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Co-founded by David Baker, Vilya rings in a permanent CEO; Allogene names Eric Schmidt’s CFO successor

Cyrus Harmon
→ Ex-Olema Oncology chief Cyrus Harmon has resurfaced as CEO of Vilya, a Seattle-based macrocycle biotech from David Baker’s lab that…

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Cyrus Harmon

→ Ex-Olema Oncology chief Cyrus Harmon has resurfaced as CEO of Vilya, a Seattle-based macrocycle biotech from David Baker’s lab that raised a $50 million Series A last August. Harmon co-founded Olema in 2007 and he moved into the role of chief technology officer when Sean Bohen was hired as CEO three years ago. He then shifted to chief research officer until Olema restructured in March and laid off about 25% of its staff. CBO Kinney Horn joined Harmon on the chopping block, although Harmon is still on Olema’s board of directors. Former Bristol Myers Squibb exec Nick Meanwell and Arrakis chief innovation officer Jennifer Petter are part of Vilya’s scientific advisory board.

Geoffrey Parker

→ Off-the-shelf cell therapy specialist Allogene has found a CFO. Former Goldman Sachs managing director Geoffrey Parker spent six years at Tricida and was elevated to COO, CFO and EVP in February 2021. Parker succeeds Eric Schmidt, who left Allogene this summer to become a biotech analyst for Cantor Fitzgerald and spoke with Lei Lei Wu as he prepared to dive in to his new gig. Allogene began the year by hiring R&D chief Zachary Roberts and has since picked up chief technical officer Tim Moore and general counsel Earl Douglas.

John Tsai

Tom Anderson is out as CEO of Syncona-backed gene therapy maker SwanBio, but he’ll be a strategic advisor and keep his seat on a board that will now be chaired by ex-Novartis medical chief and current Syncona executive partner John Tsai. SwanBio has also recruited Topher Brooke as COO after he spent a year in the same role at Aytu BioPharma. Brooke is the former head of AstraZeneca’s diabetes business unit in North America and co-founded Rumpus Therapeutics, a pediatric disease biotech that was sold to Aytu in 2021. Tsai was just named CEO at another Syncona company, Forcefield Therapeutics, in late September.

Richard Daly

→ AstraZeneca and Takeda alum Richard Daly will replace Patrick McEnany as CEO of Catalyst Pharmaceuticals on Jan. 1, while McEnany will remain chairman of the board. Daly last appeared in this space in January 2022, when he became president of CARsgen’s US subsidiary, CARsgen Therapeutics Corporation. He’s also been COO at BeyondSpring and a board member at Catalyst since 2015. Catalyst previously announced in July that McEnany would step down as chief executive.

Michael Rossi

Michael Rossi will take over as president and CEO of Y-mAbs, and once Rossi starts running the biotech on Nov. 6, founder and interim chief Thomas Gad is slated to be vice chairman and CBO. Rossi was general manager of the US business for Novartis’ radiopharma company Advanced Accelerator Applications, and he’s also had a 12-year career with GE Healthcare. Y-mAbs has had a checkered regulatory past, receiving a refusal to file letter for its pediatric neuroblastoma treatment omburtamab in October 2020 and scoring an accelerated approval for another neuroblastoma drug, naxitamab, several weeks later. Y-mAbs tried again with omburtamab in 2022, but an adcomm voted unanimously against it and the FDA agreed with the assessment.

Manmeet Soni

Manmeet Soni is reuniting with Bob Duggan as COO of Summit Therapeutics, which formed an alliance with Akeso Therapeutics on the bispecific antibody ivonescimab in December. Soni was CFO and treasurer at Pharmacyclics while Duggan was CEO, and just completed a four-year run at Reata Pharmaceuticals, the Texas biotech that Biogen acquired for $7.3 billion. The ex-Alnylam CFO started out as finance chief at Reata and added the COO post in June 2020 before his promotion to president in February 2022.

Summit has also appointed Jack West from City of Hope as VP of clinical development “focused on lung cancer,” and it has also promoted the following execs: Allen Yang (CMO), Dave Gancarz (chief business & strategy officer), Urte Gayko (chief regulatory, quality, & pharmacovigilance officer), and Fong Clow (chief biometrics officer). Duggan shares CEO duties at Summit with president Maky Zanganeh.

Vincent Hennemand

Roivant subsidiary Covant Therapeutics has named Vincent Hennemand as CEO. Hennemand takes over the reins after a gig as COO at Intergalactic Therapeutics, which laid off all employees in August. Prior to Intergalactic, Hennemand was with Bain, Sanofi and PureTech Health. At Sanofi, Hennemand was chief of staff for Elias Zerhouni, while his tenure at PureTech included a role as SVP of corporate strategy and business development.

→ Belgium’s etherna has locked Bernard Sagaert into the role of CEO after leading the company in an interim capacity for the past year. Sagaert joined etherna in 2017 after roles at Mylan and Sterigenics. Alongside Sagaert’s appointment, ex-Bayer and Thermo Fisher CEO Marijn Dekkers — the founder and chairman of Novalis Capital Partners — has been named chairman of the board.

Ginna Laport

→ “Ports” of call: Third Rock-backed CARGO Therapeutics has named Ginna Laport as CMO after hiring chief scientist Michael Ports in September. Laport had been VP of clinical development, global head of the non-Hodgkin lymphoma/chronic lymphocytic leukemia franchise at Genentech since January 2020, and she’s the ex-medical chief at Tempest Therapeutics. CARGO hauled in $200 million in one of the largest Series A rounds in biotech this year.

→ Following a Phase III whiff with its IgA nephropathy drug narsoplimab, Omeros has brought in Andreas Grauer as CMO. Grauer tackled this same role at Federation Bio and Corcept Therapeutics, and he spent a decade in global development at Amgen.

Weston Miller

Weston Miller will become CMO at Amber Salzman’s latest play, Epic Bio, on Oct. 23. Miller had been VP of clinical development at Graphite Bio, which conceded defeat with its sickle cell program in February and eliminated about half of its workforce. He’s also worked in clinical development for Astellas Gene Therapies and Sangamo. After Flagship’s Ohana Biosciences closed in 2021, Salzman is now CEO of Epic, an epigenetic editing startup that racked up a $55 million Series A last year.

Parker Moss

→ AI drug discovery and development company Exscientia has recruited Parker Moss as EVP, corporate development, starting in January. Moss makes his way to the Oxford-based company from Genomics England, where he served as chief partnerships officer. Moss previously served as an entrepreneur-in-residence at F-Prime and Eight Roads and was part of the executive team at Owkin. Exscientia CEO Andrew Hopkins spoke to Andrew Dunn about the trouble AI-derived drugs are having: “We’ve also now realized if we want to change the probability of success in the clinic, it’s not just better molecules,” he said. “We also need better translational models.”

Virginie Boucinha

→ Peanut patch developer DBV Technologies has enlisted Sanofi vet Virginie Boucinha as CFO. Boucinha comes to DBV from another French company, Pierre Fabre, where she was the group performance director since February 2022. At Sanofi, she held such leadership roles as CFO for India and South Asia (2012-15), chief of staff to the group CEO (2015-18) and head of the Global Transformation Office (2018-21).

→ Now run by ex-Seagen CEO Clay Siegall after the merger with Morphimmune, Immunome has pegged Bob Lechleider as CMO. Lechleieder worked with Siegall as SVP of clinical development at Seagen from 2016-20, and the MacroGenics vet has spent the last three years as CMO of OncoResponse.

Elaine Chien

→ Three new execs have made their way to Antiva Biosciences, the Redwood City, CA-based biotech that nabbed a $53 million Series E this spring: Elaine Chien (CMO) had been promoted to VP, clinical development and medical safety during her three years at Mirum Pharmaceuticals; Susan Wilson (VP of project management and strategic initiatives) has previously served as VP, program, portfolio and alliance management for Revolution Medicines; and Rajashree Joshi-Hangal (VP of technical operations) is an Astex Pharmaceuticals vet who was in charge of CMC, regulatory affairs at Myovant Sciences. Antiva’s ABI-2280 is in Phase II for high-grade cervical intraepithelial neoplasias, or precancerous cervical lesions.

Ronan O’Brien has joined Lyra Therapeutics as chief legal officer. O’Brien just had a five-year stint with Pear Therapeutics and was promoted to general counsel, chief compliance officer & secretary in January 2022. Lyra’s chronic rhinosinusitis drug LYR-220 hit the primary endpoint in a Phase II trial last month.

Mishima Gerhart

→ Touting positive Phase IIa data a few weeks ago for its primary sclerosing cholangitis drug bexotegrast —with more results on the way — Pliant Therapeutics has selected Mishima Gerhart as chief regulatory officer. Gerhart recently served as chief regulatory officer and head of quality at Taysha Gene Therapies, and she has additional regulatory experience with such pharma giants as Pfizer, AbbVie and Sanofi.

→ Japanese biotech RegCell has handed the CEO reins to Michael McCullar. McCullar joins the Osaka-based company from a CEO stint at OnQuality Pharmaceuticals. Before that, McCullar was COO of Tolera Pharmaceuticals and SVP of business development at Astex Pharmaceuticals.

Lachy McLean

→ Palo Alto, CA-based Genascence has brought aboard Lachy McLean as CMO. McLean has prior chief medical experience from his time at Novome, and he has previously served in roles at AstraZeneca, Merck, Genentech, Takeda and Travere.

Cognito Therapeutics has reeled in Greg Weaver as CFO. Not his first time in the position, Weaver was CFO at Atossa Therapeutics, BioIntelliSense, atai Life Sciences and Eloxx Pharmaceuticals.

Deepshikha Bhandari

→ The cancer genomics experts at Personalis have appointed Deepshikha Bhandari as SVP, regulatory, quality and clinical compliance. Bhandari was the VP of regulatory affairs at Grail and Roche Diagnostics.

→ CRO Novotech has enlisted Rick Farris as managing director for North America and David Ng as global VP for biometrics and data management. Farris was most recently VP operations at IQVIA, while Ng was VP of biometrics at WuXi Clinical, a subsidiary of WuXi AppTec.

Cellectar Biosciences has rolled out the welcome mat for two new team members with the appointments of William Yoon as VP, medical affairs and Aaditya Nanduri as VP, business strategy and analytics. Yoon joins the Florham Park, NJ-based biotech after a gig at ImmunoGen and a nearly 20-year stint with Novartis. Meanwhile, Nanduri hops aboard after stints at BeiGene, Celgene and Ernst & Young.

John Maraganore

→ It’s been a while since we’ve wheeled out the Maraganore Meter in Peer Review, but ex-Alnylam CEO John Maraganore is back with another scientific advisory board appointment, this time at Totus Medicines. Lewis Cantley and UCSF’s Kevan Shokat are also on the SAB at Totus, which is going after PI3Kα first with its lead candidate TOS-358.

Resilience president, COO and CFO Sandy Mahatme has punched his ticket to the board of directors at CRISPR Therapeutics, which includes gene therapy luminary Kathy High, SR One’s Simeon George and Lassen Therapeutics CEO Maria Fardis. Mahatme has a seat on the board at Idorsia and spent nearly eight years as Sarepta’s CFO and CBO.

David Meek

→ Ex-Mirati CEO David Meek leads a trio of new board members at radiopharma player Fusion Pharmaceuticals. He’s joined by Teresa Bitetti, the president of Takeda’s global oncology business unit, and Day One Biopharmaceuticals CEO Jeremy Bender.

→ Olema Oncology has made room for ex-PACT Pharma CEO Scott Garland on the board of directors. Garland, who’s also been president and CEO of Portola, has board seats at Day One Biopharmaceuticals and ALX Oncology.

Kate Haviland

→ The board of directors at Bicara Therapeutics has grown to nine members with the additions of Kate Haviland and Scott Robertson. Haviland replaced Jeff Albers as CEO of Blueprint Medicines in April 2022, and Robertson is the ex-chief business and financial officer at DICE Therapeutics, the immunology biotech that Eli Lilly snapped up this summer for $2.4 billion.

Illumina once had designs on buying PacBio, which is gaining on the DNA sequencing giant and has added ex-Moderna and Amgen CFO David Meline to the board of directors. Meline will also be a board member at HP starting Nov. 1.

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Four burning questions about the future of the $16.5B Novo-Catalent deal

To build or to buy? That’s a classic question for pharma boardrooms, and Novo Nordisk is going with both.
Beyond spending billions of dollars to expand…

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To build or to buy? That’s a classic question for pharma boardrooms, and Novo Nordisk is going with both.

Beyond spending billions of dollars to expand its own production capacity for its weight loss drugs, the Danish drugmaker said Monday it will pay $11 billion to acquire three manufacturing plants from Catalent. It’s part of a broader $16.5 billion deal with Novo Holdings, the investment arm of the pharma’s parent group, which agreed to acquire the contract manufacturer and take it private.

It’s a big deal for all parties, with potential ripple effects across the biotech ecosystem. Here’s a look at some of the most pressing questions to watch after Monday’s announcement.

Why did Novo do this?

Novo Holdings isn’t the most obvious buyer for Catalent, particularly after last year’s on-and-off M&A interest from the serial acquirer Danaher. But the deal could benefit both Novo Holdings and Novo Nordisk.

Novo Nordisk’s biggest challenge has been simply making enough of the weight loss drug Wegovy and diabetes therapy Ozempic. On last week’s earnings call, Novo Nordisk CEO Lars Fruergaard Jørgensen said the company isn’t constrained by capital in its efforts to boost manufacturing. Rather, the main challenge is the limited amount of capabilities out there, he said.

“Most pharmaceutical companies in the world would be shopping among the same manufacturers,” he said. “There’s not an unlimited amount of machinery and people to build it.”

While Novo was already one of Catalent’s major customers, the manufacturer has been hamstrung by its own balance sheet. With roughly $5 billion in debt on its books, it’s had to juggle paying down debt with sufficiently investing in its facilities. That’s been particularly challenging in keeping pace with soaring demand for GLP-1 drugs.

Novo, on the other hand, has the balance sheet to funnel as much money as needed into the plants in Italy, Belgium, and Indiana. It’s also struggled to make enough of its popular GLP-1 drugs to meet their soaring demand, with documented shortages of both Ozempic and Wegovy.

The impact won’t be immediate. The parties expect the deal to close near the end of 2024. Novo Nordisk said it expects the three new sites to “gradually increase Novo Nordisk’s filling capacity from 2026 and onwards.”

As for the rest of Catalent — nearly 50 other sites employing thousands of workers — Novo Holdings will take control. The group previously acquired Altasciences in 2021 and Ritedose in 2022, so the Catalent deal builds on a core investing interest in biopharma services, Novo Holdings CEO Kasim Kutay told Endpoints News.

Kasim Kutay

When asked about possible site closures or layoffs, Kutay said the team hasn’t thought about that.

“That’s not our track record. Our track record is to invest in quality businesses and help them grow,” he said. “There’s always stuff to do with any asset you own, but we haven’t bought this company to do some of the stuff you’re talking about.”

What does it mean for Catalent’s customers? 

Until the deal closes, Catalent will operate as a standalone business. After it closes, Novo Nordisk said it will honor its customer obligations at the three sites, a spokesperson said. But they didn’t answer a question about what happens when those contracts expire.

The wrinkle is the long-term future of the three plants that Novo Nordisk is paying for. Those sites don’t exclusively pump out Wegovy, but that could be the logical long-term aim for the Danish drugmaker.

The ideal scenario is that pricing and timelines remain the same for customers, said Nicole Paulk, CEO of the gene therapy startup Siren Biotechnology.

Nicole Paulk

“The name of the group that you’re going to send your check to is now going to be Novo Holdings instead of Catalent, but otherwise everything remains the same,” Paulk told Endpoints. “That’s the best-case scenario.”

In a worst case, Paulk said she feared the new owners could wind up closing sites or laying off Catalent groups. That could create some uncertainty for customers looking for a long-term manufacturing partner.

Are shareholders and regulators happy? 

The pandemic was a wild ride for Catalent’s stock, with shares surging from about $40 to $140 and then crashing back to earth. The $63.50 share price for the takeover is a happy ending depending on the investor.

On that point, the investing giant Elliott Investment Management is satisfied. Marc Steinberg, a partner at Elliott, called the agreement “an outstanding outcome” that “clearly maximizes value for Catalent stockholders” in a statement.

Elliott helped kick off a strategic review last August that culminated in the sale agreement. Compared to Catalent’s stock price before that review started, the deal pays a nearly 40% premium.

Alessandro Maselli

But this is hardly a victory lap for CEO Alessandro Maselli, who took over in July 2022 when Catalent’s stock price was north of $100. Novo’s takeover is a tacit acknowledgment that Maselli could never fully right the ship, as operational problems plagued the company throughout 2023 while it was limited by its debt.

Additional regulatory filings in the next few weeks could give insight into just how competitive the sale process was. William Blair analysts said they don’t expect a competing bidder “given the organic investments already being pursued at other leading CDMOs and the breadth and scale of Catalent’s operations.”

The Blair analysts also noted the companies likely “expect to spend some time educating relevant government agencies” about the deal, given the lengthy closing timeline. Given Novo Nordisk’s ascent — it’s now one of Europe’s most valuable companies — paired with the limited number of large contract manufacturers, antitrust regulators could be interested in taking a close look.

Are Catalent’s problems finally a thing of the past?

Catalent ran into a mix of financial and operational problems over the past year that played no small part in attracting the interest of an activist like Elliott.

Now with a deal in place, how quickly can Novo rectify those problems? Some of the challenges were driven by the demands of being a publicly traded company, like failing to meet investors’ revenue expectations or even filing earnings reports on time.

But Catalent also struggled with its business at times, with a range of manufacturing delays, inspection reports and occasionally writing down acquisitions that didn’t pan out. Novo’s deep pockets will go a long way to a turnaround, but only the future will tell if all these issues are fixed.

Kutay said his team is excited by the opportunity and was satisfied with the due diligence it did on the company.

“We believe we’re buying a strong company with a good management team and good prospects,” Kutay said. “If that wasn’t the case, I don’t think we’d be here.”

Amber Tong and Reynald Castañeda contributed reporting.

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Petrina Kamya, Ph.D., Head of AI Platforms at Insilico Medicine, presents at BIO CEO & Investor Conference

Petrina Kamya, PhD, Head of AI Platforms and President of Insilico Medicine Canada, will present at the BIO CEO & Investor Conference happening Feb….

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Petrina Kamya, PhD, Head of AI Platforms and President of Insilico Medicine Canada, will present at the BIO CEO & Investor Conference happening Feb. 26-27 at the New York Marriott Marquis in New York City. Dr. Kamya will speak as part of the panel “AI within Biopharma: Separating Value from Hype,” on Feb. 27, 1pm ET along with Michael Nally, CEO of Generate: Biomedicines and Liz Schwarzbach, PhD, CBO of BigHat Biosciences.

Credit: Insilico Medicine

Petrina Kamya, PhD, Head of AI Platforms and President of Insilico Medicine Canada, will present at the BIO CEO & Investor Conference happening Feb. 26-27 at the New York Marriott Marquis in New York City. Dr. Kamya will speak as part of the panel “AI within Biopharma: Separating Value from Hype,” on Feb. 27, 1pm ET along with Michael Nally, CEO of Generate: Biomedicines and Liz Schwarzbach, PhD, CBO of BigHat Biosciences.

The session will look at how the latest artificial intelligence (AI) tools – including generative AI and large language models – are currently being used to advance the discovery and design of new drugs, and which technologies are still in development. 

The BIO CEO & Investor Conference brings together over 1,000 attendees and more than 700 companies across industry and institutional investment to discuss the future investment landscape of biotechnology. Sessions focus on topics such as therapeutic advancements, market outlook, and policy priorities.

Insilico Medicine is a leading, clinical stage AI-driven drug discovery company that has raised over $400m in investments since it was founded in 2014. Dr. Kamya leads the development of the Company’s end-to-end generative AI platform, Pharma.AI from Insilico’s AI R&D Center in Montreal. Using modern machine learning techniques in the context of chemistry and biology, the platform has driven the discovery and design of 30+ new therapies, with five in clinical stages – for cancer, fibrosis, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), and COVID-19. The Company’s lead drug, for the chronic, rare lung condition idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, is the first AI-designed drug for an AI-discovered target to reach Phase II clinical trials with patients. Nine of the top 20 pharmaceutical companies have used Insilico’s AI platform to advance their programs, and the Company has a number of major strategic licensing deals around its AI-designed therapeutic assets, including with Sanofi, Exelixis and Menarini. 

 

About Insilico Medicine

Insilico Medicine, a global clinical stage biotechnology company powered by generative AI, is connecting biology, chemistry, and clinical trials analysis using next-generation AI systems. The company has developed AI platforms that utilize deep generative models, reinforcement learning, transformers, and other modern machine learning techniques for novel target discovery and the generation of novel molecular structures with desired properties. Insilico Medicine is developing breakthrough solutions to discover and develop innovative drugs for cancer, fibrosis, immunity, central nervous system diseases, infectious diseases, autoimmune diseases, and aging-related diseases. www.insilico.com 


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Another country is getting ready to launch a visa for digital nomads

Early reports are saying Japan will soon have a digital nomad visa for high-earning foreigners.

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Over the last decade, the explosion of remote work that came as a result of improved technology and the pandemic has allowed an increasing number of people to become digital nomads. 

When looked at more broadly as anyone not required to come into a fixed office but instead moves between different locations such as the home and the coffee shop, the latest estimate shows that there were more than 35 million such workers in the world by the end of 2023 while over half of those come from the United States.

Related: There is a new list of cities that are best for digital nomads

While remote work has also allowed many to move to cheaper places and travel around the world while still bringing in income, working outside of one's home country requires either dual citizenship or work authorization — the global shift toward remote work has pushed many countries to launch specific digital nomad visas to boost their economies and bring in new residents.

Japan is a very popular destination for U.S. tourists. 

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This popular vacation destination will soon have a nomad visa

Spain, Portugal, Indonesia, Malaysia, Costa Rica, Brazil, Latvia and Malta are some of the countries currently offering specific visas for foreigners who want to live there while bringing in income from abroad.

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With the exception of a few, Asian countries generally have stricter immigration laws and were much slower to launch these types of visas that some of the countries with weaker economies had as far back as 2015. As first reported by the Japan Times, the country's Immigration Services Agency ended up making the leap toward a visa for those who can earn more than ¥10 million ($68,300 USD) with income from another country.

The Japanese government has not yet worked out the specifics of how long the visa will be valid for or how much it will cost — public comment on the proposal is being accepted throughout next week. 

That said, early reports say the visa will be shorter than the typical digital nomad option that allows foreigners to live in a country for several years. The visa will reportedly be valid for six months or slightly longer but still no more than a year — along with the ability to work, this allows some to stay beyond the 90-day tourist period typically afforded to those from countries with visa-free agreements.

'Not be given a residence card of residence certificate'

While one will be able to reapply for the visa after the time runs out, this can only be done by exiting the country and being away for six months before coming back again — becoming a permanent resident on the pathway to citizenship is an entirely different process with much more strict requirements.

"Those living in Japan with the digital nomad visa will not be given a residence card or a residence certificate, which provide access to certain government benefits," reports the news outlet. "The visa cannot be renewed and must be reapplied for, with this only possible six months after leaving the countr

The visa will reportedly start in March and also allow holders to bring their spouses and families with them. To start using the visa, holders will also need to purchase private health insurance from their home country while taxes on any money one earns will also need to be paid through one's home country.

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