tiles, among oth­ers — as chief reg­u­la­to­ry of­fi­cer with a man­date to find the reg­u­la­to­ry path­way for this and oth­er pro­grams through to com­mer­cial­iza­tion.

→ Just a few days af­ter ad­mit­ting to a trou­bling fi­nan­cial sit­u­a­tion, Syn­er­gy Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals $SYGP an­nounces that its long­time ex­ec­u­tive chair­man is out. Gary Ja­cob, who was cred­it­ed for co-in­vent­ing Syn­er­gy’s sole as­set Tru­lance, will be re­placed by Melvin Spigel­man.

Nick Leschly via Getty

UP­DAT­ED: Blue­bird shares sink as an­a­lysts puz­zle out $1.8M stick­er shock and an un­ex­pect­ed de­lay

Blue­bird bio $BLUE has un­veiled its price for the new­ly ap­proved gene ther­a­py Zyn­te­glo (Lenti­Glo­bin), which came as a big sur­prise. And it wasn’t the on­ly un­ex­pect­ed twist in to­day’s sto­ry.

With some an­a­lysts bet­ting on a $900,000 price for the β-tha­lassemia treat­ment in Eu­rope, where reg­u­la­tors pro­vid­ed a con­di­tion­al ear­ly OK, blue­bird CEO Nick Leschly said Fri­day morn­ing that the pa­tients who are suc­cess­ful­ly treat­ed with their drug over 5 years will be charged twice that — $1.8 mil­lion — on the con­ti­nent. That makes this drug the sec­ond most ex­pen­sive ther­a­py on the plan­et, just be­hind No­var­tis’ new­ly ap­proved Zol­gens­ma at $2.1 mil­lion, with an­a­lysts still wait­ing to see what kind of pre­mi­um can be had in the US.


Glob­al Blood Ther­a­peu­tics poised to sub­mit ap­pli­ca­tion for ac­cel­er­at­ed ap­proval, with new piv­otal da­ta on its sick­le cell dis­ease drug

Global Blood Therapeutics is set to submit an application for accelerated approval in the second-half of this year, after unveiling fresh data from a late-stage trial that showed just over half the patients given the highest dose of its experimental sickle cell disease drug experienced a statistically significant improvement in oxygen-wielding hemoglobin, meeting the study's main goal.

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Gene ther­a­pies seize the top of the list of the most ex­pen­sive drugs on the plan­et — and that trend has just be­gun

Anyone looking for a few simple reasons why the gene therapy field has caught fire with the pharma giants need only look at the new list of the 10 most expensive therapies from GoodRx.

Two recently approved gene therapies sit atop this list, with Novartis’ Zolgensma crowned the king of the priciest drugs at $2.1 million. Right below is Luxturna, the $850,000 pioneer from Spark, which Roche is pushing hard to acquire as it adds a gene therapy group to the global mix.

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Bain’s biotech team has cre­at­ed a $1B-plus fund — with an eye to more Big Phar­ma spin­outs

One of the biggest investors to burst onto the biotech scene in recent years has re-upped with more than a billion dollars flowing into its second fund. And this next wave of bets will likely include more of the Big Pharma spinouts that highlighted their first 3 years in action.

Adam Koppel and Jeff Schwartz got the new life sciences fund at Bain Capital into gear in the spring of 2016, as they were putting together a $720 million fund with $600 million flowing in from external investors and the rest drawn from the Bain side of the equation. This time the external investors chipped in $900 million, with Bain coming in for roughly $180 million more.

They’re not done with Fund I, with plans to add a couple more deals to the 15 they’ve already posted. And once again, they’re estimating another 15 to 20 investments over a 3- to 5-year time horizon for Fund II.

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News­mak­ers at #EHA19: Re­gen­eron, Ar­Qule track progress on re­sponse rates

Re­gen­eron’s close­ly-watched bis­pe­cif­ic con­tin­ues to ring up high re­sponse rates

Re­gen­eron’s high-pro­file bis­pe­cif­ic REGN1979 is back in the spot­light at the Eu­ro­pean Hema­tol­ogy As­so­ci­a­tion sci­en­tif­ic con­fab. And while the stel­lar num­bers we saw at ASH have erod­ed some­what as more blood can­cer pa­tients are eval­u­at­ed, the re­sponse rates for this CD3/CD20 drug re­main high.

A to­tal of 13 out of 14 fol­lic­u­lar lym­phomas re­spond­ed to the drug, a 93% ORR, down from 100% at the last read­out. In 10 out of 14, there was a com­plete re­sponse. In dif­fuse large B-cell lym­phoma the re­sponse rate was 57% among pa­tients treat­ed at the 80 mg to 160 mg dose range. They were all com­plete re­spons­es. And 2 of these Cars were for pa­tients who had failed CAR-T ther­a­py.

Neil Woodford, Woodford Investment Management via YouTube

Un­der siege, in­vest­ment man­ag­er Wood­ford faces an­oth­er in­vest­ment shock

Em­bat­tled UK fund man­ag­er Neil Wood­ford — who has con­tro­ver­sial­ly blocked in­vestors from pulling out from his flag­ship fund to stem the blood­let­ting, af­ter a slew of dis­ap­point­ed in­vestors fled fol­low­ing a se­ries of sour bets — is now pay­ing the price for his ac­tions via an in­vestor ex­o­dus on an­oth­er fund.

Har­g­reaves Lans­down, which has in the past sold and pro­mot­ed the Wood­ford funds via its re­tail in­vest­ment plat­form, has re­port­ed­ly with­drawn £45 mil­lion — its en­tire po­si­tion — from the in­vest­ment man­ag­er’s In­come Fo­cus Fund.

Search­ing for the next block­buster to fol­low Darza­lex, J&J finds a $150M an­ti-CD38 drug from part­ner Gen­mab

Now that J&J and Genmab have thrust Darzalex onto the regulatory orbit for first-line use in multiple myeloma, the partners are lining up a deal for a next-gen follow-on to the leading CD38 drug.

Janssen — J&J’s biotech unit — has its eyes on HexaBody-CD38, a preclinical compound generated on Genmab’s tech platform designed to make drugs more potent via hexamerization.

Genmab is footing the bill on studies in multiple myeloma and diffuse large B-cell lymphoma; once it completes clinical proof of concept, Janssen has the option to license the drug for a $150 million exercise fee. There’s also $125 million worth of milestones in play.

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Ab­b­Vie touts new da­ta for Hu­mi­ra suc­ces­sor; Gilead inks dis­cov­ery deal

→ Ab­b­Vie is tout­ing new pos­i­tive da­ta com­par­ing their ag­ing block­buster Hu­mi­ra with their hoped-for block­buster upadac­i­tinib. Over 48 weeks a larg­er pro­por­tion of pa­tients tak­ing the ex­per­i­men­tal drug ex­pe­ri­enced clin­i­cal re­mis­sion than in the con­trol arm with Hu­mi­ra. Their drug brought in $20 bil­lion last year, top­ping the scales in the num­ber 1 slot.

→ Gilead has turned to Van­cou­ver-based Ab­Cellera for its lat­est dis­cov­ery deal. Ab­Cellera will use its know-how in “sin­gle-cell screen­ing of nat­ur­al im­mune sources” to find an­ti­body can­di­dates for Gilead to pur­sue in the in­fec­tious dis­ease field. The deal in­cludes an up­front and mile­stones.

Turns out, Rudy Tanzi did­n't see much of a sto­ry about a hid­den link be­tween En­brel and Alzheimer's ei­ther

The Wash­ing­ton Post man­aged to whip up the quick­est in­dus­try con­sen­sus I’ve ever seen that one of its re­porters was pur­vey­ing overblown non­sense with a sto­ry that Pfiz­er was sit­ting on da­ta sug­gest­ing that En­brel could be an ef­fec­tive treat­ment for Alzheimer’s. 

In cov­er­ing that bit of an­ti-Big Phar­ma fan­ta­sy — there are lots of rea­sons to go af­ter phar­ma, but this piece was lu­di­crous — I not­ed com­ments in the sto­ry from some promi­nent peo­ple in the field crit­i­ciz­ing Pfiz­er for not pub­lish­ing the da­ta. I sin­gled out Rudy Tanzi at Har­vard and then ap­plied some added crit­i­cism for the things he’s done to hype — in my opin­ion — high­ly ques­tion­able as­sump­tions. You can see it in the link.