OvaScience Slashes 50% of Workforce, Replaces CEO

OvaScience Slashes 50% of Workforce, Replaces CEO June 22, 2017
By Alex Keown, BioSpace.com Breaking News Staff

WALTHAM, Mass. – Shares of embattled OvaScience were up more than 8 percent in premarket trading this morning after the beleaguered company named a new chief executive officer and slashed its employee count by half.

The company’s top spot has been open for about six months following the December 2016 resignation of Harald Stock. Chief Operating Officer Paul Chapman also resigned at the same time. The resignations were announced as part of a corporate restructuring that resulted in the termination of 30 percent of its workforce. The new CEO is Christopher Kroeger who has extensive experience “leading, building and advising development-stage therapeutic and medical device companies.” Kroeger is the former CEO of North Carolina-based Cardioxyl Pharmaceuticals, a company acquired by Bristol-Myers Squibb in 2015. Kroeger was instrumental in negotiating that sale. As CEO of Cardioxyl, Kroeger also oversaw the preclinical and clinical development of a pipeline for acute and chronic heart failure, including CXL-1427, a potential treatment for acute decompensated heart failure.

That kind of experience is something OvaScience needs as it looks to turn around its fortunes. The company has been struggling to market its fertility products in the United States, in part due to the company’s lack of large clinical trials. This morning, the company announced a new corporate strategy that focuses on the advancement of two products in clinical development as opposed to its one approved product. OvaScience said its focus is now on OvaTure, in preclinical development and OvaPrime, in clinical development. The company is discontinuing non North American commercialization of its Augment program, a treatment designed to improve in vitro fertilization. Michelle Dipp, co-founder of OvaScience, said the company will look for potential North American partnerships for the Augment program.

Kroeger said he the new strategy is aimed at moving the two experimental programs through the clinic.

OvaPrime is a potential fertility treatment that could enable a woman to increase her egg reserve by repositioning her egg precursor cells within her ovary, where they may mature into fertilizable eggs. The company finished enrolling patients into a trial in Canada earlier this month and plans to have some data later this year.

OvaTure, is a potential next-generation IVF treatment that could help a woman produce healthy, young, fertilizable eggs without hormone injections by maturing EggPC cells into eggs in vitro, or outside of the body, the company said.

“I believe egg precursor cell-based treatments are a truly transformative approach to infertility for women and couples hoping to build biological families of their own, and I look forward to leading the team at OvaScience as we work to bring these treatments to patients,” Kroeger said in a statement.

With the international suspension of the Augment program, OvaScience said it was forced to cut half its workforce in order to maintain operating funds through the first quarter of 2020. OvaScience said it is expecting key milestones from its OvaTure and OvaPrime programs in 2019. Some of those milestones include data readouts of embryo transfers and the submission of human OvaTure for regulatory approval (clinical studies) by the end of the second quarter of 2019.

Shares of OvaScience closed at $1.46 on Wednesday, but hit $1.58 in premarket trading.

In addition to Kroeger’s appointment, OvaScience said Christophe Couturier, the company’s chief financial officer, is stepping down and will pursue other opportunities. Jonathan Gills, OvaScience’s vice president of finance, will take over the CFO role.

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