Editas Medicine has fired Chief Medical Officer Lisa Michaels, M.D., just 15 months into her tenure at the gene editing company.
The Cambridge, Massachusetts biotech was mum on reasoning for the termination, disclosed in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing that dropped after market close Monday. The termination occurred today, is effective immediately and is already reflected on Michaels' LinkedIn profile.
Michaels will receive her base salary for another 12 months, according to the SEC filing. Shares slipped more than 8% in after-hours trading to $17.73 apiece as of 5:44 p.m. ET.
RBC Capital Markets analysts called the news "incrementally negative" and wrote in a note that the firing "does not boost confidence" in a company with mixed clinical signals and high management turnover.
Cristi Barnett, vice president and head of corporate communications, declined to speak to the reasoning for Michaels' termination in an emailed statement. The company is beginning an external search for Michaels' successor, Barnett added.
"This announcement does not change our strategy or our focus on accomplishing our long-term and short-term clinical goals, and we are confident we can attract a world-class CMO to continue the progress we’re making with EDIT-101 and EDIT-301," said Barnett.
Michaels had spoken on behalf of the biotech just last month at the annual J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference, where she noted Editas was still deciding the endpoints for a potentially registrational trial of EDIT-101, its vision loss therapy.
Editas was the first to begin testing a gene-editing therapy in humans, but Intellia beat the biotech to the finish line with first-in-human results in June 2021. When Editas followed suit with its own early results for EDIT-101 in September 2021, Michaels joked to Fierce Biotech that she was "mad at them for reporting data before me."
Analysts questioned the biotech's limited data release despite Editas touting it as a win for the field. Improvement was seen in just one patient, and many questions about safety and efficacy were left unanswered. The company is planning to report more data this year on EDIT-101 and move additional candidates towards the clinic.
Michaels joined Editas in November 2020 after an 11.5-year stint at Bayer, where she worked her way up to head of rare disease cell and gene therapy. Prior to the German Big Pharma, Michaels was an associate professor for six years at Rutgers University and an associate professor for 13 years before that at the University of Medicine & Dentistry of New Jersey.
The early months of the year appear to be a harbinger of bad news for Editas' leadership over the years. Former CEO Katrine Bosley hit the exit in January 2019. And last winter, CEO Cynthia Collins left in February 2021, just a month after Chief Scientific Officer Charles Albright, Ph.D., departed.
Editor's note: This article was updated at 9:15 a.m. ET on Feb. 8 to include analyst commentary. This article was updated at 10:03 p.m. ET on Feb. 7 to include information from a company spokesperson.