Top sci­en­tists and BD ex­ecs craft Cul­li­nan, a $150 mil­lion R&D port­fo­lio shop fo­cused on can­cer

Close to six years ago, then Am­gen R&D chief Roger Perl­mut­ter told me he had been “car­ry­ing a torch for (CSO) Patrick Baeuer­le at Mi­cromet for a long time.” That ad­mi­ra­tion ex­plains why Perl­mut­ter was will­ing to pay more than a bil­lion dol­lars to buy Mi­cromet — where Baeuer­le was R&D chief — which even­tu­al­ly de­liv­ered the pi­o­neer­ing Blin­cy­to to the mar­ket.

Af­ter a stint at Am­gen, biotech be­ing the kind of project-fo­cused in­dus­try it’s be­come, Baeuer­le be­came a VC at MPM and a start­up mae­stro. And to­day he’s hav­ing a com­ing out par­ty for Cul­li­nan On­col­o­gy, an in­tense­ly project-ori­ent­ed biotech bankrolled with $150 mil­lion to set up a port­fo­lio of can­cer drugs to de­vel­op.

Owen Hugh­es

“It’s a hy­brid; a fund and an op­er­at­ing com­pa­ny,” says Owen Hugh­es, the CEO of Cul­li­nan and a man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of MPM Cap­i­tal, which set the com­pa­ny up. The $150 mil­lion round was co-led by UBS On­col­o­gy Im­pact Fund (OIF) man­aged by MPM and F2 Ven­tures.

Hugh­es knows a thing or two about rais­ing mon­ey. He jumped to this new ven­ture from the biotech uni­corn Intar­cia, where he was un­til re­cent­ly head of cor­po­rate de­vel­op­ment dur­ing a stretch in which the com­pa­ny raised $1.8 bil­lion. That gave him time to re­fine a “the­o­ry of mod­ern port­fo­lio the­o­ry rel­a­tive to any sci­en­tif­ic plat­form.”

Cul­li­nan’s strat­e­gy is to gath­er to­geth­er large­ly ear­ly-stage can­cer drug as­sets — ei­ther from Baeuer­le’s mind or oth­er sources, such as acad­e­mia or plat­form com­pa­nies — and build up a set of 8 to 10 pro­grams that will be held un­der the um­brel­la group. The team will be charged with the re­search work, de­vel­op­ing these drugs through proof-of-con­cept or in­to Phase II, at which time they can start do­ing some deals and gen­er­at­ing re­turns for the lim­it­ed part­ners.

There are no wet labs at the Cam­bridge, MA-based biotech. Much of the de­vel­op­ment work is be­ing out­sourced. Costs con­tained. Re­turns max­i­mized and risk dis­trib­uted.

“We have no in­ten­tions to com­mer­cial­ize any of the as­sets,” says Hugh­es.

“We’ve looked at every biotech com­pa­ny in the last 15 years,” he adds. “There’s a huge chasm (un­der the Gilead lev­el) be­tween the haves and have nots.” Mar­gins are typ­i­cal­ly low, he says, with com­pa­nies in­vest­ing back in­to R&D.

Hugh­es thinks he and the small, 10-mem­ber team at Cul­li­nan can change those dy­nam­ics.

He and Baeuer­le have some well known tal­ent in their cor­ner.

Corinne Sav­ill

Brig­gs Mor­ri­son, the for­mer CMO at As­traZeneca and cur­rent CEO at Syn­dax, is a clin­i­cal ad­vis­er. Leigh Za­wel, yet an­oth­er se­nior re­searcher to come out of Big Phar­ma af­ter his most re­cent stint run­ning Cen­ters for Ther­a­peu­tic In­no­va­tion for Pfiz­er, is on board. Corinne Sav­ill jumped in from her job as head of BD and li­cens­ing for No­var­tis.

And Hugh­es plans to re­cruit one per­son to run each of the in-house pro­grams.

Cul­li­nan al­ready has three pro­grams, two from Baeuer­le and one from acad­e­mia, which he isn’t quite ready to dis­cuss in any de­tail. Each of these drugs they take on could cost $25 mil­lion to $30 mil­lion to get ready for the next deal.

Paul Hudson, Sanofi CEO (Getty Images)

Sanofi CEO Paul Hud­son has $23B burn­ing a hole in his pock­et. And here are some hints on how he plans to spend that

Sanofi has reaped $11.1 billion after selling off a big chunk of its Regeneron stock at $515 a share. And now everyone on the M&A side of the business is focused on how CEO Paul Hudson plans to spend it.

After getting stung in France for some awkward politicking — suggesting the US was in the front of the line for Sanofi’s vaccines given American financial support for their work, versus little help from European powers — Hudson now has the much more popular task of managing a major cash cache to pull off something in the order of a big bolt-on. Or two.

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The Advance Clinical leadership team: CEO Yvonne Lungershausen, Sandrien Louwaars - Director Business Development Operations, Gabriel Kremmidiotis - Chief Scientific Officer, Ben Edwards - Chief Strategy Officer

How Aus­tralia De­liv­ers Rapid Start-up and 43.5% Re­bate for Ear­ly Phase On­col­o­gy Tri­als

About Avance Clinical

Avance Clinical is an Australian owned Contract Research Organisation that has been providing high-quality clinical research services to the local and international drug development industry for 20 years. They specialise in working with biotech companies to execute Phase 1 and Phase 2 clinical trials to deliver high-quality outcomes fit for global regulatory standards.

As oncology sponsors look internationally to speed-up trials after unprecedented COVID-19 suspensions and delays, Australia, which has led the world in minimizing the pandemic’s impact, stands out as an attractive destination for early phase trials. This in combination with the streamlined regulatory system and the financial benefits including a very favourable exchange rate and the R & D cash rebate makes Australia the perfect location for accelerating biotech clinical programs.

Dan O'Day, Gilead CEO (Andrew Harnik, AP Images)

UP­DAT­ED: Gilead leas­es part­ner rights to TIG­IT, PD-1 in a $2B deal with Ar­cus. Now comes the hard part

Gilead CEO Dan O’Day has brokered his way to a PD-1 and lined up a front row seat in the TIGIT arena, inking a deal worth close to $2 billion to align the big biotech closely with Terry Rosen’s Arcus. And $375 million of that comes upfront, with cash for the buy-in plus equity, along with $400 million for R&D and $1.22 billion in reserve to cover opt-in payments and milestones..

Hotly rumored for weeks, the 2 players have formalized a 10-year alliance that starts with rights to the PD-1, zimberelimab. O’Day also has first dibs on TIGIT and 2 other leading programs, agreeing to an opt-in fee ranging from $200 million to $275 million on each. There’s $500 million in potential TIGIT milestones on US regulatory events — likely capped by an approval — if Gilead partners on it and the stars align on the data. And there’s another $150 million opt-in payments for the rest of the Arcus pipeline.

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Fabrice Chouraqui, Cellarity CEO-partner (LinkedIn)

Drug de­vel­op­er, Big Phar­ma com­mer­cial ex­ec, now an up­start biotech chief — Fab­rice Chouraqui is ready to try some­thing new as a ‘CEO-part­ner’ at Flag­ship

Fabrice Chouraqui’s career has taken some big twists along his life journey. He got his PharmD at Université Paris Descartes and jumped into the drug development game for a bit. Then he took a sharp turn and went back to school to get his MBA at Insead before returning to pharma on the commercial side.

Twenty years later, after steadily rising through the ranks and journeying the globe to nab a top job as president of US pharma for the Basel-based Novartis, Chouraqui exited in another career switch. And now he’s headed into a hybrid position as a CEO-partner at Flagship, where he’ll take a shot at leading Cellarity — one of the VC’s latest paradigm-changing companies of the groundbreaking model that aspires to deliver a new platform to the world of drug R&D.

Roger Perlmutter, Merck R&D chief (YouTube)

UP­DAT­ED: Backed by BAR­DA, Mer­ck jumps in­to Covid-19: buy­ing out a vac­cine, part­ner­ing on an­oth­er and adding an­tivi­ral to the mix

Merck execs are making a triple play in a sudden leap into the R&D campaign against Covid-19. And they have more BARDA cash backing them up on the move.

Tuesday morning the pharma giant simultaneously announced plans to buy an Austrian biotech that has been working on a preclinical vaccine candidate, added a collaboration on another vaccine with the nonprofit IAVI and inked a deal with Ridgeback Biotherapeutics on an early-stage antiviral.

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Daphne Koller, insitro CEO (insitro)

Daphne Koller’s AI start­up gets $143M in new cash from a16z, oth­ers

Biotech is becoming saturated with machine learning companies promising to reinvent and hasten drug development, but few, if any, have amassed the war chest Daphne Koller has.

Entering Tuesday, the former Stanford professor, MacArthur Fellowship recipient, Coursera founder and chief computing officer of Google’s secretive anti-aging biotech Calico had raised $100 million for her AI startup insitro. Now she’s raised $143 million more.

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Stymied by the pan­dem­ic, Im­munomedic­s' new CEO bows out, tak­ing a mil­lion bucks plus perks as he heads out the vir­tu­al ex­it

Just a little more than a month since taking over as the latest CEO to helm Immunomedics, $IMMU Harout Semerjian is exiting the company after being confronted by “logistical” obstacles thrown up by the pandemic that made it impossible for him to move from London to carry out the job. And he’s getting a little over a million dollars in cash plus perks to grease the skids on the way out.

Word of the changeup arrived right after the market closed Wednesday.

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Shelia Violette (Q32)

For a post-Soliris world, At­las-backed Q32 Bio out­lines $46M next-gen com­ple­ment play

Long before Alexion kindled a renaissance of complement therapeutics with the introduction of the first anti-C5 antibody, Mike Holers — a longtime professor at the University of Colorado School of Medicine — became fascinated with the host defense system as he completed his rheumatology training. As Soliris begins to fade and follow-on, rivals and even generics catch up to the standard bearer. Holers is debuting a next-generation approach he’s been refining with Atlas Venture over the last two years.

via Shutterstock

Ex-biotech chief pleads guilty in col­lege ad­mis­sions scan­dal, faces a 10-month prison stretch in plea deal

The ex-CEO of Harmony Biosciences — as well as former board member for Biohaven — has agreed to plead guilty to two counts of mail fraud after getting caught up in the college admissions scandal.

Charged with paying Georgetown University’s former tennis coach more than $50,000 to get his daughter admitted to the university as a new recruit for the team, Bob Repella took the plea deal, which comes with a recommended sentence of 10 months in prison, with a year of supervised release and a $40,000 fine.