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 PJT 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.

Inside FDA HQ (File photo)

The FDA just ap­proved the third Duchenne MD drug. And reg­u­la­tors still don’t know if any of them work

Last year Sarepta hit center stage with the FDA’s controversial reversal of its CRL for the company’s second Duchenne muscular dystrophy drug — after the biotech was ambushed by agency insiders ready to reject a second pitch based on the same disease biomarker used for the first approval for eteplirsen, without actual data on the efficacy of the drug.

On Wednesday the FDA approved the third Duchenne MD drug, based on the same biomarker. And regulators were ready to act yet again despite the lack of efficacy data.

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Franz-Werner Haas, CureVac CEO

UP­DAT­ED: On the heels of a snap $1B raise, Cure­Vac out­lines plans to seek emer­gency OK for Covid-19 vac­cine -- shares rock­et up

CureVac is going from being one of the quietest players in the race to develop a new vaccine to fight the worst public health crisis in a century to a challenger for the multibillion-dollar market that awaits the first vaccines to make it over the finish line. Typically low-key at a time of brash comments and incredibly ambitious development timelines from the leaders, CureVac now is jumping straight into the spotlight.

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FDA ap­proves the third NMOSD drug in 18 months as Roche/Genen­tech beefs up its port­fo­lio of drugs for neu­ro­log­i­cal dis­or­ders

There were no FDA approved treatments for neuromyelitis optica spectrum disorder at the start of 2019. Now, as of Friday, there are three.

The latest entrant to the market is the Roche/Genentech drug satralizumab after US regulators gave it the thumbs up late Friday. An IL-6 inhibitor, the drug joins Alexion’s Soliris and AstraZeneca spinout Viela Bio’s Uplizna. The annual cost of satralizumab — which will hit the market as Enspryng — will be $190,000 for 13 doses, a Genentech spokesperson said, though the first year of treatment requires 15 doses and cost about $220,000.

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Stéphane Bancel speaks to President Donald Trump at the White House meeting on March 2 (AP Images)

UP­DAT­ED: Mod­er­na of­fers steep dis­count in US sup­ply deal — but still takes the crown with close to $2.5B in vac­cine con­tracts

The US pre-order for Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine is in.

Operation Warp Speed is reserving $1.525 billion for 100 million doses of Moderna’s Phase III mRNA candidate, rounding out to about $15 per dose — including $300 million in incentive payments for timely delivery. Given that Moderna has a two-dose regimen, it’s good for vaccinating 50 million people. The US government also has the option to purchase another 400 million doses for a total of $6.6 billion, or $16.5 per dose.

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US gov­ern­ment re­port­ed­ly be­gins prepar­ing for Covid-19 chal­lenge tri­als. Are they eth­i­cal?

Controversial human challenge trials for potential Covid-19 vaccines reportedly have a new booster — the US government.

Scientists working for the government have begun manufacturing a strain of the novel coronavirus that could be used in such studies, Reuters reported Friday morning. The trials would enroll healthy volunteers to be vaccinated and then intentionally infected with a weakened coronavirus.

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Sanofi vet Kather­ine Bowdish named CEO of PIC Ther­a­peu­tics; As the world Terns: Liv­er dis­ease biotech makes ex­ec­u­tive changes

PIC Therapeutics hasn’t raised much money, yet. But the fledgling biotech has attracted a high-profile player to the helm.

The Boston-based biotech has handed the reins to Katherine Bowdish as its president and CEO. Bowdish will also join the board of directors of PIC. Bowdish joins from Sanofi where she served as VP and head of R&D strategy, as well as helping launch and lead Sanofi Sunrise, a venture investment and partnering vehicle at Sanofi. Before that, Bowdish held several exec roles at Permeon Biologics, Anaphore, Alexion Pharmaceuticals and Prolifaron (acquired by Alexion).

Martin Shkreli (Shutterstock)

Mar­tin Shkre­li con­tin­ued to or­ches­trate an­ti-com­pet­i­tive schemes for Dara­prim be­hind bars — FTC

Martin Shkreli didn’t just blog, read up on drug development news and run his biotech business with a contraband cell phone in prison. According to the FTC, he was also coordinating the anticompetitive scheme to shield Daraprim — the drug at the center of a price-gouging controversy that earned him the “Pharma Bro” nickname — from generic rivals.

Back in January the FTC, together with New York’s attorney general, launched a federal lawsuit against Shkreli, who’s now serving a 7-year sentence for defrauding investors in his hedge fund, alleging that he effectively created a drug monopoly. While Shkreli’s notorious move to raise the per tablet price of Daraprim from $17.50 to $750 was perfectly legal, the tactics he allegedly deployed to box out competitors weren’t.

Charlie Silver (Mission Bio)

'We want to be every­where.' Mis­sion Bio rais­es $70M be­hind re­sis­tance-hunt­ing se­quenc­ing plat­form

Charlie Silver wants to look really, really closely at a lot of your cells. And he just got a lot of money to do so.

Silver’s startup, Mission Bio, raised $70 million in a Series C round Thursday led by Novo Holdings. The money, which brings Mission Bio to $120 million raised since its 2012 founding, will be used to advance the single-cell sequencing platform they built to detect early response or resistance to new cancer therapies.

A lab technician works during research on coronavirus at Johnson & Johnson subsidiary Janssen Pharmaceutical in Beerse, Belgium, Wednesday, June 17, 2020. (Virginia Mayo/AP Images)

UP­DAT­ED: End­points News ranks all 28 play­ers in the Covid-19 vac­cine race. Here's how it stacks up to­day

(This piece was last updated on August 14. Endpoints News will continue to track the latest developments through the FDA’s marketing decisions.)

The 28 players now in or close to the clinical race to get a Covid-19 vaccine over the finish line are angling for a piece of a multibillion-dollar market. And being first — or among the leaders — will play a big role in determining just how big a piece.

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