Athira Pharma expands Alzheimer’s Clinical Trial and adds New After CEO was placed on leave, executives

Athira COO Mark Litton. (Athira Photo)

Athira Pharma is advancing its clinical trials in the wake of allegations of image manipulation in papers authored by its CEO, the company reported today in its second quarter financial and business update.

After allegedly altering images within scientific papers that she had authored, Leen Kawas, the former CEO was put on leave. The company’s COO, Mark Litton, has since assumed day-to-day leadership responsibilities.

Litton stated in today’s press release that Litton had “significantly advanced across our corporate initiatives and clinical initiatives” over the quarter. The company is currently in the clinical stage of developing a drug for Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s dementia.

Athira made further leadership changes following the the recent death of board chair Tadataka Yamada. The Bothell, Wash.-based company on Aug. 5 appointed Kelly Romano as board chair to replace Yamada. Romano is a veteran of commercial buildings and aerospace. He also founded and leads BlueRipple Capital, LLC, which provides consulting services for technology companies worldwide.

Other recent appointments include Rachel Lenington, formerly at Seagen and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, as CTO and head of product development strategy. Mark Worthington has been appointed general counsel.

New Athira execs Mark Worthington, general counsel, and Rachel Lenington, chief technology officer and head of product development strategy. (Athira Photos)

The STAT news website published on June 17, a story about image manipulation claims in Kawas papers. This first appeared on PubPeer. PubPeer is a site where scientists can provide feedback on integrity of scientific papers.

A comment first appeared in 2016 on one paper, and more recently on three other studies. These comments concern papers Kawas studied while she was a graduate student at Washington State University. She received her doctorate in 2011.

In June, the company stated that it will complete a review “derived from Dr. Kawas’s doctoral research while at Washington State University.”

These papers laid the foundation for current clinical trials of ATH-1017 by the company, an agent that can regenerate brain tissue.

In an Athira press release before he died, Yamada said, “ATH-1017 was discovered, developed, and patented by Athira on the basis of novel data generated within the Company. The therapeutic potential of ATH-1017 in treating dementia is a matter of great confidence for the Company.

Although the company doesn’t appear to have published any preclinical data about ATH-1017 yet, they presented preliminary findings from a phase I study with patients suffering from Alzheimer’s at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference.

In addition, Athira is proceeding with an extension of its phase 2/3 trial for people with mild-to-moderate Alzheimer’s. People in the active or placebo groups can choose to go on for an additional 26 week at high doses after completing a 26-week period. This company anticipates that data will be available by 2022’s first half and it plans to launch a phase two trial to test the drug in Parkinson’s patients by 2021.

For the fourth quarter, the company lost $14 million. This compares to $2 million in the 2020 quarter. $12 million went to research and development. The company has approximately $350 million in cash, cash equivalents, and investments. Analyst expectations were just slightly exceeded by the $0.38 net loss per share.

Athira, which went public last year, is also facing lawsuits for potentially misleading investors. After the revelations about image manipulation, Athira’s stock value fell by half. It was also down 6% Monday.

Publiated at Mon, 16 August 2021 23.38:45 +0000

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