Drug development firm Targacept (Nasdaq: TRGT), which recently has laid off much of its staff and cut back on drug development, has hired former Solvay executive Stephen Hill as its new chief executive officer.

Hill, an MD, assumes the job as of Dec. 1.

He also will become a member of the Targacept board.

Solvay was acquired by Abbott Labs in 2010. He also was CEO at ArQule and has been an executive with F. Hoffman-La Roche where he at one time was global head of clinical development.

“Steve’s appointment is the culmination of a robust selection process designed to identify the right person to take the helm at Targacept and drive value creation,” said Mark Skaletsky, chairman of Targacept board.“Steve is a seasoned leader with an impressive background of achievement. He brings to Targacept substantial executive, operational and portfolio development experience. We welcome Steve to the organization and look forward to working with him in the years to come.”

Hill has served seven years with the National Health Service in the United Kingdom in General and Orthopedic Surgery and is a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons of England. He received his medical degree from St. Catherine’s College at Oxford University.

Targacept offered Hill the option of purchasing 400,000 shares of company stock at the price closes on the first day he is employed.

Last month, Targacept cut another 28 workers and will shut down its laboratory operations by year’s end.

Recent failures in potential products, including one in September, have led to drastic cutbacks at the company, which for years has been one of the bright spots in North Carolina’s life sciences industry.

Targacept said the new cutbacks involved 38 percent of its remaining work force, cutting its total to 43.

Targacept reported having $195 million in cash and investments as of Monday and estimated that its assets ”will be sufficient to fund its operating requirements through at least 2015.”

 In September, Targacept announced that compound TC-5619 failed in a phase 2 clinical trial. AstraZeneca chose not to license the compound from Targacept last year.

As a result of the failure, Targacept said it would drop further development of it. 

Targacept laid off much of its work force in April after a potential Alzheimer’s treatment failed, and its chief executive officer Don deBethizy resigned shortly thereafter.