Se­cret meet­ings, merg­ers and a board putsch: Arc­turus founder/CEO claims 4 board mem­bers con­spired on his ouster

News of Joseph Payne’s abrupt de­par­ture from San Diego-based Arc­turus $ARCT left lit­tle doubt that he had been kicked out of the mi­cro­cap RNA biotech. But now he’s fight­ing back.

Payne, who helped found the com­pa­ny, had his at­tor­neys draft a let­ter to Arc­turus claim­ing that he had been im­prop­er­ly pushed out by a ca­bal of 4 com­pa­ny di­rec­tors, who he says en­gaged in an in­trigue that vi­o­lat­ed the rules es­tab­lished by the Is­raeli laws that gov­ern its op­er­a­tions. And a re­verse merg­er he used to take the com­pa­ny pub­lic is be­ing blamed for the sud­den pow­er shift, ac­cord­ing to the let­ter in­clud­ed in a fil­ing to­day at the FDA.

Joseph Payne

Payne claims in the let­ter from Barnea, Jaf­fa, Lande & Co that he was the vic­tim of a putsch or­ga­nized on Jan­u­ary 25 by these 4 board mem­bers: ex­ec­u­tive chair­man Stu­art Collinson, ex­ec­u­tive coach Craig Wil­lett, Al­co­bra vet Daniel Gef­fken and In­ter­cept CMO David Shapiro. And af­ter vot­ing to ex­pel him — in a meet­ing that avoid­ed invit­ing him as well as CSO Pad Chivuku­la, an­oth­er board mem­ber — they or­dered him es­cort­ed out of the build­ing.

Payne’s let­ter in par­tic­u­lar points the fin­ger at ex­ec­u­tive chair­man Stu­art Collinson for his in­volve­ment in the move to oust him from the CEO job. The move, it says, hurts the com­pa­ny in fa­vor of their per­son­al in­ter­ests — “act­ing to seize con­trol of the Com­pa­ny and thus ad­vance their per­son­al and con­flict­ing in­ter­ests.”

The com­pa­ny says Payne isn’t com­ing back.

He was ter­mi­nat­ed, Arc­turus said in a state­ment, “for con­duct that our Board of Di­rec­tors deemed to be con­trary to the best in­ter­ests of the Com­pa­ny and its share­hold­ers. Our Board be­lieves that Mr. Payne has demon­strat­ed that he is un­able to put the needs of the com­pa­ny and its share­hold­ers ahead of his own self-in­ter­est.”

Payne’s let­ter, though, makes clear that he wants the com­pa­ny to re­verse the move and re­in­state him as CEO — or face the con­se­quences in an Is­raeli court. And he’s threat­en­ing to push for a change in the board as well. From the let­ter:

If the Board in­tends to ar­gue that the ac­tions were ap­proved by a com­mit­tee com­prised of the Four Di­rec­tors, we note that any such “com­mit­tee” has nev­er been formed or ap­proved by the Board and any such “com­mit­tee” has no au­thor­i­ty to act for the Board. More­over, any del­e­ga­tion to such “com­mit­tee” with­out prop­er ap­proval and res­o­lu­tion vi­o­lates the Com­pa­nies Law and the Ar­ti­cles.

Arc­turus re­verse merged its way on­to the mar­ket last fall, ex­e­cut­ing a deal with the failed Al­co­bra. Soon af­ter, Payne worked a col­lab­o­ra­tion deal with J&J on hep B. The Al­co­bra pact, though, left him with new board mem­bers that came in from the failed com­pa­ny. And that, he says, played a big role in his sud­den ex­it.

Hal Barron, GSK

Break­ing the death spi­ral: Hal Bar­ron talks about trans­form­ing the mori­bund R&D cul­ture at GSK in a crit­i­cal year for the late-stage pipeline

Just ahead of GlaxoSmithKline’s Q2 update on Wednesday, science chief Hal Barron is making the rounds to talk up the pharma giant’s late-stage strategy as the top execs continue to woo back a deeply skeptical investor group while pushing through a whole new R&D culture.

And that’s not easy, Barron is quick to note. He told the Financial Times:

I think that culture, to some extent, is as hard, in fact even harder, than doing the science.

Endpoints News

Basic subscription required

Unlock this story instantly and join 55,100+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Some Big Phar­mas stepped up their game on da­ta trans­paren­cy — but which flunked the test?

The nonprofit Bioethics International has come out with their latest scorecard on data transparency among the big biopharmas in the industry — flagging a few standouts while spotlighting some laggards who are continuing to underperform.

Now in its third year, the nonprofit created a new set of standards with Yale School of Medicine and Stanford Law School to evaluate the track record on trial registration, results reporting, publication and data-sharing practice.

Busy Gilead crew throws strug­gling biotech a life­line, with some cash up­front and hun­dreds of mil­lions in biobucks for HIV deal

Durect $DRRX got a badly needed shot in the arm Monday morning as Gilead’s busy BD team lined up access to its extended-release platform tech for HIV and hepatitis B.

Gilead, a leader in the HIV sector, is paying a modest $25 million in cash for the right to jump on the platform at Durect, which has been using its technology to come up with an extended-release version of bupivacaine. The FDA rejected that in 2014, but Durect has been working on a comeback.

In­tec blitzed by PhI­II flop as lead pro­gram fails to beat Mer­ck­'s stan­dard com­bo for Parkin­son’s

Intec Pharma’s $NTEC lead drug slammed into a brick wall Monday morning. The small-cap Israeli biotech reported that its lead program — coming off a platform designed to produce a safer, more effective oral drug for Parkinson’s — failed the Phase III at the primary endpoint.

Researchers at Intec, which has already seen its share price collapse over the past few months, says that its Accordion Pill-Carbidopa/Levodopa failed to prove superior to Sinemet in reducing daily ‘off’ time. 

Cel­gene racks up third Ote­zla ap­proval, heat­ing up talks about who Bris­tol-My­ers will sell to

Whoever is taking Otezla off Bristol-Myers Squibb’s hands will have one more revenue stream to boast.

The drug — a rising star in Celgene’s pipeline that generated global sales of $1.6 billion last year — is now OK’d to treat oral ulcers associated with Behçet’s disease, a common symptom for a rare inflammatory disorder. This marks the third FDA approval for the PDE4 inhibitor since 2014, when it was greenlighted for plaque psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis.

Endpoints News

Basic subscription required

Unlock this story instantly and join 55,100+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Francesco De Rubertis

Medicxi is rolling out its biggest fund ever to back Eu­rope's top 'sci­en­tists with strange ideas'

Francesco De Rubertis built Medicxi to be the kind of biotech venture player he would have liked to have known back when he was a full time scientist.

“When I was a scientist 20 years ago I would have loved Medicxi,’ the co-founder tells me. It’s the kind of place run by and for investigators, what the Medicxi partner calls “scientists with strange ideas — a platform for the drug hunter and scientific entrepreneur. That’s what I wanted when I was a scientist.”

Endpoints News

Basic subscription required

Unlock this story instantly and join 55,100+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Af­ter a decade, Vi­iV CSO John Pot­tage says it's time to step down — and he's hand­ing the job to long­time col­league Kim Smith

ViiV Healthcare has always been something unique in the global drug industry.

Owned by GlaxoSmithKline and Pfizer — with GSK in the lead as majority owner — it was created 10 years ago in a time of deep turmoil for the field as something independent of the pharma giants, but with access to lots of infrastructural support on demand. While R&D at the mother ship inside GSK was souring, a razor-focused ViiV provided a rare bright spot, challenging Gilead on a lucrative front in delivering new combinations that require fewer therapies with a more easily tolerated regimen.

They kept a massive number of people alive who would otherwise have been facing a death sentence. And they made money.

And throughout, John Pottage has been the chief scientific and chief medical officer.

Until now.

Endpoints News

Basic subscription required

Unlock this story instantly and join 55,100+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Vlad Coric (Biohaven)

In an­oth­er dis­ap­point­ment for in­vestors, FDA slaps down Bio­haven’s re­vised ver­sion of an old ALS drug

Biohaven is at risk of making a habit of disappointing its investors.

Late Friday the biotech $BHVN reported that the FDA had rejected its application for riluzole, an old drug that they had made over into a sublingual formulation that dissolves under the tongue. According to Biohaven, the FDA had a problem with the active ingredient used in a bioequivalence study back in 2017, which they got from the Canadian drugmaker Apotex.

Apotex, though, has been a disaster ground. The manufacturer voluntarily yanked the ANDAs on 31 drugs — in late 2017 — after the FDA came across serious manufacturing deficiencies at their plants in India. A few days ago, the FDA made it official.

Endpoints News

Basic subscription required

Unlock this story instantly and join 55,100+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Chas­ing Roche's ag­ing block­buster fran­chise, Am­gen/Al­ler­gan roll out Avastin, Her­ceptin knock­offs at dis­count

Let the long battle for biosimilars in the cancer space begin.

Amgen has launched its Avastin and Herceptin copycats — licensed from the predecessors of Allergan — almost two years after the FDA had stamped its approval on Mvasi (bevacizumab-awwb) and three months after the Kanjinti OK (trastuzumab-anns). While the biotech had been fielding biosimilars in Europe, this marks their first foray in the US — and the first oncology biosimilars in the country.