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Athira Pharma Stock Climbs on Alzheimer's Test; CEO Resignation

Pharma company launches phase 2 trial of Alzheimer treatment as CEO steps down over altered images in her research papers and dissertation.

Athira Pharma  (ATHA) - Get ATHIRA PHARMA, INC. Report surged Friday after the company said it had finished enrolling patients into a Phase 2 study of its Alzheimer's disease treatment, and announced the resignation of its CEO amid allegations of academic and research fraud.

Shares of the Bothell, Wash. company ended up $1.08, or 11%, at $10.71. 

Athira Pharma said it had completed enrolling participants in its ACT-AD clinical trial for ATH-1017, a therapy for mild to moderate Alzheimer's disease.

The company said it expects to report topline results from the trial in the first half of next year.

Alzheimer's disease has been a major issue in the pharmaceutical sector.

On Wednesday, Biogen  (BIIB) - Get Biogen Inc. Report beat Wall Street's third-quarter earnings expectations and upped its full-year profit forecast amid strong expected demand for its Alzheimer's treatment, Aduhelm, which was recently approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

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Athira also announced the resignation of company president and CEO Leen Kawas, who also resigned from the board of directors. 

Kawas, who co-founded the company, had been placed on leave in June. 

A board special committee determined she had altered images in her 2011 doctoral dissertation and in at least four research papers that she co-authored while a graduate student at Washington State University, published from 2011 to 2014.

ATH-1017 was not the subject of Kawas's doctoral research, the company said.  

"The Company and Dr. Kawas agreed it is in Athira’s best interest to enter this critical next chapter under new leadership," Board Chair Kelly Romano said in a statement. "We thank Dr. Kawas for her unwavering focus seeking to make a meaningful difference for Alzheimer’s patients and their caregivers.”

Mark Litton, chief operating officer, was named the new CEO and Rachel Lenington, chief technology officer, will step into Litton's former position.

Athira completed an initial public offering in 2020, raising $204 million. Its stock tumbled nearly 40% on June 18, the day Kawas was initially placed on leave.