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.

Pi­o­neer­ing Click Chem­istry in Hu­mans

Reimagining cancer treatments

Cancer is a leading cause of death worldwide, accounting for nearly 10 million deaths in 2020, which is nearly one in six deaths. Recently, we have seen incredible advances in novel cancer therapies such as immune checkpoint inhibitors, cell therapies, and antibody-drug conjugates that have revamped cancer care and improved survival rates for patients.

Despite this significant progress in therapeutic targeting, why are we still seeing such a high mortality rate? The reason is that promising therapies are often limited by their therapeutic index, which is a measure of the effective dose of a drug, relative to its safety. If we could broaden the therapeutic indices of currently available medicines, it would revolutionize cancer treatments. We are still on the quest to find the ultimate cancer medicine – highly effective in several cancer types, safe, and precisely targeted to the tumor site.

Ivan Cheung, Eisai US chairman and CEO

Bio­gen, Ei­sai re­fresh amy­loid hy­poth­e­sis with PhI­II show­ing Alzheimer's med slows cog­ni­tive de­cline

In the first look at Phase III data for lecanemab, Eisai and Biogen’s follow-up Alzheimer’s drug to the embattled Aduhelm launch, results show the drug passed with flying colors on a test looking at memory, problem solving and other dementia metrics.

One of the most-watched Alzheimer’s therapies in the clinic, lecanemab met the study’s primary goal on the CDR-SB — Clinical Dementia Rating-Sum of Boxes — giving the biotech the confidence to ask for full approval in the US, EU and Japan by next March 31. The experimental drug reduced clinical decline on the scale by 27% compared to placebo at 18 months, the companies said Tuesday night Eastern time and Wednesday morning in Japan.

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Nooman Haque, head of life sciences and healthcare at Silicon Valley Bank, and John Carroll

I’m head­ed to Lon­don soon for #EU­BIO22. Care to join me?

It was great getting back to a live ESMO conference/webinar in Paris followed by a live pop-up event for the Endpoints 11 in Boston. We’re staying on the road in October with our return for a live/streaming EUBIO22 in London.

Silicon Valley Bank’s Nooman Haque and I are once again jumping back into the thick of it with a slate of virtual and live events on October 12. I’ll get the ball rolling with a virtual fireside chat with Novo Nordisk R&D chief Marcus Schindler, covering their pipeline plans and BD work.

Gilead names 'k­ing­pin­s' in coun­ter­feit HIV med law­suit

Gilead is mounting its counterfeit drug lawsuit, naming two “kingpins” and a complex network of conspirators who allegedly sold imitation bottles of its HIV meds, some of which ended up in US pharmacies.

The pharma giant on Wednesday provided an update on what it called a “large-scale, sophisticated counterfeiting conspiracy,” accusing two new defendants of “leading and orchestrating” a scheme to sell hundreds of millions of dollars in illegitimate drugs posing as meds such as Biktarvy and Descovy.

Vlad Coric, Biohaven CEO (Photo Credit: Andrew Venditti)

As Amy­lyx de­ci­sion waits in the wings, Bio­haven’s ALS drug sinks (again) in plat­form tri­al

The FDA’s decision on Amylyx’s ALS drug is set to come out sometime Thursday. In a space with few drugs, any approval would be a major landmark.

But elsewhere in the ALS field, things are a bit more tepid.

Thursday morning, Biohaven announced that its drug verdiperstat failed its arm of an ALS platform trial led by Massachusetts General Hospital. According to a press release, the drug did not meet its primary endpoint — improvement on an ALS functional status test — or any key secondary endpoints at 24 weeks. The trial had enrolled 167 patients, giving them either verdiperstat or placebo twice a day.

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Work taking place in the clean rooms at Vor (Credit: Vor)

Vor Bio opts to keep man­u­fac­tur­ing op­er­a­tions in-house for de­vel­op­ing stem cell, CAR-T ther­a­pies

While it is not uncommon for a biotech to go down the route of having the product manufactured by a contract organization, one small biotech is looking to keep its card close to its chest.

Vor Biopharma has started manufacturing operations at an in-house facility at its HQ in Cambridge, MA after beginning construction last summer.

According to the biotech, the facility aims to develop Vor’s hematopoietic stem cells (eHSCs) and CAR-T therapies for patients with blood cancers. The site will initially manufacture a clinical supply of its candidate VCAR33allo to support its IND, which is slated to be submitted in the first half of next year. It also plans to transfer the production of VOR33 to the facility. Vor is getting to work quickly as engineering runs for VCAR33allo has started this week.

Tar­sus looks to raise aware­ness of eye­lid mite dis­ease in cam­paign aimed at eye­care spe­cial­ists

Eyelid mite disease may be “gross” but it’s also fairly common, affecting about 25 million people in the US.

Called demodex blepharitis, it’s a well-known condition among eyecare professionals, but they often don’t always realize how common it is. Tarsus Pharmaceuticals wants to change that with a new awareness campaign called “Look at the Lids.”

The campaign and website debut Thursday — just three weeks after Tarsus filed for FDA approval for a drug that treats the disease.

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Marcelo Bigal, Ventus Therapeutics CEO

No­vo Nordisk joins No­var­tis, Roche in NL­RP3 are­na, bet­ting $70M cash on NASH, car­diometa­bol­ic us­es

As a drug target, the NLRP3 inflammasome has drawn serious interest from Big Pharma, inspiring a series of M&A deals from Novartis and Roche on top of venture investments by others. Now Novo Nordisk is jumping on the bandwagon — and the Danish pharma giant is taking the target where it knows best.

Novo Nordisk is getting its NLRP3 inhibitors from Ventus Therapeutics, a Versant-backed startup that set out to make some of the best NLRP3 drugs out there by incorporating new insights into the structure of the target complex.

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Aim­ing for fourth nod, Sarep­ta files an­oth­er DMD gene ther­a­py to FDA; Ax­some head­ed to­ward mi­graine re­sub­mis­sion

Sarepta Therapeutics has filed the data needed for an FDA accelerated approval, which would be the biotech’s fourth if granted by the agency.

The biotech has yet to complete confirmatory trials for those first three conditional nods. The filing for its fourth Duchenne muscular dystrophy treatment, disclosed Thursday, is not a surprise. Sarepta said in late-July it would do so after releasing positive results for the Roche-partnered gene therapy.