Allogene chair, former Kite Pharma CEO Belldegrun reveals COVID-19 diagnosis

Allogene Therapeutics Co-Founders Arie Belldegrun and David Chang
Arie Belldegrun said others should seek testing if they think they have the coronavirus. (Allogene Therapeutics)

A “minimal dry cough and transient low-grade fever” led to biotech veteran Arie Belldegrun being diagnosed with COVID-19 as the U.S. and the world issue tighter crackdowns to keep this new coronavirus under control.

Belldegrun, who helmed CAR-T biotech star Kite Pharma before its $12.9 billion sale to Gilead Sciences a few years back, now chairs next-gen cell therapy biotech Allogene. He took to Twitter over the weekend to announce that, after the telltale symptoms, he was tested and was positive for the COVID-19 disease and is now self-isolating.

He has no other symptoms, he wrote, and does not expect there to be an impact with Allogene, saying he only had contact with three execs and no other employees, and they are symptomless but also quarantining as a precaution.

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It’s not known where he picked up the virus. He signed off: “To all of my friends and colleagues in the healthcare community and beyond, I felt it was important to share this message with you. We have to look out for each other and be each other's champion. Be well my friends. Arie.”

He said he was using his message and position to encourage others to monitor similar symptoms and get tested (though that’s not easy at the moment) should they start to match up with typical COVID-19 symptoms.

He follows a growing list of Biogen execs and workers who have been hit by the disease after a recent conference. Biopharmas are now teaming up to swiftly find new antivirals and vaccines to combat the disease, which is nearing 150,000 infections globally. (Though testing is patchy, and the number could be far higher.) Tougher border controls are now being enacted in Europe and the U.S., which are seeing soaring numbers with the disease.

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