Genscript chief, the majority shareholder of Legend, becomes China biotech’s new CEO

Genscript chief, the majority shareholder of Legend, becomes China biotech’s new CEO

After its mega $424 million IPO this summer, blood cancer focused Legend Biotech is making a big change at the top.

The J&J-backed Chinese biotech (with offices in New Jersey) says its current CEO, Dr. Yuan Xu, has resigned for “personal reasons,” with Genscript CEO Dr. Frank Zhan swooping in immediately to fill up the vacant role.

Zhan has been the CEO of Genscript, the company Legend spun out of, but has been its chair (and will remain so) since 2015.

This is a big move for Legend at a pivotal time, coming after its U.S. IPO in June, and comes as it looks to advance a pipeline spearheaded by Johnson & Johnson-partnered anti-BCMA therapy JNJ-4528, which is in early- to midstage trials, but is now closing in on a filing for approval.

The belief held by investors and J&J is that Legend is equipped to make a mark in a CAR-T space dominated to date by U.S. companies.

J&J helped put Legend on the map in 2017 when it paid $350 million upfront for a global license to anti-BCMA autologous CAR-T JNJ-4528, also known as LCAR-B38M. The deal positioned the companies to evenly split profits generated outside of China.

Since then, data on JNJ-4528 have gone some way toward validating J&J’s bet on the asset, with recent data out of ASCO helping it secure a meaty IPO. JNJ-4528 is now on a path with Legendto file for approval in the U.S. and Europe over the next year.

For Legend, JNJ-4528 is however one part of a much broader pipeline. The biotech has autologous CAR-Ts against CD19xCD22 and CD33xCLL-1, plus an allogeneic cell therapy in the clinic in hematological cancers. Legend’s pipeline also features an allogeneic cell therapy that is being tested in gastric and pancreatic cancers.

“On behalf of the Board of Directors and myself, I want to thank Dr. Xu for her service and the contribution she has made to the Board of Directors and Legend Biotech during her tenure. We wish her continued success in her future endeavors,” said Zhang,

“Legend Biotech’s strategic partner Janssen Biotech, Inc. expects to initiate the BLA filing for our lead cell therapy product JNJ-4528 to the U.S. FDA by the end of 2020 and also expects that a marketing authorization application will be submitted to the European Medicines Agency in early 2021.

“Legend has a robust pipeline of promising cell therapies entering various stages of clinical development. We are confident that we can continue to help patients in need and create shareholder value by leveraging our strong R&D capabilities.”

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