Scoop: Turing CEO and Shkreli ally Ron Tilles is out as CEO, R&D chief Salinas takes the helm and board vote looms

Eliseo Salinas

Regime change of some sort is underway at the controversial Turing Pharmaceuticals.

Tipped off on Friday that CEO and co-founder Ron Tilles — a close associate of former Turing CEO Martin Shkreli — was leaving the top post, the biotech confirmed to Endpoints News Sunday evening that Tilles is being replaced by chief scientific officer Eliseo Salinas. Here’s the statement:

“Turing Pharmaceuticals has appointed Dr. Eliseo Salinas, MD, MSc as interim CEO. Dr. Salinas will guide Turing as it moves forward to maximize Daraprim’s success as the primary alternative for the treatment of toxoplasmosis in combination with a sulfonamide, and to advance the promising pipeline of new compounds for severe parasitic infections, while Mr. Tilles will remain a member of Turing’s board.”

A source close to the company tells me that there’s a struggle underway now for control of the Turing board. An “extraordinary” board meeting – not the annual – is slated for May 10 when Zsolta Lavotha formerly of Orexo AB and Richard J Berman of Caladrius Biosciences will be proposed as new board members by the new CEO.

A spokesman for Turing confirmed the upcoming meeting and the nominations. He added that Tilles stepped down from the CEO spot earlier this month.

Turing played a big role in focusing Congress and much of the public on pharmaceutical price gouging, after then CEO and co-founder Shkreli triggered a coast-to-coast uproar in 2015 over his decision to boost the price of Daraprim — an old and once much cheaper therapy — by more than 5000%. Shkreli, who had also co-founded Retrophin (which sued him) with Tilles and acquired KaloBios (which gradually shed any connection to him) was later arrested on federal securities fraud charges related to his former hedge funds and the way he managed the company cash at Retrophin.

Tilles, Shkreli’s close confederate, was left running the show on an interim basis for the last 17 months. Despite being drug before a Congressional committee — where he pled the Fifth — Shkreli and Turing never did back down from their big price increase, which is entirely legal and completely controversial. Shkreli, who reneged on initial promises to cut the price, later delighted in taunted his critics and claiming that the price should have been raised even higher.

Salinas has a legitimate reputation in the industry. He was the former R&D chief at Elan at one point and went on to run research at StemCells and Relmada.

We’ll have more on the saga, including news about the upcoming Shkreli trial in Manhattan in June, as it comes in.

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