Ver­tex COO Ian Smith oust­ed due to 'per­son­al be­hav­ior'; CFO Mats Blom ex­its Zealand Phar­ma; Ka­trine Bosley abrupt­ly ends Ed­i­tas reign

Ver­tex has oust­ed com­pa­ny COO and in­ter­im CFO Ian Smiththeir $6 mil­lion man — for per­son­al con­duct un­be­com­ing an ex­ec­u­tive at the com­pa­ny. The cys­tic fi­bro­sis drug de­vel­op­er says Smith’s ter­mi­na­tion “is the re­sult of per­son­al be­hav­ior that vi­o­lat­ed Ver­tex’s Code of Con­duct and val­ues and is un­re­lat­ed to the Com­pa­ny’s fi­nan­cial and busi­ness per­for­mance.” Chief ac­count­ing of­fi­cer Paul Sil­va will now step in as in­ter­im CFO while Ver­tex looks for a re­place­ment.

→ The cross pol­li­na­tion of ex­ec­u­tives be­tween Roche and its big biotech sub­sidiary Genen­tech is con­tin­u­ing to­day with news that the South San Fran­cis­co branch of the fam­i­ly is reel­ing back one of its for­mer ex­ecs in Basel to take the top job. Alexan­der Hardy, who start­ed at Genen­tech way back in 2005, will be tak­ing the helm March 1. He’s cur­rent­ly the head of glob­al prod­uct strat­e­gy at the big HQ base in Switzer­land, a job he land­ed af­ter a 2-year stint as head of Asia Pa­cif­ic. Hardy is tak­ing the place of Bill An­der­son, who moved to Switzer­land to be­come CEO of Roche Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals Jan­u­ary 1 as Daniel O’Day made his move to Gilead.

Ka­trine Bosley

→ For close to 5 years now Ka­trine Bosley has led Ed­i­tas Med­i­cine $ED­IT through good times and bad, right to the thresh­old of dos­ing its first pa­tient in the pre­mier clin­i­cal study for its ground­break­ing gene-edit­ing tech. But the high-pro­file biotech CEO is un­ex­pect­ed­ly re­sign­ing from the com­pa­ny and abrupt­ly sev­er­ing her ties with the board as well. Ed­i­tas board mem­ber Cyn­thia Collins — the for­mer CEO at Hu­man Longevi­ty — is step­ping up to hold the post on an in­ter­im ba­sis, while the biotech looks for a re­place­ment.

→ Al­most two months af­ter Zealand Phar­ma an­nounced Britt Meel­by Jensen’s de­par­ture from the helm, the Copen­hagen-based com­pa­ny is see­ing off its CFO as well. Mats Blom’s re­main­ing tenure will over­lap briefly with that of new­ly ap­point­ed in­ter­im CEO Adam Steens­berg, who’s been serv­ing as EVP and chief med­ical and de­vel­op­ment of­fi­cer.

→ Days af­ter bag­ging a $100 mil­lion Se­ries B, Or­biMed-backed Apol­lomics has brought in two ex­ecs to prep for a year to be marked by a move from Hangzhou, Chi­na to Fos­ter City, CA and con­tin­ued ac­tiv­i­ties in its im­muno-on­col­o­gy pipeline. Wil­son Che­ung, for­mer­ly of KBP Bio­Sciences, is join­ing as CFO while biotech vet­er­an De­bra Thoma Vall­ner was named SVP, de­vel­op­ment op­er­a­tions. Most re­cent­ly at eF­FEC­TOR Ther­a­peu­tics, Vall­ner will now play a role in de­vel­op­ment strat­e­gy, pro­to­col de­sign, and the clin­i­cal tri­al port­fo­lio.

Anup Mar­da

Anup Mar­da has left a 17-year ca­reer at Bris­tol-My­ers Squibb to be­come CFO of Ca­balet­ta Bio, a Penn spin­out look­ing to jump­start hu­man stud­ies of a new-mod­el CAAR T cell ther­a­py aimed at au­toim­mune dis­eases

→ New York-based Neu­ro­gene has con­vinced Uni­ver­si­ty of Ed­in­burgh re­searcher Stu­art Cobb to spend half of his time lead­ing re­search for its nascent gene ther­a­py pipeline. He will help deep­en “ex­ist­ing aca­d­e­m­ic col­lab­o­ra­tions, es­tab­lish ad­di­tion­al part­ner­ships and pro­vide strate­gic guid­ance on nov­el tech­nolo­gies,” said CEO Rachel McMinn.

→ Hav­ing served as a “trust­ed ad­vi­sor” to the ex­ec­u­tive team at Flex­ion Ther­a­peu­tics $FLXN for the past nine years through a drug ap­proval and some buy­out buzz, Christi­na Will­w­erth has earned a spot in the C-suite. As chief strat­e­gy of­fi­cer, she will con­tin­ue some of the plan­ning and pri­or­i­ty set­ting work she took up as SVP of pro­gram man­age­ment and strat­e­gy, with ad­di­tion­al re­spon­si­bil­i­ties for port­fo­lio and hu­man re­sources.

Sanofi may have walked away from their re­search pact, but MyoKar­dia $MYOK is forg­ing ahead with com­mer­cial­iza­tion plans for its heart drug, ap­point­ing William Fairey as chief com­mer­cial of­fi­cer. An alum­ni of Acte­lion, Fairey was most re­cent­ly COO at Chemo­Cen­tryx. He will now plot the po­ten­tial launch mava­camten, which tar­gets the so-far un­tapped con­di­tion of ob­struc­tive hy­per­trophic car­diomy­opa­thy.

Jo­han Luth­man

→ With some pos­i­tive Phase II da­ta on its PTSD drug in hand, Lund­beck has re­cruit­ed Jo­han Luth­man to car­ry it — as well as the rest of the pipeline — for­ward as EVP and head of R&D. The ap­point­ment trig­gers a re­lo­ca­tion to Den­mark for Luth­man, a Swede who’s been liv­ing the in the US fol­low­ing a string of neu­rol­o­gy R&D roles at Ei­sai, Mer­ck, As­traZeneca and oth­ers.

→ As Sang­amo Ther­a­peu­tics $SG­MO braces for a “sig­nif­i­cant flow of clin­i­cal da­ta” from its gene edit­ing pro­grams, the Rich­mond, CA-based com­pa­ny has tapped Adri­an Woolf­son for the EVP of R&D po­si­tion. Woolf­son brings a back­ground in im­muno-on­col­o­gy, with a re­sume span­ning ge­net­ic can­cer vac­cine biotech Nous­com and Pfiz­er.

New boards have been es­tab­lished for Iron­wood and its biotech spin­out Cy­cle­ri­on. In­dus­try vet Julie McHugh will chair the Iron­wood board while Cy­cle­ri­on named Mar­sha Fanuc­ci — an ex-Gen­zyme/Mil­len­ni­um ex­ec — to the head of their new board.

Liz Bar­rett

Liz Bar­rett and George Golumbes­ki has joined the board of Sage Ther­a­peu­tics, lend­ing some heavy­weight sup­port for its cen­tral ner­vous sys­tem fo­cused pipeline, led by a post­par­tum de­pres­sion drug. While both Bar­rett and Golumbes­ki are work­ing in the can­cer field — Bar­rett as CEO of Uro­Gen af­ter a high-pro­file ex­it from No­var­tis and Golumbes­ki as pres­i­dent of can­cer de­tec­tion start­up Grail Cel­gene vet Golumbes­ki notes that his ca­reer start­ed in the CNS space.

→ As In­tel­lia Ther­a­peu­tics $NT­LA con­tin­ues down a path to first-in-hu­man stud­ies of its gene edit­ing tech, it will be get­ting ad­vice from Vi­da Ven­tures founder Fred Co­hen, its lat­est board di­rec­tor.

→ Hav­ing re­cent­ly closed an $85 mil­lion raise backed in part by GV, Schrödinger is ap­point­ing one of its ven­ture part­ners — and a fa­mil­iar face — to its board. Be­fore join­ing the fund for­mer­ly known as Google Ven­tures, Rosana Kapeller was found­ing CSO at Nim­bus, which ap­plied Schrödinger’s com­pu­ta­tion­al tech­nolo­gies in drug dis­cov­ery.

Martin Shkreli [via Getty]

Pris­on­er #87850-053 does not get to add drug de­vel­op­er to his list of cred­its

Just days after Retrophin shed its last ties to founder Martin Shkreli, the biotech is reporting that the lead drug he co-invented flopped in a pivotal trial. Fosmetpantotenate flunked both the primary and key secondary endpoints in a placebo-controlled trial for a rare disease called pantothenate kinase-associated neurodegeneration, or PKAN.

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Hal Barron. GSK

GSK's Hal Bar­ron her­alds their sec­ond pos­i­tive PhI­II for cru­cial an­ti-BC­MA ther­a­py, point­ing to a push for quick OKs in a crowd­ed field

Hal Barron has his second positive round of Phase III data in hand for his anti-BCMA antibody drug conjugate belantamab mafodotin (GSK2857916). And GSK’s research chief says the data paves the way for their drive in search of an FDA approval for treating multiple myeloma. 

It’s hard to overestimate the importance of this drug for GSK, a cornerstone of Barron’s campaign to make a dramatic impact on the oncology market and provide some long-lost excitement for the pharma giant’s pipeline. They’re putting this BCMA program at the front of that charge — looking to lead a host of rivals all aimed at the same target.

UP­DAT­ED: An em­bold­ened As­traZeneca splurges $95M on a pri­or­i­ty re­view vouch­er. Where do they need the FDA to hus­tle up?

AstraZeneca is in a hurry.

We learned this morning that the pharma giant — not known as a big spender, until recently — forked over $95 million to get its hands on a priority review voucher from Sobi, otherwise known as Swedish Orphan Biovitrum.

That marks another step down on price for a PRV, which allows the holder to slash 4 months off of any FDA review time.

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We­bi­nar: Re­al World End­points — the brave new world com­ing in build­ing fran­chise ther­a­pies

Several biopharma companies have been working on expanding drug labels through the use of real world endpoints, combing through the data to find evidence of a drug’s efficacy for particular indications. But we’ve just begun. Real World Evidence is becoming an important part of every clinical development plan, in the soup-through-nuts approach used in building franchises.

I’ve recruited a panel of 3 top experts in the field — the first in a series of premium webinars — to look at the practical realities governing what can be done today, and where this is headed over the next few years, at the prodding of the FDA.

ZHEN SU — Merck Serono’s Senior Vice President and Global Head of Oncology
ELLIOTT LEVY — Amgen’s Senior Vice President of Global Development
CHRIS BOSHOFF — Pfizer Oncology’s Chief Development Officer

A premium subscription to Endpoints News is required to attend this webinar. Please upgrade to either an Insider or Enterprise plan for access. Already have Endpoints Premium? Please sign-in below. You can contact our Subscriptions team at help@endpointsnews.com with any issues.

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Brian Kaspar. AveXis via Twitter

AveX­is sci­en­tif­ic founder fires back at No­var­tis CEO Vas Narasimhan, 'cat­e­gor­i­cal­ly de­nies any wrong­do­ing'

Brian Kaspar’s head was among the first to roll at Novartis after company execs became aware of the fact that manipulated data had been included in its application for Zolgensma, now the world’s most expensive therapy.

But in his first public response, the scientific founder at AveXis — acquired by Novartis for $8.7 billion — is firing back. And he says that not only was he not involved in any wrongdoing, he’s ready to defend his name as needed.

I reached out to Brian Kaspar after Novartis put out word that he and his brother Allen had been axed in mid-May, two months after the company became aware of the allegations related to manipulated data. His response came back through his attorneys.

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Bob Smith, Pfizer

Pfiz­er is mak­ing a $500M state­ment to­day: Here’s how you be­come a lead play­er in the boom­ing gene ther­a­py sec­tor

Three years ago, Pfizer anted up $150 million in cash to buy Bamboo Therapeutics in Chapel Hill, NC as it cautiously stuck a toe in the small gene therapy pool of research and development.

Company execs followed up a year later with a $100 million expansion of the manufacturing operations they picked up in that deal for the UNC spinout, which came with $495 million in milestones.

And now they’re really going for it.

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Video: Putting the AI in R&D — with Badhri Srini­vasan, Tony Wood, Rosana Kapeller, Hugo Ceule­mans, Saurabh Sa­ha and Shoibal Dat­ta

During BIO this year, I had a chance to moderate a panel among some of the top tech experts in biopharma on their real-world use of artificial intelligence in R&D. There’s been a lot said about the potential of AI, but I wanted to explore more about what some of the larger players are actually doing with this technology today, and how they see it advancing in the future. It was a fascinating exchange, which you can see here. The transcript has been edited for brevity and clarity. — John Carroll

Am­gen, Al­ler­gan biosim­i­lar of Roche's block­buster Rit­ux­an clears an­oth­er US piv­otal study 

Novartis $NVS may have given up, but Amgen $AMGN and Allergan $AGN are plowing ahead with their knockoff of Roche’s blockbuster biologic Rituxan in the United States.

Their copycat, ABP 798, was found to have a clinically equivalent impact as Rituxan — meeting the main goal of the study involving CD20-positive B-cell non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma patients. This is the second trial supporting the profile of the biosimilar. In January, it came through with positive PK results in patients with rheumatoid arthritis.

BeiGene and Mus­tang nail down spe­cial FDA sta­tus for top drugs; Roche bags added cov­er­age for Hem­li­bra

→ BeiGene $BGNE is getting a boost in its drive to field a rival to Imbruvica. The FDA has offered an accelerated review to zanubrutinib, a BTK inhibitor that has posted positive results for mantle cell lymphoma. The PDUFA date lands on February 27, 2020. The drug scored breakthrough status at the beginning of the year.

→ BeiGene isn’t the only biopharma company to gain special regulatory status today. Mustang Bio $MBIO and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital announced that MB-107, a lentiviral gene therapy for the treatment of X-linked severe combined immunodeficiency, also known as bubble boy disease, has been granted Regenerative Medicine Advanced Therapy status.