Arcturus Therapeutics ousts CEO Joseph Payne

Axe and chopping block
The termination of Joseph Payne isn't related to is not linked to Arcturus' operational performance, ongoing programs, financial condition or financial reporting, the company said. (Sierra Murray)

Arcturus Therapeutics VP Mark Herbert will take over as interim president after the company’s board opted to terminate President and CEO Joseph Payne.

The move, which comes not long after the tiny biotech tied up with Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen on RNA treatments for hepatitis B, is not linked to the company’s “operational performance, ongoing programs, financial condition or financial reporting,” Arcturus said in a statement.

Herbert, who joined as vice president of business development and alliance management in 2015, will take on his new role immediately.

“Mark is a seasoned biotechnology leader who has gained a deep understanding of our strategy, business and partnerships since joining the company in 2015,” said Stuart Collinson, executive chairman of the Arcturus board of directors. “We are confident that Mark, working with me, the board and the management team, will help us to achieve our objective of developing innovative RNA medicines with the potential to transform the lives of patients with serious diseases.”

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A graduate of J&J’s JLABS incubator, Arcturus’ pipeline is based on a lipid-mediated delivery system and oligomer technology that it thinks will solve two challenges in RNA medicine: enabling systemic delivery to targeted tissues and boosting stability and potency while limiting toxicity.

In addition to its hepatitis B partnership with Janssen, Arcturus also has collaborations with CureVac, Takeda, Ultragenyx and Synthetic Genomics. And Arbutus is using Arcturus’ oligomer tech for its own hep B program.

Arcturus is also working on a number of internal programs, including those for cystic fibrosis, liver disease and the rare disease transthyretin-mediated amyloidosis (ATTR).