Friday, May 24, 2024

Triangle: New prescription

Three North Carolinians have a prominent role in charting the direction of Valeant

Pharmaceuticals International, which lost more than 80% of its market value in the last year after allegations that it gouged customers and misstated financials. Robert Ingram, general partner at Hatteras Venture Partners in Durham and a former CEO of Glaxo Wellcome, has been chairman or lead director of Quebec-based Valeant since 2010. In March, former University of North Carolina System President Tom Ross and Fred Eshelman, founder of Wilmington-based Pharmaceutical Product Development and Morrisville-based Furiex Pharmaceuticals, joined the Valeant board.

Revenue exploded to an estimated $10 billion last year, compared with $1.2 billion in 2010, mostly due to acquisitions of more than a dozen companies. Among the purchases were two Raleigh companies, publicly traded Salix Pharmaceuticals and privately held Sprout Pharmaceuticals, bought last year for $11 billion and

$1 billion, respectively. Valeant’s share price increased fivefold from 2012 to 2015 but stumbled over the last year after criticism that it had jacked up drug costs by as much as 500% and sharply cut research spending. The company’s market value in mid-April was about $11.5 billion, barely more than the price paid for Salix.

Valeant’s fall from grace started after questions arose last year over its drug-pricing practices and its relationship with a mail-order pharmacy, Philidor, that critics say blocked efforts by insurance companies and others to use cheaper generic drugs rather than Valeant’s more expensive ones. In March, the company acknowledged that it counted $58 million in revenue through Philidor in 2014 that should have been booked in 2015.

Valeant’s North Carolina connections include CEO Michael Pearson and his wife, Christine, both Duke University graduates who have committed $50 million to their alma mater for engineering and science education and other causes. Pearson was a rock star on Wall Street during the company’s ascent. But with the stock collapsing, the company announced Pearson’s resignation as chief executive in March. He’ll stay on until a successor is named.

Ingram did not respond to a request for comment. He told The New York Times, “I am confident that the company will be able to rebuild its reputation and thrive under new leadership.” In April, a special board committee completed an internal investigation without finding more financial disparities from Valeant’s ties with Philidor. The two companies no longer do business together.

Still, federal prosecutors in New York and Massachusetts, along with the Securities and Exchange Commission, are investigating the company’s pricing and distribution practices. Valeant doesn’t yet have a clean bill of health, but the three prominent North Carolinians hope to write a positive prescription.

Lewis Myers was named interim CEO of Downtown Durham, an organization started in 1993 to promote revitalization and business development in the city’s urban center. Myers is a principal and the director of business development for the Durham office of Atlanta-based architectural company Perkins+Will. He previously worked for The Freelon Group, which was acquired by Perkins+Will in 2014. A Pennsylvania native, he served for eight years as assistant secretary for small business at the N.C. Commerce Department. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Franklin & Marshall College in his home state and an MBA from UNC Chapel Hill. Myers replaces Geoff Durham, who left to become CEO of the Greater Durham Chamber of Commerce.

CARY – Charles Hayes will retire as president and chief executive officer of the Research Triangle Regional Partnership on June 30 after 20 years at the helm of the economic-development group. A search committee will be formed to look for his replacement.

HENDERSON – Xerox State Healthcare, a division of Norwalk, Conn.-based Xerox, will lay off 139 workers at its local health care services center. Most of the affected employees are pharmacy technicians. Xerox laid off 178 workers at a Cary call center in March.

RALEIGH – Red Hat topped the $2 billion revenue mark for the first time, reaching $2.05 billion for the year ended Feb. 29, a 15% increase over the previous year. The software company employs 1,400 people at its headquarters here.

RALEIGH –Marketing firm Three Ships split into three separate businesses: Crisp, a digital advertising agency; Demand Signals, a search-engine optimization software company; and 3S Ventures, a startup customer-acquisition firm. 

MORRISVILLE – Envisia Therapeutics raised $16.5 million from existing investors to accelerate development of its treatments for glaucoma and vision loss. The company was spun out of Liquidia Technologies, also based in Morrisville, in 2013. Investors include Westport, Conn.-based Canaan Partners and Durham-based Pappas Ventures.

DURHAM – Self-Help Credit Union merged with Greater Piedmont Credit Union, giving it a total of 20 branches in North Carolina and Virginia. Self-Help was founded here in 1980 and has about $714 million in assets. Founded here in 1977, Greater Piedmont has two branches in Durham and one in Pineville and $15 million in assets.

DURHAM – Braeburn Pharmaceuticals planned to invest $19.9 million in a new manufacturing and research facility, creating 52 jobs with an average annual salary of $75,769. The Princeton, N.J.-based company makes implants and injectable treatments for addiction and psychiatric disorders.

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