Cassava CEO goes on the offensive over data allegations, shouting down 'short attack'
Alzheimer’s player Cassava Sciences has been under fire in recent days after a citizen petition with the FDA suggested the company was playing fast and loose with its data. Now, the company’s CEO is fighting back — but maybe not with the answers investors are looking for.
In a lengthy public statement, Cassava CEO Remi Barbier blasted what he called a “short attack” on the company’s stock while doing little to directly respond to a series of allegations over data manipulation outlined in the citizen petition from last week.
“Let me be very clear: I think these allegations are false,” Barbier said — a quote unlikely to soothe investors’ opinion of the company.
In Barbier’s telling, a shadowy network of short sellers is behind the claims leveled by law firm Labaton Sucharow, which he dismissed as little more than “inflammatory.” But Barbier did add more detail to counter the allegations about the Western blot analysis, a visual technique used to determine the presence of a specific protein, that was the centerpiece of the law firm’s claims Cassava was manipulating data.
Barbier noted the company doesn’t have access to the original data analysis, which was performed at the CUNY lab of Hoau-Yan Wang. Without that data in hand, Barbier said he has asked CUNY for an investigation into Wang’s lab and to make the findings public.
Even as he admitted his team’s fault, Barbier also appeared to go out of his way to discredit images from Cassava’s scientific literature circulated online, arguing that “trolls” were capable of manipulating those images to imply they were fabricated.
“We all know that once a photograph is on the internet, the pixels that make up that photograph can easily be Photoshopped, cropped or otherwise distorted to mean anything you want it to mean,” he wrote. “Furthermore, internet photos are resolution dependent. This means an internet photo can quickly lose quality and look blurry or pixelated, or whatever.”
Meanwhile, Barbier admitted that there were two “visual errors” in the company’s recent data presentations, but he didn’t specify which images were found to be incorrect.
“In all cases, the data analysis is correct; the visual display of the data is not correct,” he said.
Whatever the intent of his statement, it appeared to be working in the short term. Shares in $SAVA were trading up around 11% before the bell Friday.
It’s the latest in an increasingly bizarre saga for Cassava, which saw its stock plummet after the citizen’s petition and then drop once again after testing partner Quanterix openly denied it had interpreted or prepared key data used in the biotech’s recent presentations.
That response came after an unusual Q&A style statement from Cassava outlining its response to the Labaton Sucharow petition in which the biotech appeared to claim Quanterix had a hand in preparing the data.