BioWorld International Correspondent

PARIS - The chairman and CEO of Genset SA, André Pernet, resigned and has been succeeded by Marc Vasseur, who returned to the company in March as senior vice president, in charge of the development program for central nervous system diseases.

Vasseur was one of the co-founders of Genset in 1989, along with its first CEO, Pascal Brandys, and was its chief biology officer until July 2000. Both he and Brandys left the company at that point, when André Pernet took the helm. Pernet had previously been vice president, pharmaceutical products research and development, of Abbott Laboratories, of Abbott Park, Ill.

In a statement, Pernet took credit for Genset's "successful transition to a genomics-based pharmaceutical company developing its own pipeline of drug targets and candidates." But his successor said that the company had an "extremely devalued public image" and blamed present perceptions of Genset on failures of communication, a lack of networking within the industry and the failure to negotiate drug development collaborations.

Vasseur told BioWorld International that "it is no longer the same company because the world has changed and we are now in the post-genomics era," but he insisted that Genset "has greater potential now than when I left." In particular, it has good capabilities in downstream development as well as in upstream research, he said.

Vasseur said he wants to correct the perception that Genset is a one-drug company. "Other research programs have gotten off to a remarkably good start. In the area of CNS drugs, we have made major advances in looking for new targets and pathways and now have a lot of value to offer to potential partners."

Furthermore, there is a "huge number of drug candidates in our collection of secreted proteins." But the company needs to find partners to exploit them, and Vasseur said he would be very active in looking for such partnerships.

The only compound Genset is known to be developing is the anti-obesity drug Famoxin, but its development has fallen behind schedule because of the company's acknowledged failure to produce reliable clinical batches of the compound. In April it announced that clinical trials of Famoxin would start in October, whereas it had originally planned to have them under way before the end of 2001.

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