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.”

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His­toric drug pric­ing re­forms pass; Pfiz­er ac­quires GBT; The long search for non-opi­oid pain drugs; and more

Welcome back to Endpoints Weekly, your review of the week’s top biopharma headlines. Want this in your inbox every Saturday morning? Current Endpoints readers can visit their reader profile to add Endpoints Weekly. New to Endpoints? Sign up here.

The Endpoints Weekly has officially crossed the 60,000 mark on subscribers — thanks to all of your support. As the editorial team grows, we’ve been able to do a lot more, with many of those on display this week. Be sure to check out Lei Lei Wu’s deep dive on pain R&D. If you missed it, you may also rewatch her companion panel here.

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Gold for adults, sil­ver for in­fants: Pfiz­er's Pre­vnar 2.0 head­ed to FDA months af­ter Mer­ck­'s green light

Pfizer was first to the finish line for the next-gen pneumococcal vaccine in adults, but Merck beat its rival with a jab for children in June.

Now, two months after Merck’s 15-valent Vaxneuvance won the FDA stamp of approval for kids, Pfizer is out with some late-stage data on its 20-valent shot for infants.

Known as Prevnar 20 for adults, Pfizer’s 20vPnC will head to the FDA by the end of this year for an approval request in infants, the Big Pharma said Friday morning. Discussions with the FDA will occur first and more late-stage pediatric trials are expected to read out soon, informing the regulatory pathway in other countries and regions.

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No­var­tis re­ports two pa­tient deaths af­ter treat­ment with Zol­gens­ma

Two children with spinal muscular atrophy have died after receiving Novartis’ Zolgensma, a gene therapy designed as a one-time treatment for the rare fatal disease.

The deaths, which resulted from acute liver failure, occurred in Russia and Kazakhstan, Novartis confirmed in a statement to Endpoints News. Having notified health authorities across all the markets where Zolgensma is available, it will update the drug label “to specify that fatal acute liver failure has been reported,” a spokesperson wrote.

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Winselow Tucker, Eli Lilly's new Loxo unit chief commercial officer

Eli Lil­ly plucks a new com­mer­cial chief from Bris­tol My­ers in man­age­ment shuf­fle as HR chief re­tires

Eli Lilly has found a new chief commercial officer from among the ranks at Bristol Myers Squibb, as it says farewell to its longtime head of human resources Stephen Fry.

Fry announced on Thursday his plans to retire after more than 35 years with Lilly. He’ll vacate his seat as SVP of human resources and diversity at the end of the year, and current Loxo CCO Eric Dozier is slated to take his place. As a result, BMS’ Winselow Tucker is joining the team as Loxo CCO at the end of the month.

Simba Gill, Evelo Biosciences CEO

Sim­ba Gill heads back to Flag­ship af­ter sev­en-year run as Evelo CEO

Evelo Biosciences is on the hunt for a new CEO, with its founding chief Simba Gill switching to the chairman post to free up time for his new gig at Evelo’s incubator, Flagship Pioneering.

Gill will trade in his former Flagship title of venture partner with the higher-up role of executive partner, after originally joining in 2015. He’ll serve as CEO of Evelo until his successor is chosen, and at Flagship his priorities will be counseling and supporting the venture firm’s portfolio companies.

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House pass­es his­toric drug pric­ing re­forms, lin­ing up decades-in-the-mak­ing win for Biden and De­moc­rats

The US House of Representatives today voted along party lines (all Dems voted for it), 220-207 to pass new, wide-ranging legislation that will allow Medicare drug price negotiations for the first time ever, and cap seniors’ drug expenses to $2,000 per year and seniors’ insulin costs at $35 per month.

Setting up a major victory for President Joe Biden, representatives returned from their summer recess to pass the Inflation Reduction Act, even as many noted the bill would only modestly reduce inflation.

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Senate Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden (D-OR) (Francis Chung/E&E News/POLITICO via AP Images)

Sen­ate Fi­nance chair con­tin­ues his in­ves­ti­ga­tion in­to phar­ma tax­es with re­quests for Am­gen

Amgen is the latest pharma company to appear on the radar of Senate Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden (D-OR), who is investigating the way pharma companies are using subsidiaries in low- or zero-tax countries to lower their tax bills.

Like its peers Merck, AbbVie and Bristol Myers Squibb, Wyden notes how Amgen uses its Puerto Rico operations to consistently pay tax rates that are substantially lower than the U.S. corporate tax rate of 21%, with an effective tax rate of 10.7% in 2020 and 12.1% in 2021.

FDA ap­proves sec­ond in­di­ca­tion for As­traZeneca and Dai­ichi's En­her­tu in less than a week

AstraZeneca and Daiichi Sankyo’s antibody-drug conjugate Enhertu scored its second approval in less than a week, this time for a subset of lung cancer patients.

Enhertu received accelerated approval on Thursday to treat adults with unresectable or metastatic non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) whose tumors have activating HER2 (ERBB2) mutations, and who have already received a prior systemic therapy.

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