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Life-sciences company, LR firm merge

Navaux Inc., an early-stage life-sciences company, said Tuesday that it has merged with Little Rock-based Stage 1 Diagnostics.

With the merger, Navaux said it will better be able to do early detection, screening and monitoring of cancers as well as develop proprietary drug delivery and options for cancer remedies.

Stage 1 Diagnostics was founded in 2004 out of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences' Bioventures incubator program, said Don Fowler, Stage 1's chief executive officer. Through the program, Stage 1 Diagnostics developed an antibody that is believed to be a good indicator of early metastatic cancer, Fowler said. It also can be used as a therapy to treat the cancer, Fowler said.

"By getting with Navaux, it gives us access to funding and a larger [market] in the U.S.," Fowler said. Navaux has a presence in northern California, Oklahoma City, Chicago, Florida and Virginia, he said.

Stage 1 Diagnostics has seven employees and expects to grow to 15 in the next year, Fowler said. Navaux is a newly founded company with a group of investors and fewer than five employees, he said.

UAMS and Baptist Health, as well as Arkansas Urology, use Stage 1's early-detection and treatment program, Fowler said.

-- David Smith

Court sides with ex-Walmart employee

An appeals court sided Monday with a former Walmart Inc. pharmacy manager who says in a lawsuit that his fear of needles cost him his job.

William Noel had asked around April 2016 to be excused from a new job requirement to become certified to immunize customers because of his trypanophobia, according to court documents. Despite receiving a letter from Walmart in July 2016 informing him that it would accommodate him and that giving immunizations was not an essential job function, Noel was fired in October 2016.

A U.S. district judge in Vermont ruled in March 2018 that administering injections was a necessary part of Noel's job and granted Walmart's motion to dismiss his wrongful discharge suit. However, a three-judge panel with the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals said the lower court erred in discounting the July 2016 letter as documentary evidence supporting Noel's claim. The suit will be allowed to proceed.

Walmart spokesman Randy Hargrove said Tuesday that the retailer was disappointed with the court's decision. "We will continue to defend the case," he said.

The case is Noel v. Walmart Stores, East LP.

-- Serenah McKay

Disney says Fox purchase nearly done

LOS ANGELES -- Walt Disney Co. has set the date: It expects to wrap up its $71.3 billion acquisition of much of Rupert Murdoch's 21st Century Fox by March 20.

Disney's purchase of the Fox assets -- first unveiled in December 2017 -- will likely transform the Burbank company into an entertainment giant, towering over its traditional competitors. Disney's goal is to expand its programming pipeline to better compete against Netflix, and Apple Inc., technology companies that have sparked major shifts in consumers' viewing behavior.

Disney on Tuesday announced a timetable for staging various components of the complicated deal, including financing and exchange offers. The move came after Mexico's telecommunications regulator, IFT, approved the Disney-Fox deal late Monday, according to Bloomberg News. Winning Mexico's consent was the final hurdle for Disney to wrap up its nine-month quest to secure all of the government approvals that it needed. Last summer, U.S. antitrust regulators approved the deal but stipulated that Disney must sell Fox's 22 regional sports networks, including Prime Ticket and Fox Sports West in Los Angeles.

-- Los Angeles Times

Flooring firm to pay $33M in fraud case

WASHINGTON -- Lumber Liquidators will pay $33 million to settle fraud charges by federal authorities who accused the company of falsely saying its Chinese-made laminate flooring met formaldehyde emissions standards.

The company, based in Toano, Va., is one of the biggest retailers of flooring products in the U.S. Its settlements of criminal and civil fraud charges, related to statements it made in 2015, were announced Tuesday by the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Under an agreement, the Justice Department will defer prosecution of Lumber Liquidators and dismiss the charges after three years on condition the company takes remedial actions.

-- The Associated Press

Volkswagen to boost electric-car work

WOLFSBURG, Germany -- Volkswagen plans to rapidly increase its production of electric cars as it tries to transform itself into a leader in battery-powered transportation.

The company will build 22 million electric cars through 2028, Herbert Diess, Volkswagen's chief executive, said Tuesday at a news conference at company headquarters in Wolfsburg, Germany. The company, which currently sells only a small number of electric cars, has set a new goal well above the 15 million-vehicle mark it had previously forecast.

Volkswagen's move is another sign of how quickly the car industry is changing and how automakers are assessing what the next generation of car buyers wants.

But the company is also taking a major risk by making such a major commitment to electric cars. Sales of such vehicles are growing rapidly but still account for only a sliver of the new-car market, and it remains unclear how many buyers will want them.

-- The New York Times

Trump seeks $130M to deepen harbor

SAVANNAH, Ga. -- President Donald Trump has asked Congress for an additional $130 million to continue deepening the shipping channel to Savannah's busy seaport.

Trump's budget request for fiscal 2020 would be the federal government's largest annual expenditure yet on the $976 million Savannah harbor expansion. The figure was contained in the Army Corps of Engineers' detailed civil works budget Tuesday, the day after the White House released Trump's broader $4.7 trillion proposed budget.

"That is wonderful, wonderful news," said Rep. Buddy Carter, the Georgia Republican whose district includes Savannah. "We're halfway through, but that does us no good. We need to be completely through before we see the benefits. I think the administration has finally caught on to that."

Dredging along 40 miles of the Savannah River between the port and the Atlantic Ocean began more than three years ago and reached the halfway mark last year.

-- The Associated Press

Business on 03/13/2019

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