Shire CFO Quits for Boston-Based Microbiome Startup

Shire CFO Quits for Boston-Based Microbiome Startup August 22, 2017
By Alex Keown, Breaking News Staff

BOSTON – Shire PLC is shaking up its executive leadership team as its chief financial officer departs the company to take the CFO position at an agriculture startup.

Shire announced the changes Monday as it shifts its leadership strategy to “sharpen its focus” as a leader in rare diseases. Poulton has been with Shire since 2003 and served in a number of roles. He became CFO in 2015 after serving a stint as head of investor relations and helming the company’s rare diseases biologics unit. Poulton will leave Shire at the end of the year for Indigo Ag Inc., a Boston-based startup that uses the plant microbiome to improve the productivity and sustainability of agriculture. As the company searches for a new CFO, Poulton will remain on the executive committee as well as on the company board of directors, Shire said.

Poulton called his time at Shire a privilege. On Monday he said the decision to leave a company he has been part of for 13 years was difficult, but he wanted to be part of a smaller organization where he could play a significant role in its growth and scale. As Shire pays down its debt and completes the integration of Baxalta, Poulton said it was the right time to leave. Poulton has been instrumental in leading the folding of Baxalta into Shire.

“Indigo has an extraordinary opportunity to empower both farmers and consumers, transforming the agriculture industry,” Poulton said in a statement issued Monday by Indigo. “As the company continues to innovate and scale, I am eager to support its financial and strategic capabilities, contributing to the success of this purpose-driven team.”

Shire Chief Executive Officer Flemming Ornskov said Poulton has “demonstrated steadfast commitment” to Shire during his tenure with the company.

Indigo Ag is a spinout of company maker Flagship Pioneering, which was formerly known as Flagship Ventures. The company uses genomic sequencing to predict which microbes are most beneficial to a crop plant’s health. Using that data, Indigo treats seeds as a complement to its own natural properties to improve health and development across each phase of life while boosting crop yields. Indigo Ag then provides growers with seed that has been treated with its “yield-enhancing” microbial technology. Indigo’s 2017 portfolio is focused on water use efficiency and yield in cotton, wheat, rice, corn and soybeans, according to company data. David Perry, CEO of Indivo, founded Anacor Pharmaceuticals, a company that was acquired by Pfizer in 2016, the Boston Business Journal noted.

In addition to Poulton’s departure, Shire tapped Joanne Cordeiro as its chief human resources officer and member of the executive committee. Cordeiro has been with Shire since 2011. She is taking over the role held by Ginger Gregory, who recently left Shire for Biogen. While at Shire, Gregory had the task of onboarding new employees who came over through M&A deals, such as those from Baxalta.

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