Neil Woodford. Woodford Investment Management via YouTube

Wood­ford fired from flag­ship fund — which won't re­open af­ter all

The de­ba­cle around Neil Wood­ford’s sus­pend­ed flag­ship fund is com­ing to an abrupt end.

Link Fund So­lu­tions, the au­tho­rized cor­po­rate di­rec­tor of the Wood­ford Eq­ui­ty In­come Fund, is sack­ing the dis­graced stock­pick­er from his name­sake fund and wind­ing it down. Be­gin­ning in Jan­u­ary, the firm’s des­ig­nat­ed bro­kers will grad­u­al­ly sell off all as­sets in the port­fo­lio to pay back the trapped in­vestors — with the first in­stall­ment due by the end of that month.

“Whilst progress has been made in re­la­tion to repo­si­tion­ing the Fund’s port­fo­lio, this has un­for­tu­nate­ly not been suf­fi­cient to al­low rea­son­able cer­tain­ty as to when the repo­si­tion­ing would be ful­ly achieved and the Fund could be re-opened” by the De­cem­ber dead­line, Link wrote in a let­ter to in­vestors.

Wood­ford, who first froze the Eq­ui­ty In­come Fund in June and has since been on a mis­sion to ob­tain enough cash flow to meet po­ten­tial re­demp­tions by switch­ing out the pri­vate, illiq­uid parts of the £3.7 bil­lion fund for list­ed stocks, balked at the an­nounce­ment.

“This was Link’s de­ci­sion and one I can­not ac­cept, nor be­lieve is in the long-term in­ter­ests [of in­vestors],” he said in a state­ment sent to a num­ber of UK out­lets.

Link still needs for­mal ap­proval from the Fi­nan­cial Con­duct Au­thor­i­ty to start the process. Hav­ing been in con­tact with the com­pa­ny since June, the reg­u­la­to­ry watch­dog says it wel­comes the re­moval of un­cer­tain­ty by Link’s move.

That said, the FCA’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion in­to the ac­tiv­i­ties lead­ing to the sus­pen­sion of the fund is still on­go­ing.

Black­Rock Ad­vi­sors has been tapped to han­dle the liq­uid hold­ings, while JPT Part­ners — which has been work­ing with Wood­ford on the fire sales — re­mains in charge of the “less eas­i­ly sold as­sets.”

As to how much in­vestors can ex­pect to re­ceive from the wind­ing-up process, FCA has this guid­ance in its Q&A:

The amount you will re­ceive will de­pend on the fund’s val­ue and the amount raised by sell­ing the fund’s as­sets. The fund’s val­ue fluc­tu­ates in line with the mar­ket val­ues of its un­der­ly­ing as­sets. If as­sets are sold for low­er prices, you will re­ceive less from the wind­ing-up process and this al­so may be less than you orig­i­nal­ly in­vest­ed.

A num­ber of biotechs backed by Wood­ford in­clud­ing Im­muno­core and Benev­o­len­tAI have re­port­ed­ly seen their val­u­a­tions drop, hurt­ing his — and now Link’s — chances of re­triev­ing near­ly as much as he’s put in.

The clos­ing of a well-known fund that man­aged £10.2 mil­lion worth of as­sets at its peak shocks the mar­ket at a time the UK bio­phar­ma in­dus­try is do­ing some se­ri­ous soul search­ing. In a new re­port, the In­sti­tute for Pub­lic Pol­i­cy Re­search sug­gests the life sci­ences sec­tor has ex­pe­ri­enced a “lost decade” in which £15 bil­lion in R&D fund­ing that would have been in­vest­ed in the UK had gone else­where.

“This col­lapse is on a par with the im­plo­sion of New Star at the height of the fi­nan­cial cri­sis, and it will shake the fund’s in­dus­try to its core,” Adri­an Low­cock, head of per­son­al in­vest­ment at the in­vest­ment plat­form Willis Owen, told the Fi­nan­cial Times.

Com­mu­ni­cat­ing the val­ue of pre­ci­sion med­i­cine

By Natasha Cowan, Content Marketing Manager at Blue Latitude Health.
Many stakeholders are confused by novel precision medicines, including patients and healthcare professionals. So, how can industry help them to navigate this complexity?

Precision medicine represents a new paradigm in healthcare. It embodies the shift from treating many patients with the same therapy, to having the tools to identify the best treatment for every patient.

Spe­cial re­port: Twen­ty ex­tra­or­di­nary women in bio­phar­ma R&D who worked their way to the top

What differentiates a woman leader in biopharma R&D from a man?

Not much, except there are fewer of them in senior posts. Data suggest women are not more risk-averse, family-oriented or less confident than their male counterparts — indeed the differences between the two sexes are negligible. But a glance at the top R&D positions in Big Pharma leaves little doubt that upward migration in the executive ranks of biopharma R&D is tough.

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The lat­est Cin­derel­la sto­ry in on­col­o­gy ends with a sud­den rout as up­dat­ed da­ta dis­play spooks in­vestors

NextCure’s turn as the Cinderella of cancer-focused biotechs was short-lived.
Just a few days after its shares $NXTC zoomed up more than 250% on some very early stage results in a SITC abstract, a more complete analysis over the weekend spiked the hype and left investors in high dudgeon as the stock price collapsed back towards earth Monday.
The focus at NextCure is centered on NC318, an antibody that is intended to shut down the immunosuppressive Siglec-15 — or S-15 — target. After adding a small group of patients to the readout, investigators circled 2 clinical responses, a complete and partial response, along with 4 stable disease cases in non-small cell lung cancer.

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Te­va spin­out rais­es $85M in IPO; No­var­tis beefs up gener­ics unit with $440M deal

→ After Teva spinout 89bio recently announced that its IPO was being held up, the company is back in the game offering 5,304,687 shares at a price of $16 per share. The company has raised $84.9 million IPO in gross proceeds and will be listed under the ticker symbol $ETNB. BofA Securities, SVB Leerink and RBC Capital Markets are the joint book-running managers for the offering. Oppenheimer & Co is the co-manager for the offering.
→ Looking to amp up its presence in Japan’s hospitals, Novartis has struck a deal to buy out Aspen’s portfolio of generics in the world’s third largest healthcare market. The pharma giant is paying $440 million for Aspen’s Japanese subsidiary.
→ Novartis said tropifexor, a non-bile acid FXR agonist, has scored on several key biomarkers of NASH in a Phase IIb trial, including reductions in hepatic fat, alanine aminotransferase and body weight compared to a placebo at 12 weeks.

Break­through sta­tus and promise of a speedy re­view ar­rives for Op­di­vo/Yer­voy com­bi­na­tion as Bris­tol-My­ers bites at Bay­er

Its frontline and single-agent aspirations have been set back, but Bristol-Myers Squibb just took a big step forward in its efforts to apply its checkpoint inhibitor Opdivo to liver cancer. The FDA has granted breakthrough status and priority review to a combination, second-line treatment.

The designation is for Opdivo (nivolumab) in combination with Yervoy (ipilimumab),  for treating advanced hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), the most common form of liver cancer. The PD-L1 drug was already approved as a single-agent, second-line treatment for HCC. A PDUFA date was set for March 10, 2020 — just 4 months from now.

Third time un­lucky: Lipocine's lat­est quest to mar­ket their oral testos­terone drug snubbed again by FDA

Lipocine’s latest attempt at securing approval for its oral testosterone drug has fizzled yet again.

The Utah-based drug developer on Monday said the FDA has spurned its marketing application, indicating that some efficacy data on the drug, Tlando, was not up to scratch to treat male hypogonadism, a condition characterized by low production of the hormone testosterone, which is responsible for maintaining muscle bulk, bone growth, and sexual function.

UP­DAT­ED: De­cry­ing 'ar­bi­trary and capri­cious' ac­tion, Re­genxBio sues FDA over clin­i­cal holds on gene ther­a­py

When RegenxBio disclosed that the FDA had placed a partial clinical hold on one of its lead gene therapies, execs outlined several customary next steps: continuing assessment and monitoring, delaying a related IND filing, and working with the FDA to address the matter.

As it turned out, they were planning something much less mundane. Two days after announcing the hold in its Q3 update, RegenxBio filed a lawsuit seeking to set it aside, the FDA Law Blog noted.

Roche's SMA chal­lenge to Bio­gen's Spin­raza fran­chise looms larg­er with piv­otal win

Roche has just landed a crucial advance in scoring a come-from-behind win on the spinal muscular atrophy field, giving Novartis and Biogen a run for their money.

The update was brief, but Roche said risdiplam hit the primary endpoint in the placebo-controlled pivotal SUNFISH trial, meeting the threshold for change from baseline in the Motor Function Measure 32 (MFM-32) scale after one year of treatment. The results, which is the second, confirmatory portion of a two-part study, involved 180 patients with type 2 or 3 spinal muscular atrophy between 2 and 25 years old.

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Roche steers Gazy­va in­to a new PhI­II pro­gram af­ter com­bo shows promise in lu­pus nephri­tis study

Roche is working on putting together a late-stage study for its monoclonal antibody Gazyva in patients with severe kidney disease associated with lupus after a combination approach helped patients in a mid-stage study.

The 125-patient NOBILITY trial evaluated Gazyva, combined with standard-of-care treatment mycophenolate mofetil or mycophenolic acid and corticosteroids, versus standard treatment alone. The combo met the main goal of inducing a statistically superior complete renal response (CRR) of 40% at week 76, versus 18% in patients given standard treatment, Roche said.