GSK's ex-vaccine, pharma lead jumps ship to run G1 Therapeutics

Nearly two months after GlaxoSmithKline’s U.S. pharma and vaccine head left the Big Pharma in the middle of it making a pandemic shot, Jack Bailey has penned a deal to lead cancer biotech G1 Therapeutics.

Bailey will take over from Jan. 1 next year, replacing Mark Velleca, M.D., Ph.D., G1’s first CEO, who will step down and become its senior adviser while also remaining a member of the board.

The new chief comes to the young biotech from a major position: president of GlaxoSmithKline’s pharmaceuticals and vaccines business in the U.S., with responsibility for sales efforts across the company’s oncology, immunology/rare disease, respiratory and vaccines portfolios.

This was one of the leading jobs in the Big Pharma, and he left the role amid GSK’s efforts to create a new inoculation against the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and as the U.K.-based company is seeking to revive its R&D fortunes and gun for a series of approvals in the coming years.

Velleca, meanwhile, steps down after serving as G1’s CEO since 2014, joining after its series A round.

He has led the company from an early-stage biotech to being on the cusp of a commercial company, eyeing an approval for its lead investigational therapy, trilaciclib, in early 2021. As it shifts gears, now appears to be the time to nab a commercial-minded CEO.

The drug is an interesting one: Chemotherapy can kill off or contain fast-growing cancer cells, but it comes with well-known side effects that can limit its benefit. G1 Therapeutics aims to change that with its CDK4/6 inhibitor, which in August snagged priority review from the FDA.

The agency plans to decide the fate of the drug, trilaciclib, by Feb. 15, and G1 is already gearing up for good news. This summer, it inked a co-promotion deal with Boehringer Ingelheim to market the drug in the U.S. as a treatment for small cell lung cancer and teamed up with Simcere Pharma to sell it in China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan “across all indications.”

Trilaciclib is designed to combat the myelosuppressive effects of chemotherapy, meaning the damage the cell-killing drugs cause to patients’ bone marrow, preventing it from making enough white blood cells, platelets or red blood cells. Patients suffering these side effects may be more vulnerable to infection and may need to be hospitalized or even cut back on lifesaving chemotherapy.

It is also working on another drug, rintodestrant, what it sees as a “potential best-in-class” oral selective estrogen receptor degrader, focused on ER+ breast cancer.

Back in July, it penned an out-licensing deal for another of its pipeline assets, oral CDK4/6 inhibitor lerociclib, to Fierce 15 winner EQRx.

“Since moving trilaciclib from the lab into clinical trials in 2014, up through FDA’s granting of Breakthrough Therapy Designation in 2019 and Priority Review of our NDA in 2020, G1 has demonstrated the ability to successfully advance innovative products that benefit patients with cancer,” said Velleca.

“The board and I believe this moment is the right time to institute a leadership transition. Having worked closely with Jack on the board, I am confident he is the right person to lead this remarkable organization into and through its next chapter.

“It has been incredibly rewarding to work alongside this highly talented group of committed professionals for the past six years, and I look forward to continuing my engagement with the company as a board member and senior advisor. I am certain that Jack, together with the leadership team and entire company, will deliver on our vision of improving cancer care and building a successful commercial enterprise.”

“G1 is well positioned to make meaningful contributions to advancing the standard of care in oncology, and I am honored to succeed Mark as CEO,” added Bailey.

“Mark and the G1 team have built a patient-focused culture that emphasizes collaboration, respect and integrity. Together with the leadership team and all G1 employees, I look forward to building on this strong foundation to bring trilaciclib to patients battling a range of cancers. Most importantly, I share my new colleagues’ passion for delivering better treatment options to these patients.”