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Ivan Cheung’s post-Eisai life takes hold at NextPoint Therapeutics; Sanofi, Takeda announce CFO exits

Ivan Cheung
Ivan Cheung, who led Eisai’s US business and was a central figure in the biotech’s Alzheimer’s work, has stepped into the CEO position…

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Ivan Cheung

Ivan Cheung, who led Eisai’s US business and was a central figure in the biotech’s Alzheimer’s work, has stepped into the CEO position at a Cambridge, MA startup.

He started running immuno-oncology outfit NextPoint Therapeutics last month, having departed Eisai shortly after Eisai secured full FDA approval for its Alzheimer’s treatment Leqembi last summer. The 30-employee upstart has reeled in backing from Big Pharmas like Sanofi and Bayer, as well as VC firms like MPM Capital and Catalio Capital.

Cheung spent nearly 20 years across multiple units of Tokyo-based Eisai, including in oncology with the cancer drug Lenvima. But the work on Leqembi, with partner Biogen, attracted the spotlight in recent years as Alzheimer’s sprinted to the fore, becoming one of the next big frontiers in biopharma R&D after years and years of disappointing clinical setbacks.

“If you look back at my career, at my previous role, whether it’s Lenvima or Leqembi, it’s really finding that mechanistically unique asset that can really move the needle,” Cheung said in an interview with Endpoints News.

“NextPoint, to me, is a very natural progression to do the same thing again. In life, you’re fortunate enough to do it once, maybe twice,” Cheung said. “And I hope three times.”

NextPoint is going after a new immunotherapy target with the HHLA2 checkpoint axis, and its work is based on research out of Albert Einstein College of Medicine professor XingXing Zang and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute researcher Gordon Freeman. Cheung noted there are a “good number of patients who still don’t benefit from the PD-1/PD-L1 therapy.”

The company entered the clinic last August and is in the process of preparing to dose the first patient in a clinical trial of its second cancer therapeutic candidate, Cheung said.

An $80 million Series B, disclosed last January, will carry NextPoint through the two Phase I studies, Cheung said. As for further financing, Cheung said he’s “not gonna take money unless I exactly know what I’m going to use that for, but the investor appetite is there for sure.”

“I like things efficient. I like things agile. I’m always of the thought that a small, strong team can beat bigger competitors,” Cheung said. NextPoint brought on immuno-oncology pioneer Leena Gandhi as chief medical officer last winter, and its board includes ex-Scorpion Therapeutics CEO Axel Hoos.

Kyle LaHucik


Jean-Baptiste Chasseloup de Chatillon

Jean-Baptiste Chasseloup de Chatillon has worked side by side with Paul Hudson as CFO of Sanofi since the chief executive’s arrival in 2019. But de Chatillon is leaving the biopharma world completely by April 1 to replace Nicolas Truelle as the head of Apprentis d’Auteuil, a charitable foundation for adolescents in need. Sanofi has lined up Nestlé finance chief and ex-Takeda CFO François-Xavier Roger to take over for de Chatillon, who was hired by Olivier Brandicourt in 2018 after Jérôme Contamine’s retirement. In de Chatillon’s final earnings call, Sanofi continued to play up its R&D strategy — “Watch this turn into submissions and approvals,” Hudson said — and reported €10.9 billion in fourth-quarter sales, with over €43 billion in full-year 2023 revenues.

Costa Saroukos

Takeda also revealed that it will be changing CFOs on April 1. The pharma giant will promote Milano Furuta, the president of Takeda’s Japan pharma business unit, to the position currently held by Costa Saroukos since 2018. “After 20 years working outside of Australia, I’m now looking forward to returning home to be closer to family,” Saroukos said in a statement. Takeda disclosed a number of pipeline cuts in its Q3 report, pulling the plug on three early-stage CAR-T candidates and Phase II programs in Parkinson’s and anhedonia.

Chip Baird

→ An air of inevitability accompanied 2seventy bio’s decision to jettison its R&D unit to Regeneron this week. 2seventy felt the pinch when it announced a strategic reorg last September that affected 40% of its employees, after failing to meet sales expectations for its Bristol Myers Squibb-partnered CAR-T therapy Abecma in the face of growing competition. With the advent of Regeneron Cell Medicines, 2seventy can concentrate on Abecma under CEO Chip Baird, who replaces now-chairman Nick Leschly at the bluebird bio oncology spinoff. Baird was promoted from CFO to COO when 2seventy announced the September restructure, and the ex-finance chief at PTC Therapeutics and Amicus Therapeutics chairs the board at Deep Genomics. Longtime Leschly lieutenant Philip Gregory, who has held of role of CSO at both bluebird and 2seventy, will be in charge of Regeneron Cell Medicines.

While more layoffs are coming at 2seventy, Vicki Eatwell has been promoted to CFO after a year as SVP of finance. She joined bluebird in 2015 as associate director, external reporting & compliance and became VP of finance at 2seventy when it was launched. The release also states that GV’s Dan Lynch will leave the board of directors in June.

Tina Ventura

→ As the decision date nears for its NASH drug resmetirom, Madrigal Pharmaceuticals is fleshing out its team with another wave of execs. Like CEO Bill Sibold, new business chief Mark Barrett and chief human resources officer Clint Wallace are both Sanofi alums: Barrett served as the French pharma’s global head of strategy & business development at the same time that Wallace was North American SVP, human resources. In 2017, when Sibold was promoted to EVP of specialty care at Sanofi, Barrett left for Frazier Healthcare Partners and founded Lassen Therapeutics. Ex-Iovance chief Maria Fardis succeeded Barrett as Lassen’s CEO last May. Wallace comes to Madrigal after a stint as SVP, human resources, global functions and organizations at J&J’s consumer health spinoff Kenvue. Finally, chief investor relations officer Tina Ventura held the same position with Horizon Therapeutics, now part of Amgen after the $28 billion deal survived FTC scrutiny. Since Madrigal learned about its March 14 PDUFA date, the company has also hired chief commercial officer Carole Huntsman and information chief Ronald Filippo.

Ted Love

→ After reinforcing its TIGIT commitment with Arcus Biosciences this week, Gilead has elected ex-Global Blood Therapeutics CEO Ted Love to the board of directors. Pfizer bolstered its sickle cell portfolio by purchasing GBT for $5.4 billion in the summer of 2022. In other Gilead news, commercial chief Johanna Mercier is now the third exec from the company to earn a spot on Arcus’ board of directors, along with CMO Merdad Parsey and research, innovation & portfolio leader Linda Higgins.

Roberto Vieira

→ Menlo Park, CA-based Corcept Therapeutics has tapped Roberto Vieira as president, oncology. Vieira had a 15-year run at Bristol Myers, leading the Big Pharma’s worldwide oncology strategy before jumping to Mirati in 2020. He would be quickly elevated to SVP, US commercial at the Krazati maker, which was coincidentally sold to Bristol Myers last fall for $4.8 billion. Shares of Corcept $CORT dipped when a judge sided with Teva in a patent infringement lawsuit involving Corcept’s mifepristone formulation Korlym for Cushing’s syndrome.

→ It was a bumpy end to 2023 for CytoDyn as it found out in December that its HIV candidate had been placed under a full clinical hold by the FDA. Now in 2024, the company has locked in Jacob Lalezari as CEO and appointed Mitchell Cohen as interim CFO after the resignation of Antonio Migliarese. Lalezari formerly served as CytoDyn’s CMO before his appointment to interim CEO in November 2023. Prior to CytoDyn, Lalezari was CEO and medical director at Queset Clinical Research and CMO of Virion Therapeutics. Meanwhile, Cohen most recently served as interim finance chief of Blue Apron Holdings and has been CFO of Athenian Venture Partners, CIFC and Asta Funding.

Philippe Bishop

Abdera Therapeutics, the radiopharma upstart that pulled in a $110 million Series B last April, has welcomed Big Pharma vet Philippe Bishop as CMO and made room for ex-Chinook Therapeutics CEO Eric Dobmeier on the board of directors. We told you about Bishop’s appointment as Atreca’s medical chief in January 2023, and previous roles have ranged from VP of clinical development for Avastin at Genentech to SVP of hematology and oncology with Gilead from 2014-16. CEO Lori Lyons-Williams said Abdera was trending toward another private financing round when Endpoints caught up with her at #JPM24.

→ So much for retirement: Former SIGA Technologies chief Phil Gomez announced on LinkedIn that he’s taking a job in the White House as director for interagency therapeutics and vaccines policy in the Office of Pandemic Preparedness and Response Policy (OPPR). Pfizer alum and ex-Xalud Therapeutics CEO Diem Nguyen replaced Gomez at the Tpoxx maker last week after a yearlong search.

Dominic Reynolds

Roche’s newest RNA partner Remix Therapeutics has promoted Dominic Reynolds to CSO as Zaven Kaprielian heads to the scientific advisory board. Reynolds has worked at the company from the outset and was previously head of drug discovery. Roche got off to a blazing start in 2024 with three alliances in as many days: one with Remix for $30 million upfront; one to enter the ADC chat with China’s MediLink Therapeutics; and the other with cancer biotech MOMA Therapeutics for $66 million upfront. Remix also raised $60 million in addition to the Roche deal.

Jim Doherty

Acumen Pharmaceuticals has named Jim Doherty as president and chief development officer. Doherty joins the team from Sage Therapeutics, where he was also chief development officer. Before that, Doherty served as director and head of the neuroscience department for the CNS and pain innovative medicines unit at AstraZeneca.

→ Co-founded by Siddhartha Mukherjee — who also helped start Vor Bio and Faeth Therapeutics — cancer upstart Myeloid Therapeutics has enlisted EMD Serono alum Robert Hofmeister as CSO. Hofmeister was the chief scientist for David Liu’s protease biotech that recently folded, Resonance Medicine, and spent six years in the same capacity with TCR² Therapeutics. ARCH invested in what Myeloid designated as a Series A2 round last May.

Romuald Corbau

GenEdit may have gained an autoimmune partnership with Genentech last week, but it lost CMO Romuald Corbau to eye disease gene therapy developer Adverum Biotechnologies. Corbau first popped up in Peer Review in October 2020, and he then took the CSO job at GenEdit less than a year after his promotion to chief scientist at Freeline. His background in gene therapies for eye conditions goes back to his days at Spark, where he was the translational R&D leader for Luxturna.

Cyclacel Pharmaceuticals CMO Mark Kirschbaum’s “employment was terminated,” according to a press release, and board member Brian Schwartz has stepped in to replace him. Schwartz spent more than 11 years as CMO of ArQule, the cancer player that was sold to Merck for $2.7 billion in 2019.

Almut Nitsche

Almut Nitsche has joined Italian obesity biotech Resalis Therapeutics as chief medical and development officer. Nitsche had a 17-year career at Sanofi, taking on the roles of project director for early development and project director for R&D in the French pharma’s diabetes division. Resalis secured an $11 million Series A round last month.

Jason Amello

Jason Amello has replaced Brian Silver as CFO of TScan Therapeutics, the TCR startup that’s going after Crohn’s disease in a partnership with Amgen. An 11-year Genzyme vet, Amello began the CFO phase of his career at Ziopharm Oncology in 2012 and then became finance chief at Akebia Therapeutics, Saniona and Candel Therapeutics. Silver left TScan in July and is currently a partner in the strategic advisory group at PJT Partners.

Jennifer Rhodes

Nuplazid and Daybue maker Acadia Pharmaceuticals has selected Jennifer Rhodes as chief legal officer and secretary, and Kimberly Manhard as SVP, global strategic planning and execution. Leading up to this appointment, Rhodes had been CBO and chief compliance officer with Adamas Pharmaceuticals and Angion Biomedica. She also served as assistant general counsel at Pfizer from 2006-12. Manhard transitioned from board member to executive at Heron Pharmaceuticals in 2016 and would lead drug development for the next seven years. She has board seats at Inhibrx (which Sanofi bought for $1.7 billion last week), Toragen and Shoreline Biosciences.

→ Scottish company EnteroBiotix has rolled out the welcome mat for two new execs: COO James Barnes and CFO Chris Lea. Barnes was previously COO of BerGenBio, and before that, he was at Vertex as director of regulatory affairs and at Icon. Meanwhile, Lea was finance chief at Cambridge Nutritional Sciences, IndigoVision Group, SuperGlass and Aviagen Europe.

Lee Giguere

→ Are SPACs back? It’s unlikely, but Cormorant Asset Management’s Bihua Chen is giving it another try and it’s how Canadian bladder cancer biotech enGene went public. Now enGene has plucked Lee Giguere from Obsidian Therapeutics as chief legal officer and corporate secretary. Giguere was Obsidian’s legal chief for more than two years, and he’s the former deputy general counsel for Karyopharm.

CN Bio has brought on Joseph Parisi as US director of sales. Parisi most recently was with Phenomix as director of sales for US West and was formerly part of such companies as IsoPlexis, NanoString Technologies and Life Technologies.

Elliot Menschik

Khosla Ventures-backed Vivodyne has named Amazon vet Elliot Menschik as chief technology officer. Menschik comes to the lab-grown human organ developer seven months after his departure as chief digital officer of Resilience.

→ With ex-Cedilla CEO Alexandra Glucksmann now at the controls, Sensorium Therapeutics has added Simba Gill to the board of directors. Gill was CEO of Evelo Biosciences, the Flagship company that closed its doors last November following a series of clinical setbacks.

Daniel Curran recently stepped down after a long career at Millennium/Takeda, but he just picked up a seat on the board of directors at Tome Biosciences, the startup that raised $213 million in Series A financing not too long ago. Curran spent the last five years as the head of Takeda’s rare genetics and hematology therapeutic area.

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Glimpse Of Sanity: Dartmouth Returns Standardized Testing For Admission After Failed Experiment

Glimpse Of Sanity: Dartmouth Returns Standardized Testing For Admission After Failed Experiment

In response to the virus pandemic and nationwide…

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Glimpse Of Sanity: Dartmouth Returns Standardized Testing For Admission After Failed Experiment

In response to the virus pandemic and nationwide Black Lives Matter riots in the summer of 2020, some elite colleges and universities shredded testing requirements for admission. Several years later, the test-optional admission has yet to produce the promising results for racial and class-based equity that many woke academic institutions wished.

The failure of test-optional admission policies has forced Dartmouth College to reinstate standardized test scores for admission starting next year. This should never have been eliminated, as merit will always prevail. 

"Nearly four years later, having studied the role of testing in our admissions process as well as its value as a predictor of student success at Dartmouth, we are removing the extended pause and reactivating the standardized testing requirement for undergraduate admission, effective with the Class of 2029," Dartmouth wrote in a press release Monday morning. 

"For Dartmouth, the evidence supporting our reactivation of a required testing policy is clear. Our bottom line is simple: we believe a standardized testing requirement will improve—not detract from—our ability to bring the most promising and diverse students to our campus," the elite college said. 

Who would've thought eliminating standardized tests for admission because a fringe minority said they were instruments of racism and a biased system was ever a good idea? 

Also, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure this out. More from Dartmouth, who commissioned the research: 

They also found that test scores represent an especially valuable tool to identify high-achieving applicants from low and middle-income backgrounds; who are first-generation college-bound; as well as students from urban and rural backgrounds.

All the colleges and universities that quickly adopted test-optional admissions in 2020 experienced a surge in applications. Perhaps the push for test-optional was under the guise of woke equality but was nothing more than protecting the bottom line for these institutions. 

A glimpse of sanity returns to woke schools: Admit qualified kids. Next up is corporate America and all tiers of the US government. 

Tyler Durden Mon, 02/05/2024 - 17:20

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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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