Targacept (Nasdaq:TRGT), already in the midst of a corporate restructuring, must now also search for a new CEO.
Don deBethizy is resigning from his positions as CEO and chairman of the drug development company. In a statement, deBethizy said he “decided to step down for personal considerations.” But the move follows some setbacks for the company, most prominent the phase 3 failure of the company’s lead drug, a depression treatment.
In addition to stepping down from Targacept’s top post, deBethizy is also resigning from the board of the Winston-Salem, North Carolina-based company. For now, Targacept plans to fill deBethizy’s role by committee.
The company has formed an “Office of the Chairman” led by Mark Skaletsky, who is now chairman of Targacept’s board. Joining Skaletsky on the Office of the Chairman are Targacepts Chief Business Officer Jeffrey Brennan, CFO Alan Musso and general counsel Peter Zorn.
Targacept in April announced a restructuring that will lay off 65 employees, cutting the size of the company nearly in half. The layoffs are set to be completed by June 30. The remaining workers are those focused on clinical stage programs including drug candidates for Alzheimer’s disease, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and schizophrenia. The focus on those compounds followed the failure last winter of depression drug candidate TC-5214 in a series of phase 3 studies. The compound was partnered with AstraZeneca (NYSE: AZN).
DeBethizy co-founded Targacept in 1997 as a spinout from tobacco giant R.J. Reynolds. The company develops drug candidates that have an effect on the body’s neuronal nicotinic receptors. So far, the company has no U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved drugs. DeBethizy said in a statement that he leaves Targacept “in good hands” with a capable management team and a diverse set of phase 2 drug candidates.
“I am proud of what we have built at Targacept over the years and continue to believe strongly that the company will do great things,” he said. “It has been anhonor to have worked with such high caliber people during my tenure.”