Ric Kayne (L) and PGA Tour player Matt Kuchar on the Swilcan Bridge at St. Andrews in Scotland, competing in the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in 2018 (David Cannon/Getty Images)

Bil­lion­aire Athi­ra backer Ric Kayne sus­pends ac­tivist cam­paign — but share­hold­ers can still vote for him

Fol­low­ing the ouster of Leen Kawas at the Alzheimer’s-fo­cused biotech Athi­ra, a mi­nor­i­ty stake­hold­er with ties to the for­mer founder launched an ac­tivist at­tack to re­place her suc­ces­sor. But on Mon­day, the bil­lion­aire in­vestor de­cid­ed to change course.

Richard “Ric” Kayne sus­pend­ed his cam­paign to elect him­self and an­oth­er con­tender to the com­pa­ny’s board of di­rec­tors ahead of this week’s an­nu­al share­hold­er meet­ing, Kayne an­nounced in a let­ter Mon­day morn­ing. Though Kayne will no longer be em­pha­siz­ing the need for change, Athi­ra share­hold­ers are still al­lowed to vote for his slate of nom­i­na­tions.

Kayne wrote in his let­ter that he de­cid­ed to stop the cam­paign be­cause the vote would be close and, with­out an over­whelm­ing man­date, felt the ac­tivist at­tack would prove more of a dis­trac­tion than any­thing else.

“I fear the fu­ture with me on the Board would be very con­tentious and un­pro­duc­tive, an out­come that I don’t be­lieve would be in the in­ter­ests of the Com­pa­ny or its share­hold­ers,” Kayne wrote, in part. “I have there­fore de­cid­ed to sus­pend my cam­paign.”

Kawas had been placed on leave in June 2021 as an in­ter­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion got un­der­way look­ing in­to al­le­ga­tions of da­ta ma­nip­u­la­tion re­lat­ed to her doc­tor­al re­search at Wash­ing­ton State Uni­ver­si­ty. Lat­er that year, in Oc­to­ber, Kawas stepped down af­ter the probe con­clud­ed she had in­deed ma­nip­u­lat­ed im­ages in her the­sis.

At the time, her re­place­ment, Mark Lit­ton, told End­points News that Athi­ra re­mained on sol­id sci­en­tif­ic foot­ing de­spite us­ing Kawas’ re­search as its foun­da­tion. Kawas has not pub­licly com­ment­ed on the in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

Kayne, mean­while, whose net worth is about $1.6 bil­lion ac­cord­ing to Forbes, launched the at­tack in March, ac­cus­ing Lit­ton of fal­si­fy­ing his own aca­d­e­m­ic cre­den­tials and fail­ing to dis­close how he was fired from his post at Alpine. He al­so ques­tioned the mo­ti­va­tions for the probe, say­ing the board and Lit­ton were not qual­i­fied to con­tin­ue Kawas’ re­search.

Around the same time, Kawas and Kayne had teamed up to launch a new in­vest­ment firm called Pro­pel Bio. The two had plans to raise $150 mil­lion, ac­cord­ing to an SEC fil­ing in March, but did not dis­close how much of that had come in.

Lit­ton hit back at Kayne in April, de­rid­ing his ac­tivist at­tack as some­thing “stuck in the past.” The new CEO ar­gued that Kayne and his oth­er nom­i­nee, George Bick­er­staff, would not bring any­thing to the board it didn’t al­ready have. Ad­di­tion­al­ly, he ques­tioned Kayne’s mo­ti­va­tions giv­en the launch of Pro­pel Bio just weeks be­fore, say­ing he pushed the com­pa­ny to re-hire Kawas.

Athi­ra share­hold­ers will sub­mit their votes ahead of this week’s meet­ing, with re­sults to be tal­lied Thurs­day. Kayne owns ap­prox­i­mate­ly 4.8% of Athi­ra’s shares.

UP­DAT­ED: In a fresh dis­ap­point­ment, Am­gen spot­lights a ma­jor safe­ty is­sue with KRAS com­bo

Amgen had hoped that its latest study matching its landmark KRAS G12C drug Lumakras with checkpoint inhibitors would open up its treatment horizons and expand its commercial potential. Instead, the combo spurred safety issues that blunted efficacy and forced the pharma giant to alter course on its treatment strategy, once again disappointing analysts who have been tracking the drug’s faltering sales and limited therapeutic reach.

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Ad­dress­ing the ‘Ca­pac­i­ty Crunch’ with a Scal­able Plat­form Process Ap­proach

The field of gene therapy has been diligently moving forward over the past several decades to bring potentially life-saving treatments to patients with genetic diseases. In addition to two approved adeno-associated viral (AAV) gene therapies, there are more than 250 AAV gene therapies in various clinical trial stages.1 AAV vectors remain the most frequently used vector for delivering therapeutic transgenes to target tissues due to their demonstrated and lasting clinical efficacy and extensive safety track record. As AAV therapies advance through clinical trials and into commercialization, many biotech companies are turning to contract development and manufacturing organizations (CDMOs) to prepare their programs for late-stage clinical and commercial scale manufacturing. Given the scope and scale of the manufacturing needs that will accompany regulatory approvals for these assets, CDMOs continue to expand their capacity to meet the needs of increasing prevalent patient populations. However, despite rapid growth, projected gene therapy manufacturing demands still outpace the collective capacity of the CDMO industry.

A $5B Pfiz­er buy­out? Am­gen, Gilead head­line M&A Thurs­day; Al­ny­lam's AT­TR sweep; An­drew Lo's rare dis­ease quest; and more

Welcome back to Endpoints Weekly, your review of the week’s top biopharma headlines. Want this in your inbox every Saturday morning? Current Endpoints readers can visit their reader profile to add Endpoints Weekly. New to Endpoints? Sign up here.

One of the cool things about adding EndpointsPharma to the daily roster is that my colleagues can now dedicate time to tracking quarterly updates and tuning into calls with Big Pharma companies. Check out their dispatch from the Q2 earnings below.

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George Yancopoulos, Regeneron president and CSO (Brendan McDermid/Reuters/Alamy)

George Yan­copou­los says he's on the trail of the holy grail: ‘This could rep­re­sent the next break­through for im­munother­a­py’

Two of the most outspoken — and successful — drug developers in biotech say they’ve collected early-stage clinical data that are pointing them down the trail to the holy grail in cancer immunotherapy R&D.

While analysts largely busied themselves today with chronicling the ongoing success of Regeneron’s two big cash cows — Dupixent and Eylea — chief scientist George Yancopoulos and CEO Len Schleifer used the Q2 call to spotlight their early success with a combination of the “homegrown” PSMAxCD28 costimulatory bispecific antibody REGN5678 in combination with their PD-1 checkpoint Libtayo. The presentation comes just weeks after Regeneron completed a deal to gather all rights to the PD-1 that had been in Sanofi’s hands. And the two top execs are unstinting in their praise of the potential of a whole set of costimulatory pipeline projects which they say may finally deliver the long-awaited next-level approach to broadening the immunotherapy field of drugs.

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Albert Bourla, Pfizer CEO (Laurent Gillieron/Keystone via AP)

Break­ing: Pfiz­er in hot pur­suit of a $5B buy­out of Glob­al Blood Ther­a­peu­tics — re­port

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla has vowed to leave no stone unturned in the search for new biotech deals, and the BD team is not letting him down.

The Wall Street Journal reported today that Pfizer is in the final stages of acquiring Global Blood Therapeutics for $5 billion. According to the Journal report, though, Pfizer is not the only buyer at the deal table and while the pharma giant may be close to clinching it, there are no guarantees it will continue.

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Bob Bradway, Amgen CEO (Justin Kase Conder/AP Images for Amgen)

UP­DAT­ED: Am­gen chief Brad­way nabs a rare dis­ease play­er in $4B buy­out as the M&A tem­po ac­cel­er­ates

Amgen CEO Bob Bradway is bellying up to the M&A table today, scooping up the newly anointed commercial biotech ChemoCentryx $CCXI and its recently approved rare disease drug for $3.7 billion out of the cash stockpile. The deal comes in at $52 a share — a hefty increase over the $24.11 close yesterday.

Bradway and the Amgen team get a drug called Tavneos (avacopan) in the deal, a complement factor C5a inhibitor OK’d to treat anti-neutrophil cytoplasmic autoantibody (ANCA)-vasculitis, an autoimmune disease which can be lethal.

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(AP Photo/Richard Vogel, File)

US de­clares mon­key­pox a na­tion­al health emer­gency, as new drug­mak­ers con­sid­er en­ter­ing vac­cine race

Rising monkeypox cases have put the US on high alert as it announces a national health emergency, which grants the government more power in its response.

The news comes as Bavarian Nordic continues to fill orders for its Jynneos vaccine and other companies – including Moderna – consider jumping into the vaccine race. Meanwhile, the New York Times reports that the US has allowed around 20 million doses of smallpox vaccine in its stockpile to expire.

Vlad Coric, Biohaven CEO

Bio­haven touts surge in Nurtec sales ahead of Pfiz­er takeover

Forget buyer’s remorse, Pfizer is likely feeling pretty good about its $11.6 billion Biohaven takeover deal following reports of a 57% sales boost for migraine med Nurtec.

Biohaven reported in Q2 results on Friday that it’s cleared the necessary antitrust hurdles to move forward with the sale of its calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP) assets to Pfizer. However, because the company is “focused on workstreams related to the closing” of the deal, it did not host a call with analysts and investors.

Pharma ads are showing up on cooler screens at retail pharmacies, including Walgreens and CVS, under a new OptimizeRx deal (OptimizeRx)

Phar­ma brands chill in the phar­ma­cy re­tail aisle with new style ads on re­frig­er­a­tion screens

Want a prescription drug with that soda? While not directly possible, ads for pharma brands now running on beverage and snack cooler screens at pharmacy retailers may at least inspire customers to think about it.

OptimizeRx is hooking up with Cooler Screens media company to bring prescription drug advertising to refrigerator front doors at pharmacies including Walgreens, CVS and Kroger.

The “point of dispense” ads show a full-door image on the cooler doors when a shopper is 12 feet away, but shrinks down to a smaller banner-sized ad so that the refrigerator contents can be seen when a person gets closer. The doors — which have to be specially installed by Cooler Screens — can detect when a person is nearby, how long a person “dwells” in front of the ad and if they do or don’t open the door.

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