Protocols

Venter quickly grabs the reins back at Human Longevity; Peter Thiel backs upstart ChemomAb

→ After less than a year in the role, Cynthia Collins is out at Human Longevity. J. Craig Venter’s high-flying anti-aging startup recruited the former GE executive last January, when founder Venter handed the CEO reins over for the first time. Venter only loosened his grip on the wheel, continuing leadership as executive chairman and staying on board in a daily role leading the company’s scientific strategy and direction. Collins was formerly CEO of GE Healthcare, and when she came to HLI she brought a slew of top executives with her. Now, Venter is taking back over as CEO. The company gave no reason for the abrupt leadership change. Last year, HLI also lost its chief data scientist Franz Och (the chief architect of Google Translate), who left the role to join Grail.

→ Billionaire Silicon Valley investor Peter Thiel has chipped in to a $10 million Series B round raised by Tel Aviv startup ChemomAb. Thiel co-led the round by VC OrbiMed’s Israel office, and SBI Japan-Israel Innovation Fund and Milestone Venture also pitched in. The money will fund the development of ChemoAb’s monoclonal antibodies for the treatment of inflammatory and fibrotic diseases. The company’s lead product, in Phase I trials, is directed against a key protein in the control of cellular response in a disease state. The antibody is meant to take on scarring and inflammatory diseases, including NASH. Thiel appears to have an appetite for early-stage life science investing. Earlier this year, Thiel reportedly joined Sean Parker in backing 3T Biosciences in a $12M seed round.

→ Is something big about to break for the UK biotech scene? The Financial Times says so, reporting that an unnamed US life sciences investment group is willing to invest up to $1 billion to create a major new drug developer. Details are scant, and billion-dollar startups are rare anywhere in the world. Still, if the story pans out — or is even partly true — the news would be good for a sector feeling the heat of the Brexit move. Merck recently committed to creating a new R&D hub in London and more investments of that kind would go a long way to cheering up execs in the UK’s Golden Circle, anchored by London, Oxford and Cambridge.

Outpost Medicine has lured Pfizer vet Ian Mills to join as chief medical officer, overseeing global clinical development and regulatory operations for the startup focusing on urologic and gastrointestinal disorders. Mills, who is moving on from a brief clinical development stint at Mitsubishi Tanabe Pharma Europe, had spent 15 years working a string of research jobs at Pfizer. During that time, he spearheaded the submissions for marketing approval of five products, two of which were for urology indications. Having led more than 20 urology projects spanning Phases I to IV, he is expected to be pivotal in advancing Outpost’s lead product candidate, OP-687, which treats overactive bladder and irritable bowel syndrome. Launched in 2016 with offices in London and Indianapolis, Outpost is a portfolio company of Frazier Healthcare Partners.

→ AbbVie $ABBV has added another round of positive late-stage data to back its pitch for the psoriasis drug risankizumab. As we’ve seen from other Phase IIIs, the drug appears poised to join the heated competition in the anti-inflammatory field. The latest study shows the drug, partnered with Boehringer, handily whipping a placebo — no surprise there.


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