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Medivation’s VP of clinical development jumps ship

August 25, 2016
Life sciences

In the same week that Medivation was bought out by Pfizer in a major $14 billion deal, its former vice president of clinical development Dr. Amy Peterson has left the biotech to join BeiGene which, like her former employer, is working on a new PARP inhibitor.

Peterson’s role sees her become the new chief medical officer of immuno-oncology at China and U.S.-based BeiGene and will focus on the development of BGB-A317, the biotech’s PD-1 inhibitor, and BGB-290, its PARP inhibitor, as well as other I/O candidates.

This announcement comes just three days after Pfizer confirmed its $14 billion buyout of Medivation, and also after some analysts recently touted larger peak sales estimates for its PARP talazoparib, which is in Phase III for BRCA-mutated breast cancer. Pfizer has over the years developed a reputation of being ruthless post-merger and cutting research programs and scientists where needs be, although it is unclear whether Dr. Peterson would have made the decision before Pfizer had decided to buy the company outright.

At Medivation, she was primarily responsible for the development of talazoparib and also of its troubled cancer candidate pidilizumab in diffuse large b-cell lymphoma. Before joining the Californian biotech, she worked at cancer powerhouse Genentech.

The company bought talazoparib from BioMarin a year ago for just over $400 million upfront, and was a key pipeline promise on which Pfizer has hung its billions of dollars upon.

Her new focus, BGB-290, is currently in Phase I studies in ovarian cancer, and the biotech posted data late last year showing that of the 14 ovarian cancer patients for whom there were evaluable data, 7 had an objective response, with one having a complete response and 6 seeing partial responses.

Both BeiGene and Medivation believe their candidates will yield better results than AstraZeneca’s ($AZN) approved PARP Lynparza (olaparib), which has a U.S. license as a maintenance treatment of women with BRCA-mutated ovarian cancer.

Another small biotech, Tesaro, also posted recent data for its PARP inhibitor hope niraparib, which saw some impressive ovarian cancer figures, boosting it shares by more than 100% on the day the numbers were released.

Peterson said nothing of her former position at Medivation or the reasons behind her departure, or whether it was made during the buyout attempts from Sanofi, which have been ongoing since March.

Despite being courted by half of Big Pharma this year, Medivation has had its setbacks in the clinic, namely around pidilizumab and the confusion over its mechanism of action.

The drug–which Medivation bought for $335 million deal in 2014 from CureTech–was designed as a PD-1 treatment, but recent studies showed that it could not actually work in this way, which saw the FDA temporarily halt the trial through a partial clinical hold while Medivation took another stab at explaining the mechanism of action.

In its Q2 update earlier this month, the biotech’s CEO David Hung said the company was no closer to discovering just how this experimental med should work. This would mean that Dr. Peterson had not, in fact, technically been working on a PD-1 drug during her time at Medivation.

In a statement, Dr. Peterson said: “BeiGene has a robust pipeline of clinical stage, internally discovered molecules against validated targets as well as an expanding roster of candidates in the preclinical pipeline. I look forward to leveraging my past experiences to successfully build an organization that can bring these assets to market while continuing to expand the clinical pipeline.”

BeiGene’s shares were down 4.8% at end of play yesterday, with a market cap just under $1 billion.

By Ben Adams

Source: Fierce Biotech

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