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Zafgen Exec Thomas Hughes Resigns to Take CEO Job at Navitor

Xconomy Boston — 

Thomas Hughes is leaving Zafgen, which he led for nine years, in order to take the top job at another biotech company.

The job change comes 10 months after Hughes resigned as CEO of Zafgen (NASDAQ: ZFGN) and took on a new role as the Boston company’s president and chief scientific officer. Zafgen announced Hughes’ resignation from that role Thursday after the market close. Soon afterward, Cambridge, MA-based Navitor Pharmaceuticals announced that Hughes has been appointed that company’s new CEO.

Hughes joined Zafgen in 2008, leaving a post at the Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research to take the CEO role at the biotech. He led Zafgen into clinical trials testing beloranib, an experimental treatment for Prader-Willi syndrome. The rare genetic disorder causes insatiable hunger and can lead to severe obesity. Two patients died in a Phase 3 study testing beloranib, leading Zafgen to abandon that drug in 2016 and turn its attention instead to ZGN-1061, an experimental weight-loss drug for type 2 diabetes patients. That compound is currently in mid-stage clinical trials.

At Navitor, Hughes takes over a company that has just entered Phase 1 studies testing lead drug NV-5138 for treatment-resistant depression. Navitor’s drug platform targets the mTORC1 cellular pathway, which the company says has potential applications that include treating central nervous system disorders, fibrosis, and rare diseases. Hughes is already familiar with Navitor, having served on the company’s scientific advisory board. Navitor emerged from stealth in 2014 last raised money in 2015, when it closed a $33 million Series B round of financing.

After Hughes resigned as Zafgen’s top executive last year, Zafgen appointed Jeffrey Hatfield to serve as CEO. Zafgen says Hughes’ last day will be in coming weeks but he will still keep ties with the company as a member of its scientific advisory board. Hughes is also stepping down from Zafgen’s board of directors. Zafgen says a search for Hughes’ successor as president and chief scientific officer is underway.

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