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Friday, Apr 12, 2024

It’s Unanimous: Local Exec New Connect CEO

San Diego life sciences and technology nonprofit Connect has appointed veteran health care and investment banking executive Greg McKee as its new CEO after a lengthy search.

McKee succeeds the late Duane Roth, who led Connect for seven years. He died last August from a head injury sustained during a bicycling accident, leaving an indelible mark on the San Diego innovation community.

McKee, a La Jolla resident, has nearly 30 years of experience in health care, investment management and investment banking. He was co-founder of Global Bio Link, a specialty pharma company that commercialized novel and niche drugs in foreign markets.

Before that, he was chairman of Akela Pharma Inc. and its predecessor company, Nventa Biopharmaceuticals. He has also held executive titles at Valentis Inc. and Genzyme Corp. He brings an extensive knowledge of the fast-growing Asian markets, having lived and worked in Japan and Singapore for nine years. McKee speaks fluent Japanese.

The choice to appoint McKee to Connect’s helm was unanimous, the trade organization said.

“Finding a strong, visionary new leader for the organization after Duane Roth’s tragic accident was a challenge,” Paul Laikind, CEO of ViaCyte Inc. and chairman of Connect Foundation, said in a statement. “With the appointment of Greg McKee as Connect’s CEO, I believe that challenge has been met.”

• • •

ICYMI — slang for “In Case You Missed It”: Scripps Health opened its new, $220 million Proton Therapy Center on Feb. 19. Using “pencil-beam scanning,” the health system’s new hyper-accurate laser that targets cancer is up and running.

I’ve toured the building, and it’s like walking on the set of “Star Wars.” The science is pretty nifty, to boot.

“Pencil-beam scanning enables doctors to treat larger and more complicated tumors, while sparing more normal tissue,” said Carl Rossi, the center’s medical director. “We’re essentially breaking down each tumor into thousands of tiny cubes and then ‘painting’ each individual cube with radiation, layer by layer.”

Scripps Proton Therapy Center is the country’s 15th such facility, and when fully operational will have the capacity to treat 2,400 patients per year. It will be affiliated with Rady Children’s Hospital and the University of California, San Diego Health System — an interesting move, considering that a couple of years ago, UC San Diego was actively planning to develop a $205 million proton therapy center of its own.

It’ll be interesting to see how this cutting-edge technology will perform; critics call it costly and unnecessary in many cancers — particularly prostate cancer — when compared to existing treatments.

But Scripps has invested a lot of time and resources into the center’s development, and has positioned it as a center for medical tourism, with an intent to draw international patients seeking the high-tech therapy — with the added bonus of San Diego’s beaches and tourist attractions.

It’ll be worth watching Scripps’ marketing tactics and the center’s performance.

• • •

Acadia Pharmaceuticals Inc. announced it plans to raise $182 million in a secondary public offering of its common stock, releasing 6.4 million shares priced at $28.50 apiece.

Acadia plans to use the net proceeds to fund ongoing and new clinical trials, as well as to further develop and commercialize its lead drug candidate, the company said.

Acadia (Nasdaq: ACAD) is developing drugs for neurological disorders. Its lead drug, pimavanserin, is in phase 3 trials for Parkinson’s disease-related psychosis and phase 2 drug trials for Alzheimer’s disease-related psychosis. It plans to file a new drug application with the Food and Drug Administration by the end of 2014, Acadia said in a regulatory filing. The company also has clinical-stage programs for chronic pain and glaucoma in collaboration with Allergan Inc.

The announcement was made after the market closed March 3; Acadia shares closed that day at $28.19. The company has a market capitalization of $2.6 billion.

Send news about locally based health care organizations, biotech and clean-tech to Meghana Keshavan at mkeshavan@sdbj.com. She can be reached at 858-277-6359.


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