What's up at stealthy Cal­i­co Labs? AI star Daphne Koller makes an abrupt ex­it as top team shrinks

Daphne Koller

When the not­ed AI ex­pert and ex-Stan­ford star Daphne Koller was re­cruit­ed to Google’s Cal­i­co Labs in 2016, it fit in­to an up­beat nar­ra­tive about how Arthur Levin­son was build­ing an amaz­ing team of top pro­fes­sion­als to pi­o­neer an­ti-ag­ing re­search. A few days ago, though, Koller abrupt­ly left the com­pa­ny and that nar­ra­tive is get­ting some fresh scruti­ny in R&D cir­cles.

“I have de­cid­ed to leave Cal­i­co to pur­sue oth­er pro­fes­sion­al op­por­tu­ni­ties,” Koller said in an emailed state­ment to Bloomberg, which first re­port­ed the de­par­ture. “I very much en­joyed my time at Cal­i­co, and have the great­est re­spect for the Cal­i­co team and their im­por­tant and as­pi­ra­tional mis­sion.”

This is the sec­ond big de­fec­tion for Cal­i­co in re­cent months. Top sci­en­tist Hal Bar­ron jumped to helm the R&D group at Glax­o­SmithK­line. But Bar­ron was wooed away with a top job and a turn­around mis­sion, with a mul­ti­mil­lion-dol­lar an­nu­al pay pack­age and his own of­fice in the Bay Area, where GSK has lit­tle pres­ence.

Arthur Levin­son

Koller had on­ly re­cent­ly at­tract­ed at­ten­tion for her dis­cus­sion of new mouse da­ta they were ac­cu­mu­lat­ing in the lab, part of a pricey ef­fort to de­vel­op new ther­a­pies that could make longer lives health­i­er. That was a de­par­ture for Cal­i­co, which has kept its head down low since Levin­son was brought in by Google’s Lar­ry Page to build the com­pa­ny.

More re­cent­ly, there were some ru­mors cir­cu­lat­ing in the AI world that Koller had grown some­what dis­en­chant­ed with Cal­i­co.

That cer­tain­ly wasn’t part of her pub­lic pro­file, though. Here’s a com­ment from Koller’s LinkedIn page.

Cal­i­co al­lowed me to re­turn to my pas­sion of ap­ply­ing ma­chine learn­ing to im­prove hu­man health. As Cal­i­co’s first Chief Com­put­ing Of­fi­cer, I built an amaz­ing team work­ing on new com­pu­ta­tion­al meth­ods for an­a­lyz­ing bi­o­log­i­cal da­ta sets to help bet­ter un­der­stand the process of ag­ing and de­vel­op­ing in­ter­ven­tions that en­able peo­ple to live longer, health­i­er lives.

The use of new ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence tech in drug dis­cov­ery is fast be­com­ing one of the biggest trends in drug R&D as the ma­jors start to de­vel­op am­bi­tious in­ter­nal ef­forts to find a faster and more ef­fi­cient way to iden­ti­fy po­ten­tial break­throughs. But it still has a long way to go be­fore it can prove it­self to the in­dus­try.

BiTE® Plat­form and the Evo­lu­tion To­ward Off-The-Shelf Im­muno-On­col­o­gy Ap­proach­es

Despite rapid advances in the field of immuno-oncology that have transformed the cancer treatment landscape, many cancer patients are still left behind.1,2 Not every person has access to innovative therapies designed specifically to treat his or her disease. Many currently available immuno-oncology-based approaches and chemotherapies have brought long-term benefits to some patients — but many patients still need other therapeutic options.3

Pfiz­er’s Doug Gior­dano has $500M — and some ad­vice — to of­fer a cer­tain breed of 'break­through' biotech

So let’s say you’re running a cutting-edge, clinical-stage biotech, probably public, but not necessarily so, which could see some big advantages teaming up with some marquee researchers, picking up say $50 million to $75 million dollars in a non-threatening minority equity investment that could take you to the next level.

Doug Giordano might have some thoughts on how that could work out.

The SVP of business development at the pharma giant has helped forge a new fund called the Pfizer Breakthrough Growth Initiative. And he has $500 million of Pfizer’s money to put behind 7 to 10 — or so — biotechs that fit that general description.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 82,000+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Gilead re­leas­es an­oth­er round of murky remde­sivir re­sults

A month after the NIH declared the first trial on remdesivir in Covid-19 a success, Gilead is out with new results on their antiviral. But although the study met one of its primary endpoints, the data are likely to only add to a growing debate over how effective the drug actually is.

In a Phase III trial, patients given a 5-day dose of remdesivir were 65% more likely to show “clinical improvement” compared to an arm given standard-of-care. The trial, though, gave little indication for whether the drug had an impact on key endpoints such as survival or time-to-recovery. And in a surprising twist, a 10-day dosing arm of remdesivir didn’t lead to a statistically significant improvement over standard of care.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 82,000+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Novus Ther­a­peu­tics plunges deep in­to pen­ny stock ter­ri­to­ry af­ter failed ear tri­al

After a more than 15-year run, a California-based biotech is exploring options, including a sale, after its lead experimental therapy failed an exploratory mid-stage study in patients with middle ear infections characterized by a build-up of fluid behind the eardrum.

The company, initially called Tokai Pharmaceuticals but subsequently changed its name to Novus Therapeutics in 2017, saw its shares more than halve on Monday after the drug — OP0201— did not pass muster as an adjunct therapy to oral antibiotics in infants and children aged 6 to 24 months with acute otitis media (OM).

Fangliang Zhang (Imaginechina via AP Images)

The big mon­ey: Poised to make drug R&D his­to­ry, a Chi­na biotech un­veils uni­corn rac­ing am­bi­tions in a bid to raise $350M-plus on Nas­daq

Almost exactly three years after Shanghai-based Legend came out of nowhere to steal the show at ASCO with jaw-dropping data on their BCMA-targeted CAR-T for multiple myeloma, the little player with Big Pharma connections is taking a giant step toward making it big on Wall Street. And this time they want to seal the deal on a global rep after staking out a unicorn valuation in what’s turned out to be a bull market for biotech IPOs — in the middle of a pandemic.

Endpoints Premium

Premium subscription required

Unlock this article along with other benefits by subscribing to one of our paid plans.

Pablo Legorreta, founder and CEO of Royalty Pharma AG, speaks at the annual Milken Institute Global Conference in Beverly Hills, California (Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Cap­i­tal­iz­ing Pablo: The world’s biggest drug roy­al­ty buy­er is go­ing pub­lic. And the low-key CEO di­vulges a few se­crets along the way

Pablo Legorreta is one of the most influential players in biopharma you likely never heard of.

Over the last 24 years, Legorreta’s Royalty Pharma group has become, by its own reckoning, the biggest buyer of drug royalties in the world. The CEO and founder has bought up a stake in a lengthy list of the world’s biggest drug franchises, spending $18 billion in the process — $2.2 billion last year alone. And he’s become one of the best-paid execs in the industry, reaping $28 million from the cash flow last year while reserving 20% of the cash flow, less expenses, for himself.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 82,000+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Stephen Hahn, FDA commissioner (AP Images)

Stephen Hahn: FDA will make some changes amid Covid-19 per­ma­nent

The FDA will look to permanently implement some of the processes and policies adopted in its response to the Covid-19 pandemic, FDA commissioner Stephen Hahn said during a virtual briefing hosted by the Alliance for a Stronger FDA on Monday.

Hahn’s statements during the briefing closely mirrored statements he made in a pre-recorded video FDA uploaded to YouTube on Friday.

“As this pandemic has evolved, it was clear to all of us that some FDA processes needed to be adjusted to accommodate the urgency of the pandemic and I think the entire FDA team has now seen first-hand that we need to take a critical look at some of our processes and policies,” Hahn said.

Len Schleifer (left) and George Yancopoulos, Regeneron (Vimeo)

Eyes on he­mo­phil­ia prize, Re­gen­eron adds a $100M wa­ger on joint de­vel­op­ment cam­paign with In­tel­lia

When George Yancopoulos first signed up Intellia to be its CRISPR/Cas9 partner on gene editing projects 4 years ago, the upstart smartly ramped up its IPO at the same time. Today, Regeneron $REGN is coming back in, adding $100 million in an upfront fee and equity to significantly boot up a whole roster of new development projects.

And they’re highlighting some clinical hemophilia research plans in the process.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 82,000+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Covid-19 roundup: Did in­sid­ers cash in on pos­i­tive news re­port about Gilead be­fore pub­li­ca­tion?

A series of bullish trades on Gilead options just before the release of a favorable news story is raising questions among regulatory experts, Reuters reported.

On April 16, just hours before STAT published anecdotes from a Chicago hospital that served as one of the clinical sites to test Gilead’s remdesivir in Covid-19 patients, the California-based company’s shares were trading at around $75. Four large blocks of options were purchased for about $1.5 million each, betting that the stock would rise beyond that to as much as $87.5 by mid-August.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 82,000+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.