Ben Carson (Evan Vucci, AP Images)

The doc­tor is in: Trump in­sid­er Ben Car­son joins NASH play­er Galectin as a 'spe­cial con­sul­tant,' part-time spokesman

In the few short months since Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump left of­fice, his for­mer de­part­ment heads are re­port­ed­ly hav­ing a dif­fi­cult time find­ing em­ploy­ment. But for Ben Car­son, Trump’s for­mer hous­ing sec­re­tary, that’s not a prob­lem any­more af­ter biotech came call­ing.

Car­son, a for­mer GOP pres­i­den­tial can­di­date and erst­while HUD head, has joined Galectin Ther­a­peu­tics as a “spe­cial con­sul­tant” the biotech hopes will help raise its pro­file and pro­vide an en­trée to key busi­ness part­ner­ships, the com­pa­ny said Mon­day.

The com­pa­ny will al­so use Car­son as a part-time mouth­piece, with him “pe­ri­od­i­cal­ly act­ing as a spokesper­son re­lat­ed to the Com­pa­ny’s sci­ence through pub­lic com­ments and in­ter­views, in in­tro­duc­tions to com­mer­cial and aca­d­e­m­ic part­ners, and in oth­er pub­lic state­ments as may be re­quest­ed,” ac­cord­ing to an SEC fil­ing. Fi­nan­cial terms of Car­son’s em­ploy­ment were not dis­closed.

Car­son, a re­tired neu­ro­sur­geon who spent four years in Trump’s in­ner cir­cle, will be tasked with help­ing raise aware­ness around Galectin’s lead com­pound, be­lapectin, which is cur­rent­ly in a Phase II/III tri­al for NASH cir­rho­sis. Car­son will al­so pick up re­spon­si­bil­i­ties for de­vel­op­ing a sci­en­tif­ic ad­vi­so­ry board at the com­pa­ny with over­sight on pick­ing mem­bers, Galectin said.

“Ear­ly re­sults and po­ten­tial for be­lapectin’s use in com­bi­na­tion with im­munother­a­py in can­cer sug­gests be­lapectin could ad­dress a mul­ti­tude of in­di­ca­tions where galectin-3 is in­volved,” Car­son said in a state­ment. “This has mo­ti­vat­ed me to ap­ply my sci­en­tif­ic and busi­ness skills de­vel­oped over my long med­ical ca­reer to help steer the Com­pa­ny for­ward in nav­i­gat­ing its clin­i­cal tri­als and iden­ti­fy­ing part­ner­ships.”

Ac­cord­ing to CEO Joel Lewis, Car­son’s in­volve­ment de­vel­oped from con­ver­sa­tions be­tween him and Chair­man Richard Uih­lein, who val­ued Car­son’s ex­pe­ri­ence in neu­rol­o­gy and on­col­o­gy and his ex­ten­sive con­nec­tions at Johns Hop­kins. Af­ter Car­son re­viewed the biotech’s tech­nol­o­gy and saw its po­ten­tial in late-stage NASH tri­als, he and Galectin reached an agree­ment on a tai­lor-made po­si­tion that would give him the op­tion to play a bit of cen­ter­field. A board po­si­tion was nev­er dis­cussed, Lewis said.

It’s a bold choice with po­ten­tial po­lit­i­cal ram­i­fi­ca­tions for Galectin giv­en Car­son’s for­mer role in the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion. Car­son head­ing up the sci­en­tif­ic ad­vi­so­ry board, for in­stance, could prove a bar­ri­er in a biotech in­dus­try that has been more will­ing to speak out po­lit­i­cal­ly in re­cent years — par­tic­u­lar­ly against Trump. Lewis down­played those con­cerns, ar­gu­ing that Car­son’s ex­ten­sive med­ical back­ground — de­spite not his­to­ry in NASH — was a boon for the team.

“Look, We’re thrilled that any­body of his stature is will­ing to help us,” Lewis told me. “I’m try­ing to run an R&D biotech, and we need help. I’m es­pe­cial­ly thrilled that he has con­nec­tions at Johns Hop­kins.”

In terms of the stip­u­la­tions in his con­tract, Lewis was mum. In the com­pa­ny’s 8-K fil­ing, the biotech laid out the po­si­tion’s du­ties but not its com­pen­sa­tion or term.

“If I’m not legal­ly re­quired to dis­close some­one’s con­tract then I won’t do that,” Lewis said. “He’s not an ex­ec­u­tive of the com­pa­ny, he’s a con­sul­tant — but he’s help­ing us in a big way.”

This isn’t Car­son’s first go at biotech. Back in 2014, Car­son was ap­point­ed chair­man of the board for vac­cine mak­er Vac­cino­gen. It wasn’t a long stay: Car­son dropped the po­si­tion in May 2015 as he geared up his cam­paign for pres­i­dent, where he would even­tu­al­ly lose the GOP nom­i­na­tion to Trump.

Health­care Dis­par­i­ties and Sick­le Cell Dis­ease

In the complicated U.S. healthcare system, navigating a serious illness such as cancer or heart disease can be remarkably challenging for patients and caregivers. When that illness is classified as a rare disease, those challenges can become even more acute. And when that rare disease occurs in a population that experiences health disparities, such as people with sickle cell disease (SCD) who are primarily Black and Latino, challenges can become almost insurmountable.

The End­points 11: They've got mad mon­ey and huge am­bi­tions. It's time to go big or go home

These days, selecting a group of private biotechs for the Endpoints 11 spotlight begins with a sprint to get ahead of IPOs and the M&A teams at Big Pharma. I’ve had a couple of faceplants earlier this year, watching some of the biotechs on my short list choose a quick leap onto Nasdaq or into the arms of a buyer.

Vividion, you would have been a great pick for the Endpoints 11. I’m sorry I missed you.

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Dave Lennon, former president of Novartis Gene Therapies

So what hap­pened with No­var­tis Gene Ther­a­pies? Here's your an­swer

Over the last couple of days it’s become clear that the gene therapy division at Novartis has quietly undergone a major reorganization. We learned on Monday that Dave Lennon, who had pursued a high-profile role as president of the unit with 1,500 people, had left the pharma giant to take over as CEO of a startup.

Like a lot of the majors, Novartis is an open highway for head hunters, or anyone looking to staff a startup. So that was news but not completely unexpected.

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Who are the women su­per­charg­ing bio­phar­ma R&D? Nom­i­nate them for this year's spe­cial re­port

The biotech industry has faced repeated calls to diversify its workforce — and in the last year, those calls got a lot louder. Though women account for just under half of all biotech employees around the world, they occupy very few places in C-suites, and even fewer make it to the helm.

Some companies are listening, according to a recent BIO survey which showed that this year’s companies were 2.5 times more likely to have a diversity and inclusion program compared to last year’s sample. But we still have a long way to go. Women represent just 31% of biotech executives, BIO reported. And those numbers are even more stark for women of color.

Emma Walmsley, GlaxoSmithKline CEO (Credit: Fang Zhe/Xinhua/Alamy Live News)

The fire un­der Glax­o­SmithK­line's Em­ma Walm­s­ley grows as an­oth­er well-known ac­tivist in­vestor grabs its pitch­fork — re­port

Bluebell Capital Partners, a proxy brawler fresh off a campaign to oust global food giant Danone’s CEO and most of its board of directors, has bought a stake in UK drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline with its eyes trained directly on Emma Walmsley, the Financial Times reported Wednesday.

The London-based hedge fund joins another notorious activist firm in Paul Singer’s Elliott Management, which earlier this year called for a shakeup in leadership at GSK to handle what the company described as a wealth of riches across the drug giant’s portfolio hindered by limited vision from top staff.

David Meek, new Mirati CEO (Marlene Awaad/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Fresh off Fer­Gene's melt­down, David Meek takes over at Mi­rati with lead KRAS drug rac­ing to an ap­proval

In the insular world of biotech, a spectacular failure can sometimes stay on any executive’s record for a long time. But for David Meek, the man at the helm of FerGene’s recent implosion, two questionable exits made way for what could be an excellent rebound.

Meek, most recently FerGene’s CEO and a past head at Ipsen, has become CEO at Mirati Therapeutics, taking the reins from founding CEO Charles Baum, who will step over into the role of president and head of R&D, according to a release.

FDA au­tho­rizes Pfiz­er's vac­cine boost­er for se­niors, those at high risk for se­vere Covid-19

The Biden administration’s goal of kicking off its booster shot drive for the entire US population this week is not quite going as planned.

First, Pfizer applied for approval of a supplemental application for the booster shots, but since last Friday’s adcomm reviewing them, the plan has devolved into an EUA, which the FDA issued late Thursday evening.

The population that is now eligible for the booster, six months after receiving the first pair of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines, also narrowed from what Pfizer applied for (everyone who’s eligible for the initial Pfizer shots) to just those who are 65 or older, or at high-risk of a Covid infection, including health care workers and others with occupational hazards.

Stéphane Bancel, AP Images

Fi­nal analy­sis of US-fund­ed Mod­er­na Covid vac­cine tri­al shows 98% ef­fi­ca­cy against se­vere dis­ease

A final look at the results of the placebo-controlled Moderna trial in the New England Journal of Medicine, published Thursday afternoon, shows how the vaccine continues to prevent Covid-19 and severe cases after more than five months following the second shot.

Of the more than 30,000 enrolled in the trial that ultimately led to the vaccine’s EUA, only two people in the vaccine group got a severe form of the disease, compared to 106 in the placebo group — leading to an efficacy of 98%.

FDA+ roundup: Bs­U­FA III ready for show­time, court tells FDA to re-work com­pound­ing plan, new guid­ance up­dates and more

The FDA has now spelled out what exactly will be included in the third iteration of Biosimilar User Fee Act (BsUFA) from 2023 through 2027, which similarly to the prescription drug deal, sets fees that industry has to pay for submitting applications, in exchange for firm timelines that the agency must meet.

This latest deal includes several sweeteners for the biosimilar industry, which has yet to make great strides in the US market, with shorter review timelines for safety labeling updates and updates to add or remove an indication that does not contain efficacy data.

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