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SEC investigates manipulated Alzheimer's study claims

New Delhi, Nov 18 (IANS) The US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has launched an investigation into Texas-based Cassava Sciences. The agency will investigate claims that the company manipulated research data on its experimental Alzheimer's drug, Simufilam, Biospace reported.

In an SEC filing on November 15, Cassava indicated it was cooperating with government investigations, although it did not name which government agency or agencies were requesting information. The company emphasized that an investigation is not a sign of wrongdoing, the report said.

Since 2015, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has awarded up to $20 million in grants to the company and its academic collaborators. According to Remi Barbier, president and chief executive officer of Cassava, the NIH is also investigating the claims.

The original allegations occurred in a public petition in August asking the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to suspend the company's clinical trials, the report said. The authors of the petition are two physicians who, according to the Wall Street Journal, "said they came to doubt Cassava's research and have shorted its stock, betting the share price would fall once investors recognized the problem they found."

The physicians are David Bredt, former neuroscience research chief at Johnson & Johnson and Eli Lilly, and Geoffrey Pitt, a cardiologist and professor at Weill Cornell Medicine. They argued that Cassava's published research included images of experiments that seemed to have been manipulated using Photoshop or similar software. They are being represented by Jordan Thomas, partner and chair of the whistleblower representation practice at Labaton Sucharow. A second Citizen Petition was filed in October 2021, the report added.

Barbier responded in a statement in October, saying, "There is zero evidence, zero credible evidence, zero proof that I've ever engaged in, nor anyone I know, has ever engaged in funny business."

He claims that short sellers - essentially betting that a stock price will go down - have lodged "outlandish accusations" against Cassava. "Under these conditions you would hope that someone in a position of authority is looking into the legitimacy of the allegations", the report added.