Matt Kapusta named CEO of gene therapy pioneer UniQure, its third leader in a year

Dutch gene therapy company UniQure has named Matthew Kapusta CEO.

Hoping to gain some stability, Dutch gene therapy company UniQure has awarded the CEO role to Matthew Kapusta, who took over as interim leader in September, and who now becomes the company's third CEO in a year.

The company, which developed the first approved gene therapy and what has been termed the world’s most expensive drug, today said that Kapusta was the unanimous pick of the board. He started with the company in 2015 as CFO.

"Matt has provided exceptional leadership over the past two years, most notably in his capacity as interim CEO where he led a comprehensive strategic planning process that has focused our product pipeline and streamlined our operations," UniQuire Chairman Philip Astley-Sparke said in a statement.

Kapusta was named interim CEO in September after Daniel Soland quit just nine months after taking over from Jörn Aldag at the end of last year. And Aldag stepped down shortly after the company gave up its effort to win FDA approval for its $1.2 million-per-course gene therapy Glybera after the agency said the company would have to run two more clinical trials before the FDA could make a decision.

UniQure’s claim to fame is that it developed the first commercially available gene therapy but its role has been more in teaching the industry where the upper limits of drug pricing can reach, even for specialized treatments that can cure a disease.

UniQure’s gene therapy treatment Glybera was approved in Europe in 2012 and can cure the ultra-rare disease called lipoprotein lipase deficiency. But at a price of more than $1.2 million, only one German doctor has been able to win insurance approval, despite the fact it can cure the disease and reduce the need for some costly hospitalizations.

More recently, GlaxoSmithKline has won approval in Europe for Strimvelis, its gene therapy for “bubble boy” disease. It is offering the one-time treatment at about $665,000, with a money-back guarantee.

UniQure is now focused on its hemophilia B program, which competes with a rival gene therapy from Spark Therapeutics.

Chairman Astley-Sparke today said the board decided that Kapusta was just the person it needed to bring UniQure's "lead program in hemophilia B into late-stage clinical development and position the program for commercial success."

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