In early July, after a disastrous few months that saw the company’s stock fall from nearly three dollars to less than $.40 cents, Cardiome (TSX:COM) announced that CEO Doug Janzen had left the company and was to be replaced by board member and former Angiotech Pharmaceuticals CEO Bill Hunter.
Recent SEDI filings show Hunter is betting the slide in the biotech’s fortunes is finally coming to an end. On September 14th, Hunter bought 90,000 shares of Cardiome in the open market at $0.317 cents. He followed that up on September 17th by buying 110,000 shares at $0.335 cents, and on September 18th, when he bought 50,000 shares at $0.38 cents.
Cardiome, which was founded in 1986, came to public attention in April 2009, when it signed a deal with the US pharmaceutical giant Merck and, soon after, reached an important phase 3 end point for its lead offering vernakalant, a drug designed to treat atrial fibrillation, or an abnormal heart rhythm. That milestone triggered a payment of $50-million. But investors got jittery when, on October 21st 2010, a patient enrolled in the vernakalant trial experienced cardiogenic shock and the trial was suspended. Cardiome shares plunged but later recovered when Merck said it would move forward with clinical development.
Then, on March 19th, Merck decided to discontinue further development of vernakalant. Shares of Cardiome lost 54% to close at $.88 cents that day. Byron Capital healthcare analyst Douglas Loe, however, notes that the clinical data on vernakalant has been overwhelmingly positive. Loe suspects Merck may be passing due to regulatory and financial risk, perhaps believing that the required investment to get the drug through Phase 3 may not be worth it, something the Byron analyst disagrees with.
At press time, shares of Cardiome were up 13.2% to $.385 cents.