Sarepta Abruptly Fires CSO and RNA Vet Krieg

7/24/14Follow @benthefidler

Sarepta Therapeutics is already one of the most controversial, volatile stocks in the biotech sector. And the Cambridge, MA-based company is in for another rocky day today, as a regulatory filing revealed that the company has axed chief scientific officer and longtime biotech veteran Art Krieg—who’d only been on board since January.

Sarepta (NASDAQ: SRPT) said in the 8-K filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission that Krieg was “terminated from his position”—it didn’t provide a reason. But a source familiar with the matter, who requested anonymity, says that Krieg’s charge was to discover new drugs and indications with the company’s exon-skipping therapy platform, and that Sarepta didn’t make as much progress on that front as it had hoped for.

The source added that Krieg didn’t have anything to do with the clinical development or regulatory work going into Sarepta’s Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy drug, eteplirsen, which had been in place well before he was hired in January.

Sarepta declined comment beyond what was in its 8-K. Krieg couldn’t immediately be reached for comment Thursday morning. TheStreet.com’s Adam Feuerstein has some more details about Krieg’s departure as well, including unconfirmed speculation about a possible board coup.

Still, even as my source sought to disassociate Krieg from eteplirsen’s development, Krieg’s termination isn’t good news. And, related or not, it comes just a few weeks after investors dragged Sarepta’s stock down, disappointed with the 144-week data from its tiny, mid-stage study of eteplirsen. Of course, Sarepta can turn all this around if the data it’s continuing to accrue are positive, or if the FDA ends up approving eteplirsen next year.

Krieg, meanwhile, is a well-known figure in RNA therapeutics, and left his post as CEO of Cambridge startup RaNa Therapeutics to take over the CSO role at Sarepta in January. The move helped validate the already-ascending Sarepta, to an extent: Krieg co-founded oligonucleotide drug developer Coley Pharmaceutical Group in 1997, which was bought by Pfizer in 2008, and then became CSO of the pharma company’s oliogonucleotide therapeutics unit for the next three years. Krieg was granted 275,000 Sarepta options when he joined in January—the first fourth of them were to vest next January.

Ben Fidler is Xconomy's Deputy Biotechnology Editor. You can e-mail him at bfidler@xconomy.com Follow @benthefidler

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