PARIS - Pascal Brandys, co-founder, chairman and CEO of Genset SA since its creation in 1989, is resigning from his operational duties effective Aug. 1 and will be replaced by Andre G. Pernet, former vice president, pharmaceutical products research and development at Abbott Laboratories, who became a director of Genset in March.

Moreover, Marc Vasseur, Genset's chief biology officer, also announced his resignation, saying he is leaving to pursue other projects. Both Brandys and Vasseur will remain directors of the Paris-based genomics company. Together they are believed to own shares and options representing 8 percent to 9 percent of the company.

In a statement, Brandys said Genset was "nearing the drug development stage" and that he "found it essential to bring in new leadership with direct experience in this domain. I have worked with Andre as he guided the board's strategic thinking towards pharmaceutical development. I believe he will be the right CEO for the task ahead.''

Paying tribute to Brandys and his "considerable achievement in building up Genset from a start-up to the prominent global company that it is today," Pernet said, "Genset has a remarkable array of science and tools in place to exploit the explosion of data regarding the human genome. In the post-genome era, Genset will play an essential role in materializing the transition from genes to drugs."

The markets reacted to the unexpected announcement somewhat positively, since Genset's share price rose a little in the following days. Yet Pascale Jordan, an analyst with Close Brothers in Paris, told BioWorld International she had been "taken unawares" by the Brandys resignation, although she added that it "was not really a surprise." For one thing, he had been with Genset for a good length of time and "might want to do other things." Despite reports of boardroom strife, she rejected the notion that he had been pushed, saying she was unaware of any opposition to Brandys among other directors.

More importantly, though, she pointed out that Genset's corporate strategy had undergone a major shift over the past year due to its success in developing an anti-obesity drug following its discovery and patenting of a gene coding for the lipolysis-stimulated receptor (LSR). Having obtained very promising results with the drug in mouse models, the company now had to decide whether to license it out or to take it into clinical development itself. It certainly had sufficient cash to do that, said Jordan, having issued $10 million of stock to Abbott Laboratories in mid-March and raising a further EUR55.6 million (US$52.4 million) at the end of June through a private placement of convertible bonds.

Jordan concluded by saying that the appointment of Pernet was a "positive sign of the company's transition" from upstream research into drug development, "following in the footsteps of biotech companies in the U.S."

Metabolic disorders and central nervous system diseases are two areas in which the company is now focusing its gene discovery and drug development research. Pernet, who spent his entire pharmaceutical career at Abbott, of Abbott Park, Ill., which he joined in 1973, is credited with the development of the anti-psychotic drug Sertindole, the anti-epileptic Tiagabine and the bipolar and migraine indications for Depakote. He also was responsible for developing Norvir, one of the three breakthrough protease inhibitors used to treat AIDS, and for the worldwide take-up of the antibiotic Biaxin (clarithromycin).

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