Kevin Boyle, Alaunos Therapeutics CEO

Zio­pharm re­brands to Alaunos, clos­es Boston of­fice with new CEO at the reins

Lau­rence Coop­er

A lit­tle over a year af­ter fac­ing an ac­tivist at­tack that saw for­mer CEO Lau­rence Coop­er sur­vive but re­tire a few months lat­er, Zio­pharm On­col­o­gy will un­der­go a re­brand­ing and re­struc­tur­ing.

Its new com­pa­ny name will be Alaunos Ther­a­peu­tics, the biotech an­nounced Thurs­day, aim­ing to put its check­ered past be­hind it. In ad­di­tion, Alaunos has closed its Boston of­fice and will move its head­quar­ters to Hous­ton — it’s un­clear whether this will re­sult in sub­stan­tial lay­offs.

The move comes af­ter the new CEO, Kevin Boyle, took the reins in Sep­tem­ber.

“Over the course of 2022, the team will con­tin­ue to work dili­gent­ly with an ex­e­cu­tion mind­set to de­liv­er re­sults,” Boyle said in a state­ment. “Our name change to Alaunos Ther­a­peu­tics re­flects the com­ple­tion of our tran­si­tion to a TCR-T fo­cused com­pa­ny and em­bod­ies our mis­sion of de­vel­op­ing nov­el ther­a­pies for can­cer pa­tients.”

Back in No­vem­ber 2020, then-Zio­pharm tried to with­stand an ac­tivist at­tack from Wa­ter­Mill As­set Man­age­ment Corp, which at­tempt­ed to oust half the com­pa­ny’s eight-mem­ber board and Coop­er. The end re­sult proved some­what suc­cess­ful for Wa­ter­Mill, as it se­cured the elec­tion of two board mem­bers but failed to oust Coop­er.

One board mem­ber that didn’t make it on at the time was Wa­ter­Mill CEO Robert Post­ma, though he even­tu­al­ly joined the board soon af­ter. In Feb­ru­ary, Coop­er stepped down from his post and Boyle, who had the en­dorse­ment of Post­ma, was lat­er ap­point­ed chief ex­ec­u­tive af­ter a six-month search.

Alaunos re­cent­ly launched en­roll­ment for a Phase I/II study for its new lead pro­gram, us­ing its tech­nol­o­gy to “eval­u­ate 10 unique TCRs tar­get­ing KRAS, TP53 and EGFR mu­ta­tions in pa­tients across a broad range of sol­id tu­mors,” the com­pa­ny said Thurs­day. An in­ter­im da­ta up­date is ex­pect­ed some­time lat­er this year.

Has the mo­ment fi­nal­ly ar­rived for val­ue-based health­care?

RBC Capital Markets’ Healthcare Technology Analyst, Sean Dodge, spotlights a new breed of tech-enabled providers who are rapidly transforming the way clinicians deliver healthcare, and explores the key question: can this accelerating revolution overturn the US healthcare system?

Key points

Tech-enabled healthcare providers are poised to help the US transition to value, not volume, as the basis for reward.
The move to value-based care has policy momentum, but is risky and complex for clinicians.
Outsourced tech specialists are emerging to provide the required expertise, while healthcare and tech are also converging through M&A.
Value-based care remains in its early stages, but the transition is accelerating and represents a huge addressable market.

Lat­est on ul­tra-rare dis­ease ap­proval; Pos­i­tive, if mixed, signs for Bio­gen's ALS drug; Clay Sie­gall finds a new job; and more

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Over the last four years, we’ve honored 80 women whose extraordinary accomplishments have changed the game in biopharma R&D. You can now nominate someone to be highlighted in this year’s special report. Details are here.

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FDA spells out how can­cer drug de­vel­op­ers can use one tri­al for both ac­cel­er­at­ed and full ap­provals

The FDA’s Oncology Center of Excellence has been a bright spot within the agency in terms of speeding new treatments to patients. That flexibility was on full display this morning as FDA released new draft guidance spelling out exactly how oncology drug developers can fulfill both the accelerated and full approval’s requirements with just a single randomized controlled trial.

While Congress recently passed legislation that will allow FDA to require confirmatory trials to be recruiting and ongoing prior to granting an accelerated approval, the agency is now making clear that the initial trial used to win the AA, if designed appropriately, can also serve as the trial for converting the accelerated approval into a full approval.

FDA ad­vi­sors unan­i­mous­ly rec­om­mend ac­cel­er­at­ed ap­proval for Bio­gen's ALS drug

A panel of outside advisors to the FDA unanimously recommended that the agency grant accelerated approval to Biogen’s ALS drug tofersen despite the drug failing the primary goal of its Phase III study, an endorsement that could pave a path forward for the treatment.

By a 9-0 vote, members of the Peripheral and Central Nervous System Drugs Advisory Committee said there was sufficient evidence that tofersen’s effect on a certain protein associated with ALS is reasonably likely to predict a benefit for patients. But panelists stopped short of advocating for a full approval, voting 3-5 against (with one abstention) and largely citing the failed pivotal study.

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No­vo Nordisk oral semaglu­tide tri­al shows re­duc­tion in blood sug­ar, plus weight loss

Novo Nordisk is testing higher levels of its oral version of its GLP-1, semaglutide, and its type 2 diabetes trial results released today show reductions in blood sugar as well as weight loss.

In the Phase IIIb trial, Novo compared its oral semaglutide in 25 mg and 50 mg doses with the 14 mg version that’s currently the maximum approved dose. The trial looked at how the doses compared when added to a stable dose of one to three oral antidiabetic medicines in people with type 2 diabetes who were in need of an intensified treatment.

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Ly­me vac­cine test com­ple­tion is pushed back by a year as Pfiz­er, Val­ne­va say they'll ad­just tri­al

Valneva and Pfizer have adjusted the end date for the Phase III study of their investigational Lyme disease vaccine, pushing it back by a year after issues at a contract researcher led to thousands of US patients being dropped from the test.

In a March 20 update to, Valneva and Pfizer moved the primary completion date on the trial, called VALOR, from the end of 2024 to the end of 2025.

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Clay Siegall, Morphimmune CEO

Up­dat­ed: Ex-Seagen chief Clay Sie­gall emerges as CEO of pri­vate biotech

Clay Siegall will be back in the CEO seat, taking the helm of a private startup working on targeted cancer therapies.

It’s been almost a year since Siegall resigned from Seagen, the biotech he co-founded and led for more than 20 years, in the wake of domestic violence allegations by his then-wife. His eventual successor, David Epstein, sold the company to Pfizer in a $43 billion deal unveiled last week.

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Eu­ro­pean doc­tors di­al up dig­i­tal com­mu­ni­ca­tion with phar­mas, but still lean to­ward in-per­son med meet­ings, study finds

As in-person sales rep access declines in the big five European countries, a corresponding uptick in virtual rep access is happening. It’s not surprising, but it does run counter to pharma companies’ assessment – along with long-held sales rep sway in Europe – that in-person access hadn’t changed.

CMI Media Group and Medscape’s recent study reports that 75% of physicians in the EU5 countries of Spain, Germany, Italy, France and the UK already limit engagements with pharma sales reps, and 25% of those surveyed plan to decrease time with reps.

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Judge al­lows ex­pert tes­ti­mo­ny in GSK tri­al al­leg­ing Zan­tac link to can­cer

A California judge will allow a plaintiff in a state court case to introduce expert testimony connecting a potential carcinogen in former blockbuster medicine Zantac to cancer.

The order was handed down on Thursday from state judge Evelio Grillo, who is now allowing both parties to introduce expert testimony in an upcoming trial after what’s known as a Sargon hearing, where a judge determines the admissibility of expert witnesses and expert opinions.