Carl Icahn (Heidi Gutman/CNBC/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images)

Up­dat­ed: Carl Ic­ahn pro­pos­es three new Il­lu­mi­na board mem­bers in proxy fight

A proxy fight is brew­ing at Il­lu­mi­na as ac­tivist in­vestor Carl Ic­ahn ar­gues that the DNA se­quenc­ing gi­ant is cost­ing share­hold­ers bil­lions by fol­low­ing through with its Grail pur­chase amid an­tirust chal­lenges.

In a let­ter to Il­lu­mi­na share­hold­ers on Mon­day morn­ing, Ic­ahn stat­ed that $50 bil­lion of val­ue has been wiped from the com­pa­ny’s mar­ket cap­i­tal­iza­tion since Au­gust 2021.

“This val­ue de­struc­tion is a di­rect re­sult of a se­ries of ill-ad­vised (and frankly in­ex­plic­a­ble) ac­tions tak­en by the board of di­rec­tors of our com­pa­ny in con­nec­tion with the ac­qui­si­tion of GRAIL, Inc.,” Ic­ahn wrote. “To para­phrase William Shake­speare’s Ham­let, some­thing is rot­ten in the state of Il­lu­mi­na.”

Lat­er in the day, Il­lu­mi­na re­spond­ed, say­ing its Chair John Thomp­son and CEO Fran­cis deS­ouza had “mul­ti­ple con­ver­sa­tions” with Ic­ahn’s three pro­posed board ad­di­tions: VDA Cap­i­tal Man­age­ment CEO and Hertz board mem­ber Vin­cent In­tri­eri, Ic­ahn En­ter­pris­es gen­er­al coun­sel Jesse Lynn and Ic­ahn Cap­i­tal port­fo­lio man­ag­er An­drew Teno. The com­pa­ny called Ic­ahn’s nom­i­nees lack­ing in “rel­e­vant skills and ex­pe­ri­ence.”

The Wall Street Jour­nal first re­port­ed late Sun­day night that the bil­lion­aire want­ed to nom­i­nate three peo­ple to the board of Il­lu­mi­na. The San Diego com­pa­ny record­ed a $3.91 bil­lion good­will im­pair­ment charge on the Grail ac­qui­si­tion, Il­lu­mi­na said in its re­cent quar­ter­ly up­date, fol­low­ing an­titrust probes in­to the deal.

Il­lu­mi­na said Ic­ahn’s let­ter “nei­ther rec­og­nizes the re­al val­ue that GRAIL can pro­vide to Il­lu­mi­na’s share­hold­ers, nor re­flects an un­der­stand­ing of the reg­u­la­to­ry process.” In De­cem­ber, the Eu­ro­pean Com­mis­sion or­dered Il­lu­mi­na to un­wind the deal. Il­lu­mi­na said it is “mov­ing as quick­ly as pos­si­ble to ar­rive at a res­o­lu­tion” and work­ing to­ward a di­ves­ture if its ap­peal fails.

Grail was orig­i­nal­ly part of Il­lu­mi­na but was spun out. Il­lu­mi­na lat­er re­ab­sorbed Grail, ar­gu­ing the deal would speed up the com­mer­cial­iza­tion of can­cer tests. Ic­ahn dis­agreed with the moves in his let­ter.

“The man­age­ment team and board of di­rec­tors that cre­at­ed this mess would be fired im­me­di­ate­ly and a thor­ough in­ves­ti­ga­tion would be con­duct­ed to as­cer­tain whether they en­gaged in gross neg­li­gence (or even worse),” Ic­ahn added in his let­ter.

Il­lu­mi­na’s stock jumped jumped as much as 20% on the news, re­flect­ing that in­vestors have grown im­pa­tient over head­winds from the Grail ac­qui­si­tion. For­mer CEO Jay Flat­ley re­cent­ly told the Fi­nan­cial Times that Grail was over­priced when Il­lu­mi­na bought it for $7 bil­lion. Be­sides scruti­ny over Grail, Il­lu­mi­na faces in­creased com­pe­ti­tion, in­clud­ing from a Chi­nese ri­val that re­cent­ly be­gan sell­ing its se­quencers in the US.

Il­lu­mi­na’s board in­cludes No­bel lau­re­ate Frances Arnold, for­mer FDA Com­mis­sion­er Scott Got­tlieb, ex-IBM vet­er­an John Thomp­son and soon-to-be Bio­gen chair Car­o­line Dor­sa, among oth­ers.

Ed­i­tor’s note: This sto­ry has been up­dat­ed to in­clude news about Il­lu­mi­na’s stock price this morn­ing, de­tails from Carl Ic­ahn’s let­ter to share­hold­ers and Il­lu­mi­na’s re­sponse.

Forge Bi­o­log­ics’ cGMP Com­pli­ant and Com­mer­cial­ly Vi­able Be­spoke Affin­i­ty Chro­matog­ra­phy Plat­form

Forge Biologics has developed a bespoke affinity chromatography platform approach that factors in unique vector combinations to streamline development timelines and assist our clients in efficiently entering the clinic. By leveraging our experience with natural and novel serotypes and transgene conformations, we are able to accelerate affinity chromatography development by nearly 3-fold. Many downstream purification models are serotype-dependent, demanding unique and time-consuming development strategies for each AAV gene therapy product1. With the increasing demand to propel AAV gene therapies to market, platform purification methods that support commercial-scale manufacturing of high-quality vectors with excellent safety and efficacy profiles are essential.

Mathai Mammen, FogPharma's next CEO

Math­ai Mam­men hands in J&J's R&D keys to lead Greg Ver­dine’s Fog­Phar­ma 

In the early 1990s, Mathai Mammen was a teaching assistant in Greg Verdine’s Science B46 course at Harvard. In June, the former R&D head at Johnson & Johnson will succeed Verdine as CEO, president and chair of FogPharma, the same month the seven-year-old biotech kickstarts its first clinical trial.

After leading R&D at one of the largest drugmakers in the world, taking the company through more than half a dozen drug approvals in the past few years, not to mention a Covid-19 vaccine race, Mammen departed J&J last month and will take the helm of a Cambridge, MA biotech attempting to go after what Verdine calls the “true emperor of all oncogenes” — beta-catenin.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 163,800+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Luke Miels, GSK chief commercial officer

GSK picks up Scynex­is' FDA-ap­proved an­ti­fun­gal drug for $90M up­front

Editor’s note: This is a live story and will be updated.

GSK is dishing out $90 million cash to add an antifungal drug to its commercial portfolio, in a deal spotlighting the pharma giant’s growing focus on infectious diseases.

The upfront will lock in an exclusive license to Scynexis’ Brexafemme, which was approved in 2021 to treat a yeast infection known as vulvovaginal candidiasis, except in China and certain other countries where Scynexis already out-licensed the drug.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 163,800+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Feng Zhang (Susan Walsh/AP Images)

In search of new way to de­liv­er gene ed­i­tors, CRISPR pi­o­neer turns to mol­e­c­u­lar sy­ringes

Bug bacteria are ruthless.

Some soil bacteria have evolved tiny, but deadly injection systems that attach to insect cells, perforate them and release toxins inside — killing a bug in just a few days’ time. Scientists, on the other hand, want to leverage that system to deliver medicines.

In a paper published Wednesday in Nature, MIT CRISPR researcher Feng Zhang and his lab describe how they engineered these syringes made by bacteria to deliver potential therapies like toxins that kill cancer cells and gene editors. With the help of an AI program, they developed syringes that can load proteins of their choice and selectively target human cells.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 163,800+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Alec­tor cuts 11% of work­force as it dou­bles down on late-stage neu­ro pro­grams part­nered with GSK, Ab­b­Vie

A month after revealing plans to concentrate on its late-stage immuno-neurology pipeline, Alector is trimming its headcount by 11%.

The layoffs will impact around 30 employees across the organization, the company disclosed in an SEC filing, adding that the plan will “better align the company’s resources” with the new strategy. With $712.9 million in cash, cash equivalents and investments as of the end of 2022, Alector believes the reserves will now get it through 2025.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 163,800+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

See­los Ther­a­peu­tics 'tem­porar­i­ly' stops study in rare neu­ro dis­or­der for busi­ness rea­sons

Microcap biotech Seelos Therapeutics is halting enrollment of its study in spinocerebellar ataxia type 3 (also known as Machado-Joseph disease) because of “financial considerations,” and in order to focus on other studies, the company said today, adding that the pause would be temporary.

The study will continue with the patients who have already enrolled, and the data from them will be used to decide whether to continue enrolling others in the future.

CSL CEO Paul McKenzie (L) and CMO Bill Mezzanotte

Q&A: New­ly-mint­ed CSL chief ex­ec­u­tive Paul McKen­zie and chief med­ical of­fi­cer Bill Mez­zan­otte

Paul McKenzie took over as CEO of Australian pharma giant CSL this month, following in the footsteps of long-time CSL vet Paul Perreault.

With an eye on mRNA, and quickly commercializing its new, $3.5 million-per-shot gene therapy for hemophilia B, McKenzie and chief medical officer Bill Mezzanotte answered some questions from Endpoints News this afternoon about where McKenzie is going to take the company and what advances may be coming to market from CSL’s pipeline. Below is a lightly edited transcript.

Hugo Peris, Spiral Therapeutics CEO

Hear­ing-fo­cused biotech grabs trio of pro­grams from Oton­o­my's fire sale

Otonomy may be shutting down, but the lessons learned there will live on at another biotech working on new treatments for hearing loss.

San Francisco-based Spiral Therapeutics has bought certain assets related to three of Otonomy’s programs, ranging from data, patent rights, and know-how to inventory. That includes data around Otonomy’s twice-failed lead program, OTO-104 (Otividex), a sustained-exposure formulation of dexamethasone.

Boehringer re­ports ro­bust sales led by type 2 di­a­betes and pul­monary drugs, promis­es more to come high­light­ing obe­si­ty

Boehringer Ingelheim reported human pharma sales of €18.5 billion on Wednesday, led by type 2 diabetes and heart failure drug Jardiance and pulmonary fibrosis med Ofev. Jardiance sales reached €5.8 billion, growing 39% year over year, while Ofev took in €3.2 billion, notching its own 20.6% annual jump.

However, Boehringer is also looking ahead with its pipeline, estimating “In the next seven years the company expects about 20 regulatory approvals in human pharma.”