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Ariad to add two activist-backed directors to board

Feb 21 (Reuters) - Ariad Pharmaceuticals Inc, which has been struggling with safety concerns involving its only approved drug, said it agreed to add two directors backed by its second-largest investor Sarissa Capital Management to its board.

Ariad shares rose nearly 3 percent to $8.95 before the bell.

The company said Alex Denner - investor Carl Icahn's former healthcare lieutenant and Sarissa's chief investment officer - will assume one of the seats.

The other director would be selected by the board, "subject to Denner's concurrence," Ariad said.

Activist fund Sarissa, which holds a 6.46 percent stake in Ariad, has been seeking at least two board seats at the company, Reuters reported earlier this month, citing people familiar with the matter.

Sales of Ariad's leukemia drug Iclusig were suspended in October after an investigation by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration found that a large number of patients developed life-threatening blood clots or narrowing of veins.

The company resumed selling the drug in January after the FDA limited its use to patients with a specific genetic mutation and to those who are unable to use alternative treatments such as Novartis AG's Gleevec or Bristol Myers Squibb Co's Sprycel.

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