An Auspicious Conversation with Aurinia CEO Stephen Zaruby

By DrKSSMDPhD, August 28, 2015

[Ed. Note: Dr. KSS writes about medicine and biotech stocks for the Irregulars. He has agreed to our trading restrictions, and his words and opinions are his own. You can see his past articles and most recent comments here.]

“Doctor doctor, what do you say, let’s put the id back in yid,” Portnoy groused to his shrink in Philip Roth’s novel. A patient of mine was a drag queen of considerable stage presence who’d starred in a Van Halen video; at office visits he could not resist flashing faux decolletage, swaggering past the nurses and slapping me with a white glove saying, “I wanna be theĀ sass in your parilla bay-bee!” (Sarsaparilla, “sassparilla,” was a 19th-century American soft drink.) But many Gummerati, long-suffering in a biotech summer that simmers not, may be wondering is whether there will ever be any Au (the atomic symbol for gold) in Aurinia Pharmaceuticals ($AUPH), the lean clear-eyed British Columbian small-cap biotech to which we introduced readers in March 2015 (see “Saving Flannery O’Connor). It’s been a year thus far of no news from them, which can feel like being hobbled and is disquieting.

Glenn Newberry and I decided to do a six-month check-up on Aurinia, and sat down recently for a thorough conference call with its executives. In fact, August has brought Gumshoe biotech readers, all working on MBA’s at Dean Travis Johnson’s famed Gumshoe University, interesting case studies on the utility of live interaction with company leaders as a hedge against lack of recent guidance by those companies. Humans are, after all, a kind of primate: we often have remarkable skills of interpretive discernment, ones who source is unclear, that give us vibrant impressions from social interactions. Tone, elocution, word choice, parsing what’s said and what isn’t said, and with what degree of alacrity, can inform the most instinctive of human decision-making. As a frequent public speaker, I’ve been a subscriber to and participant in forums by Point Taken, a fine Boston communication consultancy, one ever fond of pointing out that 97 percent of the message a human gets from a interaction with another human comes from non-verbal content, conveyed in ways other than words.

Let me jog your memory a little on Aurinia. It owns worldwide rights ex-China to a novel immunosuppressive drug called voclosporin. Voclosporin is a so-called calcineurin inhibitor, which places it in the same class as two other vaunted agents ...

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