Aurinia Pharmaceuticals, known for its focus on autoimmune diseases, has taken steps to address investor concerns by appointing its founder and former CEO, Robert Foster, to its board of directors. This move follows an agreement with major stockholder MKT Capital, which holds a 4.2% stake in the company. The agreement is characterized as a “cooperation agreement” and comes at a time when Aurinia is undergoing a strategic review.
“He has a wealth of institutional knowledge, deep biotech leadership experience, and has led successful mergers, acquisitions, and commercialization deals. These skills all will be helpful as we conduct our strategic review and continue the successful commercialization of Lupkynis.”
– Aurinia’s chairman Daniel Billen, Ph.D
This development follows the resignations of Aurinia’s Chairman, George Milne, and board member Joseph Hagan, in response to pressure from MKT at the company’s annual meeting earlier this year. In June, Aurinia also revealed its consideration of a “sale, merger, or other strategic transaction.” Both announcements coincided with increases in Aurinia’s share price.
“We are confident that meaningful value creation is on the horizon for Aurinia shareholders now that the board has initiated a strategic review and made significant governance enhancements. We look forward to supporting Dr. Foster and the rest of the board as it oversees a comprehensive review of alternatives.”
– MKT founder Antoine Khalife
Foster’s history with Lupkynis, originally known as voclosporin, dates back to the 1990s when he was CEO of Isotechnika Pharma. He played a key role in structuring a $215 million licensing agreement with Roche for voclosporin, primarily for kidney transplant immunosuppression.
Notably, Aurinia recently raised its 2023 sales projection for Lupkynis from an initial range of $120 million to $140 million to a new range of $150 million to $160 million. While this is a positive development, it falls short of the blockbuster trajectory predicted by Wall Street for the drug.
Aurinia’s journey has included buyout overtures from pharmaceutical giants such as Bristol Myers Squibb in 2021, with reported interest from companies including GSK, Roche, and Otsuka. As the company undergoes a strategic review and enhances its governance, it aims to unlock greater value for its shareholders in the near future.