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Ex-FDA commish Califf joins Cytokinetics’ board just months after big ALS flop

Robert Califf

Former FDA Commissioner Robert Califf is joining yet another San Francisco company’s board. Less than a year after accepting a board seat at Alphabet’s Verily, Califf is offering his guidance to Cytokinetics $CYTK — a company whose ALS failure made our list of biggest pipeline flops last year.

Besides his stint as FDA commissioner from 2016 to early 2017, Califf is the vice chancellor for health data science at Duke Health and director of the Duke University Center for Health Data Science. At Verily, he was recruited to ponder how advanced computing would improve health care. At Cytokinetics, Califf will bring other experience to the table.

Califf is a tenured professor of cardiology at Duke and has led several clinical cardiology research studies over the course of his career. That experience will come in handy as Cytokinetics focuses its attention on its heart failure drug candidate omecamtiv mercarbil — a drug that activates cardiac myosin, amping up the heart’s ability to contract.

Robert Blum

“As a renowned leader in cardiovascular medicine having overseen the conduct of landmark clinical trials, his expertise will be especially valuable as we continue to advance omecamtiv mecarbil in our Phase III clinical trials program in collaboration with Amgen and as we further the development of our muscle biology-directed drug candidates and execute on our Vision 2020 across cardiovascular and other therapeutic areas to improve healthspan as the population ages,” said Cytokinetics’ president and CEO Robert Blum in a statement.

Cytokinetics was whacked hard last year when the company conceded that its lead drug tirasemtiv had failed a Phase III study for ALS. The company specializes in muscle building, and the theory was the lead therapy in the pipeline would help stave off the steady weakening associated with ALS. It was bad enough for Cytokinetics to suspend that program and shift focus to its next-gen drug in the pipeline, CK-2127107, in ALS, along with omecamtiv mercarbil.

Investors seem to be heartened by the news that Califf will be joining the company’s board as it shifts its pipeline priorities. The stock is up 2.4%, trading at $8.55 per share at the time of publishing.


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