Fortress Biotech sells brokerage firm following Reuters exposé; Tracon contends with another setback in brain cancer

→ In the aftermath of a Reuters report shining a light on its questionable relationship with National Holdings, Fortress Biotech announced it is selling control of the brokerage firm that’s provided considerable — if inconspicuous — fundraising support for its biotech ventures. In a deal registered at $22.9 million, Fortress Bio will transfer its majority stake — 56.1% — to B. Riley Financial, giving the financial services company access to 700 brokers, 90,000 customer accounts and $12 billion-plus in client’s assets, the companies say.

→ Tiny Tracon $TCON has suffered another brain cancer setback. Last year, its lead drug TRC105 failed in a Phase III NCI study in patients with recurrent glioblastoma. On Monday, it reported disappointing initial data from a Phase II NCI study evaluating its experimental drug, TRC102, in combination with Merck’s $MRK Temodar, in the same patient population. TRC102 plus Temodar did not meet the main goal of resensitizing patients to Temodar treatment in the initial 19 enrolled patients, although two patients met the secondary endpoint of progression-free survival beyond 6 months, the company said. The drug continues to be evaluated in four ongoing NCI trials.

→ After years of seeing its stock in the gutters, RXi Pharmaceuticals $RXII has decided to operate under a new banner: Phio Pharmaceuticals $PHIO. The name change reflects its decision to concentrate on immuno-oncology applications for its RNA tech, the company says, something it’s signaled with a T-cell research pact with Medigene announced late last year.

Harvard spinout QurAlis has brought its total amount of seed funding to $5.5 million by adding BioInnovation Capital and Viva Biotech Limited to the fold. The money, as well as a second year of sponsored lease at LabCentral and a new residency at JLABS, will support QurAlis’ in advancing its treatments for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and frontotemporal dementia to the clinic. “My partners and I have followed QurAlis’ progress closely during its time at LabCentral,” said Johannes Fruehauf, president of LabCentral and general partner at BioInnovation Capital. “We believe their novel approach has the potential to change the trajectory of the disease, just as the antiviral therapies did for HIV in the late 1990s; we are excited to provide our support and expertise to help propel the company forward.”

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Research Scientist - Immunology
Recursion Pharmaceuticals Salt Lake City, UT
Director of Operations
Atlas Venture Cambridge, MA

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