BIO Taps King as Interim CEO after McMurry-Heath Ousting

BIO CEO Michelle McMurry-Heath_BIO website

Former BIO CEO Michelle McMurry-Heath_BIO website

Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO), the world's largest science and public advocacy organization, announced Tuesday it has tapped Rachel King, co-founder and former CEO of GlycoMimetics, to serve as interim President and CEO.

This follows a Wall Street Journal report published Sunday that stated then-CEO Dr. Michelle McMurry-Heath was on leave, according to a statement from a BIO spokesperson.

In a press release, BIO stated McMurry-Heath will now serve as an advisor to the executive committee of the BIO Board of Directors as the organization continues its search for a full-time successor.

Citing "people familiar with the matter," WSJ reported the decision came amid "dissent within the organization about its direction and concern about its results." According to those unnamed sources, some within the organization have disagreed with McMurry-Heath on her decision to stay out of any social issues not directly related to healthcare policy, while others are concerned with her management style.

While the CEO's departure was abrupt, it was not entirely unexpected. Since her appointment in 2020, McMurry-Heath has seen the organization through several unexpected challenges, from financial hardship due to a cancellation of in-person events in 2020 to layoffs and restructuring in 2021.

BIO's main focus is lobbying on behalf of those in the life sciences industry, which has recently proved difficult. In an early September press release, BIO stated it "staunchly opposed" the recent passing of the Inflation Reduction Act, which put a cap on the amount Medicare pays for drugs. 

The organization cited the act's "damaging and counterproductive provision establishing government price controls on prescription drugs," adding the act will "erect barriers to developing much-needed new therapeutics and combating future pandemics." Still, despite BIO's efforts to advocate on behalf of pharmaceutical companies, it was unable to influence the law or its passing. 

A Temporary Solution

As for the new interim CEO, BIO has chosen to promote from within. According to Tuesday's press release, King is a long-standing member of the BIO leadership and previously served as chair of the board. 

Previously, King served as co-founder and former CEO of GlycoMimetics and as a senior vice president of Novartis. Before those roles, she was CEO of Genetic Therapy Inc.

In a statement, King said she is "deeply committed" to BIO's mission, adding that the organization's strategy "remains on track." 

Paul Hastings, chair of BIO's executive committee and board of directors, sang King's praises, calling her a "highly experienced biotech executive" while also emphasizing the role's temporary nature.  

"We are delighted that Rachel King has agreed to take on this interim CEO role as we search for a successor," Hastings said.

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