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.

The top 10 block­buster drugs in the late-stage pipeline — Eval­u­ate adds 6 new ther­a­pies to heavy-hit­ter list

Vertex comes in for a substantial amount of criticism for its no-holds-barred tactical approach toward wresting the price it wants for its commercial drugs in Europe. But the flip side of that coin is a highly admired R&D and commercial operation that regularly wins kudos from analysts for their ability to engineer greater cash flow from the breakthrough drugs they create.

Both aspects needed for success in this business are on display in the program backing Vertex’s triple for cystic fibrosis. VX-659/VX-445 + Tezacaftor + Ivacaftor — it’s been whittled down to 445 now — was singled out by Evaluate Pharma as the late-stage therapy most likely to win the crown for drug sales in 5 years, with a projected peak revenue forecast of $4.3 billion.

The latest annual list, which you can see here in their latest world preview, includes a roster of some of the most closely watched development programs in biopharma. And Evaluate has added 6 must-watch experimental drugs to the top 10 as drugs fail or go on to a first approval. With apologies to the list maker, I revamped this to rank the top 10 by projected 2024 sales, instead of Evaluate's net present value rankings.

It's how we roll at Endpoints News.

Here is a quick summary of the rest of the top 10:

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How small- to mid-sized biotechs can adopt pa­tient cen­tric­i­ty in their on­col­o­gy tri­als

By Lucy Clos­sick Thom­son, Se­nior Di­rec­tor of On­col­o­gy Pro­ject Man­age­ment, Icon

Clin­i­cal tri­als in on­col­o­gy can be cost­ly and chal­leng­ing to man­age. One fac­tor that could re­duce costs and re­duce bar­ri­ers is har­ness­ing the pa­tient voice in tri­al de­sign to help ac­cel­er­ate pa­tient en­roll­ment. Now is the time to adopt pa­tient-cen­tric strate­gies that not on­ly fo­cus on pa­tient needs, but al­so can main­tain cost ef­fi­cien­cy.

John Reed at JPM 2019. Jeff Rumans for Endpoints News

Sanofi's John Reed con­tin­ues to re­or­ga­nize R&D, cut­ting 466 jobs while boost­ing can­cer, gene ther­a­py re­search

The R&D reorganization inside Sanofi is continuing, more than a year after the pharma giant brought in John Reed to head the research arm of the Paris-based company.
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John Chiminski, Catalent CEO - File Photo

'It's a growth play': Catal­ent ac­quires Bris­tol-My­er­s' Eu­ro­pean launch pad, ex­pand­ing glob­al CD­MO ops

Catalent is staying on the growth track.

Just two months after committing $1.2 billion to pick up Paragon and take a deep dive into the sizzling hot gene therapy manufacturing sector, the CDMO is bouncing right back with a deal to buy out Bristol-Myers’ central launchpad for new therapies in Europe, acquiring a complex in Anagni, Italy, southwest of Rome, that will significantly expand its capacity on the continent.

There are no terms being offered, but this is no small deal. The Anagni campus employs some 700 staffers, and Catalent is planning to go right in — once the deal closes late this year — with a blueprint to build up the operations further as they expand on oral solid, biologics, and sterile product manufacturing and packaging.

This is an uncommon deal, Catalent CEO John Chiminski tells me. But it offers a shortcut for rapid growth that cuts years out of developing a green fields project. That’s time Catalent doesn’t have as the industry undergoes unprecedented expansion around the world.

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Arc­turus ex­pands col­lab­o­ra­tion, adding $30M cash; Ku­ra shoots for $100M raise

→  Rare dis­ease play­er Ul­tragenyx $RARE is ex­pand­ing its al­liance with Arc­turus $ARCT, pay­ing $24 mil­lion for eq­ui­ty and an­oth­er $6 mil­lion in an up­front as the two part­ners ex­pand their col­lab­o­ra­tion to in­clude up to 12 tar­gets. “This ex­pand­ed col­lab­o­ra­tion fur­ther so­lid­i­fies our mR­NA plat­form by adding ad­di­tion­al tar­gets and ex­pand­ing our abil­i­ty to po­ten­tial­ly treat more dis­eases,” said Emil Kakkis, the CEO at Ul­tragenyx. “We are pleased with the progress of our on­go­ing col­lab­o­ra­tion. Our most ad­vanced mR­NA pro­gram, UX053 for the treat­ment of Glyco­gen Stor­age Dis­ease Type III, is ex­pect­ed to move in­to the clin­ic next year, and we look for­ward to fur­ther build­ing up­on the ini­tial suc­cess of this part­ner­ship.”

UP­DAT­ED: Chica­go biotech ar­gues blue­bird, Third Rock 'killed' its ri­val, pi­o­neer­ing tha­lassemia gene ther­a­py in law­suit

Blue­bird bio $BLUE chief Nick Leschly court­ed con­tro­ver­sy last week when he re­vealed the com­pa­ny’s be­ta tha­lassemia treat­ment will car­ry a jaw-drop­ping $1.8 mil­lion price tag over a 5-year pe­ri­od in Eu­rope — mak­ing it the plan­et’s sec­ond most ex­pen­sive ther­a­py be­hind No­var­tis’ $NVS fresh­ly ap­proved spinal mus­cu­lar at­ro­phy ther­a­py, Zol­gens­ma, at $2.1 mil­lion. A Chica­go biotech, mean­while, has been fum­ing at the side­lines. In a law­suit filed ear­li­er this month, Er­rant Gene Ther­a­peu­tics al­leged that blue­bird and ven­ture cap­i­tal group Third Rock un­law­ful­ly prised a vi­ral vec­tor, de­vel­oped in part­ner­ship with the Memo­r­i­al Sloan Ket­ter­ing Can­cer Cen­ter (MSK), from its grasp, and thwart­ed the de­vel­op­ment of its sem­i­nal gene ther­a­py.

Neil Woodford. Woodford Investment Management via YouTube

Wood­ford braces po­lit­i­cal storm as UK fi­nan­cial reg­u­la­tors scru­ti­nize fund sus­pen­sion

The shock of Neil Wood­ford’s de­ci­sion to block with­drawals for his flag­ship fund is still rip­pling through the rest of his port­fo­lio — and be­yond. Un­der po­lit­i­cal pres­sure, UK fi­nan­cial reg­u­la­tors are now tak­ing a hard look while in­vestors con­tin­ue to flee.

In a re­sponse let­ter to an MP, the Fi­nan­cial Con­duct Au­thor­i­ty re­vealed that it’s opened an in­ves­ti­ga­tion in­to the sus­pen­sion fol­low­ing months of en­gage­ment with Link Fund So­lu­tions, which tech­ni­cal­ly del­e­gat­ed Wood­ford’s firm to man­age its funds.

Gilead baits new al­liance with $45M up­front, div­ing in­to the busy pro­tein degra­da­tion field

Gilead is jump­ing on board the pro­tein degra­da­tion band­wag­on. And they’re turn­ing to a low-pro­file Third Rock start­up for the ex­per­tise. But if you were look­ing for a trans­for­ma­tion­al deal to kick up fresh en­thu­si­asm for Gilead, you’ll have to re­main pa­tient.

This one will have a long way to go be­fore they get in­to the clin­ic.

The big biotech said Wednes­day morn­ing that it is pay­ing $45 mil­lion up­front and re­serv­ing a whop­ping $2.3 bil­lion in biotech bucks if San Fran­cis­co-based Nurix can point the way to new can­cer ther­a­pies, as well as drugs for oth­er, un­spec­i­fied dis­eases.

A new num­ber 1 drug? Keytru­da tapped to top the 10 biggest block­busters on the world stage by 2024

Analysts may be fretting about Keytruda’s longterm prospects as a host of rival therapies elbow their way to the market. But the folks at Evaluate Pharma are confident that last year’s $7 billion earner is headed for glory, tapping it to beat out the current #1 therapy Humira as AbbVie watches that franchise swoon over the next 5 years.

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