Trou­bled Unum re­brands as Co­gent Bio­sciences, re­places CEO Chuck Wil­son with An­drew Rob­bins; Jen­nifer Fox ap­point­ed as CFO at David Hung-led Nu­va­tion Bio

An­drew Rob­bins

→ Rife with tur­moil and hit with a bar­rage of FDA holds as it spi­raled in­to pen­ny-stock ter­ri­to­ry, Unum Ther­a­peu­tics hopes a new name — Co­gent Bio­sciences — and a new CEO can turn its for­tunes around. An­drew Rob­bins takes con­trol now and suc­ceeds Chuck Wil­son, who found­ed Unum in 2014.

The cell ther­a­py biotech stum­bled out of the gate when it de­buted on Nas­daq in 2018 and re­vealed that 2 of its 9 pa­tients died in one arm of their AC­TR087 tri­al. The FDA would hand down 3 dif­fer­ent holds, two for AC­TR087 and an­oth­er for its ex­per­i­men­tal ther­a­py AC­TR707. Adding in­sult to in­jury, Unum shed around 60% of its work­force and jet­ti­soned its old pipeline in fa­vor of a new one a few months ago.

Wil­son, whose last of­fi­cial day at work is to­day, is get­ting $860,737.50 in sev­er­ance pay, ac­cord­ing to an SEC fil­ing, payable over 18 months. And Rob­bins gets an op­tion on 7,442,421 shares $COGT at the cur­rent price which vest over 4 years along with an an­nu­al salary of $575,000 and a bonus up to 60% of that.

Rob­bins makes his way to Co­gent Bio­sciences from Ar­ray Bio­Phar­ma, where he was their COO from 2012 un­til Pfiz­er pur­chased the com­pa­ny in 2019. He’s al­so on the board of di­rec­tors at Har­poon Ther­a­peu­tics.

Jen­nifer Fox

Nu­va­tion Bio, whose CEO David Hung has just fash­ioned an $850 mil­lion SPAC deal merg­ing with Panacea, has brought on Jen­nifer Fox as their CFO. Fox has held lead­er­ship roles in in­vest­ment bank­ing with Deutsche Bank, Bear Stearns, Bank of Amer­i­ca and Pru­den­tial, and is join­ing Nu­va­tion Bio af­ter her tenure with Cit­i­Group as man­ag­ing di­rec­tor and co-head of their health­care cor­po­rate and in­vest­ment bank­ing group.

Richard Ad­cock

Patrick Soon-Sh­iong has hand­ed the CEO reins at Nan­tK­west to Richard Ad­cock, a first-time biotech ex­ec who was at the helm of Ver­i­ty Health Sys­tems be­fore mak­ing the switch. Soon-Sh­iong, a man whose lofty am­bi­tions are of­ten jux­ta­posed with un­even re­sults through­out his ca­reer, steps aside from the top job 5 years af­ter he took Nan­tK­west pub­lic, but he will stay on as ex­ec­u­tive chair­man. Our Ja­son Mast has more per­spec­tive on the tran­si­tion here and on Soon Sh­iong’s Covid-19 cru­sade here.

→ Speak­ing of Nan­tk­west, David Pyrce has been giv­en the nod as CEO of De­va­Cell, a syn­thet­ic vec­tor ther­a­peu­tics play­er out of San Diego. Pyrce was pre­vi­ous­ly Nan­tK­west’s SVP, strat­e­gy, in­no­va­tions and chief com­mer­cial of­fi­cer, and the GSK and Bio­Marin vet found­ed Ge­nom­ic Prin­ci­ples, where he was al­so chair­man and CEO.

Stream Bio­med­ical — fo­cused on the treat­ment of acute stroke and Alzheimer’s dis­ease — has tapped William Schwi­eter­man as its CEO. Schwi­eter­man comes aboard suc­ceed­ing Gary Gage, the com­pa­ny’s founder, who will con­tin­ue to serve as COO. Schwi­eter­man for­mer­ly served at the FDA’s Cen­ter for Bi­o­log­ics and has held roles at Chelsea Ther­a­peu­tics (ac­quired by Lund­beck), Ma­teon Ther­a­peu­tics (merged with On­cotel­ic) and Per­cep­tive Ad­vi­sors.

Min Wang

Ver­sant-backed Monte Rosa Ther­a­peu­tics, fly­ing high with $96 mil­lion in a Se­ries B an­nounced last month, has three new ap­point­ments with Min Wang, COO; Ajim Tam­boli, CFO; and Jul­lian Jones, SVP, head of busi­ness de­vel­op­ment. Wang, who just held the same po­si­tion at Blue­Rock Ther­a­peu­tics, was al­so SVP, gen­er­al coun­sel at Agios and se­nior patent coun­sel at Genen­tech and Mer­ck. Tam­boli helped guide the sale of Rodin Ther­a­peu­tics to Alk­er­mes when he was Rodin’s CFO. And Jones was pre­vi­ous­ly the se­nior di­rec­tor of on­col­o­gy busi­ness de­vel­op­ment at Eli Lil­ly. Be­fore that, she was in busi­ness de­vel­op­ment and li­cens­ing at Boehringer In­gel­heim.

→ Amass­ing a nice chunk of change ($133 mil­lion) over 3 rounds — in­clud­ing one for $50 mil­lion that was an­nounced in June — South San Fran­cis­co biotech Sur­rozen has brought on Charles Williams as CFO. Since 2013, Williams had been the head of cor­po­rate de­vel­op­ment at Jazz Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals, and he oc­cu­pied lead­er­ship roles in cor­po­rate de­vel­op­ment and fi­nance at MAP Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals and CV Ther­a­peu­tics. Sur­rozen has 2 IND can­di­dates, one for liv­er dis­ease and the oth­er for IBD.

Michael Amoroso

→ It didn’t take long for Michael Amoroso to earn a pro­mo­tion in the wake of João Sif­fert’s de­par­ture at Abeona Ther­a­peu­tics. In Ju­ly, Amoroso head­ed to Abeona as their chief com­mer­cial of­fi­cer, and this week, he gets the bump to COO. Be­fore the Cel­gene and Sanofi vet got to the gene and cell ther­a­py biotech, Amoroso led com­mer­cial­iza­tion ef­forts for Yescar­ta at Kite and was Ei­sai’s SVP, Amer­i­c­as for the com­mer­cial on­col­o­gy busi­ness group.

→ Long­time Mer­ck vet Jef­frey Fu is em­bark­ing on a new chap­ter as CBO of New York biotech Coda­genix, which bagged a $20 mil­lion Se­ries B round in Jan­u­ary and is prepar­ing a Phase I tri­al for their Covid-19 vac­cine can­di­date CDX-005. Dur­ing his 30 years at the phar­ma gi­ant, Fu held var­i­ous lead­er­ship po­si­tions in busi­ness de­vel­op­ment, R&D and mar­ket­ing and sales. Fu wraps up his Mer­ck tenure as cor­po­rate fi­nance ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor, busi­ness de­vel­op­ment and as a mem­ber of the US mar­ket and glob­al vac­cines lead­er­ship teams.

Cather­ine Thut

Adel Na­da’s Boston start­up Gen­tiBio, which launched in Au­gust with $20 mil­lion worth of fund­ing, is fill­ing out its C-suite with Cather­ine Thut as CBO and Thomas Wick­ham as CSO. Thut, a No­var­tis and Mer­ck alum, moves on from her CEO post at Makana Ther­a­peu­tics, a xe­ro­trans­plan­ta­tion biotech that merged with gene edit­ing com­pa­ny Re­com­bi­net­ics ear­li­er this month. Wick­ham has been an R&D ex­ec with Mer­ri­mack Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals and more re­cent­ly Ru­bius Ther­a­peu­tics. He was al­so se­nior di­rec­tor of pre­clin­i­cal phar­ma­col­o­gy at EMD Serono.

Flo­rence Lor­get

→ A French biotech that launched last week is adding to their per­son­nel as their AAV gene ther­a­py tar­gets re­tini­tis pig­men­tosa: Spar­ingVi­sion has fo­cused their eyes on Flo­rence Lor­get as chief de­vel­op­ment sci­ences of­fi­cer and Ra­jiv Gan­gurde as chief tech­nol­o­gy of­fi­cer. Lor­get, who got her start at Am­gen and was a se­nior sci­en­tist at Bio­Marin and Genen­tech, leaves her role at Sang­amo as se­nior di­rec­tor of non­clin­i­cal safe­ty eval­u­a­tion. Gan­gurde heads over to Spar­ingVi­sion from Voy­ager Ther­a­peu­tics, where he was the Cam­bridge biotech’s se­nior di­rec­tor and head of CMC.

QurAlis, fo­cused on the de­vel­op­ment of treat­ments for ALS and oth­er neu­ro­log­ic dis­eases, has en­list­ed An­gela Genge as CMO. Genge pre­vi­ous­ly served as a clin­i­cal in­ves­ti­ga­tor in No­var­tis‘ Glob­al Neu­ro­science Clin­i­cal De­vel­op­ment Unit in ad­di­tion to di­rect­ing clin­ics at Mon­tre­al Neu­ro­log­i­cal Hos­pi­tal.

→ Plug­ging away in the hema­tol­ogy and on­col­o­gy spaces, with its PLK1 in­hibitor CYC140 for pa­tients with ad­vanced leukemias and MDS among those in the pipeline, NJ-based Cy­cla­cel Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals has named Mark Kirschbaum CMO. He was pre­vi­ous­ly Ar­Qule’s VP of hema­tol­ogy and on­col­o­gy and has been a se­nior med­ical di­rec­tor in glob­al clin­i­cal de­vel­op­ment with Dai­ichi Sankyo, Tai­ho Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals and BeiGene.

Jane Robert­son

→ Can­cer and fi­bro­sis-fo­cused Redx Phar­ma has re­cruit­ed Jane Robert­son as its CMO. Robert­son is tak­ing over for An­drew Saun­ders, who’s hit­ting the ex­it to pur­sue oth­er op­por­tu­ni­ties. Cur­rent­ly, Robert­son serves as CMO at Achilles Ther­a­peu­tics and has pre­vi­ous­ly held a stint at As­traZeneca On­col­o­gy.

→ France’s ERY­TECH Phar­ma — which teamed up for a $57 mil­lion cell ther­a­py deal with SQZ Biotech last June — has named Stew­art Craig as its chief tech­ni­cal of­fi­cer. Craig joins the com­pa­ny with ex­pe­ri­ence as chief man­u­fac­tur­ing of­fi­cer at Or­chard Ther­a­peu­tics, as well as roles at Stem­cells, PCT Cell Ther­a­py Ser­vices and Xcyte Ther­a­pies.

Josefin-Beate Holz

Tol­ga Has­san and Josefin-Beate Holz have been in­stalled at Dan­ish biotech Syn­kli­no as CFO and CMO, re­spec­tive­ly. Has­san makes his way to Syn­kli­no, de­vel­op­ing drugs to treat cy­tomegalovirus (CMV) in­fec­tions, af­ter 7 years at F-star Ther­a­peu­tics, first as CFO and then as COO. Holz brings CMO ex­pe­ri­ence from Storm Ther­a­peu­tics, Ca­lyp­so Biotech and Abl­ynx, and she was a project man­age­ment VP at LEO Phar­ma.

→ Af­ter bring­ing in Yann Maz­abraud as their EVP, head of in­ter­na­tion­al last month, Boston biotech Rhythm Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals is now reel­ing in Jen­nifer Chien as EVP, head of North Amer­i­ca. Chien joins the com­pa­ny af­ter a stint as CCO at Krys­tal Biotech. Pri­or to her time at Krys­tal, Chien served in a va­ri­ety of roles at Sanofi Gen­zyme, in­clud­ing VP, head of ge­net­ic dis­eases.

→ It’s been a busy few months of fill­ing lead­er­ship po­si­tions at Chi­na-based rare dis­ease and on­col­o­gy play­er CAN­bridge Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals. Af­ter nail­ing down an act­ing CSO in Richard Gre­go­ry and a glob­al head of BD in Car­rie Ann Cook, CAN­Bridge has ap­point­ed Yunx­i­ang Zhu as their head of glob­al re­search. Zhu has spent the last 2 years as an SVP at Shenogen Phar­ma Group out of Bei­jing, and he is a long­time Gen­zyme vet whose re­search was in­stru­men­tal in de­vel­op­ing aval­glu­cosi­dase al­fa, Sanofi’s en­zyme re­place­ment ther­a­py for Pompe dis­ease. The EMA just ac­cept­ed for re­view a mar­ket­ing au­tho­riza­tion ap­pli­ca­tion for the ther­a­py ear­li­er this month.

Don Healey

→ A month af­ter nab­bing Nick Har­vey as their CFO, Adicet Bio has tapped Don Healey as their chief tech­nol­o­gy of­fi­cer. Be­fore mov­ing to the Men­lo Park, CA-based biotech start­up, which de­vel­ops al­lo­gene­ic gam­ma delta T cell ther­a­pies, Healey was SVP, op­er­a­tions and site head at KBI Bio­phar­ma. Be­fore this, he spent more than 10 years at Opexa Ther­a­peu­tics, in­clud­ing 7 as their CSO.

→ Dutch biotech Sapreme, fo­cused on macro­mol­e­cule ther­a­peu­tics, has wel­comed Miri­am Bu­jny as their chief de­vel­op­ment of­fi­cer. Bu­jny was re­cent­ly at Dutch RNA play­er Pro­QR Ther­a­peu­tics, where she was their se­nior di­rec­tor of R&D. She was al­so at Janssen from 2012-16, lead­ing the pre­dic­tive bio­mark­er de­part­ment at the Janssen Pre­ven­tion Cen­ter.

Mi­na Pasta­gia

Mi­na Pasta­gia has been cho­sen as VP of clin­i­cal de­vel­op­ment at Ar­ma­ta Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals, which is de­vel­op­ing bac­te­rio­phage ther­a­peu­tics such as AP-PA02 for Pseudomonas aerug­i­nosa in­fec­tions in pa­tients with cys­tic fi­bro­sis. Pasta­gia has just com­plet­ed 3 years at Janssen as se­nior med­ical di­rec­tor, in­fec­tious dis­eases and vac­cines, and be­fore that, she was the trans­la­tion­al med­i­cine leader in in­fec­tious dis­eases, im­munol­o­gy and in­flam­ma­tion at Roche.

→ Austin-based gene ther­a­py biotech Gen­prex has pro­mot­ed Er­ic Chapde­laine to VP of man­u­fac­tur­ing. Chapde­laine jumped aboard last year at Gen­prex, where he start­ed as their se­nior di­rec­tor of phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal sci­ences and man­u­fac­tur­ing. He’s al­so been in qual­i­ty con­trol, CMC and man­u­fac­tur­ing at Al­ny­lam and Gen­zyme.

→ Af­ter choos­ing a new CBO, CFO and CMO in short or­der, Boul­der, CO biotech Edge­wise Ther­a­peu­tics keeps the new per­son­nel com­ing with John Moore as gen­er­al coun­sel. Moore jumps to Edge­wise from Pelo­ton Ther­a­peu­tics, where he was gen­er­al coun­sel and sec­re­tary, and for 15 years he held the same posts at Ar­ray Bio­Phar­ma.

James Cor­nelius

James Cor­nelius has been elect­ed to the board of di­rec­tors at drug dis­cov­ery play­er MBX Bio­sciences, which tar­gets rare en­docrine dis­eases. Un­til 2015, Cor­nelius was non-ex­ec­u­tive chair­man at Bris­tol My­ers Squibb af­ter his 2010 re­tire­ment as the Big Phar­ma’s CEO.

→ Ef­fec­tive Sun­day, Robert Ti­jan will re­sign from the board of di­rec­tors at Nurix Ther­a­peu­tics in or­der to chair their sci­en­tif­ic ad­vi­so­ry board. Ti­jan, the for­mer pres­i­dent of the Howard Hugh­es Med­ical In­sti­tute, is a pro­fes­sor of bio­chem­istry and mol­e­c­u­lar bi­ol­o­gy at Cal-Berke­ley.

Brett Mo­nia

Cog­ni­tion Ther­a­peu­tics, which fo­cus­es on neu­rode­gen­er­a­tive and neu­ro-oph­thalmic dis­or­ders and re­ceived a $76 mil­lion grant from the NIH in June, has added Brett Mo­nia to its board of di­rec­tors. Mo­nia was pro­mot­ed to CEO of Io­n­is this year af­ter 2 years as their COO.

Duke spin­out Evecx­ia has brought on Thomas Aasen to its board of di­rec­tors.  Pre­vi­ous­ly, Aasen served as EVP, CFO, CBO and trea­sur­er of ACA­DIA.

→ Mi­cro­bial im­munother­a­py biotech Prokar­i­um out of Lon­don has brought in Hyam Lev­it­sky as a mem­ber of their board if di­rec­tors. A Roche and Juno vet, Lev­it­sky leads R&D at Cen­tu­ry Ther­a­peu­tics.

Biotech and Big Phar­ma: A blue­print for a suc­cess­ful part­ner­ship

Strategic partnerships have long been an important contributor to how drugs are discovered and developed. For decades, big pharma companies have been forming alliances with biotech innovators to increase R&D productivity, expand geographical reach and better manage late-stage commercialization costs.

Noël Brown, Managing Director and Head of Biotechnology Investment Banking, and Greg Wiederrecht, Ph.D., Managing Director in the Global Healthcare Investment Banking Group at RBC Capital Markets, are no strangers to the importance of these tie-ups. Noël has over 20 years of investment banking experience in the industry. Before moving to the banking world in 2015, Greg was the Vice President and Head of External Scientific Affairs (ESA) at Merck, where he was responsible for the scientific assessment of strategic partnership opportunities worldwide.

No­var­tis' sec­ond at­tempt to repli­cate a stun­ning can­cer re­sult falls flat

Novartis’ hopes of turning one of the most surprising trial data points of the last decade into a lung cancer drug has taken another setback.

The Swiss pharma announced Monday that its IL-1 inhibitor canakinumab did not significantly extend the lives or slow the disease progression of patients with previously untreated locally advanced or metastatic non-small cell lung cancer when compared to standard of-care alone.

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How Chi­na turned the ta­bles on bio­phar­ma's glob­al deal­mak­ing

Fenlai Tan still gets chills thinking about the darkest day of his life.

Three out of eight lung cancer patients who received a tyrosine kinase inhibitor developed by his company, Betta Pharma, died in the span of a month. Tan, the chief medical officer, was summoned to Peking Union Medical College Hospital, where the head of the clinical trial department told him that the trial investigators would be conducting an autopsy to see if the patients had died of the disease — they were all very sick by the time they enrolled — or of interstitial lung disease, a deadly side effect tied to the TKI class that’s been reported in Japan.

Ugur Sahin, AP Images

As pres­sure to share tech­nol­o­gy mounts, BioN­Tech se­lects Rwan­da for lat­est vac­cine site

BioNTech’s first mRNA-based vaccine site in Africa will call Rwanda home, and construction is set to start in mid-2022, the company announced Tuesday at a public health forum.

The German company signed a memorandum of understanding, after a meeting between Rwanda’s Minister of Health, Daniel Ngamije, Senegal’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Aïssata Tall Sall, and senior BioNTech officials. Construction plans have been finalized, and assets have been ordered. The agreement will help bring end-to-end manufacturing to Africa, and as many as several hundred million doses of vaccines per year, though initial production will be more modest.

No­var­tis dumps AveX­is pro­gram for Rett syn­drome af­ter fail­ing re­peat round of pre­clin­i­cal test­ing

Say goodbye to AVXS-201.

The Rett syndrome gene therapy drug made by AveXis — the biotech that was bought, kept separate, then renamed and finally absorbed by Novartis into its R&D division — has been dropped by the biopharma.

In Novartis’ third quarter financial report, the pharma had found that preclinical data did not support development of the gene therapy into IND-enabling trials and beyond. The announcement comes a year after Novartis told the Rett Society how excited it was by the drug — and its potential benefits and uses.

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Vas Narasimhan, Novartis CEO (Simon Dawson/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

With San­doz con­tin­u­ing to drag on No­var­tis, Vas Narasimhan says he may fi­nal­ly be ready for a sale or spin­off

After years of rehab work aimed at getting Sandoz in fighting trim to compete in a market overshadowed by declining prices, CEO Vas Narasimhan took a big step toward possibly selling or spinning off the giant generic drug player.

The pharma giant flagged plans to launch a strategic review of the business in its Q3 update, noting that “options range from retaining the business to separation.”

Analysts have been poking and prodding Novartis execs for years now as Narasimhan attempted to remodel a business that has been a drag on its performance during most of his reign in the CEO suite. The former R&D chief has made it well known that he’s devoted to the innovative meds side of the business, where they see the greatest potential for growth.

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FDA is much worse than its reg­u­la­to­ry peers at proac­tive­ly dis­clos­ing da­ta, re­searchers find

The European Medicines Agency and Health Canada continue to outpace the FDA when it comes to proactively releasing data on drugs and biologics the agency has reviewed, leading to further questions of why the American agency can’t be more transparent.

In a study published recently in the Journal of Law, Medicine, & Ethics, Yale and other academic lawyers and researchers found that between 2016 and April 2021, the EMA proactively released data for 123 unique medical products, while Health Canada proactively released data for 73 unique medical products between 2019 and April 2021. What’s more, the EMA and Health Canada didn’t proactively release the same data on the same drugs. In stark contrast, the FDA in 2018 only proactively disclosed data supporting one drug that was approved that year.

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James Peyer, Cambrian CEO

Brent Saun­ders joins $100M Se­ries C for a com­pa­ny out to be the Bridge­Bio of ag­ing

About a year ago, James Peyer, a CEO and co-founder of the little known longevity biotech Cambrian Biopharma, was trying to find some R&D talent last year when he met with more than a bit of experience in that department: David Nicholson, the former R&D chief of the erstwhile pharma giant Allergan.

It turned out Nicholson already had an interest in Peyer’s field. In their Allergan days, he and COO Brent Saunders held weekly meetups where they tried to figure out how to take the company’s dominance in aesthetics — which, until recently, was often what people meant by anti-aging science — and expertise with more traditional drug development, and use it to make drugs that extend people’s lifespan.

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ARCH-backed SciNeu­ro kicks off search for CNS au­toan­ti­bod­ies with new deal; Mer­ck + Gilead an­nounce PhII tri­al for HIV com­bo

From the very beginning at SciNeuro, CEO Min Li has envisioned a mix of licensing deals and scientific efforts to replicate the breakout success of China’s oncology companies in neuroscience.

The GlaxoSmithKline vet has now inked a deal that somewhat straddles the line between the two strategies.

Teaming up with Mabylon out of Zurich, SciNeuro is now looking to test the hypothesis that the human immune system can play a role in fighting neurodegenerative diseases by discovering and developing human autoantibodies against neurological “targets of mutual interests.” The new partners offered TAR DNA binding protein-43 (TDP-43) and apolipoprotein E (APOE), which are linked to ALS and Alzheimer’s, as examples.