Chutes & Ladders—Soon-Shiong sued over 'catch-and-kill' of potential Abraxane rival

Chutes and Ladders
Welcome to this week's Chutes & Ladders, our roundup of hirings, firings and retirings throughout the industry. Please send the good word—or the bad—from your shop to Conor Hale, and we will feature it here at the end of each week.

Soon-Shiong sued over 'catch-and-kill' of potential Abraxane rival drug

Patrick Soon-Shiong and his company are being sued by Sorrento Therapeutics.

Sorrento is alleging Soon-Shiong and NantPharma bought its late-phase cancer drug, Cynviloq, to hamstring its development and keep it from competing as a biosimilar of Abraxane, which Soon-Shiong invented and sold to Celgene in 2010. San Diego-based Sorrento is seeking at least $1 billion in damages for fraud and breach of contract, and claims Soon-Shiong initially proposed transferring Cynviloq to Celgene to recoup any lost sales due to competition. The news comes just days after Soon-Shiong's NantCell settled a case with Precision Biologics, which could potentially cost it its controlling stake in the company. FierceBiotech

Gottlieb reflects on his tenure before joining the club of ex-FDA chiefs

FDA logo
Scott Gottlieb


Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D., is stepping down after just under two years in the post.

In a fireside chat with former agency head Mark McClellan, Gottlieb said that during his time as commissioner, he has been able to lead the agency while it writes the modern rules for new products such as cell and gene therapies, AI-powered devices and digital health services, and a wide variety of genomic tests. “It's really changed the contours of the agency's mission, and has made it far more diverse and vast,” Gottlieb said. “We actually had to conceive of different ways of regulating.” FierceBiotech

British biotech Artios nabs Eli Lilly, AstraZeneca R&D veteran

Artios Pharma
Ian Smith, M.D., was named chief medical officer.

The Cambridge, U.K.-based DNA damage specialist poached Smith from Eli Lilly, where he worked as a senior medical director in oncology R&D. Before that, he spent eight years at AstraZeneca where he helped lead a cross-portfolio team in breast cancer. Now, Smith will head up all of the three-year-old Artios' research work, following the company's £65 million ($84 million) series B last year, including backing from Pfizer and Novartis. FierceBiotech

> Amazon founder Jeff Bezos has signed on to the Diagnostics Accelerator "venture philanthropy" project at the Alzheimer's Drug Discovery Foundation. Alongside backer and fellow richest man in the world, Bill Gates, the project has begun taking submissions for a second round of grants focused on digital tools for diagnosing and tracking the disease. FierceMedTech

> Li Mao, M.D., formerly of Johnson & Johnson, has taken the CEO job at Xcovery as the biotech heads toward phase 3 readouts on an ALK inhibitor. Xcovery also hired Giovanni Selvaggi, M.D., as chief medical officer, after he held roles at GlaxoSmithKline, Novartis and most recently Bristol-Myers Squibb. FierceBiotech

> AgomAb Therapeutics has debuted with €21 million ($23.5 million) and a leadership team consisting of Argenx's chief development officer and co-founder, Torsten Dreier, Ph.D., as CDO, and the University of Torino's Paolo Michieli, Ph.D., as chief scientific officer. They join CEO Tim Knotnerus. FierceBiotech

> Dyne Therapeutics has launched with $50 million in the bank and a slew of executives including CEO Romesh Subramanian, who co-founded RaNA Therapeutics and previously led modality discovery research at Alexion Pharmaceuticals. Former Sarepta CMO Catherine Stehman-Breen, M.D., will hold the same role at Dyne, while Sarepta's ex-head of research Bruce Wentworth, Ph.D., was named senior scientific adviser. In addition, Mo Qatanani, Ph.D., will serve as VP of discovery and translational research, after leading discovery research programs at Alexion and Merck, and Editas Medicine's Jonathan McNeill, M.D., was named VP of business development. FierceBiotech

> Inovio Pharmaceuticals has named Ann Miller to its board of directors. While at Sanofi, Miller led its oncology global marketing operations including in pipeline, launch and life cycle management. Before that, she served as a senior VP at Eisai and held roles at Amgen and Merck & Co. Release

> Surface Oncology has appointed Wendy Dwyer as chief business officer. Dwyer joins from Portal Instruments where she was CBO. Before that, she held business development roles with a key focus in oncology at both AstraZeneca and Ipsen Biosciences, as well as at Endo and Indevus Pharmaceuticals. Release

> Amy Franke was named VP of clinical operations at NervGen Pharma. Franke joins from Covance, where she was senior director of strategy and planning. She has also held roles at Parexel International, Novella Clinical, an IQVIA clinical development unit and OSI Pharmaceuticals. Release (PDF)

> Parkinson's disease wearable developer Global Kinetics has named Gregory Barrett as an independent director to its board. Barrett previously served as president and CEO at Dfine, BÂRRX Medical and ACMI Corporation. Release

> Provention Bio hired Douglas Jacobstein, M.D., as VP of clinical development, and Alex Rabiee as VP of business development. Jacobstein joins from Janssen, where he was director of clinical development in immunology. Rabiee most recently was a director of business development at Amgen. Release 

> Arvinas has promoted Andy Crew, Ph.D., to chief technology officer, and Ian Taylor, Ph.D., to chief scientific officer. Crew was formerly senior VP of chemistry after joining at the inception of the company in 2013. Taylor, meanwhile, was senior VP of biology after joining in 2016. Release

> Insys’ former VP of sales, Alec Burkaloff, has settled and turned state's evidence in an Arizona kickback suit alleging an executive-driven scheme to buy scripts for the company’s powerful opioid spray, Subsys. Burkaloff agreed to forfeit $9.5 million after pleading guilty to federal racketeering charges. FiercePharma

> Johnson & Johnson's Janssen unit has begun a three-year phaseout of its plant in Vacaville, California, which it obtained nearly 20 years ago with a $10.5 billion buyout of Alza that included the drugs Concerta and Doxil. Nearly 50 employees are slated to be let go next week, according to a state notice. FiercePharmaManufacturing

> Merck is set to cut 20 staffers of the 186 from its Research Laboratories unit as it prepares to enter its new digs in South San Francisco. FierceBiotech