Abeona ejects CEO Carsten Thiel for ‘personal misconduct’

Former Abeona CEO Carsten Thiel. (Abeona)

Abeona Therapeutics’ CEO Carsten Thiel has been sacked after an investigation into “allegations of misconduct towards colleagues” and will be replaced immediately by head of R&D João Siffert.

Industry veteran Thiel—who was formerly chief commercial officer and EVP at Alexion—has only been with Abeona for a few months, joining the company in April to spearhead its march toward commercialization of its cell and gene therapies.

In a strongly worded statement, Abeona said its decision stems from “personal misconduct that violated the company’s code of business conduct and ethics” and was not related to the condition of the company’s finances, operations or clinical programs.

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“We expect all employees, regardless of title or responsibility, to conduct themselves ethically and in accordance with company policies,” said Abeona’s chairman Steven Rouhandeh, adding that the firm is “committed to ensuring an environment of respect, integrity and ethical conduct at Abeona.”

He also said Abeona is “in good hands,” with Siffert—who has only been at the company a month after joining from Nestle Health Science—taking the helm on an interim basis while the search for a new CEO plays out.

Analysts at Jefferies said they don’t expect much disruption with the handover, as Abeona has been steadily adding to its C-suite in recent months. That includes the appointments of Siffert, ex-Alexion executive Max Colao as chief commercial officer and Neena Patil, formerly of Novo Nordisk, as its general counsel.

Investors seemed to feel the same, with Abeona’s stock gaining ground after the news of Thiel’s abrupt departure emerged.

While he successfully executed on licensing in RegenxBio’s NAV AAV9 vector for four lysosomal storage disorders during his tenure, Jefferies says: “we expect his footprint to be minimal. Our views on the company remain unchanged in respect to their programs and competitive positioning.”

Abeona will hold an R&D day next week to update investors on its pipeline—headed by ex-vivo gene therapy EB-101 for recessive dystrophic epidermolysis bullosa (RDEB)—but has indicated it won’t discuss the latest matter any further and does not anticipate that Thiel will appeal the decision.

“With experience from preclin to drug approval, Dr. Siffert brings a breadth of leadership-based qualifications that should be relevant to ABEO's current stage of growth,” according to Jefferies.