Spherix sells consulting wing; CEO leaves -- Gazette.Net


Continuing its tumultuous history of reinventing itself, Spherix — one of Maryland’s oldest life sciences companies — announced Monday it is shedding its consulting subsidiary and losing its CEO.

The struggling Bethesda company, which is currently developing treatments for metabolic syndrome, diabetes and atherosclerosis, sold all of its stock in Spherix Consulting to ChromaDex of Irvine, Calif. ChromaDex provides proprietary, science-based systems and ingredients to the dietary supplement, food and beverage, animal health, cosmetic and pharmaceutical industries. A price was not disclosed.

Spherix stock fell 13.2 percent on the news Monday.

The sale is the first step in Spherix’s restructuring program, according to a company news release. The deal also involves the resignation of CEO Claire Kruger, who will stay with the consulting company, which she founded, as a division of ChromaDex. Robert A. Lodder Jr. has assumed the post of Spherix’s principal executive officer, with Robert L. Clayton as corporate secretary.

Aris Melissaratos, Thomas B. Peter and Lodder also resigned from the Spherix board.

“The divestiture of Spherix Consulting will reduce our overhead and allow our remaining staff to better focus their energies on our drug development activities and to concentrate on the identification of additional business opportunities,” Robert Vander Zanden, chairman, said in Monday’s statement.

“Pending completion of its review of strategic alternatives, Spherix ... will continue to pursue development and commercialization of innovative drug, medical and food technologies,” according to Monday’s announcement.

Last month, Spherix expanded its board to eight directors from six and acquired a new supply and license agreement with Fullife Healthcare of Mumbai, India, to use Spherix’s D-Tagatose compound in nutraceutical products. It’s also approved as a low-calorie sweetener in toothpaste and beverages.

Also last month, Spherix averted delisting by the Nasdaq exchange by boosting the number of its publicly held shares above the 500,000 minimum to about 690,700. The company has had a history of staving off delisting notices.

The company reported a $2.7 million net loss for the first nine months of the year, compared with a $2.2 million loss for the same time in 2011, according to filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

Spherix was launched in 1967 as Biospherics Research and was originally split into two divisions: one to handle reservation calls for national parks and one focusing on bioscience. Its headquarters were in Beltsville for many years before it moved to Bethesda about five years ago.

The company sold off the reservation-calls business several years ago for $17 million to focus on a diabetes treatment candidate, Naturlose, its brand name for D-Tagatose.

But two years ago, development of the product to treat diabetes stalled. Even though it showed promising results in a phase 3 clinical trial, Spherix said that, because the Food and Drug Administration had issued stricter guidelines for evaluating the safety of diabetes drugs, the company would fund no more clinical trials in diabetes and would seek a partnership to bring D-tagatose to market.

The company is now focusing on using D-Tagatose for reducing triglycerides, a secondary endpoint of its diabetes trials.

Spherix officials did not return calls for comment and members of Maryland’s bioscience community were either unavailable for comment or said they were not knowledgeable enough about Spherix to comment.