The COVID-19 crisis has stalled clinical development activities and drug launches. Now, it has led to the sudden departure of a freshly appointed biopharma CEO.
Just over a month after joining Immunomedics as president and CEO, Harout Semerjian has decided to step down due to “logistical obstacles” posed by the pandemic, the New Jersey biotech said Wednesday.
There was no bad blood between the company and the now former helmsman—only the fact that the pandemic restrictions “created difficult personal and professional logistical challenges for Harout as he tried to move his family from London,” Immunomedics explained in a statement to FiercePharma.
To avoid disruption from any similar events, Immunomedics said it doesn’t expect to start searching for a new CEO until the global COVID-19 situation is stabilized.
Semerjian officially came aboard Immunomedics on April 16 from his previous job as chief commercial officer at French pharma Ipsen. Before that, he spent 16 years at Novartis Oncology, overseeing several launches and commercial activities including for blockbuster leukemia drug Gleevec.
His arrival ended more than a year of CEO vacancy at Immunomedics, left by Michael Pehl when he resigned in early 2019 amid an embarrassing FDA rejection for the company’s antibody-drug conjugate sacituzumab govitecan in metastatic triple-negative breast cancer due to manufacturing problems.
Semerjian was expected to lead the company at a critical juncture; it just started selling the first-in-class anti-Trop-2 drug under the brand name Trodelvy. Now, that responsibility will roll back to executive chairman Behzad Aghazadeh.
But Smerjian isn’t leaving the job empty-handed. After a little more than a month in his post, the former CEO is walking away with a cash payment totaling $1.07 million, according to a securities filing.
Meanwhile, Immunomedics is striding forward with the Trodelvy launch and its clinical development programs despite COVID-19, having secured $459 million in funding via a stock offering.
Following requests from investigators, enrollment in a phase 3 trial testing the ADC in HR+/HER2- breast cancer has been resumed at about 20 clinical sites as of mid-May, with more locations expected in the coming weeks, the company said. Readout from the confirmatory phase 3 Ascent TNBC study will also come in the middle of the year.