Top sci­en­tist Thor Voigt vaults to CMO role at Boehringer In­gel­heim; Cel­gene's Scott Smith tapped as pres­i­dent at BioAt­la

Thor Voigt

Boehringer In­gel­heim has pro­mot­ed one of its top sci­en­tists to the chief med­ical of­fi­cer’s job, giv­ing Thor Voigt a big voice in the com­pa­ny as it grows its R&D or­ga­ni­za­tion.

The pri­vate Ger­man com­pa­ny put out the word at the be­gin­ning of the week that Voigt will be tak­ing the place of Christo­pher Cor­si­co, who is leav­ing the bio­phar­ma com­pa­ny af­ter 20 years. Voigt has been a staffer for 26 years.

The change­up comes as Boehringer fol­lows through with an am­bi­tious ex­pan­sion of R&D af­ter pledg­ing to get 15 new drugs to an ap­proval over the next 7 years — a con­sid­er­able chal­lenge for any com­pa­ny in drug de­vel­op­ment.

Boehringer has about 8,000 staffers in its re­search group, and ear­li­er this week snapped up an up­start in the on­colyt­ic virus are­na with their $244 mil­lion deal to ac­quire Vi­raTher­a­peu­tics.

Scott Smith

Scott Smith has emerged just as sud­den­ly as he was oust­ed at Cel­gene. The for­mer biotech COO has joined San Diego-based BioAt­la as pres­i­dent, claim­ing a num­ber of re­spon­si­bil­i­ties in “busi­ness de­vel­op­ment and part­ner­ing ac­tiv­i­ties, new prod­uct de­vel­op­ment and ex­e­cu­tion” of plans to ad­vance the com­pa­ny’s con­di­tion­al­ly ac­tive bi­o­log­ic an­ti­body plat­form world­wide.

→ Der­ma­tol­ogy spe­cial­ist Bio­Phar­mX $BP­MX has tapped David Tier­ney as CEO to shep­herd its ac­ne treat­ment in­to Phase III. Tier­ney — chief ex­ec­u­tive at Icon Bio­science un­til its re­cent merg­er with Eye­Point Phar­ma — suc­ceeds co-founder An­ja Kram­mer, who will keep her ti­tles of pres­i­dent and cor­po­rate sec­re­tary.

An­drew Cheng spent close to 20 years at Gilead, end­ing as its chief med­ical of­fi­cer af­ter play­ing a key role in de­vel­op­ing a string of block­busters. Now, af­ter mak­ing a re­cent ex­it at Gilead in an ex­o­dus of top ex­ecs, he’s sur­faced at the helm of an up­start biotech with plans to play a dis­rup­tive role in the bur­geon­ing NASH field. Cheng is the new CEO of Akero Ther­a­peu­tics, and his re­cruit­ment was im­por­tant enough for the still-small com­pa­ny to de­cide to switch its head­quar­ters from the hot hub in Cam­bridge, MA to trendy San Fran­cis­co. And start­up CEO Jonathon Young will now switch to the COO’s job.

Sanofi and Bay­er are swap­ping out two top ex­ecs, trig­ger­ing a re­or­ga­ni­za­tion at the French phar­ma com­pa­ny that will al­low for a clos­er fo­cus on Chi­na. Ste­fan Oel­rich is leav­ing his job at Sanofi as head of the di­a­betes and car­dio op­er­a­tion, head­ed back to Bay­er as the new chief of its phar­ma group, where he be­gan his ca­reer. Sanofi, mean­while, re­cruit­ed Bay­er’s Di­eter Weinand — who Oel­rich is re­plac­ing — and as­signed him to the of­fice in Bridge­wa­ter, NJ, where he’ll run a new pri­ma­ry care unit that com­bines di­a­betes/car­dio and their “Es­tab­lished Prod­ucts” group.

Sanofi is al­so carv­ing out a new group called “Chi­na and emerg­ing mar­kets” and as­sign­ing it to Olivi­er Charmeil, who will be in charge. Chi­na has grown swift­ly in­to Sanofi’s sec­ond largest mar­ket, and they want to add an em­pha­sis here.

Ju­lia Gre­go­ry

Ju­lia Gre­go­ry is the new ex­ec­u­tive chair at Cavion, the start­up backed by Eli Lil­ly and No­var­tis to cre­ate ther­a­pies for rare neu­ro­log­i­cal dis­eases by mod­u­lat­ing the T-type cal­ci­um chan­nel. A sea­soned biotech board di­rec­tor, Gre­go­ry had served as CEO of Five Prime, EVP at Con­tra­Fect and CFO at Lex­i­con be­fore mak­ing a move to con­sult­ing.

→ Ex­pe­ri­enced com­mer­cial ex­ec Paul Firu­ta has jumped ship from uniQure to be­come COO of Achillion. In ad­di­tion to prep­ping the biotech’s com­ple­ment fac­tor D pro­grams for Phase III reg­is­tra­tional tri­als, he will have a key role in the po­ten­tial launch of these rare dis­ease drugs — some­thing he’s had plen­ty of prac­tice in. Firu­ta is the sec­ond C-suite mem­ber Achillion CEO Joseph Tru­itt has poached from uniQure, join­ing CMO Steven Ze­lenkofske.

Pavel Pisa

→ Cam­bridge, UK-based Crescen­do Bi­o­log­ics has re­cruit­ed Roche vet Pavel Pisa to over­see its pipeline of T cell en­hanc­ing ther­a­pies. As the for­mer head of trans­la­tion­al med­i­cine at the phar­ma gi­ant, Pisa reg­u­lar­ly han­dled first-in-hu­man stud­ies and had a front-row seat to their ear­ly ef­forts in im­munother­a­py — check­ing all the box­es for Crescen­do ex­ecs keen on push­ing their on­col­o­gy pro­grams in­to the clin­ic.

Detlev Bin­iszkiewicz and Scott Chap­pel met at Sur­face On­col­o­gy, steer­ing the im­muno-on­col­o­gy up­start to­geth­er through a slate of pre­clin­i­cal pro­grams and a re­cent IPO. The ex­pe­ri­ence bring­ing an idea to life cap­ti­vat­ed both Bin­iszkiewicz — a Big Phar­ma vet — and Chap­pel, who held a streak of biotech ex­ec roles be­fore co-found­ing Sur­face. As the At­las-backed biotech got on track for hu­man stud­ies, both be­gan itch­ing to do it again. Now, af­ter a brief spell apart, they are back in the same of­fice as part of a larg­er team of “en­tre­pre­neur­ial en­gines” at MPM Cap­i­tal, scout­ing new in­vest­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties and tak­ing op­er­a­tional roles in biotechs ven­tures.

→ In an ef­fort to es­tab­lish a big­ger pres­ence in Asia, France’s Pox­el has formed a Japan­ese sub­sidiary and poached a vet­er­an ex­ec from Janssen to run the op­er­a­tion. Takashi Kaneko, a vet­er­an staffer of multi­na­tion­al phar­ma com­pa­nies in Japan, will serve as pres­i­dent of Pox­el KK with the ad­di­tion­al ti­tle se­nior vice pres­i­dent, med­ical. He will dive right in­to Pox­el’s on­go­ing clin­i­cal and mar­ket ac­cess plans for di­a­betes drug imeglim­in, work­ing close­ly with new part­ners at Sum­it­o­mo Dainip­pon.

Medi­vir $MVIR has ap­point­ed Lin­da Basse as CMO, hand­ing her the reins over a broad port­fo­lio of can­cer drugs. Be­fore join­ing the Stock­holm-based biotech, Basse has served as med­ical di­rec­tor at Den­mark’s Zealand Phar­ma and Gen­mab.

→ On a hunt for phar­ma com­pa­nies in­ter­est­ed in its drug de­liv­ery tech, Travec­ta Ther­a­peu­tics has en­list­ed Dou­glas Hicks for some deal­mak­ing ex­per­tise. As chief busi­ness of­fi­cer, Hicks will help de­vise the cor­po­rate strat­e­gy and scout part­ner­ships where Travec­ta’s plat­form, which en­ables trans­port of small mol­e­cules across the blood-brain bar­ri­er and blood-reti­na bar­ri­er, can come in­to play. Most re­cent­ly, he was in charge of the BD de­part­ment of the con­tract de­vel­op­ment and man­u­fac­tur­ing com­pa­ny iBio.

→ As Idera Phar­ma $IDRA con­sol­i­dates all of its op­er­a­tions in Ex­ton, PA, long­time CFO Louis Ar­cu­di will not be mov­ing with the rest of the team. His res­ig­na­tion will lead to the pro­mo­tion of John Kir­by, cur­rent­ly VP of fi­nance and pre­vi­ous­ly VP of ac­count­ing. That’s not all: Idera has hired Bryant Lim as gen­er­al coun­sel, SVP and sec­re­tary of the board of di­rec­tors. Lim’s re­cent stint at IDO drug de­vel­op­er In­cyte, com­bined with his pre­vi­ous ex­pe­ri­ence with Vi­roPhar­ma’s piv­ot to com­mer­cial­iza­tion, con­vinced Idera ex­ecs that he is an ide­al ex­ec to have on their side while they look to get an OK on tilso­tolimod.

→ Fol­low­ing a dec­o­rat­ed ca­reer that spanned gigs at Astel­las, Onyx, Genen­tech, Eli Lil­ly and most re­cent­ly Aege­ri­on, Jef­frey Bloss has land­ed his lat­est job at Tarve­da Ther­a­peu­tics. The CMO’s ap­point­ment comes on the heels of an­nounce­ments that Tarve­da is start­ing mid-stage stud­ies for two of its minia­ture drug con­ju­gates dubbed Pen­tarins. He will be work­ing with two oth­er new hires: Steven Ham­burg­er, VP of reg­u­la­to­ry af­fairs, and Lau­ra Mei, VP of clin­i­cal op­er­a­tions.

David Grys­ka is set to re­tire from In­cyte $IN­CY at the end of this year, trig­ger­ing a search for a new CFO.

Roy Baynes Mer­ck’s CMO and of­ten the face for its Keytru­da fran­chise — has joined the board of Atara Bio­ther­a­peu­tics, which re­cent­ly inked an­oth­er col­lab­o­ra­tion deal with a star in­ves­ti­ga­tor at Memo­r­i­al Sloan Ket­ter­ing to beef up its pipeline of off-the-shelf T cell im­munother­a­pies.

John Hood [file photo]

UP­DATE: Cel­gene and the sci­en­tist who cham­pi­oned fe­dra­tinib's rise from Sanofi's R&D grave­yard win FDA OK

Six years after Sanofi gave it up for dead, the FDA has approved the myelofibrosis drug fedratinib, now owned by Celgene.

The drug will be sold as Inrebic, and will soon land in the portfolio at Bristol-Myers Squibb, which is finalizing a deal to acquire Celgene.

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Ab­b­Vie gets its FDA OK for JAK in­hibitor upadac­i­tinib, but don’t look for this one to hit ex­ecs’ lofty ex­pec­ta­tions

Another big drug approval came through on Friday afternoon as the FDA OK’d AbbVie’s upadacitinib — an oral JAK1 inhibitor that is hitting the rheumatoid arthritis market with a black box warning of serious malignancies, infections and thrombosis reflecting fears associated with the class.

It will be sold as Rinvoq — at a wholesale price of $59,000 a year — and will likely soon face competition from a drug that AbbVie once controlled, and spurned. Reuters reports that a 4-week supply of Humira, by comparison, is $5,174, adding up to about $67,000 a year.

UP­DAT­ED: AveX­is sci­en­tif­ic founder was axed — and No­var­tis names a new CSO in wake of an ethics scan­dal

Now at the center of a storm of controversy over its decision to keep its knowledge of manipulated data hidden from regulators during an FDA review, Novartis CEO Vas Narasimhan has found a longtime veteran in the ranks to head the scientific work underway at AveXis, where the incident occurred. And the scientific founder has hit the exit.

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The top 10 fran­chise drugs in bio­phar­ma his­to­ry will earn a to­tal of $1.4T (tril­lion) by 2024 — what does that tell us?

Just in case you were looking for more evidence of just how important Amgen’s patent win on Enbrel is for the company and its investors, EvaluatePharma has come up with a forward-looking consensus estimate on what the list of top 10 drugs will look like in 2024.

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UP­DAT­ED: Sci­en­tist-CEO ac­cused of im­prop­er­ly us­ing con­fi­den­tial in­fo from uni­corn Alec­tor

The executive team at Alector $ALEC has a bone to pick with scientific co-founder Asa Abeliovich. Their latest quarterly rundown has this brief note buried inside:

On June 18, 2019, we initiated a confidential arbitration proceeding against Dr. Asa Abeliovich, our former consulting co-founder, related to alleged breaches of his consulting agreement and the improper use of our confidential information that he learned during the course of rendering services to us as our consulting Chief Scientific Officer/Chief Innovation Officer. We are in the early stage of this arbitration proceeding and are unable to assess or provide any assurances regarding its possible outcome.

There’s no explicit word in the filing on what kind of confidential info was involved, but the proceeding got started 2 days ahead of Abeliovich’s IPO.

Abeliovich, formerly a tenured associate professor at Columbia, is a top scientist in the field of neurodegeneration, which is where Alector is targeted. More recently, he’s also helped start up Prevail Therapeutics as the CEO, which raised $125 million in an IPO. And there he’s planning on working on new gene therapies that target genetically defined subpopulations of Parkinson’s disease. Followup programs target Gaucher disease, frontotemporal dementia and synucleinopathies.

But this time Abeliovich is the CEO rather than a founding scientist. And some of their pipeline overlaps with Alector’s.

Abeliovich and Prevail, though, aren’t taking this one lying down.

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Chi­na has be­come a CEO-lev­el pri­or­i­ty for multi­na­tion­al phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pa­nies: the trend and the im­pli­ca­tions

After a “hot” period of rapid growth between 2009 and 2012, and a relatively “cooler” period of slower growth from 2013 to 2015, China has once again become a top-of-mind priority for the CEOs of most large, multinational pharmaceutical companies.

At the International Pharma Forum, hosted in March in Beijing by the R&D Based Pharmaceutical Association Committee (RDPAC) and the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), no fewer than seven CEOs of major multinational pharmaceutical firms participated, including GSK, Eli Lilly, LEO Pharma, Merck KGaA, Pfizer, Sanofi and UCB. A few days earlier, the CEOs of several other large multinationals attended the China Development Forum, an annual business forum hosted by the research arm of China’s State Council. It’s hard to imagine any other country, except the US, having such drawing power at CEO level.

As dis­as­ter struck, Ab­b­Vie’s Rick Gon­za­lez swooped in on Al­ler­gan with an of­fer Brent Saun­ders couldn’t say no to

Early March was a no good, awful, terrible time for Allergan CEO Brent Saunders. His big lead drug had imploded in a Phase III disaster and activists were after his hide — or at least his chairman’s title — as the stock price continued a steady droop that had eviscerated share value for investors.

But it was a perfect time for AbbVie CEO Rick Gonzalez to pick up the phone and ask Saunders if he’d like to consider a “strategic” deal.

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CEO Pascal Soriot via Getty Images

As­traZeneca's jug­ger­naut PARP play­er Lyn­parza scoops up an­oth­er dom­i­nant win in PhI­II as the FDA adds a 'break­through' for Calquence

AstraZeneca’s oncology R&D group under José Baselga keeps churning out hits.

Wednesday morning the pharma giant and their partners at Merck parted the curtains on a successful readout for their Phase III PAOLA-1 study, demonstrating statistically significant improvement in progression-free survival for women with ovarian cancer in a first-line maintenance setting who added their PARP Lynparza to Avastin. This is their second late-stage success in ovarian cancer, which will help stave off rivals like GSK.

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ICER blasts FDA, PTC and Sarep­ta for high prices on DMD drugs Em­flaza, Ex­ondys 51

ICER has some strong words for PTC, Sarepta and the FDA as the US drug price watchdog concludes that as currently priced, their respective new treatments for Duchenne muscular dystrophy are decidedly not cost-effective.

The final report — which cements the conclusions of a draft issued in May — incorporates the opinion of a panel of 17 experts ICER convened in a public meeting last month. It also based its analysis of Emflaza (deflazacort) and Exondys 51 (eteplirsen) on updated annual costs of $81,400 and over $1 million, respectively, after citing “incorrect” lower numbers in the initial calculations.