Akre­via scoops ex-Ar­sa­nis chief René Rus­so as CEO; Scott Got­tlieb jumps back in­to in­dus­try; Seat­tle Ge­net­ics raids As­traZeneca for CCO

René Rus­so Akre­via Ther­a­peu­tics

→ Months af­ter re­sign­ing from Ar­sa­nis — now rel­e­gat­ed to biotech his­to­ry books af­ter a re­verse merg­er with X4 Phar­maRené Rus­so has land­ed her next CEO gig at Akre­via Ther­a­peu­tics. The new role will shift her at­ten­tion from an­ti-in­fec­tives to im­muno-on­col­o­gy, but she will lean on her ex­pe­ri­ence scal­ing up biotech op­er­a­tions from an ear­ly stage. Backed by F-Prime Cap­i­tal and At­las Ven­ture, Akre­via em­ploys plat­form tech that pack­ages a CT­LA4 in­hibitor in a way that the an­ti­body would be in­ac­tive un­til it reach­es the tu­mor mi­croen­vi­ron­ment.

Scott Got­tlieb Twit­ter

→ Just a lit­tle more than a month af­ter his sur­prise ex­it from the FDA — sug­gest­ing he want­ed to spend more time with his fam­i­ly in Con­necti­cut, Scott Got­tlieb is jump­ing back in­to the mon­ey side of the in­dus­try and re­join­ing Wash­ing­ton DC-based New En­ter­prise As­so­ci­ates as a full-time in­vest­ing part­ner, where he ex­pects to start back­ing biotech star­tups and sit­ting on boards again.

 

Robin Tay­lor Seat­tle Ge­net­ics

Seat­tle Ge­net­ics $SGEN has raid­ed the top ranks of As­traZeneca $AZN for its first chief com­mer­cial of­fi­cer, Robin Tay­lor. Tay­lor’s stint at As­traZeneca last­ed 7 months, and pri­or to jump­ing to the com­pa­ny, he led the can­cer im­munother­a­py fran­chise at Roche’s Genen­tech for close to 18 years.

“Robin will play a key role in ex­tend­ing our com­mer­cial ex­e­cu­tion across six Ad­cetris lym­phoma in­di­ca­tions, while prepar­ing for the po­ten­tial launch of en­for­tum­ab ve­dotin and lead­ing our glob­al com­mer­cial­iza­tion strat­e­gy for pos­si­ble fu­ture prod­ucts, such as tu­ca­tinib,” not­ed Seat­tle Ge­net­ics CEO Clay Sie­gall.

David Apelian Twit­ter

→ Cur­rent COO and ex­ec­u­tive med­ical of­fi­cer of late-stage Eiger Bio­Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals, David Apelian, will be step­ping down ef­fec­tive June 14, 2019. Apelian will join a pri­vate biotech as its CEO. Apelian’s de­par­ture is hap­pen­ing while the com­pa­ny’s Phase III pro­gram for ion­a­farnib — a preny­la­tion in­hibitor for the treat­ment of He­pati­tis Delta Virus (HDV) in­fec­tion — is be­ing prepped for an NDA and MAA to treat Hutchin­son-Gil­ford Prog­e­ria Syn­drome (HG­PS or Prog­e­ria) and Progeroid Laminopathies, with plans to file in 2019. Apelian will con­tin­ue to serve on the com­pa­ny’s board of di­rec­tors.

Pamela Gar­zone Scripps Re­search

→ The drug de­vel­op­ment arm of Scripps Re­search, Cal­i­br, has named Pamela Gar­zone as its CMO. Gar­zone has pre­vi­ous­ly served as vice pres­i­dent with­in the ear­ly on­col­o­gy de­vel­op­ment at Pfiz­er $PFE as well as oth­er lead­er­ship roles. Cal­i­br is cur­rent­ly de­vel­op­ing mul­ti­ple drug can­di­dates, such as KA34 — a po­ten­tial os­teoarthri­tis ther­a­py that is cur­rent­ly in a Phase I hu­man clin­i­cal tri­al stage, and lat­er this year the com­pa­ny plans to sub­mit IND ap­pli­ca­tions for two can­cer ther­a­pies.

Mar­tin Tred­er Af­fimed

Af­fimed $AFMD has part­ed ways with CSO Mar­tin Tred­er just as the Ger­man biotech ex­e­cutes a pipeline cleanup and nar­rows its fo­cus. Its AFM11 pro­gram got in­to trou­ble with the FDA last Oc­to­ber due to a pa­tient death and two life-threat­en­ing episodes, and reg­u­la­tors re­cent­ly in­formed them that the Phase I tri­al can­not re­sume with­out more da­ta. CEO Adi Hoess notes that he has a strong team and is in no rush, if ever, to re­place Tred­er — who re­mains as a con­sul­tant. In the mean­time, COO Wolf­gang Fis­ch­er will over­see the dis­cov­ery and pre­clin­i­cal ef­forts.

Di­nah Sah Voy­ager Ther­a­peu­tics

→ Cam­bridge, Mass­a­chu­setts-based clin­i­cal-stage gene com­pa­ny, Voy­ager Ther­a­peu­tics an­nounced the re­tire­ment of its CSO Di­nah Sah and the ex­pan­sion of Omar Khwa­ja’s cur­rent role as CMO to now in­clude head of R&D. Both changes will be ef­fec­tive on June 28, 2019. Sah will con­tin­ue to serve as a con­sul­tant to the com­pa­ny and will al­so join its sci­en­tif­ic ad­vi­so­ry board.  

Mor­gan Sheng Genen­tech

Mor­gan Sheng is re­turn­ing to acad­e­mia fol­low­ing a decade at Roche’s Genen­tech. As VP of neu­ro­science, he spear­head­ed re­search projects dig­ging in­to new treat­ments for neu­rode­gen­er­a­tive dis­eases and pain. He now takes that back to MIT, al­beit in some­what dif­fer­ent po­si­tions than when he left — core mem­ber at the Broad In­sti­tute, and co-di­rec­tor of the Stan­ley Cen­ter for Psy­chi­atric Re­search — with a clear aim to ad­vance new ways to study, di­ag­nose and treat men­tal ill­ness.

Kirk Christof­fersen Linkedin

→ Well on its way in the clin­ic, an­ti-CD47 play­er Arch On­col­o­gy is ready to look be­yond its lead as­set for op­por­tu­ni­ties to grow. Kirk Christof­fersen has been tapped for the new­ly-cre­at­ed chief busi­ness of­fi­cer role, re­spon­si­ble for cor­po­rate strat­e­gy. Jump­ing from Com­pu­gen (pre­ced­ed by a 10-year run at GlobeIm­mune) Christof­fersen joins Arch short­ly af­ter it banked $50 mil­lion in Se­ries B cash, al­low­ing it to ex­pand both the cor­po­rate/clin­i­cal de­vel­op­ment team in the Bay Area and the re­search group at St. Louis.

Greg Rys­lik Linkedin

→ Cam­bridge, Mass­a­chu­setts-based Cel­sius Ther­a­peu­tics — start­ed in 2018 and backed by Third Rock Ven­tures and GV (for­mer­ly Google Ven­tures) — an­nounced its first key lead­er­ship ap­point­ments. Greg Rys­lik has joined the com­pa­ny as its chief da­ta of­fi­cer, and Michael Boret­ti has joined as its CBO.

Michael Boret­ti Linkedin

“Over the past year, we have been build­ing our team and as­sem­bling an in­te­grat­ed, in­dus­tri­al-scale plat­form that com­bines sin­gle-cell ge­nomics, ma­chine learn­ing, deep bi­ol­o­gy and drug dis­cov­ery, which has en­abled Cel­sius to ad­vance its un­der­stand­ing of the spe­cif­ic cells and ge­net­ic dri­vers that could play a key role in au­toim­mune dis­eases and can­cer,” said Alex­is Borisy, chair­man of Cel­sius.

→ Af­ter an­nounc­ing that it had en­tered the bio­me­chan­ics mar­ket launch­ing op­er­a­tion in Min­neapo­lis, Min­neso­ta, Subio­Med has now made ad­di­tions to its man­age­ment team. Patrick Kull­mann joins the com­pa­ny as CEO and board mem­ber af­ter his re­cent stint as COO and pres­i­dent for Medovex Corp.

Patrick Kull­mann Linkedin

Kull­mann has al­so served lead­er­ship po­si­tion at J&J, Boston Sci­en­tif­ic and Medtron­ic and mul­ti­ple start-up med­ical tech­nol­o­gy com­pa­nies. Bri­an Bowen joins the com­pa­ny as ex­ec­u­tive VP and board mem­ber with 32 years of ex­pe­ri­ence in mar­ket­ing strat­e­gy and lead­er­ship. Ad­di­tion­al­ly, John Deedrick — co-founder and ex­ec­u­tive chair­man of Ac­tivOrtho, co-founder and di­rec­tor of DyaMX, co-Founder and di­rec­tor of CHIP II and Pres­i­dent of CHIP So­lu­tions — and Mar­tin Emer­son — pres­i­dent and CEO of Mon­teris Med­ical — have joined the com­pa­ny’s board.

Karin Schmitt Linkedin

→ UK- based com­pa­ny Mo­gri­fy has re­lo­cat­ed to the Bio-In­no­va­tion Cen­tre at the Cam­bridge Sci­ence Park, af­ter adding 15 new staff mem­bers to its sci­en­tif­ic and man­age­ment teams, in­clud­ing Karin Schmitt as CBO and Joe Fos­ter as COO. The com­pa­ny says that “these new hires and fa­cil­i­ties will aid Mo­gri­fy in build­ing a scal­able in­fra­struc­ture to gen­er­ate IP around nov­el cell con­ver­sion to pow­er the de­vel­op­ment and man­u­fac­ture of new cell ther­a­pies across mul­ti­ple ther­a­peu­tic ar­eas.”

Rob Jack­son Linkedin

→ Ramp­ing up prepa­ra­tions for the po­ten­tial launch of RHB-105 — or Tal­i­cia as it’s al­ready call­ing the an­ti-in­fec­tive com­bat­ting H. Py­loriRed­Hill Bio­phar­ma has added three sea­soned ex­ec to its com­mer­cial team. Rob Jack­son, VP of mar­ket­ing, joins from Bioven­tus; Syn­er­gy Phar­ma’s for­mer VP of mar­ket ac­cess, Robert Gilkin, as­sumes the same role at Red­Hill; Steven Thomasian brings ex­pe­ri­ence from Kala and Cem­pra to his role as VP of sup­ply chain.

Je­re­my Grun­stein Linkedin

Am­gen $AMGN vet Je­re­my Grun­stein is the new VP of busi­ness de­vel­op­ment at Xen­cor $XN­CR, tasked with scout­ing new col­lab­o­ra­tions and deals for its an­ti­body tech, with sev­er­al po­ten­tial ap­pli­ca­tions in­clud­ing in bis­pe­cif­ic — re­cent­ly en­tic­ing Genen­tech to sign up for an al­liance.

Bris­tol My­ers is clean­ing up the post-Cel­gene merg­er pipeline, and they’re sweep­ing out an ex­per­i­men­tal check­point in the process

Back during the lead up to the $74 billion buyout of Celgene, the big biotech’s leadership did a little housecleaning with a major pact it had forged with Jounce. Out went the $2.6 billion deal and a collaboration on ICOS and PD-1.

Celgene, though, also added a $530 million deal — $50 million up front — to get the worldwide rights to JTX-8064, a drug that targets the LILRB2 receptor on macrophages.

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Is a pow­er­house Mer­ck team prepar­ing to leap past Roche — and leave Gilead and Bris­tol My­ers be­hind — in the race to TIG­IT dom­i­na­tion?

Roche caused quite a stir at ASCO with its first look at some positive — but not so impressive — data for their combination of Tecentriq with their anti-TIGIT drug tiragolumab. But some analysts believe that Merck is positioned to make a bid — soon — for the lead in the race to a second-wave combo immuno-oncology approach with its own ambitious early-stage program tied to a dominant Keytruda.

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Fangliang Zhang, AP Images

UP­DAT­ED: Leg­end fetch­es $424 mil­lion, emerges as biggest win­ner yet in pan­dem­ic IPO boom as shares soar

Amid a flurry of splashy pandemic IPOs, a J&J-partnered Chinese biotech has emerged with one of the largest public raises in biotech history.

Legend Biotech, the Nanjing-based CAR-T developer, has raised $424 million on NASDAQ. The biotech had originally filed for a still-hefty $350 million, based on a range of $18-$20, but managed to fetch $23 per share, allowing them to well-eclipse the massive raises from companies like Allogene, Juno, Galapagos, though they’ll still fall a few dollars short of Moderna’s record-setting $600 million raise from 2018.

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As it hap­pened: A bid­ding war for an an­tibi­ot­ic mak­er in a mar­ket that has rav­aged its peers

In a bewildering twist to the long-suffering market for antibiotics — there has actually been a bidding war for an antibiotic company: Tetraphase.

It all started back in March, when the maker of Xerava (an FDA approved therapy for complicated intra-abdominal infections) said it had received an offer from AcelRx for an all-stock deal valued at $14.4 million.

The offer was well-timed. Xerava was approved in 2018, four years after Tetraphase posted its first batch of pivotal trial data, and sales were nowhere near where they needed to be in order for the company to keep its head above water.

Drug man­u­fac­tur­ing gi­ant Lon­za taps Roche/phar­ma ‘rein­ven­tion’ vet as its new CEO

Lonza chairman Albert Baehny took his time headhunting a new CEO for the company, making it absolutely clear he wanted a Big Pharma or biotech CEO with a good long track record in the business for the top spot. In the end, he went with the gold standard, turning to Roche’s ranks to recruit Pierre-Alain Ruffieux for the job.

Ruffieux, a member of the pharma leadership team at Roche, spent close to 5 years at the company. But like a small army of manufacturing execs, he gained much of his experience at the other Big Pharma in Basel, remaining at Novartis for 12 years before expanding his horizons.

Covid-19 roundup: Ab­b­Vie jumps in­to Covid-19 an­ti­body hunt; As­traZeneca shoots for 2B dos­es of Ox­ford vac­cine — with $750M from CEPI, Gavi

Another Big Pharma is entering the Covid-19 antibody hunt.

AbbVie has announced a collaboration with the Netherlands’ Utrecht University and Erasmus Medical Center and the Chinese-Dutch biotech Harbour Biomed to develop a neutralizing antibody that can treat Covid-19. The antibody, called 47D11, was discovered by AbbVie’s three partners, and AbbVie will support early preclinical work, while preparing for later preclinical and clinical development. Researchers described the antibody in Nature Communications last month.

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 — biotech stocks that fit that general description.

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Mer­ck wins a third FDA nod for an­tibi­ot­ic; Mereo tack­les TIG­IT with $70M raise in hand

Merck — one of the last big pharma bastions in the beleaguered field of antibiotic drug development — on Friday said the FDA had signed off on using its combination drug, Recarbrio, with hospital-acquired bacterial pneumonia and ventilator-associated bacterial pneumonia. The drug could come handy for use in hospitalized patients who are afflicted with Covid-19, who carry a higher risk of contracting secondary bacterial infections. Once SARS-CoV-2, the virus behind Covid-19, infects the airways, it engages the immune system, giving other pathogens free rein to pillage and plunder as they please — the issue is particularly pertinent in patients on ventilators, which in any case are breeding grounds for infectious bacteria.

RA Cap­i­tal, Hill­house join $310M rush to back Ever­est's climb to com­mer­cial heights in Chi­na

Money has never been an issue for Everest Medicines. With an essentially open tab from their founders at C-Bridge Capital, the biotech has gone two and a half years racking up drug after drug, bringing in top exec after top exec, and issuing clinical update after update.

But now other investors want in — and they’re betting big.

Everest is closing its Series C at $310 million. The first $50 million comes from the Jiashan National Economic and Technological Development Zone; the remaining C-2 tranche was led by Janchor Partners, with RA Capital Management and Hillhouse Capital as co-leaders. Decheng Capital, GT Fund, Janus Henderson Investors, Rock Springs Capital, Octagon Investments all joined.