Three se­nior Chimerix ex­ecs to hold the fort to re­place de­part­ing CEO Berrey

Michelle Berrey — the woman who re­placed Chimerix CEO Ken­neth Moch in 2014 af­ter the com­pa­ny no­to­ri­ous­ly de­nied a dy­ing child com­pas­sion­ate use of its ex­per­i­men­tal treat­ment — has stepped down for undis­closed rea­sons, the Durham, North Car­oli­na-based drug de­vel­op­er said on Wednes­day.

Berrey, who served as the com­pa­ny’s chief med­ical of­fi­cer pri­or to be­com­ing CEO, came to Chimerix from Phar­mas­set where she was al­so CMO un­til the com­pa­ny was swal­lowed by Gilead in 2012, en­abling the lat­ter to gen­er­ate bil­lions in hep C drug sales. She steered the ship at Chimerix as the com­pa­ny sought to spin set­back af­ter set­back in the late-stage de­vel­op­men­tal pro­gram of its oral an­tivi­ral drug, brin­cid­o­fovir, for the pre­ven­tion of cy­tomegalovirus (CMV) dis­ease in kid­ney trans­plant pa­tients.

Gar­rett Nichols

Even­tu­al­ly, the com­pa­ny ter­mi­nat­ed de­vel­op­ing the drug in that in­di­ca­tion and shift­ed fo­cus to test­ing the drug for small­pox, among oth­er pa­tient pop­u­la­tions. Da­ta from two piv­otal small­pox stud­ies in rab­bits and mice are ex­pect­ed this year, and if pos­i­tive will form the ba­sis of a mar­ket­ing ap­pli­ca­tion. Mean­while, an IV ver­sion of brin­cid­o­fovir is al­so in de­vel­op­ment.

Over the last three years, the com­pa­ny has kept a rel­a­tive­ly low-pro­file. On Wednes­day, Chimerix said a new­ly cre­at­ed of­fice of the CEO — en­cap­su­lat­ing three se­nior ex­ec­u­tives Gar­rett Nichols, Tim­o­thy Trost and Michael Al­rutz — will man the fort while a re­place­ment for Berrey is found.

Michael Al­rutz

The three will al­so con­tin­ue to serve in their orig­i­nal posts: Nichols as CMO; Trost as CFO, se­nior VP and cor­po­rate sec­re­tary; and Al­rutz as se­nior VP, gen­er­al coun­sel.

Chimerix de­clined to com­ment on Berrey’s de­par­ture.

The com­pa­ny went pub­lic in 2013 un­der Moch — who quick­ly found a way to tem­per the firestorm of pub­lic crit­i­cism that emerged in re­sponse to the re­jec­tion of the com­pas­sion­ate use re­quest in 2014 — by en­rolling the child Josh Hardy in a small open-la­bel tri­al set up in agree­ment with the FDA.

Moch, who is cur­rent­ly CEO of Cog­ni­tion Ther­a­peu­tics in an emailed state­ment told End­points News: “Ac­tu­al­ly, I no­to­ri­ous­ly got Josh Hardy the drug in 120 hours af­ter our med­ical de­part­ment (led by Michelle Berry) turned down the re­quest from the Hardy fam­i­ly.”

Im­age: Michelle Berrey. CHIMERIX

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.

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.

David Meline (file photo)

Mod­er­na’s new CFO took a cut in salary to jump to the mR­NA rev­o­lu­tion­ary. But then there’s the rest of the com­pen­sa­tion pack­age

David Meline took a little off the top of his salary when he jumped from the CFO post at giant Amgen to become the numbers czar at the upstart vaccines revolutionary Moderna. But the SEC filing that goes with a major hire also illustrates how it puts him in line for a fortune — provided the biotech player makes good as a promising game changer.

To be sure, there’s nothing wrong with the base salary: $600,000. Or the up-to 50% annual cash bonus — an industry standard — that comes with it. True, the 62-year-old earned $999,000 at Amgen in 2019, but it’s the stock options that really count in the current market bliss for all things biopharma. And there Meline did well.

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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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Mer­ck wins a third FDA nod for an­tibi­ot­ic; Mereo tack­les TIG­IT with $70M raise in hand

Merck — one of the last big pharma bastions in the beleaguered field of antibiotic drug development — on Friday said the FDA had signed off on using its combination drug, Recarbrio, with hospital-acquired bacterial pneumonia and ventilator-associated bacterial pneumonia. The drug could come handy for use in hospitalized patients who are afflicted with Covid-19, who carry a higher risk of contracting secondary bacterial infections. Once SARS-CoV-2, the virus behind Covid-19, infects the airways, it engages the immune system, giving other pathogens free rein to pillage and plunder as they please — the issue is particularly pertinent in patients on ventilators, which in any case are breeding grounds for infectious bacteria.