Bottom-dwelling biotech Hemispherx dumps its CEO and vows to stamp out nepotism

Hemispherx Biopharma ($HEB), a penny-stock firm with a penchant for hype, has deposed its longtime CEO, promising to rethink its business model and implement "a strong financial austerity plan."

Chairman and CEO William Carter, who first joined Hemispherx in 1978, is out of a job after a majority of his fellow directors voted in favor of his termination, the company said in a regulatory filing on Thursday. Hemispherx didn't specify a reason for his firing.

The move follows what the company called months of "re-examining its fundamental priorities in terms of direction, corporate culture and its ability to fund operations." Hemispherx's board "has recently taken significant actions to reserve capital so the company can better achieve its commercial goals," which includes putting assets up for sale and implementing "a strict anti-nepotism policy," the company said.

Carter's departure "will harmonize the management team," the company said in a statement, "… and reduce the burn rate both short and long term." The CEO made about $2.4 million in salary, bonuses and stock options in 2014, despite the company commanding a market cap of only around $30 million.

Hemispherx has spent decades developing a Carter-invented drug called Ampligen, enduring two FDA rejections in chronic fatigue syndrome. Despite the drug's repeated failures, the company has made a habit of issuing press releases touting Ampligen's potential in a wide range of diseases, including cancer, swine flu, HIV, Ebola virus and, most recently, Zika virus.

News of Carter's firing had little effect on Hemispherx's stock price, which hovered around 13 cents on Thursday. The company's share value hasn't topped $1 since 2009.

- read the filing