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.

Mi­no­ryx and Sper­o­genix ink an ex­clu­sive li­cense agree­ment to de­vel­op and com­mer­cial­ize lerigli­ta­zone in Chi­na

September 23, 2020 – Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai (China) and Mataró, Barcelona (Spain)  

Minoryx will receive an upfront and milestone payments of up to $78 million, as well as double digit royalties on annual net sales 

Sperogenix will receive exclusive rights to develop and commercialize leriglitazone for the treatment of X-linked adrenoleukodystrophy (X-ALD), a rare life-threatening neurological condition

FDA commissioner Stephen Hahn at the White House (AP Images)

Un­der fire, FDA to is­sue stricter guid­ance for Covid-19 vac­cine EUA this week — re­port

The FDA has been insisting for months that a Covid-19 vaccine had to be at least 50% effective – a measure of transparency meant to shore public trust in the agency and in a vaccine that had been brought forward at record speed and record political pressure. But now, with concerns of a Trump-driven authorization arriving before the election, the agency may be raising the bar.

The FDA is set to release new guidance that would raise safety and efficacy requirements for a vaccine EUA above earlier guidance and above the criteria used for convalescent plasma or hydroxychloroquine, The Washington Post reported. Experts say this significantly lowers the odds of an approval before the election on November 3, which Trump has promised despite vocal concerns from public health officials, and could help shore up public trust in the agency and any eventual vaccine.

Secretary of health and human services Alex Azar speaking in the Rose Garden at the White House (Photo: AFP)

Trump’s HHS claims ab­solute au­thor­i­ty over the FDA, clear­ing path to a vac­cine EUA

The top career staff at the FDA has vowed not to let politics overrule science when looking at vaccine data this fall. But Alex Azar, who happens to be their boss’s boss, apparently won’t even give them a chance to stand in the way.

In a new memorandum issued Tuesday last week, the HHS chief stripped the FDA and other health agencies under his purview of their rule making ability, asserting all such power “is reserved to the Secretary.” Sheila Kaplan of the New York Times first obtained and reported the details of the September 15 bulletin.

Vas Narasimhan (AP Images)

UP­DAT­ED: Still held down by clin­i­cal hold, No­var­tis' Zol­gens­ma falls fur­ther be­hind Bio­gen and Roche as FDA asks for a new piv­otal study

Last October, the FDA slowed down Novartis’ quest to extend its gene therapy to older spinal muscular atrophy patients by slapping a partial hold on intrathecal administration. Almost a year later, the hold is still there, and regulators are adding another hurdle required for regulatory submission: a new pivotal confirmatory study.

The new requirement — which departs significantly from Novartis’ prior expectations — will likely stretch the path to registration beyond 2021, when analysts were expecting a BLA submission. That could mean more time for Biogen to reap Spinraza revenues and Roche to ramp up sales of Evrysdi in the absence of a rival.

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Scoop: ARCH’s Bob Nelsen is back­ing an mR­NA up­start that promis­es to up­end the en­tire man­u­fac­tur­ing side of the glob­al busi­ness

For the past 2 years, serial entrepreneur Igor Khandros relied on a small network of friends and close insiders to supply the first millions he needed to fund a secretive project to master a new approach to manufacturing mRNA therapies.

Right now, he says, he has a working “GMP-in-a-box” prototype for a new company he’s building — after launching 3 public companies — which plans to spread this contained, precise manufacturing tech around the world with a set of partners. He’s raised $60 million, recruited some prominent experts. And not coincidentally, he’s going semi-public with this just as a small group of pioneers appears to be on the threshold of ushering in the world’s first mRNA vaccines to fight a worldwide pandemic.

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Isaac Veinbergs, Libra CEO

With $29M in Se­ries A, Boehringer-backed Li­bra looks to tack­le neu­rode­gen­er­a­tion through cel­lu­lar clean­ing

Can the natural process by which cells clean out toxic proteins be harnessed to create potential treatments for neurodegenerative disorders?

That’s the question Libra Therapeutics will be trying to answer, as the new biotech officially launched Wednesday morning with $29 million in Series A financing. The company has three preclinical programs at the ready, with its lead candidate targeting ALS and frontotemporal dementia. But CEO Isaac Veinbergs said he hopes to develop therapies for a wide range of diseases, including Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and Huntington’s.

Patrick Enright, Longitude co-founder (Longitude)

As its biotechs hit the pan­dem­ic ex­it, Lon­gi­tude rais­es $585M for new neu­ro, can­cer, ag­ing and or­phan-fo­cused fund

The years have been kind to Longitude Capital. This year, too.

A 2006 spinout of Pequot Capital, its founders started their new firm just four years before the parent company would go under amid insider trading allegations. Their first life sciences fund raised $325 million amid the financial crisis, they added a second for $385 million and then in, 2016, a third for $525 million. In the last few months, the pandemic biotech IPO boom netted several high-value exits from those funds, as Checkmate, Vaxcyte, Inozyme and Poseida all went public.

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Gene Wang, Immetas co-founder and CEO (file photo)

Im­metas Ther­a­peu­tics nabs $11M Se­ries A to nar­row their bis­pe­cif­ic work tar­get­ing in­flam­ma­tion in age-re­lat­ed dis­eases

How does a biotech celebrate its two-year anniversary? For Immetas Therapeutics, it’s with an $11 million Series A round and a game plan to fight age-related disease.

Co-founders Gene Wang and David Sinclair came together years ago around the idea that inflammation is the ultimate process driving age-related illnesses, including cancer. The duo launched Immetas in 2018 and packed the staff with industry experts. Wang, who says he’s always had an entrepreneurial spirit, has held lead roles at Novartis, GSK, Bristol Myers Squibb and Merck. He’s worked on blockbuster drugs like Humira, Gardasil, Varubi and Zolinza. And now, he’s channeling that spirit as CEO.

Samit Hirawat (Bristol Myers Squibb)

Af­ter bruis­ing re­jec­tion, blue­bird and Bris­tol My­ers Squibb land ide-cel pri­or­i­ty re­view. But will it mat­ter for the CVR?

With the clock all but up, the FDA accepted and handed priority review to Bristol Myers Squibb and bluebird bio’s BCMA CAR-T, keeping a narrow window open for Celgene investors to still cash in on the $9 CVR from the $63 billion Celgene merger.

The acceptance comes five months after the two companies weres slammed with a surprise refuse-to-file that threatened to foreclose the CVR entirely. Today’s acceptance sets the FDA decision date for March 27, 2021 – or precisely 4 days before the CVR deadline of March 31. Given the breakthrough designation and strong pivotal data — 81.5% response rate, 35.2% complete response rate — priority review was largely expected.

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