With fresh com­pa­ny build­ing lessons from Abl­ynx, Ed­win Moses is ready to try it again as chair of neoanti­gen biotech Achilles

Ed­win Moses

Af­ter of­fi­cial­ly pass­ing off Abl­ynx to Sanofi in Ju­ly, Ed­win Moses took Au­gust off — the longest break the biotech CEO has had in about 20 years.

“By the end of that I was al­ready bored,” he says.

At the rec­om­men­da­tion of long­time friend and Syn­cona CEO Mar­tin Mur­phy, Moses has tak­en his first role since seal­ing the $4.8 bil­lion ac­qui­si­tion deal about 10 months ago: board chair­man at Achilles Ther­a­peu­tics.

Iraj Ali

Moses is ex­pect­ed to play a steady­ing hand for the young Steve­nage, UK-based com­pa­ny — which, at 45 em­ploy­ees, is of sim­i­lar size as Abl­ynx in 2006 when he first took the reins — and sup­port Syn­cona man­ag­ing part­ner Iraj Ali as Ali moves in­to a full-time CEO po­si­tion.

“We want to be a ful­ly in­te­grat­ed biotech com­pa­ny in con­trol of com­mer­cial­iza­tion and our own des­tiny,” Ali tells me, “and that’s where the ap­point­ment of some­one like Ed­win is re­al­ly so per­fect for us be­cause he match­es the ex­pe­ri­ence and he brings the same vi­sion.”

Charles Swan­ton

Co-found­ed by Char­lie Swan­ton of the Fran­cis Crick In­sti­tute, Achilles is a play­er in the hot neoanti­gen for can­cer field, lever­ag­ing heavy se­quenc­ing to iden­ti­fy a pa­tient-spe­cif­ic set of tu­mor mu­ta­tions that it can tar­get. But un­like oth­er neoanti­gen pi­o­neers like Grit­stone On­col­o­gy, Neon Ther­a­peu­tics and BioN­Tech, Achilles is look­ing to di­rect­ly de­liv­er can­cer killing T cells rather than stim­u­lat­ing an im­mune re­sponse via a vac­cine.

By tak­ing a “tu­mor evo­lu­tion­ary ap­proach to se­lect­ing neoanti­gens” — ze­ro­ing in on a spe­cial group of neoanti­gens that’s present on every can­cer cell — Ali al­so be­lieves their cell ther­a­pies can de­liv­er a more po­tent and durable re­sponse.

“We’re look­ing to tar­get the most dif­fi­cult to treat metasta­t­ic can­cers where I think vac­cines would strug­gle,” Ali says of the ap­proach.

They are start­ing with a small tri­al in non-small cell lung can­cer ear­ly next year, with a sec­ond clin­i­cal pro­gram in melanoma to fol­low.

A re­sound­ing theme as the rapid­ly ex­pand­ing team ex­e­cutes all of this, Moses says, will be am­bi­tion.

“Iraj and his col­leagues have plen­ty of am­bi­tion but I think I can even add to that,” he says. “I think com­ing from the out­side you see what po­ten­tial is, and the po­ten­tial could be re­al­ly bold.”

Forge Bi­o­log­ics’ cGMP Com­pli­ant and Com­mer­cial­ly Vi­able Be­spoke Affin­i­ty Chro­matog­ra­phy Plat­form

Forge Biologics has developed a bespoke affinity chromatography platform approach that factors in unique vector combinations to streamline development timelines and assist our clients in efficiently entering the clinic. By leveraging our experience with natural and novel serotypes and transgene conformations, we are able to accelerate affinity chromatography development by nearly 3-fold. Many downstream purification models are serotype-dependent, demanding unique and time-consuming development strategies for each AAV gene therapy product1. With the increasing demand to propel AAV gene therapies to market, platform purification methods that support commercial-scale manufacturing of high-quality vectors with excellent safety and efficacy profiles are essential.

Cy­to­ki­net­ics’ ALS drug fails PhI­II, leav­ing the biotech with a sin­gle late-stage prospect

Cytokinetics’ candidate for the muscle disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, failed a Phase III trial, the Bay Area biotech announced Friday morning.

At a second interim analysis of the trial, an independent review committee recommended that Cytokinetics discontinue its COURAGE-ALS trial for reldesemtiv, as it “found no evidence of effect” compared to placebo on the primary or key secondary endpoints.

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Mathai Mammen, FogPharma's next CEO

Math­ai Mam­men hands in J&J's R&D keys to lead Greg Ver­dine’s Fog­Phar­ma 

In the early 1990s, Mathai Mammen was a teaching assistant in Greg Verdine’s Science B46 course at Harvard. In June, the former R&D head at Johnson & Johnson will succeed Verdine as CEO, president and chair of FogPharma, the same month the seven-year-old biotech kickstarts its first clinical trial.

After leading R&D at one of the largest drugmakers in the world, taking the company through more than half a dozen drug approvals in the past few years, not to mention a Covid-19 vaccine race, Mammen departed J&J last month and will take the helm of a Cambridge, MA biotech attempting to go after what Verdine calls the “true emperor of all oncogenes” — beta-catenin.

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TScan Therapeutics' departing CEO David Southwell and CSO/COO Gavin MacBeath

TCR up­start an­nounces CEO ex­it, with CSO now act­ing re­place­ment

A public T cell biotech’s chief executive has decided to leave the company.

TScan Therapeutics said Friday morning that CEO David Southwell stepped down earlier this week, leaving both his chief executive and board member roles. Filling in is Gavin MacBeath, the company’s CSO and COO. He became the acting CEO on Tuesday, and will continue to remain CSO and COO, TScan’s announcement read.

CHMP gives thumbs-up for We­govy use in ado­les­cents, along with nine new drug rec­om­men­da­tions

The European Medicines Agency’s Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use (CHMP) recommended nine drugs for approval this week while also giving thumbs up for six expanded indications, including Novo Nordisk’s approved obesity medication Wegovy for younger people. Wegovy is already approved as an obesity treatment in the EU for adults, and the new indication would allow prescriptions for adolescents aged 12 and older.

Austin biotech Mol­e­c­u­lar Tem­plates lays off more than 100 staffers as pipeline nar­rows

Molecular Templates is ridding itself of a Phase I HER2 asset and fine-tuning its pipeline to focus on three programs and a preclinical Bristol Myers Squibb collaboration. With the narrowed scope on its so-called engineered toxin bodies, the Austin, TX biotech is laying off about half of its staff.

That’s a little more than 100 employees, per an SEC filing. Molecular’s layoffs, approved by its board Wednesday, add to the dozens of pullbacks in the industry in the first three months of 2023.

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Green­Light re­ceives buy­out of­fer; Apol­lomics com­pletes SPAC merg­er

RNA biotech GreenLight Biosciences has been handed an offer for potential acquisition.

GreenLight said in a release that it has received a non-binding “indication of interest” from Fall Line Endurance Fund to acquire GreenLight’s capital stock for $0.60 per share in cash. The release said any potential agreement between the two parties would depend on certain conditions.

Through a special committee, the biotech will evaluate the offer but added there’s no certainty a deal will go forward. GreenLight will also not make any more announcements until a deal comes through or “otherwise determines” a statement is necessary.

Aptinyx eval­u­ates fu­ture of the com­pa­ny fol­low­ing two failed tri­als, 60% lay­offs

This year has been tough for Aptinyx — two failed trials, a 60% cut in its workforce, and now the company has brought on a firm to help evaluate the future of the company.

The press release noted it’s working with the firm Ladenburg Thalmann as its financial advisor to assist in exploring and evaluating “strategic alternatives” — a process that a growing group of struggling biotechs has embarked on, sometimes ending in a merger, asset sale or wind-down.

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Sar­to­rius to ac­quire French man­u­fac­tur­er for $2.6B+ in cell and gene ther­a­py play

The German life science group Sartorius will be picking up French contract manufacturer Polyplus for the price of €2.4 billion, or $2.6 billion.

On Friday, Sartorius announced the acquisition through its French subgroup, Sartorius Stedim Biotech, which will be acquiring Polyplus from private investors ARCHIMED and WP GG Holdings IV. Polyplus has 270 employees and produces materials and components that go into making viral vectors that are used in cell and gene therapies. This includes DNA/RNA reagents as well as plasmid DNA. Polyplus has locations in France, Belgium, China and the US.