The Bothell, Wash.–based clinical-stage biopharma Athira Pharma (NSDQ:ATHA) is in a tailspin after the company’s board put Leen Kawas, the firm’s CEO, on temporary leave.
The company’s stock closed the day at an all-time low of $11.15. The stock was valued as high as $34.25 on Dec. 31, 2020. The company had its initial public offering in September 2020, when it raised $204 million.
Washington State University has launched an independent review of Kawas’s doctoral research in molecular pharmacology and toxicology, which she completed a decade ago.
The university is investigating reports that Kawas authored several papers with altered images.
Several papers Kawas had co-authored now appear on PubPeer, which cites possible problems with published research. PubPeer authors have pointed out that specific images in those papers appear to have duplicated portions and other irregularities. Some of the anomalies could have led to incorrect research findings or at least the interpretability of those findings.
In the interim, the company has installed COO Mark Litton as the interim leader of the company.
The board at Athira has also formed an independent committee to review the aforementioned reports concerning altered images.
The company’s lead pipeline candidate, ATH-1017, is the subject of seven clinical trials.
Athira’s development efforts have roots in research Kawas performed while in graduate school.
Litton has attempted to allay concerns that these disclosures compromise ATH-1017. “All preclinical and clinical work around [ATH-1017] is completely separate from the doctoral research, as the drug was developed in-house while the preclinical and Phase I data [were generated either internally or through a third-party,” Litton told Jefferies analyst Andrew Tsai.
Jefferies continues to have a ‘buy’ rating for Athira’s stock.
The law firms Schall Law Firm and Block & Leviton issued a press release stating that they were investigating potential securities law violations involving Athira.
Filed Under: clinical trials, Drug Discovery, Drug Discovery and Development, Neurological Disease