Arc­turus takes an­oth­er le­gal stab at for­mer CEO as pub­lic bat­tle turns se­ri­ous for the com­pa­ny

The bit­ter and pub­lic feud be­tween small RNA med­i­cines com­pa­ny Arc­turus Ther­a­peu­tics $ARCT and its for­mer CEO Joe Payne is rag­ing on Fri­day, with a brand new law­suit (yes, an­oth­er one) launched against Payne and a few of his as­so­ciates.

Joseph Payne

In the law­suit, Arc­turus al­leges that Payne and his as­so­ciates Bradley Soren­son, Pe­ter Far­rell, and An­drew Sas­sine (col­lec­tive­ly re­ferred to as “the Payne group”) have failed to file cer­tain pa­per­work with the SEC. Specif­i­cal­ly, the law­suit ac­cus­es the group for mul­ti­ple vi­o­la­tions of fed­er­al dis­clo­sure and re­port­ing rules un­der Sec­tion 13(d) of the Ex­change Act and Reg­u­la­tion 13D.

Arc­turus says it’s seek­ing in­junc­tive re­lief to com­pel the Payne group to com­ply with these reg­u­la­tions, but per­haps more im­por­tant­ly, the law­suit al­so seeks to pre­vent Payne and his as­so­ciates from “con­tin­u­ing to mis­lead the vot­ing share­hold­ers of Arc­turus lead­ing up to the next ex­tra­or­di­nary gen­er­al meet­ing of share­hold­ers.”

In oth­er words, Arc­turus is hop­ing if it airs Payne’s dirty laun­dry, then share­hold­ers won’t side with Payne’s pro­pos­al to re­place the whole Arc­turus board with his own ap­point­ments.

Payne, the for­mer chief ex­ec­u­tive who was fired from Arc­turus for al­leged­ly putting his own self-in­ter­ests be­fore the com­pa­ny’s, has been a bit of a thorn in the com­pa­ny’s side over the past cou­ple of months. Payne took the first pub­lic swing in the bat­tle roy­al, claim­ing that four board mem­bers con­spired on his ouster. But then Arc­turus hit back with its own state­ment, even as it com­plied with Payne’s re­quest to vote on new board mem­bers.

Then late last month, the drawn out fight took a nasty turn when Arc­turus launch­es its first law­suit against Payne, seek­ing dam­ages and in­junc­tive re­lieve and de­tail­ing Payne’s mul­ti­ple al­leged mis­con­ducts. Those in­clud­ed op­er­at­ing a “lu­cra­tive side busi­ness dur­ing busi­ness hours” and at­tempt­ing to trans­fer Arc­turus’ IP for no ap­par­ent rea­son dur­ing his tenure, in ad­di­tion to or­ches­trat­ing a move to block Arc­turus’ rou­tine au­dit­ing ac­tiv­i­ty.

But things are start­ing to get re­al for Arc­turus, it says, as Payne’s ac­tions could have se­ri­ous con­se­quences for the com­pa­ny. That move with the au­di­tors, for ex­am­ple, could po­ten­tial­ly re­sult in Arc­turus get­ting boot­ed from the Nas­daq. In a state­ment, Arc­turus had this to say:

“The Payne Group’s ac­tions are cal­cu­lat­ed non-dis­clo­sures that promise to keep Arc­turus share­hold­ers in the dark at this crit­i­cal time in the Com­pa­ny’s his­to­ry, caus­ing di­rect and on­go­ing harm to the Com­pa­ny and its share­hold­ers as the EGM ap­proach­es. We be­lieve that if Payne and his as­so­ciates are al­lowed to con­tin­ue to evade dis­clo­sure re­quire­ments and op­er­ate in vi­o­la­tion of Reg­u­la­tion 13D, Arc­turus will not be able to have a free and fair di­rec­tor elec­tion.”

Jan Hatzius (Photographer: Christopher Goodney/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

When will it end? Gold­man econ­o­mist gives late-stage vac­cines a good shot at tar­get­ing 'large shares' of the US by mid-2021 — but the down­side is daunt­ing

It took decades for hepatitis B research to deliver a slate of late-stage candidates capable of reining the disease in.

With Covid-19, the same timeline has devoured all of 5 months. And the outcome will influence the lives of billions of people and a multitrillion-dollar world economy.

Count the economists at Goldman Sachs as optimistic that at least one of these leading vaccines will stay on this furiously accelerated pace and get over the regulatory goal line before the end of this year, with a shot at several more near-term OKs. That in turn should lead to the production of billions of doses of vaccines that can create herd immunity in the US by the middle of next year, with Europe following a few months later.

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UP­DAT­ED: No­vavax her­alds the lat­est pos­i­tive snap­shot of ear­ly-stage Covid-19 vac­cine — so why did its stock briefly crater?

High-flying Novavax $NVAX became the latest of the Covid-19 vaccine players to stake out a positive set of biomarker data from its early-stage look at its vaccine in humans.

Their adjuvanted Covid-19 vaccine was “well-tolerated and elicited robust antibody responses numerically superior to that seen in human convalescent sera,” the company noted. According to the biotech:

All subjects developed anti-spike IgG antibodies after a single dose of vaccine, many of them also developing wild-type virus neutralizing antibody responses, and after Dose 2, 100% of participants developed wild-type virus neutralizing antibody responses. Both anti-spike IgG and viral neutralization responses compared favorably to responses from patients with clinically significant COVID‑19 disease. Importantly, the IgG antibody response was highly correlated with neutralization titers, demonstrating that a significant proportion of antibodies were functional.

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Ver­sant de­buts Ridge­line's start­up #4, armed with $30M and al­ter­na­tive TCR cell ther­a­pies for sol­id tu­mors

For all the iterations and advances in TCR therapies for cancer, any experimental treatments involving T cell receptors share one trait: By definition, they only recognize antigens presented as peptides on the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) on cells.

Versant reckons it’s time to expand the arsenal. With $30 million in initial funding, its Ridgeline Discovery Engine in Switzerland has been working on a non-peptidic approach that it says has tumor-agnostic potential, especially in solid tumors. They’ve named it Matterhorn, after a Swiss mountain as they did with the three other companies that have emerged from the Basel-based incubator.

Covid-19 roundup: BAR­DA qui­et­ly pulls plug on IL-6 drugs; BioN­Tech and Fo­s­un be­gin mR­NA tri­al

IL-6 inhibitors showed some early promise in potentially treating Covid-19 patients, but recent trial flops have dashed hopes. Now it appears BARDA has officially pulled the plug.

The HHS office’s website has quietly updated to reflect that it is “no longer supporting product development” for Covid-19 in both Actemra (tocilizumab) and Kevzara (sarilumab), dealing a blow to the Roche and Regeneron/Sanofi drugs. This all but assures that IL-6 drugs repurposed to treat Covid-19 are essentially dead in the water.

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CF Foun­da­tion, Long­wood team on new in­cu­ba­tor for com­pa­nies with cut­ting-edge CF treat­ments

Nine months after launching a $500 million hunt for a cure for cystic fibrosis, the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation said it will use a portion of those funds to do something it has never done before: help launch new companies.

The CF Foundation, whose venture philanthropy efforts helped fund Vertex’s line of powerful CF drugs, is teaming with Longwood Fund to create a CF incubator. The incubator will identify new companies with platforms or technologies that can be applied in the rare genetic condition. The partners can then finance early development in exchange for a commitment from the companies to focus on applications in cystic fibrosis.

J&J gets a fresh OK for es­ke­t­a­mine, but is it re­al­ly the game-chang­er for de­pres­sion Trump keeps tweet­ing about?

Backed by an enthusiastic set of tweets from President Trump and a landmark OK for depression, J&J scooped up a new approval from the FDA for Spravato today. But this latest advance will likely bring fresh scrutiny to a drug that’s spurred some serious questions about the data, as well as the price.

First, the approval.

Regulators stamped their OK on the use of Spravato — developed as esketamine, a nasal spray version of the party drug Special K or ketamine — for patients suffering from major depressive disorder with acute suicidal ideation or behavior.

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Igor Splawski (CureVac)

Cure­Vac nabs a top No­var­tis sci­en­tist for CSO slot as mR­NA vac­cines seize the spot­light

One of the key players in the race to develop a new mRNA vaccine to fight Covid-19 has reshuffled the top spots in the executive suite. And they’re bringing in a Novartis vet out of Harvard to spearhead their work on mRNA.

CureVac, which just filed for an IPO that’s still taking shape, has formally handed Franz-Werner Haas the CEO title, after giving it to him on an interim basis. And the still rather stealthy German biotech largely owned by billionaire Dietmar Hopp has recruited Igor Splawski as its chief scientific officer.

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Kiersten Stead, John Hamer (DCVC Bio)

Deep tech, round 2: DCVC Bio bags $350M fund to chase the tip of the life sci­ence spear

It took one trip from San Francisco to Vancouver for Kiersten Stead and her DCVC Bio crew to feel confident about throwing their weight — and cash — behind AbCellera.

CEO Carl Hansen’s academic background and the potential of the platform, which combined machine vision and robotics with microfluidics, were promising. But the site visit sealed the Series A deal, where DCVC was the lead and only investor.

Stephen Hahn, FDA commissioner (AP Images)

FDA touts ad­vanced man­u­fac­tur­ing to ad­dress Covid-19 short­falls

Advanced manufacturing techniques can be employed to help address some of the manufacturing and supply chain problems the US has seen during the Covid-19 pandemic, Stephen Hahn, FDA commissioner, and Anand Shah, FDA deputy commissioner for medical and scientific affairs, wrote in a blog post on the FDA website.

“The potential public health value of advanced manufacturing is even greater in the context of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, which has highlighted the strain on supply chains and the need for adaptive manufacturing systems to accelerate the production of medical countermeasures,” Hahn and Shah wrote. “The FDA has established a strong regulatory foundation to support the uptake of advanced manufacturing, and COVID-19 provides the unique impetus to spur further advancement of medical manufacturing.”