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AltheRx Pharma adds $15M, new CEO and ex-AstraZeneca exec

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After gaining its lead asset from GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK), AltheRx Pharmaceuticals has made a series of leadership changes through a restructuring plan that features a $15 million investment led by Becker Ventures. Jim Bennethum, an executive vice president of Becker Ventures, has replaced biotech vet Shawn O'Brien as CEO of the fledgling drug developer. And the company has retooled its board of directors, which now includes the former chief of AstraZeneca ($AZN) North America, Tony Zook.

"We restructured March 15 and there were some changes in the organization meant to strengthen the team and move the asset forward," Bennethum, a former automotive executive, told FierceBiotech.

Bennethum said the company plans to roll out some big announcements soon. The Exton, PA-based startup is raising money to fund late-stage development of Solabegron, a beta3-adrenoceptor agonist, for overactive bladder. The company is also presenting data on the candidate, which the startup's founders brought in from GSK, this weekend at the annual meeting of the American Urological Association. The company is moving on without earlier CEO O'Brien, who has left the company "to pursue other interests," the new CEO said.

O'Brien previously helmed Solstice Neurosciences and Profectus Biosciences, and he told FierceBiotech in 2011 that AltheRx would build on the Solabegron program with additional compounds from drugmakers that were shedding assets. Yet Bennethum said the company is now solely focused on its lead urology drug from GSK.

AltheRx cofounder Eliot Ohlstein, a former senior vice president at Glaxo, continues to serve as chief scientist of the startup and leads development of the Solabegron program, Bennethum said. In addition to Zook, the company's board of directors has added Charles Becker, chairman of Becker Ventures, as chairman and Jeffrey O'Donnell of BioStar Ventures as vice chairman.

- here's the company's release

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