Chimerix named a new president and CEO to succeed Kenneth I. Moch, who it said resigned “to pursue other interests”—without saying whether the resignation was related to criticism for Chimerix’ initial refusal to furnish the company’s lead product candidate, the experimental cancer drug brincidofovir (CMX001), to a critically ill seven-year-old boy.
M. Michelle Berrey, M.D., will take the helm while also continuing as Chimerix' CMO, the position for which she joined the company in November 2012. Previously, Dr. Berrey was CMO at Pharmasset, a drug developer focused on the development of nucleotide analogs for the treatment of hepatitis C, from 2007 until its acquisition by Gilead Sciences in January 2012.
Chimerix said Dr. Berrey’s top priority will be to advance brincidofovir toward regulatory approval for the prevention of cytomegalovirus infection and other infections caused by DNA viruses.
Brincidofovir is an oral nucleotide analog that has shown in vitro antiviral activity against all five families of DNA viruses that affect humans, including cytomegalovirus (CMV), adenovirus (AdV), BK virus (BKV) and herpes simplex viruses. Brincidofovir has the potential to be the first broad-spectrum antiviral for the prevention and treatment of clinically significant infections caused by DNA viruses. Brincidofovir. Chimerix is also working with BARDA to develop brincidofovir as a medical countermeasure against smallpox.
"Chimerix has the potential to bring an important antiviral for prevention and treatment to immunocompromised patients who today have limited or no treatment available,” Dr. Berrey said, adding: “I am pleased with our clinical development progress to date for brincidofovir and the strength of the scientific underpinnings of our organization.”
Chimerix announced Dr. Berrey’s appointment yesterday—about a month after Moch and the company did an about-face and allowed four-time cancer survivor Josh Hardy to use brincidofovir in order to battle a potentially fatal virus contracted after a bone marrow transplant. Josh was one of about 20 cancer patients eventually allowed into a pilot study to use the drug, for which the company finalized details with FDA.
That about face on March 11 came about, however, after Josh’s parents took their case to local and national news outlets. Moch maintained that Chimerix would be committing an ethical violation by selectively providing the medicine—and in return was placed under armed escort after receiving personal threats.
Yesterday, Moch declined to discuss the circumstances of his departure in an interview with the News & Observer newspaper of Raleigh, NC, saying instead: “I am very proud of my accomplishments at Chimerix, including the significant increase in value of the company from $60 million to $600 million.”
Chimerix concluded a successful initial public offering in April 2013 that raised more than $102 million and was one of the first in a string of successful IPOs by biopharma companies over the past year.
“I am looking forward to exploring interesting opportunities in the biotechnology and biopharmaceutical arena, which is what I’ve done my entire life,” Moch told the newspaper.
Ernest Mario, Ph.D., chairman of Chimerix’ Board of Directors, said in a statement: “We are grateful for Ken's contributions to Chimerix and his leadership during the company's transition to a publicly traded company.”
Dr. Mario added, however: “We are now entering a critical stage of the clinical development of brincidofovir. Our goal is to complete the requirements for regulatory approval of brincidofovir as rapidly as possible and we believe Dr. Berrey has the qualifications and expertise in abundance to accomplish that objective."
"I believe Dr. Berrey has demonstrated the leadership skills and vision to guide Chimerix through this critical phase in the company's evolution," Dr. Mario concluded.