Don deBethizy, chief executive officer at troubled drug development firm Targacept (Nasdaq: TRGT), is leaving the company. He cited “personal reasons” for the decision. 

DeBethizy, one of the best known life science executives in North Carolina, is also leaving the firm’s board of directors, Targacept announced Monday.

The company has been pummeled by a series of drug candidate failures, which in turn undermined its stock price.

In April, Targacept said it would cut 46 percent of its work force.

As part of a reorganization, Targacept also formed the “office of the chairman,” the members of which will assume deBethizy’s duties while a search for a new begins.

DeBethizy will serve as an advisor to Mark Skaletsky, chairman of the Targacept board.

“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,” deBethizy said in a statement.

“It has been an honor to have worked with such high caliber people during my tenure,” he added. “While I have decided to step down for personal considerations, I leave Targacept well positioned with a talented management team and workforce, diverse Phase 2 first-in-class product candidates, well developed science and a strong balance sheet. Targacept is in good hands.”

Other members of the chairman office include:

  • Jeffrey Brennan, Senior Vice President, Business and Commercial Development and Chief Business Officer of Targacept;
  • Alan A. Musso, Senior Vice President, Finance and Administration, Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer of Targacept; and
  • Peter A. Zorn, Senior Vice President, Legal Affairs, General Counsel and Secretary of Targacept.

“Targacept’s Board of Directors has created the Office of the Chairman to guide the company’s strategic direction, resource allocation and pipeline development,” Skaletsky said. “The three executives appointed to the Office bring substantial business, financial, legal and industry expertise, and the Board feels that they comprise an excellent team to lead Targacept at this time.”

“On behalf of the Board and the entire Targacept team, I want to recognize Don for his vision, leadership and unparalleled passion that guided Targacept’s inception and evolution,” he added. “He has been instrumental in Targacept’s many business and scientific accomplishments, and we thank him.”