Post-conspiracy claims, Arcturus loses another executive amid board putsch; Gates Foundation hands $6.5M to Novartis for infectious diarrhea treatment

Pad Chivukula

→ Little Arcturus $ARCT is going through a dramatic shakeup this month. Shortly after news that its founder and CEO Joseph Payne was booted from the company (with board members allegedly conspiring on his ouster), Arcturus is now losing another top executive. The company’s chief scientific officer and chief operating officer Pad Chivukula is stepping down, the company said in a statement. That’s interesting, considering Payne recently noted that both he and Chivukula had been left out of participation in board discussions and votes. Chivukula will stay on as scientific advisor to Arcturus, the company said. The news comes in conjunction with a new statement filed with the SEC noting that Payne, the ex-CEO, is demanding an “extraordinary meeting” of the board to vote on an ouster of his own design. In the letter, he calls for the boot to four company directors — Stuart Collinson, Craig Willett, Daniel Geffken, and David Shapiro — who he says engaged in an intrigue that violated the rules established by the Israeli laws that govern its operations. Payne is suggesting four new directors take their place, including some of the biggest names in San Diego biotech: Magda Marquet, Peter Farrell, Andrew Sassine, and James Barlow. Marquet, founder and co-chair of Althea Technologies, is a well-known industry executive who’s a bit of a legend in San Diego. And Farrell, is the founder and former long-term CEO and current chairman of ResMed, one of the largest medical device companies in San Diego.

Novartis $NVS is teaming up with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to tackle cryptosporidiosis, a leading cause of (often fatal) infectious diarrhea in children worldwide. The Gates Foundation will provide $6.5 million in funding to further develop KDU731, a preclinical drug candidate currently being tested for safety in preparation for clinical trials. The drug, a PI(4)K (phosphatidylinositol-4-OH kinase) inhibitor, has shown promise in treating Cryptosporidium infection. “Today’s global health issues cannot be solved by one organization alone,” said Thierry Diagana, head of the Novartis Institute for Tropical Diseases. “Private companies, governments, non-governmental organizations, academia, and other stakeholders need to work together to create sustainable solutions.”

→ Japan’s Astellas has acquired Seattle-based Universal Cells in a $102.5 million deal. The money, spread out over an upfront and milestones, gives Astellas new stem cell tech that should help them create cell therapy products that do not require Human Leukocyte Antigen matching, reducing the risk of rejection.

→ Cancer Research UK and Bicycle Therapeutics have dosed the first patient in their Phase I/IIa trial evaluating BT1718 in patients with advanced solid tumors.

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

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