Last year, ex-Pfizer exec Geno Germano joined synthetic biology firm Intrexon as president and CEO-in-waiting, intent on helping the company push forward its portfolio of human medicines. Fast-forward a few months, and Germano is leaving, prompted by a restructuring that has stripped those health-related programs from under him.
The biotech—headed by billionaire Randal J. Kirk—has decided to spin out all of its human health projects into a separate company called Precigen, and will instead focus on biological engineering programs in other sectors such as food, energy and environmental science. All worthy projects—but outside Germano's core expertise.
"I have come to realize that my preference is to work within the industry where I spent most of my life," said Germano in a statement, adding: "I therefore am leaving the company to continue my career in the pharma/biopharma industry."
Germano was head of the innovative pharma business at Pfizer until he was squeezed out during a re-shuffle related to a planned merger with Allergan, which was eventually abandoned. His departure means chairman RJ Kirk has cancelled plans to step down as CEO and transition to executive chairman of Intrexon.
"It has become clear to me that RJ is integral to the day to day operation of this company and that it is therefore appropriate for him to remain in the CEO role for the foreseeable future," said Germano.
Germano is not following the healthcare portfolio to Precigen, perhaps because the future of the unit is unclear. Kirk said that the spinout "will better position us for strategic decisions regarding our health business moving forward."
Precigen will start out with a substantial pipeline of projects, plus a 75% stake in Xogenix, which has gene therapies for cardiac disease currently in preclinical development. Intrexon bolstered its gene therapy tech in January with a deal to buy delivery specialist GenVec.
The health pipeline is currently headed by Ziopharm Oncology-partnered Ad-RTS-IL-12 candidate, which is in phase 2 trials in breast cancer and phase 1 in malignant glioma. Following after are AG-014 for inflammatory bowel disease and AG-013 for oral mucositis, both of which are in phase 1 testing.
"While we have been reviewing potential options for over a year, as our collaborators increasingly begin to move into the clinic, it is apparent that our collection of health assets may be overshadowed by the breadth and complexity of the opportunities the engineering of biology has afforded us," said Kirk.