Lang Walker works towards board spill at QrXPharma

Property developer Lang Walker. Photo: Arsineh HouspianFresh from a multimillion-dollar loss on his investment in pain drug developer QrXPharma, rich-list property developer Lang Walker is trying to eject founder Gary Pace and chairman Peter Farrell of ResMed fame from the biotechnology company’s board.

The Sydney-based company plunged in value after the US regulator advised against approval of its pain-management drug Moxduo. Investors were shocked because QrXPharma had been considered likely to succeed where so many speculative biotechnology companies had failed before it.

The stock fell 88 per cent last month, sending the value of 7 million shares held in two private vehicles controlled by Mr Walker and his wife, Suzanne, from $5.5 million to $669,000.

It has now emerged that the Walker family interests also include the Auckland Trust Company. In total the family owns just over 16 million shares, accounting for about 10 per cent of the company.

The disgruntled investor has requested a meeting of shareholders. He has proposed to eject Mr Pace and Mr Farrell from the board.

In their place, he will push for the election of Richard Treagus and Bruce Hancox to the QrXPharma board. Mr Treagus was the chief executive of drug delivery company Acrux between 2006 and 2012. He has worked in the pharmaceutical industry for 20 years.

Their notice was released to the market on Wednesday. Mr Hancox said Mr Walker also had the support of substantial shareholder fund manager Allan Gray, which controls about 13 per cent of QrXPharma.

Mr Hancox, who is an investment adviser to Mr Walker, said the shareholder had proposed to QrXPharma recently that Mr Treagus should join the board. But the company pushed back, saying this could take up to two months.

”We have significant concerns about what’s happened,” Mr Hancox said, adding he was ”shocked” by the US Food and Drug Administration’s advisory. ”I certainly didn’t expect to read anything that was contrary to a supportive FDA looking to work with the company to get this drug Moxduo [approved].”

The QrXPharma board is required to call a general meeting within 21 days, and it must be held within two months, in accordance with the Corporations Act.

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