Rare Daily Staff
Rare disease cell and gene therapy developer Abeona Therapeutics said it terminated its CEO Carsten Thiel due to personal misconduct and appointed Head of Research and Development and Chief Medical Officer João Siffert as Interim Chief Executive Officer.
Thiel’s termination follows an investigation by independent members of the company’s board of directors and external counsel into allegations of misconduct towards colleagues that the board concluded violated the company’s code of business conduct and ethics and was inconsistent with its expectations for Abeona’s CEO.
The company did not release details of the conduct but said Thiel’s termination is not related to the condition of the company’s finances, operations or clinical programs, nor due to any disagreement with the company regarding its management of financial reporting, scientific data or other practices.
“We expect all employees, regardless of title or responsibility, to conduct themselves ethically and in accordance with company policies, and are committed to ensuring an environment of respect, integrity, and ethical conduct at Abeona,” said Steven Rouhandeh, chairman of the board and executive chairman. “The Board is confident that Abeona is in good hands while we search for a new CEO as João’s deep expertise in drug development and gene therapy will ensure that the company continues operating effectively without interruption.”
The board has formed a search committee to identify a permanent successor, with the assistance of a leading executive search firm.
Siffert has successfully led multiple drug development programs from pre-clinical to regulatory approvals in the United States and Europe and has held several scientific leadership positions in biotech and pharma, including programs in gene therapy.
In 2017, Siffert was appointed to the board of directors of gene therapy developer AveXis, which was subsequently acquired by Novartis. He served as chief medical officer for Ceregene from 2007 to 2011, where he was responsible for clinical development of adeno-associated viral (AAV2)-based gene therapies for Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases.
Siffert also led the R&D and medical organizations at Avanir Pharmaceuticals and Avera Pharmaceuticals before most recently guiding translational research, clinical development, regulatory, and medical affairs as chief scientific and medical officer for Nestle Health Science.
November 27, 2018
Photo: Former Abeona CEO Carsten Thiel