Un­der pres­sure, Pe­ter Hecht splits Iron­wood in­to two biotechs, spin­ning out an R&D op­er­a­tion

Iron­wood $IR­WD is split­ting up its busi­ness in­to two dis­tinct halves, spin­ning out a pipeline of ear­ly- and mid-stage drugs in­to a sep­a­rate, pub­licly trad­ed biotech com­pa­ny while keep­ing its mar­ket­ed prod­ucts and re­lat­ed de­vel­op­ment projects in house at a scaled down, and more prof­itable, moth­er com­pa­ny. 

In a bid to cre­ate “two fo­cused, growth com­pa­nies,” CEO Pe­ter Hecht is keep­ing its two ap­proved drugs, lina­clotide (Linzess) and lesin­u­rad (Zu­rampic), at Iron­wood, along with IW-3718, an ex­per­i­men­tal ther­a­py for per­sis­tent gas­troe­sophageal re­flux dis­ease (GERD) with Phase III tri­als ex­pect­ed to launch in the third quar­ter of this year.

Then there is “R&D Co.,” which will start out in search of a new name for it­self. The com­pa­ny will own:

— Prali­ciguat, in Phase II for heart fail­ure with pre­served ejec­tion frac­tion (HF­pEF) and for di­a­bet­ic nephropa­thy.

— Olin­ciguat, in Phase II tar­get­ing sick­le cell dis­ease and acha­la­sia.

— And there’s a line­up of sGC stim­u­la­tors, with IW-6463 in de­vel­op­ment for se­vere cen­tral ner­vous sys­tem dis­eases; with “oth­er dis­cov­ery pro­grams tar­get­ing se­vere liv­er and lung dis­eases.”

Iron­wood’s shares slid on the news, down 9% in ear­ly-morn­ing trad­ing.

Alex Den­ner

The move comes fast on the heels of the ar­rival of Alex Den­ner, a high pro­file ac­tivist in­vestor who’s been knock­ing on their doors in search of a board po­si­tion. Den­ner has shak­en up a big group of biotechs in his time work­ing with Carl Ic­ahn and then on his own at Saris­sa Cap­i­tal. Sev­er­al an­a­lysts think the com­pa­ny could do bet­ter on the stock price, and Den­ner is all about val­ue cre­ation — with a big ap­petite for prof­it­ing from tur­bu­lence.

Hecht, who found­ing the com­pa­ny and shep­herd­ed the pipeline, had this to say ahead of a con­fer­ence call Tues­day morn­ing:

“The pos­i­tive Phase IIb da­ta from IW-3718, com­bined with the sig­nif­i­cant progress with­in our sGC plat­form, in­clud­ing re­cent Phase IIa prali­ciguat da­ta, cat­alyzed our abil­i­ty to sep­a­rate in­to two fo­cused, durable busi­ness­es poised for long-term growth.”

Both com­pa­nies will have their own, sep­a­rate man­age­ment and boards.


Im­age: Pe­ter Hecht. IRON­WOOD

Op­ti­miz­ing Cell and Gene Ther­a­py De­vel­op­ment and Pro­duc­tion: How Tech­nol­o­gy Providers Like Corn­ing Life Sci­ences are Spurring In­no­va­tion

Remarkable advances in cell and gene therapy over the last decade offer unprecedented therapeutic promise and bring new hope for many patients facing diseases once thought incurable. However, for cell and gene therapies to reach their full potential, researchers, manufacturers, life science companies, and academics will need to work together to solve the significant challenges facing the industry.

David Baker working with a student on their protein design (Jason Mast)

Sci­en­tists are fi­nal­ly learn­ing how to de­sign pro­teins from scratch. Drug de­vel­op­ment may nev­er be the same

SEATTLE — It’s a cloudy Thursday afternoon in mid-July and David Baker is reclining into the futon in his corner office at the University of Washington, arms splayed out like a daytime talk show host as he coaches another one of his postdocs through the slings and arrows of scientific celebrity.

“Be jealous of your time,” he says, before plotting ways of sneaking her out of Zooms. “It’s this horrible cost to science that you’re tied up in some stupid meeting.”

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Pre­sent­ing a live End­points News event: Man­ag­ing a biotech in tur­bu­lent times

Biotech is one of the smartest, best educated industries on the planet. PhDs abound. We’ve had a long enough track record to see a new generation of savvy, experienced execs coming together to run startups.

And in these times, they are being tested as never before.

Biotech is going through quite a rough patch right now. For 2 years, practically anyone with a decent resume and some half-baked ideas on biotech could start a company and get it funded. The pandemic made it easy in many ways to pull off an IPO, with traditional road shows shut down in exchange for a series of quick Zoom meetings. Generalist investors flocked as the numbers raised soared into the stratosphere.

Amidst R&D reshuf­fle, Ver­tex ex­pands its pres­ence in Boston, aim­ing to be­come num­ber one

Vertex Pharmaceuticals has been one of the buzzier names in the bustling Boston biotech scene, but now the company is looking to vault to number one status — at least in terms of physical footprint.

At a ribbon cutting on Tuesday for its new Jeffrey Leiden Center for Cell and Genetic Therapies at the Boston Seaport, Vertex announced it would embark on a new project: The company will build a 344,000 square foot facility in the seaport to accommodate the company’s growing R&D needs, especially in its cell and gene therapies program.

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Patty Murray, D-WA (Graeme Sloan/Sipa USA)(Sipa via AP Images)

Sen­ate user fee reau­tho­riza­tion bill omits ac­cel­er­at­ed ap­proval re­forms, shows wide gaps with House ver­sion

The Senate health committee on Tuesday released its first version of the bill to reauthorize all the different FDA user fees. But unlike the House version, there are only a few controversial items in the Senate’s version, which does not address either accelerated approval reforms or clinical trial diversity (as the House did).

While it’s still relatively early in the process of finalizing this legislation (the ultimate statutory deadline is the end of September), the House and Senate, at least initially, appear to be starting off in different corners on what should be included.

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Warren Buffett, Berkshire Hathaway CEO

Berk­shire Hath­away pulls out of Ab­b­Vie, Bris­tol My­ers Squibb in­vest­ments

It looks like Warren Buffett is sticking to ice cream and railroads for the moment.

The billionaire CEO of Berkshire Hathaway backed out of two major holdings in the pharma industry, Forexlive first reported, including a $410 million investment in AbbVie and a $324.4 million stake in Bristol Myers Squibb.

The move comes after Berkshire abandoned its Teva shares just last quarter, Bloomberg reported.

Long-ex­pect­ed UK lay­offs im­mi­nent for No­var­tis fol­low­ing sale

Nearly a year ago, more than 200 workers at Novartis’ Grimsby, UK, facility were able to hang on to their jobs after the pharma closed a Switzerland site as a part of its workforce restructuring plan. Now, it looks like those employees’ time is up, as the site has been sold, Grimsby Telegraph reported today.

The manufacturing site has been sold to Humber Industrials, a subsidiary of International Process Plants. None of the current staff members will be working with the new owners, however.

Clay Siegall (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Gabrielle's Angel Foundation)

UP­DAT­ED: Clay Sie­gall re­signs from Seagen amid in­ves­ti­ga­tion in­to do­mes­tic vi­o­lence claims

A week after Seagen revealed that longtime CEO Clay Siegall was on leave due to an allegation of domestic violence, he has resigned.

Since that shocking revelation, more details about the claims have emerged into the public eye. As Endpoints News reported, Siegall was arrested on April 23. A police report about that night and a subsequent temporary restraining order described a pattern of abusive behavior against his wife and a physical altercation that left her with multiple bruises. Siegall denied the claims.

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FDA lob­bies Con­gress over rare dis­ease court rul­ing with wide im­pli­ca­tions

Usually reserved for making decisions on drug applications or enforcing what Congress stipulates, the FDA is now dipping its toe into the wild world of congressional politics as it attempts to fix a major court decision that could have a chilling effect on rare disease R&D.

The case in question from last October saw a US appeals court overturn a prior FDA court win, saying that the agency never should’ve approved a rare disease drug because a previously approved but more expensive drug with the same active ingredient has orphan drug exclusivity barring such an approval.