Bon voyage: Voyager Therapeutics' CEO, R&D chief exit as beleaguered biotech looks to the future

Battered and bruised by a tough journey, the Voyager 1 space probe is exiting our solar system into worlds unknown; now, those running its earthly biotech namesake are taking a similar same path.

Voyager has shed a lot of weight and potential biobucks in the past few years, losing partners and pacts with AbbVie and Sanofi over the past two years.

Last year, it was also slapped with an FDA clinical hold on an IND for the program, VY-HTT01, because of issues with chemistry, manufacturing and controls (CMC). This marked a miserable time for the program, coming one year after Sanofi’s Genzyme unit pulled out of a collab for it.

A month ago, however, it got a reprieve, when the FDA lifted its hold on the gene therapy candidate in Huntington’s disease (HD), and “confirmed that the company may proceed with its planned phase 1/2 clinical trial.” It is now plotting to start this trial in Q4 in early Huntington’s patients.

RELATED: FDA says Voyager can trek on as it removes trial hold for Huntington's gene therapy test

This will be done, however, under new management. Chief executive and president Andre Turenne is to leave the company from next month “to pursue new opportunities.” Also out the door is Omar Khwaja, M.D., Ph.D., who has resigned from his role as chief medical officer (CMO) and head of research and development, effective at the end of May.

Khwaja is returning to Europe “to pursue a new scientific and clinical leadership opportunity,” the biotech said in a statement.

Maria Lopez-Bresnahan, M.D., SVP of translational medicine and clinical development, will now lead the company’s clinical development programs, including in HD.

Michael Higgins, chair of the company, becomes interim CEO while Glenn Pierce, M.D., Ph.D., board director, becomes interim CSO as they seek full-time replacements.

“We anticipate an eventful year ahead with the initiation of our planned Phase 1/2 clinical trial for VY-HTT01 for Huntington’s disease, the expected advancement of our earlier stage pipeline programs powered by our novel capsids, further investment in TRACER and other vector engineering technology, and potential strategic partnership and licensing deals,” said Higgins.

The biotech was down 3% after hours Wednesday night.