Syn­er­gy CEO pass­es torch to CCO Troy Hamil­ton; Pres­i­dent Steven Kaf­ka re­signs from Foun­da­tion; Ab­b­Vie vet John Leonard to helm In­tel­lia

Troy Hamil­ton

→ Mark­ing a new phase for the biotech, Syn­er­gy Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals $SYGP an­nounced that co-founder and Tru­lance co-in­ven­tor Gary Ja­cob is pass­ing the CEO ba­ton to Troy Hamil­ton. Join­ing Syn­er­gy in 2015, Hamil­ton was chief com­mer­cial of­fi­cer and EVP, steer­ing the launch and com­mer­cial­iza­tion of Tru­lance. The chron­ic id­io­path­ic con­sti­pa­tion drug is right up Hamil­ton’s al­ley, as he man­aged the gas­troin­testi­nal unit at Shire for nine years af­ter spend­ing much of his ca­reer at Janssen and Mc­Neil Spe­cial­ty Prod­ucts. “One of my ini­tial ar­eas of fo­cus will be to work with our CFO, Gary Gemignani, and the Syn­er­gy man­age­ment team to con­tin­ue to re­fine our busi­ness plan and fo­cus on achiev­ing cost ef­fi­cien­cies through­out the com­pa­ny while pri­or­i­tiz­ing in­vest­ments that will dri­ve sig­nif­i­cant Tru­lance growth,” Hamil­ton said in the state­ment. He al­so made sure to thank Ja­cob, who will con­tin­ue his in­volve­ment with the com­pa­ny as ex­ec­u­tive chair­man of the board.

Steven Kaf­ka

→ Pres­i­dent and COO Steven Kaf­ka has in­formed Foun­da­tion Med­i­cine $FMI of his in­ten­tion to re­sign next Feb­ru­ary, trig­ger­ing a lead­er­ship reshuf­fle that adds the pres­i­dent ti­tle to CEO Troy Cox and COO role to SVP of in­ter­na­tion­al mar­kets Kon­stan­tin Fiedler. Kaf­ka’s tenure at Foun­da­tion last­ed al­most five years, no­tice­ably longer than his stints at oth­er biotechs in­clud­ing Mil­len­ni­um Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals and Aileron Ther­a­peu­tics. Cox and Fiedler are both rel­a­tive­ly new to the biotech, but each had spent time at some big name com­pa­nies be­fore land­ing here.

→ Cam­bridge, MA-based start­up Dis­arm Ther­a­peu­tics has lured Pe­ter Keller to join as chief busi­ness of­fi­cer af­ter sev­en years at Se­lec­ta Bio­sciences. Keller hasn’t al­ways worked in biotech — he was a man­age­ment con­sul­tant for a decade — but while in the in­dus­try, he has been in­volved in an ac­qui­si­tion, a big IPO and a bil­lion-dol­lar deal. While we haven’t heard much about where Dis­arm’s ax­on­al de­gen­er­a­tion-pre­vent­ing tech is head­ed, we now know Keller will be shap­ing part of it.

Joe Jimenez

→ As Joe Jimenez con­tin­ues to search for his next big break af­ter No­var­tis (ide­al­ly in Sil­i­con Val­ley), he will spend some time in Cincin­nati as a mem­ber of Proc­ter & Gam­ble’s board of di­rec­tors. Con­sumer busi­ness is fa­mil­iar turf for Jimenez, who worked top jobs at Heinz be­fore tak­ing the reins of the Swiss phar­ma gi­ant.

→ In a clear sig­nal that CRISPR/Cas9 play­er In­tel­lia Ther­a­peu­tics is piv­ot­ing to a Phase I, John Leonard, found­ing chief med­ical of­fi­cer, is be­ing kicked up to the CEO’s of­fice. Hav­ing led the biotech $NT­LA through a quick and suc­cess­ful IPO in 2016, At­las part­ner Nes­san Berming­ham will re­turn to biotech ven­ture cap­i­tal. The R&D trek will like­ly be long, with ri­vals Ed­i­tas and CRISPR Ther­a­peu­tics — who are still fight­ing over the IP — de­ter­mined to have a slice of the mar­ket. The board is putting its faith in Leonard, the for­mer top sci­en­tist at Ab­b­Vie who worked on HIV and HCV while tak­ing a lead role on Hu­mi­ra dur­ing his 22-year tenure.

Gen­zyme vet Marc Beck­er will be Con­cert Phar­ma’s new CFO, af­ter a brief stint at CRISPR Ther­a­peu­tics. The Lex­ing­ton, MA-based biotech $CNCE is prepar­ing to broad­en its pipeline of deu­teri­um chem­istry prod­uct can­di­dates — a pipeline where four out of five pro­grams are cur­rent­ly part­nered — and Beck­er will be very much in­volved in that, ac­cord­ing to a state­ment.

→ Paris-based Ac­ti­cor Biotech has tapped Yan­nick Plé­tan as its first chief med­ical of­fi­cer. A spin­off from the French Na­tion­al In­sti­tute of Health and Med­ical Re­search, the 4-year-old com­pa­ny is de­vel­op­ing an an­tithrom­bot­ic agent for the acute phase of is­chemic stroke. Plé­tan’s clin­i­cal and med­ical ex­pe­ri­ence at Roche and Pfiz­er will be im­por­tant as Ac­ti­cor nav­i­gates the next tri­al phase for its lead can­di­date ACT017.

Ra­jesh Shrotriya, the 15-year chair­man and CEO of Spec­trum Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals, has been fired, the com­pa­ny an­nounced Sun­day. The ter­mi­na­tion trig­gered a chain of lead­er­ship changes: cur­rent pres­i­dent and COO Joseph Tur­geon is now pres­i­dent and CEO, as well as a board of di­rec­tor mem­ber; di­rec­tor Stu­art Krass­ner fills the chair­man seat; and Thomas Riga (EVP, CCO and head of busi­ness de­vel­op­ment) be­comes COO. Tur­geon is an Am­gen vet who used to over­see com­mer­cial ac­tiv­i­ties for Spec­trum.

→ For­est Labs vet Charles Ryan will take the CEO’s job at Neu­rotrope $NTRP fol­low­ing the res­ig­na­tion of Su­sanne Wilke.

→ In line with CEO George Scan­gos’ vi­sion for Vir Biotech­nol­o­gy to be a sci­ence-dri­ven com­pa­ny, im­mu­nol­o­gist An­to­nio Lan­za­vec­chia has been brought on as SVP and se­nior re­search fel­low. His main charge is to pro­vide sci­en­tif­ic lead­er­ship for Vir’s tech­ni­cal pro­grams look­ing in­to se­ri­ous in­fec­tious dis­eases. While do­ing that for the San Fran­cis­co up­start, he will con­tin­ue his roles as di­rec­tor of the In­sti­tute for Re­search in Bio­med­i­cine in Bellinzona, Switzer­land and as pro­fes­sor at the Uni­ver­sità del­la Svizzera ital­iana.

→ Fol­low­ing No­vem­ber’s IPO, Apel­lis Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals $APLS has ap­point­ed Tim­o­thy Sul­li­van, for­mer­ly a VC firm part­ner, as CFO. Sul­li­van has spent the past three years as an ob­serv­er on Apel­lis’ board of di­rec­tors, as the Ken­tucky biotech took its Soliris ri­val drug and age-re­lat­ed mac­u­lar de­gen­er­a­tion ther­a­py fur­ther along the pipeline, rais­ing mon­ey even af­ter a foiled first IPO at­tempt. Now Apel­lis is ready to en­ter Phase III tri­als for both pro­grams in 2018, and in his new role, Sul­li­van will lead the de­vel­op­ment of its fi­nanc­ing and growth strat­e­gy.

→ Long­time EVP and CFO Ryan May­nard is re­sign­ing from South San Fran­cis­co-based Rigel Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals $RIGL for undis­closed rea­sons (but cer­tain­ly not due to a dis­pute or dis­agree­ment with the com­pa­ny, ac­cord­ing the to SEC fil­ing). Nel­son Ca­bat­u­an, cur­rent VP of fi­nance, will step in as the in­ter­im prin­ci­pal ac­count­ing of­fi­cer while the biotech search­es for a re­place­ment ahead of its lead drug’s PDU­FA date.

Bellerophon Ther­a­peu­tics $BLPH has qui­et­ly hired a new CFO, As­saf Ko­rner, to re­place Megan Schoeps, who re­signed a cou­ple weeks ago. Ko­rner has worked a slate of fi­nan­cial jobs at med­ical de­vice and con­sumer prod­uct com­pa­nies such as Syneron Med­ical, Ilu­mi­nage Beau­ty and KP­MG.

→ Af­ter wow­ing in­vestors with its BC­MA-tar­get­ing CAR-T at ASH, blue­bird bio $BLUE turned to its in­ter­nal op­er­a­tions and named Ko­ry Went­worth VP of fi­nance and prin­ci­pal ac­count­ing of­fi­cer. A vet­er­an of big pub­lic ac­count­ing firms, Went­worth cut his teeth in biotech con­troller­ship dur­ing his 9-year run at Alex­ion. He fills the shoes of Jef­frey Walsh, the biotech’s chief fi­nan­cial and strat­e­gy of­fi­cer, who will con­tin­ue to serve in the prin­ci­pal fi­nan­cial role.

→ British dis­cov­ery and de­vel­op­ment ser­vice provider Con­cept Life Sci­ences has hired An­drew Scott as head of bioas­say de­vel­op­ment and screen­ing, and Ma­g­a­lie Fer­bach as busi­ness de­vel­op­ment di­rec­tor for South­ern and Cen­tral Eu­rope. Scott has ex­pe­ri­ence span­ning phar­ma, biotech and CRO, while Fer­bach’s back­ground is in agro­chem­i­cals. These ap­point­ments wrap up Con­cept’s ex­pand­ing year, marked by the ac­qui­si­tion of Aquila Bio­med­ical in Ed­in­burgh and open­ing of new lab­o­ra­to­ry space at Alder­ly Park.

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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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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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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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.”

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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