| NEW YORK
NEW YORK Feb 6 A large shareholder is seeking
to get at least two board seats at Ariad Pharmaceuticals Inc
, the drugmaker grappling with safety concerns involving
its leukemia drug Iclusig, according to people familiar with the
Sarissa Capital Management LP, an activist fund run by Alex
Denner - investor Carl Icahn's former healthcare lieutenant -
disclosed in October that it has taken a 6.2 percent stake in
Ariad, becoming the company's second-largest shareholder.
Sarissa has spoken to the biotechnology company about adding
a few of its own directors to the board and is interested in
reaching a settlement before a proxy deadline, the people said,
asking not to be named because the matter is private.
The deadline for nominating a slate of directors to Ariad's
board is Feb. 20.
Ariad, which has an eight-member board, has three seats
coming up for re-election at it annual shareholder meeting,
expected to occur around the third week of June. The exact date
has not been set yet.
Representatives for Ariad and Sarissa Capital declined to
Ariad is Sarissa's third publicly disclosed investment since
launching last year, following an investment in Vivus Inc
and one in Astex Pharmaceuticals Inc, which agreed to
sell to Japan's Otsuka Holdings Co in October.
Sarissa joined First Manhattan in a successful proxy battle
at Vivus that placed six nominees from the investors and a new
chief executive on the company's board, giving the dissidents a
In October, Ariad suspended sales of Iclusig, its only
approved drug, after an investigation by the U.S. Food and Drug
Administration found that a significant number of patients
developed life-threatening blood clots or narrowing of the
Sales resumed in January, although to a smaller group -
patients with a specific genetic mutation and those who are
unable to use alternative treatments such as Novartis AG's
Gleevec or Bristol-Myers Squibb Co's Sprycel.
Ariad's shares, which plunged to as low as $2.15 after news
of the suspension in October, have since recovered to around
$7.17, valuing the biotech company at more than $1.3 billion.