This ex­trav­a­gant par­ty dur­ing #BIO18 fea­tured top­less dancers, and in­dus­try lead­ers are not pleased

An in­fa­mous in­dus­try par­ty held dur­ing the BIO In­ter­na­tion­al Con­ven­tion in Boston last week has come un­der fire for fea­tur­ing scant­i­ly clad fe­male dancers with spon­sor lo­gos paint­ed on their bod­ies.

Kate Stray­er-Ben­ton

Af­ter an at­tendee, Kate Stray­er-Ben­ton, pro­vid­ed pho­tos of the Par­ty at Bio Not As­so­ci­at­ed with Bio (bet­ter known as PAB­NAB) to the me­dia and open­ly spoke against it, some spon­sors as well as of­fi­cials of the trade group re­act­ed with a mix of con­dem­na­tion and dis­ap­point­ment.

Stray­er-Ben­ton — di­rec­tor of strat­e­gy at Mo­men­ta Phar­ma — told Bio­Cen­tu­ry, which first re­port­ed the news, that the en­ter­tain­ment was “be­yond tone-deaf.”

“We can talk all we want about di­ver­si­ty on pan­els and in the board­room, but when events like this are com­mon­place, I just think it un­der­mines all the progress be­ing made by in­dus­try groups and drug com­pa­nies,” Stray­er-Ben­ton elab­o­rat­ed to STAT. “I just think we take gi­ant steps back­wards when some­thing like this is con­sid­ered ac­cept­able.”

Mar­ti­na Mols­ber­gen

Now in its 14th year, PAB­NAB is known for its ex­trav­a­gant vibe in di­rect con­trast to the net­work­ing event that it’s in a sense born out of — but em­phat­i­cal­ly not af­fil­i­at­ed with.

C14 Con­sult­ing Group, one of three or­ga­niz­ers of this year’s event, al­so helped or­ga­nize last year’s event and was a spon­sor in 2016, ac­cord­ing to so­cial me­dia records. CEO Mar­ti­na Mols­ber­gen told Bio­Cen­tu­ry that last week’s par­ty was “edgy and art­sy” — and in line with what its spon­sors have come to ex­pect.

She added that C14 has re­ceived “very pos­i­tive feed­back from spon­sors” who “were very hap­py with the par­ty and the way it went, and did not feel un­com­fort­able,” but Bio­Cen­tu­ry not­ed she de­clined to name any spe­cif­ic spon­sors who had been in touch.

An­na Chris­man, man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of EBD Group, said she was con­cerned about the dancers’ pres­ence at the par­ty but want­ed to make sure the or­ga­niz­ers were not mis­rep­re­sent­ed (EBD was one of five gold spon­sors of the event):

EBD has sup­port­ed Pab­nab for a num­ber of years. We don’t see it as a cor­po­rate re­cep­tion, but a place that cel­e­brates friend­ships in the biotech com­mu­ni­ty. Un­for­tu­nate­ly, this year we were un­aware of the dancers un­til we ar­rived on site. We do not con­done this el­e­ment of the par­ty, and we voiced our con­cern on­site and af­ter­wards and know that this will not hap­pen again. The or­ga­niz­ers are main­ly women, and among them are suc­cess­ful, out­spo­ken fe­male ex­ec­u­tives who have been trail­blaz­ers for women in this in­dus­try. There are many things that can be said about this par­ty, but it is not run by or for the “old boys club.”

An­na Chris­man

In ral­ly­ing against PAB­NAB’s em­ploy­ment of fe­male dancers, Stray­er-Ben­ton bor­rowed from Bio­Cen­tu­ry pres­i­dent Karen Bern­stein and SV Life Sci­ences Ad­vis­ers man­ag­ing part­ner Kate Bing­ham, who wrote an open let­ter to the bio­phar­ma in­dus­try in 2016 af­ter at­tend­ing “yet an­oth­er cock­tail par­ty in which in­ap­pro­pri­ate­ly clad women served as eye can­dy” at the JP Mor­gan con­fer­ence.

The event ref­er­enced was a LifeSci Ad­vi­sors af­ter par­ty, which hired a num­ber of young fe­male mod­els to es­cort guests. The let­ter sparked con­sid­er­able out­rage, with some 230 sig­na­tures from in­dus­try lead­ers. LifeSci Ad­vi­sors even­tu­al­ly apol­o­gized, and has since launched ini­tia­tives to ad­dress gen­der di­ver­si­ty in com­pa­nies.

John Maraganore

Stray­er-Ben­ton took a sub­stan­tial por­tion of Bern­stein and Bing­ham’s let­ter but rewrote some of it to re­flect the PAB­NAB event. It reads, in part: “We ac­knowl­edged in 2016 that it was time for us, as se­nior women and men in the in­dus­try, to say ‘Enough.’ So, how is it, in this world where #Time­sUp and #Me Too have shown the spot­light on so many in­dus­tries, an ‘af­ter par­ty’ spon­sored by com­pa­nies with­in our own in­dus­try fea­tures top­less [fe­male] dancers?”

Sara De­my, whose firm De­my-Colton al­so spon­sored the event, said she was not in­volved in the or­ga­ni­za­tion of the event and is “sad­dened and dis­ap­point­ed by what tran­spired.”

“It is was ab­solute­ly not okay. Not to­day, not ever,” she wrote in an email. “There was a troupe of 40+ Broad­way wor­thy dancers, who went through mul­ti­ple cos­tume changes while I was there. It wasn’t un­til I was on my way out that I no­ticed the oth­er dancers. Frankly, it made me ill.”

BIO ex­ec­u­tives took note. STAT re­port­ed that the com­mit­tee on work­force de­vel­op­ment, di­ver­si­ty, and in­clu­sion dis­cussed the event on an emer­gency phone call on Tues­day and de­cid­ed mem­bers who con­tin­ue to spon­sor the even would not be wel­come in the trade group. Ken Li­saius, BIO’s SVP of com­mu­ni­ca­tions, lat­er clar­i­fied that since the event con­flict­ed with their prin­ci­ples, they would en­cour­age mem­bers to speak to event or­ga­niz­ers to en­sure fu­ture events fea­ture “more ap­pro­pri­ate en­ter­tain­ment.”

“We can­not stand for an event like that that is de­bas­ing and is frankly not con­sis­tent with our stan­dards around in­clu­sion,” said John Maraganore, BIO chair­man and CEO of Al­ny­lam, to STAT.

Is a pow­er­house Mer­ck team prepar­ing to leap past Roche — and leave Gilead and Bris­tol My­ers be­hind — in the race to TIG­IT dom­i­na­tion?

Roche caused quite a stir at ASCO with its first look at some positive — but not so impressive — data for their combination of Tecentriq with their anti-TIGIT drug tiragolumab. But some analysts believe that Merck is positioned to make a bid — soon — for the lead in the race to a second-wave combo immuno-oncology approach with its own ambitious early-stage program tied to a dominant Keytruda.

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UP­DAT­ED: Leg­end fetch­es $424 mil­lion, emerges as biggest win­ner yet in pan­dem­ic IPO boom as shares soar

Amid a flurry of splashy pandemic IPOs, a J&J-partnered Chinese biotech has emerged with one of the largest public raises in biotech history.

Legend Biotech, the Nanjing-based CAR-T developer, has raised $424 million on NASDAQ. The biotech had originally filed for a still-hefty $350 million, based on a range of $18-$20, but managed to fetch $23 per share, allowing them to well-eclipse the massive raises from companies like Allogene, Juno, Galapagos, though they’ll still fall a few dollars short of Moderna’s record-setting $600 million raise from 2018.

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As it hap­pened: A bid­ding war for an an­tibi­ot­ic mak­er in a mar­ket that has rav­aged its peers

In a bewildering twist to the long-suffering market for antibiotics — there has actually been a bidding war for an antibiotic company: Tetraphase.

It all started back in March, when the maker of Xerava (an FDA approved therapy for complicated intra-abdominal infections) said it had received an offer from AcelRx for an all-stock deal valued at $14.4 million.

The offer was well-timed. Xerava was approved in 2018, four years after Tetraphase posted its first batch of pivotal trial data, and sales were nowhere near where they needed to be in order for the company to keep its head above water.

Drug man­u­fac­tur­ing gi­ant Lon­za taps Roche/phar­ma ‘rein­ven­tion’ vet as its new CEO

Lonza chairman Albert Baehny took his time headhunting a new CEO for the company, making it absolutely clear he wanted a Big Pharma or biotech CEO with a good long track record in the business for the top spot. In the end, he went with the gold standard, turning to Roche’s ranks to recruit Pierre-Alain Ruffieux for the job.

Ruffieux, a member of the pharma leadership team at Roche, spent close to 5 years at the company. But like a small army of manufacturing execs, he gained much of his experience at the other Big Pharma in Basel, remaining at Novartis for 12 years before expanding his horizons.

Covid-19 roundup: Ab­b­Vie jumps in­to Covid-19 an­ti­body hunt; As­traZeneca shoots for 2B dos­es of Ox­ford vac­cine — with $750M from CEPI, Gavi

Another Big Pharma is entering the Covid-19 antibody hunt.

AbbVie has announced a collaboration with the Netherlands’ Utrecht University and Erasmus Medical Center and the Chinese-Dutch biotech Harbour Biomed to develop a neutralizing antibody that can treat Covid-19. The antibody, called 47D11, was discovered by AbbVie’s three partners, and AbbVie will support early preclinical work, while preparing for later preclinical and clinical development. Researchers described the antibody in Nature Communications last month.

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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Bris­tol My­ers is clean­ing up the post-Cel­gene merg­er pipeline, and they’re sweep­ing out an ex­per­i­men­tal check­point in the process

Back during the lead up to the $74 billion buyout of Celgene, the big biotech’s leadership did a little housecleaning with a major pact it had forged with Jounce. Out went the $2.6 billion deal and a collaboration on ICOS and PD-1.

Celgene, though, also added a $530 million deal — $50 million up front — to get the worldwide rights to JTX-8064, a drug that targets the LILRB2 receptor on macrophages.

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GSK presents case to ex­pand use of its lu­pus drug in pa­tients with kid­ney dis­ease, but the field is evolv­ing. How long will the mo­nop­oly last?

In 2011, GlaxoSmithKline’s Benlysta became the first biologic to win approval for lupus patients. Nine years on, the British drugmaker has unveiled detailed positive results from a study testing the drug in lupus patients with associated kidney disease — a post-marketing requirement from the initial FDA approval.

Lupus is a drug developer’s nightmare. In the last six decades, there has been just one FDA approval (Benlysta), with the field resembling a graveyard in recent years with a string of failures including UCB and Biogen’s late-stage flop, as well as defeats in Xencor and Sanofi’s programs. One of the main reasons the success has eluded researchers is because lupus, akin to cancer, is not just one disease — it really is a disease of many diseases, noted Al Roy, executive director of Lupus Clinical Investigators Network, an initiative of New York-based Lupus Research Alliance that claims it is the world’s leading private funder of lupus research, in an interview.

UP­DAT­ED: Es­ti­mat­ing a US price tag of $5K per course, remde­sivir is set to make bil­lions for Gilead, says key an­a­lyst

Data on remdesivir — the first drug shown to benefit Covid-19 patients in a randomized, controlled trial setting — may be murky, but its maker Gilead could reap billions from the sales of the failed Ebola therapy, according to an estimate by a prominent Wall Street analyst. However, the forecast, which is based on a $5,000-per-course US price tag, triggered the ire of one top drug price expert.