Karuna Taps New CEO, Prepares to Submit NDA for Schizophrenia Candidate
Boston biopharma Karuna Therapeutics appointed Bill Meury as its new president and chief executive officer, succeeding its current head, Steve Paul, the company announced Tuesday. Meury starts on Jan. 3, 2023.
The switch-up in leadership comes as Karuna prepares to submit a New Drug Application to the FDA for its schizophrenia hopeful KarXT (xanomeline-trospium) by mid-2023. Analysts and shareholders are wary that the sudden CEO change could be a sign that Karuna, known as a top M&A candidate because of KarXT, has “no imminent buyer” at the moment, according to Stifel analyst Paul Matteis.
Karuna’s stocks dipped 12% Tuesday following the announcement.
In August, Karuna unveiled initial results from its Phase III EMERGENT-2 trial, which showed that KarXT could significantly ease symptom burden in patients with schizophrenia.
All currently approved drugs for schizophrenia are classified as antipsychotics, typically targeting the D2 dopamine and 5HT-52A serotonin receptors, and come with several side effects, such as sleepiness and weight gain. KarXT acts along a different pathway, engaging the M1 and M4 muscarinic receptors, which allows the candidate to minimize side effects.
In EMERGENT-2, KarXT was able to significantly improve scores on the Positive and Negative Symptom Scale by nearly 10 points more than placebo. Treatment was also generally well-tolerated, causing no side effects typically associated with antipsychotic agents.
Alongside its results reveal, Karuna announced an underwritten public offering of $600 million of its common stock. The company closed its public offering a few days later, counting gross proceeds of $862.5 million.
Bringing the Commercial Expertise
Before becoming the head of Karuna, Meury served as the executive vice president and chief commercial officer at Allergan, now part of pharma powerhouse AbbVie. Meury was responsible for over 50 products totaling $16 billion in revenue, including over $3 billion in sales and marketing investment.
As one of Allergan’s top executives, Meury had led several global divisions across various functions, including marketing operations, sales, customer service, business analytics, pricing and managed care.
Meury was also previously the president of Allergan’s branded pharma division and the executive vice president of the commercial division for its North American brands.
In a statement, Christopher Coughlin, lead independent director of Karuna, said that Meury was an easy choice as Paul’s successor, given his “leadership and expertise launching and commercializing medicines for psychiatric and neurological conditions.”
After stepping down, Paul will become Karuna’s president of research and development and chief scientific officer. He will also serve on the company’s board. Coughlin will become chairman of the board.