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.

The top 10 block­buster drugs in the late-stage pipeline — Eval­u­ate adds 6 new ther­a­pies to heavy-hit­ter list

Vertex comes in for a substantial amount of criticism for its no-holds-barred tactical approach toward wresting the price it wants for its commercial drugs in Europe. But the flip side of that coin is a highly admired R&D and commercial operation that regularly wins kudos from analysts for their ability to engineer greater cash flow from the breakthrough drugs they create.

Both aspects needed for success in this business are on display in the program backing Vertex’s triple for cystic fibrosis. VX-659/VX-445 + Tezacaftor + Ivacaftor — it’s been whittled down to 445 now — was singled out by Evaluate Pharma as the late-stage therapy most likely to win the crown for drug sales in 5 years, with a projected peak revenue forecast of $4.3 billion.

The latest annual list, which you can see here in their latest world preview, includes a roster of some of the most closely watched development programs in biopharma. And Evaluate has added 6 must-watch experimental drugs to the top 10 as drugs fail or go on to a first approval. With apologies to the list maker, I revamped this to rank the top 10 by projected 2024 sales, instead of Evaluate's net present value rankings.

It's how we roll at Endpoints News.

Here is a quick summary of the rest of the top 10:

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How small- to mid-sized biotechs can adopt pa­tient cen­tric­i­ty in their on­col­o­gy tri­als

By Lucy Clos­sick Thom­son, Se­nior Di­rec­tor of On­col­o­gy Pro­ject Man­age­ment, Icon

Clin­i­cal tri­als in on­col­o­gy can be cost­ly and chal­leng­ing to man­age. One fac­tor that could re­duce costs and re­duce bar­ri­ers is har­ness­ing the pa­tient voice in tri­al de­sign to help ac­cel­er­ate pa­tient en­roll­ment. Now is the time to adopt pa­tient-cen­tric strate­gies that not on­ly fo­cus on pa­tient needs, but al­so can main­tain cost ef­fi­cien­cy.

John Reed at JPM 2019. Jeff Rumans for Endpoints News

Sanofi's John Reed con­tin­ues to re­or­ga­nize R&D, cut­ting 466 jobs while boost­ing can­cer, gene ther­a­py re­search

The R&D reorganization inside Sanofi is continuing, more than a year after the pharma giant brought in John Reed to head the research arm of the Paris-based company.
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John Chiminski, Catalent CEO - File Photo

'It's a growth play': Catal­ent ac­quires Bris­tol-My­er­s' Eu­ro­pean launch pad, ex­pand­ing glob­al CD­MO ops

Catalent is staying on the growth track.

Just two months after committing $1.2 billion to pick up Paragon and take a deep dive into the sizzling hot gene therapy manufacturing sector, the CDMO is bouncing right back with a deal to buy out Bristol-Myers’ central launchpad for new therapies in Europe, acquiring a complex in Anagni, Italy, southwest of Rome, that will significantly expand its capacity on the continent.

There are no terms being offered, but this is no small deal. The Anagni campus employs some 700 staffers, and Catalent is planning to go right in — once the deal closes late this year — with a blueprint to build up the operations further as they expand on oral solid, biologics, and sterile product manufacturing and packaging.

This is an uncommon deal, Catalent CEO John Chiminski tells me. But it offers a shortcut for rapid growth that cuts years out of developing a green fields project. That’s time Catalent doesn’t have as the industry undergoes unprecedented expansion around the world.

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Arc­turus ex­pands col­lab­o­ra­tion, adding $30M cash; Ku­ra shoots for $100M raise

→  Rare dis­ease play­er Ul­tragenyx $RARE is ex­pand­ing its al­liance with Arc­turus $ARCT, pay­ing $24 mil­lion for eq­ui­ty and an­oth­er $6 mil­lion in an up­front as the two part­ners ex­pand their col­lab­o­ra­tion to in­clude up to 12 tar­gets. “This ex­pand­ed col­lab­o­ra­tion fur­ther so­lid­i­fies our mR­NA plat­form by adding ad­di­tion­al tar­gets and ex­pand­ing our abil­i­ty to po­ten­tial­ly treat more dis­eases,” said Emil Kakkis, the CEO at Ul­tragenyx. “We are pleased with the progress of our on­go­ing col­lab­o­ra­tion. Our most ad­vanced mR­NA pro­gram, UX053 for the treat­ment of Glyco­gen Stor­age Dis­ease Type III, is ex­pect­ed to move in­to the clin­ic next year, and we look for­ward to fur­ther build­ing up­on the ini­tial suc­cess of this part­ner­ship.”

UP­DAT­ED: Chica­go biotech ar­gues blue­bird, Third Rock 'killed' its ri­val, pi­o­neer­ing tha­lassemia gene ther­a­py in law­suit

Blue­bird bio $BLUE chief Nick Leschly court­ed con­tro­ver­sy last week when he re­vealed the com­pa­ny’s be­ta tha­lassemia treat­ment will car­ry a jaw-drop­ping $1.8 mil­lion price tag over a 5-year pe­ri­od in Eu­rope — mak­ing it the plan­et’s sec­ond most ex­pen­sive ther­a­py be­hind No­var­tis’ $NVS fresh­ly ap­proved spinal mus­cu­lar at­ro­phy ther­a­py, Zol­gens­ma, at $2.1 mil­lion. A Chica­go biotech, mean­while, has been fum­ing at the side­lines. In a law­suit filed ear­li­er this month, Er­rant Gene Ther­a­peu­tics al­leged that blue­bird and ven­ture cap­i­tal group Third Rock un­law­ful­ly prised a vi­ral vec­tor, de­vel­oped in part­ner­ship with the Memo­r­i­al Sloan Ket­ter­ing Can­cer Cen­ter (MSK), from its grasp, and thwart­ed the de­vel­op­ment of its sem­i­nal gene ther­a­py.

Neil Woodford. Woodford Investment Management via YouTube

Wood­ford braces po­lit­i­cal storm as UK fi­nan­cial reg­u­la­tors scru­ti­nize fund sus­pen­sion

The shock of Neil Wood­ford’s de­ci­sion to block with­drawals for his flag­ship fund is still rip­pling through the rest of his port­fo­lio — and be­yond. Un­der po­lit­i­cal pres­sure, UK fi­nan­cial reg­u­la­tors are now tak­ing a hard look while in­vestors con­tin­ue to flee.

In a re­sponse let­ter to an MP, the Fi­nan­cial Con­duct Au­thor­i­ty re­vealed that it’s opened an in­ves­ti­ga­tion in­to the sus­pen­sion fol­low­ing months of en­gage­ment with Link Fund So­lu­tions, which tech­ni­cal­ly del­e­gat­ed Wood­ford’s firm to man­age its funds.

Gilead baits new al­liance with $45M up­front, div­ing in­to the busy pro­tein degra­da­tion field

Gilead is jump­ing on board the pro­tein degra­da­tion band­wag­on. And they’re turn­ing to a low-pro­file Third Rock start­up for the ex­per­tise. But if you were look­ing for a trans­for­ma­tion­al deal to kick up fresh en­thu­si­asm for Gilead, you’ll have to re­main pa­tient.

This one will have a long way to go be­fore they get in­to the clin­ic.

The big biotech said Wednes­day morn­ing that it is pay­ing $45 mil­lion up­front and re­serv­ing a whop­ping $2.3 bil­lion in biotech bucks if San Fran­cis­co-based Nurix can point the way to new can­cer ther­a­pies, as well as drugs for oth­er, un­spec­i­fied dis­eases.

A new num­ber 1 drug? Keytru­da tapped to top the 10 biggest block­busters on the world stage by 2024

Analysts may be fretting about Keytruda’s longterm prospects as a host of rival therapies elbow their way to the market. But the folks at Evaluate Pharma are confident that last year’s $7 billion earner is headed for glory, tapping it to beat out the current #1 therapy Humira as AbbVie watches that franchise swoon over the next 5 years.

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