Ex-FDA commissioner joins former Elan team at VC fund

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Andrew von Eschenbach takes up the role of chief medical adviser as Malin's portfolio companies move toward clinical and regulatory milestones.

Malin has named Andrew von Eschenbach, M.D., as its chief medical adviser. The appointment puts the former FDA commissioner in a position to work with Immunocore, Poseida Therapeutics and the other cancer biotechs Malin has backed.

Von Eschenbach has worked with Malin since around the time Kelly Martin and other former Elan executives set up the fund and pulled off a €330 million ($390 million) IPO in 2015. But that earlier position on Malin’s scientific advisory board limited the extent to which von Eschenbach worked with the fund’s management team and portfolio companies.

Malin’s appointment of von Eschenbach as chief medical adviser will see the man who ran the FDA from 2006 to 2009 take a more active role in its activities, particularly those relating to its oncology and immuno-oncology investments.

Biotechs in these fields represent some of the biggest bets made by Malin so far. The Irish VC shop has invested more than €70 million in British immuno-oncology star Immunocore and a further €27 million in West Coast CAR-T and gene therapy startup Poseida.

With Immunocore’s lead candidate now in a pivotal trial and Poseida’s BCMA CAR-T in the clinic, a man with von Eschenbach’s background could prove useful. 

“Now is a great time for me to join in a formal role as the portfolio continues to mature towards clinical and regulatory milestones,” von Eschenbach said in a statement.

Malin needs Immunocore and Poseida to plot a smoother course past these milestones than some of its other bets have managed. The fair value of most of Malin’s investments is equal or slightly above the amount it put into the companies. But the fund’s performance is marred by Novan and Serenus. 

The combined fair value of Malin’s investments in the two companies stood at €16.2 million as of the end of June. Malin has invested €59.6 million in the two companies. The fund’s share price is down close to 20% over the past year.

Martin took over as CEO of Novan in June after the company was rocked by late-phase setbacks. At the end of last month, Martin stepped down as CEO of Malin to spend more time working with some of its portfolio companies, including Novan and Poseida.