Stock Tanks After Market as Regulus CEO Quits Unexpectedly

Published: Jun 04, 2015

Takeda Consolidates Vaccine Operations, Jumps to Boston
June 3, 2015
By Mark Terry, Breaking News Staff

In unexpected news, La Jolla, Calif.-based Regulus Therapeutics, Inc. announced Monday that Kleanthis Xanthopoulos, president, chief executive officer and board member, was resigning immediately.

Replacing Xanthopoulos for all three positions is Paul Grint, who previously served as the company’s chief medical officer. Also, Neil Gibson, formerly chief scientific officer, will assist Grint through June 30, 2015 as President’s Fellow as Grint pulls together a new leadership team.

“I am extremely proud of our achievements at Regulus and am excited about the future of the company and microRNA therapeutics as they become a new and major class of drugs,” said Xanthopoulos in a statement. “RG-101, our GaINAc-conjugated anti-miR-122, is moving rapidly into Phase II and our ‘Clinical Map Initiative’ strategy is on track to create multiple clinical programs.”

Regulus was founded in September 2007 by Alnylam Pharmaceuticals and Isis Pharmaceuticals . Its focus is on microRNAs and has access to over 850 patents and patent applications related to oligonucleotide technologies that are used to target microRNA therapeutics, and more than 200 patents and patent applications directed to microRNA specific technology.

Xanthopoulos has been chief executive officer and president of Regulus since January 2009, and also acted as the company’s Principal Financial & Accounting Officer since June 2013. In addition to his work at Regulus, he serves as senior vice president at Isis Pharmaceuticals and as a member of the executive board at BIOCOM, Inc.

Prior to joining Regulus, Xanthopoulos founded Sente, Inc. and acted as the company’s chief executive officer and president. He joined Regulus in 2007. From June 2006 to when he joined Regulus, Xanthopoulos was managing director at Enterprise Partners Venture Capital.

Regulus said that Xanthopoulos plans to “pursue investment opportunities in the biotechnology industry.” Filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) show that in this calendar year Xanthopoulos exercised about 440,000 Regulus stock options, which were worth 38 cents a piece, and sold the shares ranging from $16 to $20 per share.

Not surprisingly, responded negatively to the news. Shares sold for $13.78 on June 1 prior to the news, and dropped precipitously to $11.66 on June 2. It is currently selling for $11.53. The company stock was at an all-time high on Nov. 7, 2014 when it sold for $22.08 per share.

“I am honored for the opportunity to lead this great company and particularly excited about entering into multiple Phase II studies for RG-101, with critical four-week combination data coming by year-end,” said Grint in a statement. “In addition, we remain focused on the advancement of the overall portfolio and have many key catalysts on the horizon. In the near term, we expect to initiate our first-in-human clinical study of RG-012, our anti-miR-21 for the treatment of Alport syndrome, and we are aggressively pursuing additional attractive microRNA targets to expand our leadership in the field.”

Will PfizerKline Become the Next Pharma Player?
The speculation surrounding a possible bid from Pfizer Inc. for struggling GlaxoSmithKline is heating up, after one closely-watched biotech analyst said in a note last week that Pfizer buying the company would “unlock access to its balance sheet and improve its tax situation.”

Gregg Gilbert, a biotech analyst at Deutsche Bank, wrote in a note to investors “Introducing PfizerKline” that he thinks a deal would be “materially accretive” for both companies. Gilbert estimated that a bid priced at $29.86 a share, via half stock and half cash, which would push up Pfizer’s earnings per share by 10 percent to 16 percent beginning in 2016.

“We believe that the company has a sense of urgency to create value by leveraging the power of its balance sheet to do needle-moving deals,” Gilbert wrote. “Since media reports in the past have pointed to the potential for a Pfizer/GSK combination, we are revisiting that theme.”

We want to know, dear readers, if you agree? Should Glaxo continue going it alone, or might Pfizer buy it and create one of the world’s largest pharma players in history?

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