Adverum loses CEO, CMO in quick-fire departures

Boardroom (Image: Jo Johnston / Pixabay)
Adverum said Salzman agrees it will be best served by employing a leader local to its headquarters. (Jo Johnston/Pixabay)

The CEO and CMO of Adverum Biotechnologies have left the gene therapy startup. Adverum said Amber Salzman, Ph.D., stepped down as CEO and president by “mutual determination,” while CMO Athena Countouriotis, M.D., resigned after less than one year in the job.

Menlo Park, California-based Adverum framed Salzman’s departure as a result of her commute. Salzman has been travelling weekly from the East Coast to Adverum’s headquarters but the board now wants a leader who lives closer to its base. Adverum said Salzman agrees it will be best served by employing a leader local to its headquarters. CFO Leone Patterson is stepping up on an interim basis.

Salzman has long been based out of Philadelphia, where she worked for Annapurna Therapeutics before it merged with Avalanche Biotechnologies to create Adverum. The merged company kept its center of gravity on the West Coast but nonetheless saw Salzman as the best choice for CEO in 2016.

Less than two years later, Adverum and Salzman have changed their minds about the viability of the commute. 

“The board and Amber have agreed that at this important time Adverum is best served by a chief executive officer based out of company headquarters, rather than commuting weekly from the East Coast,” Adverum chairman Paul Cleveland said in a statement. “We appreciate Amber’s leadership in transforming Adverum into a clinical-stage company.”

As CMO, Countouriotis also played a role in that transformation but Adverum had less to say about her departure, stating only that she resigned on April 27—before Salzman’s departure—and will leave on May 11. The resignation comes 11 months after Adverum named Countouriotis as CMO.

During her brief stint at Adverum, Countouriotis oversaw the start of a phase 1/2 trial of its lead drug  ADVM-043 in patients with A1AT deficiency. Manufacturing delays pushed back the start of the trial by 12 months before Countouriotis’ arrival. Under the CMO’s leadership, Adverum just hit its revised goal of starting the trial in the fourth quarter of 2017, dosing the first patient days before the new year. 

Adverum has since completed dosing the first cohort of patients and recently administered its drug to the first enrollee in the second cohort. Linda Neuman, M.D., who joined Adverum in October as VP of clinical development, will take the trial forward as interim CMO.