Frank Reynolds (file photo)

Boston ju­ry finds biotech CEO guilty of fleec­ing in­vestors, ob­struc­tion of jus­tice

The biotech CEO who promised to end “thou­sands of years of mor­phine and opi­ate ad­dic­tion” and al­leged­ly told in­vestors they could re­al­ize huge gains by in­vest­ing in his com­pa­ny — which he said was worth $1 bil­lion dol­lars be­fore it rapid­ly ran out of cash — has been con­vict­ed of fraud by a Boston ju­ry.

Frank Reynolds, CEO of Pixar­Bio and for­mer head of In­Vi­vo Ther­a­peu­tics, was found guilty of ly­ing to in­vestors to dri­ve up the stock price, Law360 re­port­ed. He was con­vict­ed on all counts, in­clud­ing se­cu­ri­ties fraud, ma­nip­u­la­tive trad­ing and ob­struc­tion of jus­tice.

Pros­e­cu­tors ac­cused Reynolds of false­ly telling in­vestors that Pixar­Bio had raised $30 mil­lion and was with­in two years of bring­ing a re­place­ment for opi­oid painkillers to mar­ket. Ken­neth Strom­s­land, the for­mer VP of in­vestor re­la­tions at Pixar­Bio, tes­ti­fied that Reynolds led in­vestors to be­lieve that the com­pa­ny was in talks to be bought by Pur­due Phar­ma, the mak­ers of Oxy­Con­tin.

Strom­s­land, along with M Jay Herod, a friend of Reynolds, pled guilty to fraud charges ear­li­er this year.

Reynolds’ de­fense at­tor­ney, David Ax­el­rod, ar­gued Reynolds had an “hon­est­ly held, sin­cere be­lief” that the com­pa­ny would suc­ceed.

Found­ed in 2013, Pixar­Bio re­verse merged its way on­to the pub­lic mar­ket in 2016, while Reynolds tout­ed his con­nec­tions to the fa­mous MIT pro­fes­sor Robert Langer. Bare­ly a year af­ter they an­nounced their stock was over­sub­scribed with an ex­pect­ed $30 mil­lion raised, the com­pa­ny ap­peared to be in sham­bles. Amid an SEC in­ves­ti­ga­tion, they re­duced staff from 27 to 10 and were forced to leave their $23,341 per-month Med­ford of­fice for a $3,003 of­fice in Salem, New Hamp­shire. The in­dict­ments came in April 2018.

The three be­gan trad­ing de­cep­tive­ly to raise the stock price in 2016, pros­e­cu­tors al­leged, and con­tin­ued in­to 2017.  They co­or­di­nat­ed moves and at times paid ar­ti­fi­cial­ly high stock prices in or­der to raise the com­pa­ny’s val­ue, the gov­ern­ment said.

An SEC com­plaint said the com­pa­ny raised $12.7 mil­lion from 211 in­vestors. Some of those in­vestors launched a class ac­tion suit against the com­pa­ny.

In ad­di­tion to in­vestors, Strom­s­land and the pros­e­cu­tor de­scribed Reynolds mis­lead­ing em­ploy­ees in some­times fan­ci­ful ways. Strom­s­land said Reynolds told peo­ple he was par­a­lyzed from a back in­jury and gave em­ploy­ees a signed pic­ture of the ceil­ing he stared up at for 7 years, ac­cord­ing to Law360. US at­tor­ney Leslie Wright said Reynolds lied about cur­ing his own paral­y­sis.

Com­mu­ni­cat­ing the val­ue of pre­ci­sion med­i­cine

By Natasha Cowan, Content Marketing Manager at Blue Latitude Health.
Many stakeholders are confused by novel precision medicines, including patients and healthcare professionals. So, how can industry help them to navigate this complexity?

Precision medicine represents a new paradigm in healthcare. It embodies the shift from treating many patients with the same therapy, to having the tools to identify the best treatment for every patient.

Spe­cial re­port: Twen­ty ex­tra­or­di­nary women in bio­phar­ma R&D who worked their way to the top

What differentiates a woman leader in biopharma R&D from a man?

Not much, except there are fewer of them in senior posts. Data suggest women are not more risk-averse, family-oriented or less confident than their male counterparts — indeed the differences between the two sexes are negligible. But a glance at the top R&D positions in Big Pharma leaves little doubt that upward migration in the executive ranks of biopharma R&D is tough.

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The lat­est Cin­derel­la sto­ry in on­col­o­gy ends with a sud­den rout as up­dat­ed da­ta dis­play spooks in­vestors

NextCure’s turn as the Cinderella of cancer-focused biotechs was short-lived.
Just a few days after its shares $NXTC zoomed up more than 250% on some very early stage results in a SITC abstract, a more complete analysis over the weekend spiked the hype and left investors in high dudgeon as the stock price collapsed back towards earth Monday.
The focus at NextCure is centered on NC318, an antibody that is intended to shut down the immunosuppressive Siglec-15 — or S-15 — target. After adding a small group of patients to the readout, investigators circled 2 clinical responses, a complete and partial response, along with 4 stable disease cases in non-small cell lung cancer.

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Te­va spin­out rais­es $85M in IPO; No­var­tis beefs up gener­ics unit with $440M deal

→ After Teva spinout 89bio recently announced that its IPO was being held up, the company is back in the game offering 5,304,687 shares at a price of $16 per share. The company has raised $84.9 million IPO in gross proceeds and will be listed under the ticker symbol $ETNB. BofA Securities, SVB Leerink and RBC Capital Markets are the joint book-running managers for the offering. Oppenheimer & Co is the co-manager for the offering.
→ Looking to amp up its presence in Japan’s hospitals, Novartis has struck a deal to buy out Aspen’s portfolio of generics in the world’s third largest healthcare market. The pharma giant is paying $440 million for Aspen’s Japanese subsidiary.
→ Novartis said tropifexor, a non-bile acid FXR agonist, has scored on several key biomarkers of NASH in a Phase IIb trial, including reductions in hepatic fat, alanine aminotransferase and body weight compared to a placebo at 12 weeks.

Break­through sta­tus and promise of a speedy re­view ar­rives for Op­di­vo/Yer­voy com­bi­na­tion as Bris­tol-My­ers bites at Bay­er

Its frontline and single-agent aspirations have been set back, but Bristol-Myers Squibb just took a big step forward in its efforts to apply its checkpoint inhibitor Opdivo to liver cancer. The FDA has granted breakthrough status and priority review to a combination, second-line treatment.

The designation is for Opdivo (nivolumab) in combination with Yervoy (ipilimumab),  for treating advanced hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), the most common form of liver cancer. The PD-L1 drug was already approved as a single-agent, second-line treatment for HCC. A PDUFA date was set for March 10, 2020 — just 4 months from now.

Third time un­lucky: Lipocine's lat­est quest to mar­ket their oral testos­terone drug snubbed again by FDA

Lipocine’s latest attempt at securing approval for its oral testosterone drug has fizzled yet again.

The Utah-based drug developer on Monday said the FDA has spurned its marketing application, indicating that some efficacy data on the drug, Tlando, was not up to scratch to treat male hypogonadism, a condition characterized by low production of the hormone testosterone, which is responsible for maintaining muscle bulk, bone growth, and sexual function.

UP­DAT­ED: De­cry­ing 'ar­bi­trary and capri­cious' ac­tion, Re­genxBio sues FDA over clin­i­cal holds on gene ther­a­py

When RegenxBio disclosed that the FDA had placed a partial clinical hold on one of its lead gene therapies, execs outlined several customary next steps: continuing assessment and monitoring, delaying a related IND filing, and working with the FDA to address the matter.

As it turned out, they were planning something much less mundane. Two days after announcing the hold in its Q3 update, RegenxBio filed a lawsuit seeking to set it aside, the FDA Law Blog noted.

Roche's SMA chal­lenge to Bio­gen's Spin­raza fran­chise looms larg­er with piv­otal win

Roche has just landed a crucial advance in scoring a come-from-behind win on the spinal muscular atrophy field, giving Novartis and Biogen a run for their money.

The update was brief, but Roche said risdiplam hit the primary endpoint in the placebo-controlled pivotal SUNFISH trial, meeting the threshold for change from baseline in the Motor Function Measure 32 (MFM-32) scale after one year of treatment. The results, which is the second, confirmatory portion of a two-part study, involved 180 patients with type 2 or 3 spinal muscular atrophy between 2 and 25 years old.

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Roche steers Gazy­va in­to a new PhI­II pro­gram af­ter com­bo shows promise in lu­pus nephri­tis study

Roche is working on putting together a late-stage study for its monoclonal antibody Gazyva in patients with severe kidney disease associated with lupus after a combination approach helped patients in a mid-stage study.

The 125-patient NOBILITY trial evaluated Gazyva, combined with standard-of-care treatment mycophenolate mofetil or mycophenolic acid and corticosteroids, versus standard treatment alone. The combo met the main goal of inducing a statistically superior complete renal response (CRR) of 40% at week 76, versus 18% in patients given standard treatment, Roche said.