CEO Reasserts Control Over Biotech Developer of Muscular Dystrophy Drug

A few days ago, I posted an article about a biotech company called Sarepta Therapeutics that was experiencing potentially crippling internal acrimony. Things seem to be settling down, allowing Sarepta to get back to work seeking regulatory approval for a highly anticipated medication.

Here’s the background, framed in human terms, from my earlier piece:

Imagine for a harrowing moment that your child has a debilitating, deadly disease for which there’s no cure. A biotech company has a drug that might arrest your child’s decline, maybe keep him out of a wheelchair, possibly add years or decades to his life. It would be tough—no, unbearable—to watch infighting at the company impede access to the medication.

“It’s heartbreaking,” Mindy Leffler told me by phone. … Her son Aidan, 11, has Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD), an inherited muscle-wasting disease that afflicts 1 in 3,500 boys born in the U.S. DMD robs its victims of the ability to walk in early adolescence. Pulmonary or other complications typically kill sufferers in their twenties. Leffler was reacting to a regulatory filing and related news reports about the firing of a key executive at Sarepta [which is] is seeking Food and Drug Administration approval for a DMD treatment that could keep Aidan on his feet and extend his life.

As I explained in the initial piece, a lot of the tension at Sarepta stemmed from complaints by former executives to the company’s board of directors about the management style of Chief Executive Officer Chris Garabedian, a strong-willed leader spearheading the campaign for approval of the DMD drug, eteplirsen. Now it appears Garabedian has prevailed in a power struggle with his board chairman—or, I should say, ex-board chairman.

Late on Thursday, Sarepta announced that William Goolsbee had resigned as chairman of the board and would henceforth serve as an independent director. John Hodgman, another member of the board, will take over as interim chairman, the company said.

A Sarepta press release continued: “The company’s board of directors also announced that it fully supports Sarepta president and chief executive officer Chris Garabedian to lead the company as it advances its lead program eteplirsen for Duchenne muscular dystrophy.”

Garabedian was quoted praising Hodgman for bringing “a wealth of operational expertise to his role as interim chairman of Sarepta, drawing upon his experience as chief financial officer of Intermune and many years of serving in senior leadership positions, including as Chairman and CEO of public companies, within the industry.”

Hodgman was also quoted: “We have full confidence in Chris Garabedian to continue to provide strategic and operational leadership,” he said, “including driving Sarepta’s clinical trial strategy as well as management of our interactions with the FDA.”

In other words, Garabedian is fully in charge.

Mindy Leffler’s take? “Good news.”

    Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.