What's BIO and PhRMA do­ing to ad­dress sex­u­al ha­rass­ment? Sen­a­tor Mur­ray wants to know

Pat­ty Mur­ray

Re­mem­ber the ex­trav­a­gant par­ty at BIO’s in­ter­na­tion­al con­ven­tion a few weeks ago that fea­tured top­less dancers? Well, Sen­a­tor Pat­ty Mur­ray does, and she is us­ing the event to call on both BIO and PhRMA — the two biggest in­dus­try trade groups — to step up in their ac­tions against work­place ha­rass­ment.

In two sep­a­rate let­ters sent to the chiefs of each or­ga­ni­za­tion, Mur­ray lam­bast­ed BIO’s lack of ac­tion and PhRMA’s si­lence in wake of their mem­ber com­pa­nies’ spon­sor­ship of PAB­NAB, the in­fa­mous in­for­mal event in a sense born out of — but em­phat­i­cal­ly not af­fil­i­at­ed with — the an­nu­al net­work­ing con­fer­ence of bio­phar­ma folks. Cit­ing wide­spread sex­u­al ha­rass­ment in the med­ical re­search com­mu­ni­ty in gen­er­al, she al­so pressed for the trade groups’ un­der­stand­ing of and plans to ad­dress the prob­lem.

“I hope and ex­pect that in your po­si­tion as the leader of the in­dus­try’s trade group, you are tak­ing steps to ad­dress con­cerns about mis­con­duct among mem­ber com­pa­nies and to en­sure that your mem­bers’ work­places are free from ha­rass­ment,” she wrote.

Jim Green­wood

Mur­ray re­served her harsh­er com­ments for BIO pres­i­dent and CEO James Green­wood. De­spite their in­creased at­ten­tion to di­ver­si­ty and in­clu­sion, she point­ed out, their con­ven­tion still “fea­tured 25 pan­els with­out a sin­gle fe­male speak­er, and men ac­count­ed for rough­ly 70 per­cent of the speak­ers and pan­elists at the con­ven­tion.”

And then there’s PAB­NAB — an event that “has a high­ly con­cern­ing his­to­ry of ob­jec­ti­fy­ing women and us­ing cul­tur­al­ly in­ap­pro­pri­ate themes.”

“Af­ter the par­ty, you and your Board Chair­man, as well as oth­er in­dus­try lead­ers, spoke out against the event,” Mur­ray wrote, “how­ev­er, I’m not aware of any­thing your or­ga­ni­za­tion and these in­dus­try lead­ers have done to en­sure there are re­al con­se­quences for spon­sor­ing com­pa­nies, nor used your lead­er­ship roles to ad­dress the broad­er work­place chal­lenges in the biotech­nol­o­gy in­dus­try.”

Green­wood pre­vi­ous­ly told Bio­Cen­tu­ry that he was speak­ing di­rect­ly with or­ga­niz­ers and spon­sors of PAB­NAB to con­vey the mes­sage that “over­ly ob­jec­ti­fy­ing women in this way is not help­ful,” and that the board would in­ter­vene if the same thing oc­curs at next year’s BIO meet­ing.

Steve Ubl

The let­ter to PhRMA pres­i­dent and CEO Stephen Ubl was more gen­er­al in its con­cerns, broach­ing the preva­lence of sex­u­al ha­rass­ment in the work­place. Mur­ray did, how­ev­er, name Bay­er as a spon­sor of PAB­NAB. A Bay­er ex­ec sits on PhRMA’s board, which said noth­ing about the com­pa­ny’s in­volve­ment.

And as with BIO, Mur­ray re­quest­ed a meet­ing as well as in­for­ma­tion re­gard­ing any re­search, ac­tions and sug­ges­tions PhRMA might have to ad­dress the prob­lems of sex­u­al as­sault.

Norbert Bischofberger. Kronos

Backed by some of the biggest names in biotech, Nor­bert Bischof­berg­er gets his megaround for plat­form tech out of MIT

A little over a year ago when I reported on Norbert Bischofberger’s jump from the CSO job at giant Gilead to a tiny upstart called Kronos, I noted that with his connections in biotech finance, that $18 million launch round he was starting off with could just as easily have been $100 million or more.

With his first anniversary now behind him, Bischofberger has that mega-round in the bank.

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Chas­ing Roche's ag­ing block­buster fran­chise, Am­gen/Al­ler­gan roll out Avastin, Her­ceptin knock­offs at dis­count

Let the long battle for biosimilars in the cancer space begin.

Amgen has launched its Avastin and Herceptin copycats — licensed from the predecessors of Allergan — almost two years after the FDA had stamped its approval on Mvasi (bevacizumab-awwb) and three months after the Kanjinti OK (trastuzumab-anns). While the biotech had been fielding biosimilars in Europe, this marks their first foray in the US — and the first oncology biosimilars in the country.

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→ On the same day it announced a $17.5 million Series C, life sciences and health data company Seer unveiled that it had lured former FDA commissioner and ex-CMS administrator Mark McClellan on to its board. “Mark’s deep understanding of the health care ecosystem and visionary insights on policy reform will be crucial in informing our thinking as we work to bring our liquid biopsy and life sciences products to market,” said Seer chief and founder Omid Farokhzad in a statement.

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Francesco De Rubertis built Medicxi to be the kind of biotech venture player he would have liked to have known back when he was a full time scientist.

“When I was a scientist 20 years ago I would have loved Medicxi,’ the co-founder tells me. It’s the kind of place run by and for investigators, what the Medicxi partner calls “scientists with strange ideas — a platform for the drug hunter and scientific entrepreneur. That’s what I wanted when I was a scientist.”

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Af­ter a decade, Vi­iV CSO John Pot­tage says it's time to step down — and he's hand­ing the job to long­time col­league Kim Smith

ViiV Healthcare has always been something unique in the global drug industry.

Owned by GlaxoSmithKline and Pfizer — with GSK in the lead as majority owner — it was created 10 years ago in a time of deep turmoil for the field as something independent of the pharma giants, but with access to lots of infrastructural support on demand. While R&D at the mother ship inside GSK was souring, a razor-focused ViiV provided a rare bright spot, challenging Gilead on a lucrative front in delivering new combinations that require fewer therapies with a more easily tolerated regimen.

They kept a massive number of people alive who would otherwise have been facing a death sentence. And they made money.

And throughout, John Pottage has been the chief scientific and chief medical officer.

Until now.

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No­var­tis hands off 3 pre­clin­i­cal pro­grams to the an­tivi­ral R&D mas­ters at Gilead

Gilead CEO Daniel O’Day’s new task hunting up a CSO for the company isn’t stopping the industry’s dominant antiviral player from doing pipeline deals.

The big biotech today snapped up 3 preclinical antiviral programs from pharma giant Novartis, with drugs promising to treat human rhinovirus, influenza and herpes viruses. We don’t know what the upfront is, but the back end has $291 million in milestones baked in.

Vas Narasimhan, AP Images

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Year-to-date the stock is up 28%, so the investors will be beaming. Anyone looking for chinks in their armor — and there are plenty giving it a shot — right now focus on payer acceptance of their $2.1 million gene therapy Zolgensma, where it’s early days. And CAR-T continues to underperform, but Novartis doesn’t appear to be suffering from it.

So what could go wrong?

Actually, not much. But Tim Anderson at Wolfe pressed Narasimhan and his development chief John Tsai to pick which of two looming Phase III readouts with blockbuster implication had the better odds of success.

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On a glob­al romp, Boehringer BD team picks up its third R&D al­liance for Ju­ly — this time fo­cused on IPF with $50M up­front

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They’re handing over $50 million to get their hands on BBT-877, an ATX inhibitor from Korea’s Bridge Biotherapeutics that was on display at a science conference in Dallas recently. There’s not a whole lot of data to evaluate the prospects here.

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Servi­er scoots out of an­oth­er col­lab­o­ra­tion with Macro­Gen­ics, writ­ing off their $40M

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After the market closed on Wednesday MacroGenics put out word that Servier is severing a deal — inked close to 7 years ago — to collaborate on the development of flotetuzumab and other Dual-Affinity Re-Targeting (DART) drugs in its pipeline.

MacroGenics CEO Scott Koenig shrugged off the departure of Servier, which paid $20 million to kick off the alliance and $20 million to option flotetuzumab — putting a heavily back-ended $1 billion-plus in additional biobuck money on the table for the anti-CD123/CD3 bispecific and its companion therapies.