Fate Therapeutics (FATE) Shuffles Executive Board as CEO Christian Weyer Steps Down

October 12, 2015

By Mark Terry, BioSpace.com Breaking News Staff

San Diego-based Fate Therapeutics (FATE) announced today that Christian Weyer, company president and chief executive officer, will leave the company Nov. 30, 2015 and be replaced by Scott Wolchko.

Wolchko, who has been Fate's chief executive officer since the founding of the company, and chief operating officer since January 2013, will also join the company's board of directors. He founded the company in 2007 with Arch Venture Partners, Polaris Partners and Venrock.

Additional executive changes include Daniel Shoemaker, who was formerly chief technology officer, will step in as chief scientific officer. Stewart Abbott, formerly vice president of Translational Research, will become chief development officer. Cindy Tahl, who was formerly Fate's senior legal counsel, has been appointed general counsel.

Fate focuses on adult stem cell research. On May 27, 2015, it made its initial public offering (IPO). The initial projection was to sell 4.6 million shares at $14 to $15 per share, raising up to $73.6 million. The IPO launched at $6 per share and raised about $40 million.

Fate's stock has been volatile since it went public. Shares traded for $4.58 on May 4, 2015, rose to $7.36 on May 11, then down to $6.05 on June 15. They jumped to $7.93 on July 13, dropped again to $5.82 on Aug. 20, rose to $6.91 on Sept. 22, then dropped to $4.81 on Sept. 29. Shares are currently trading for $5.32.

WallStreet Scope said that today alone the company has lost 4% from open per share. Its monthly performance is at 5.5% and has an analyst rating of 1.6 on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being Strong Sell, 3 Neutral and 1 a Strong Buy.

Zacks, in an Oct. 9 report, downgraded from "buy" to "hold." Raymond James started coverage on Oct. 6 and gave the company an "outperform" rating and a target price of $8. BMO Capital Markets repeated an "outperform" rating with a price target of $15 on June 17. And Leerink Swann gave an "outperform" rating on Oct. 6. An average rating of five analysts gave the company a "buy" rating with an average target price of $10.05.
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The company has developed a number of strategic partnerships in the last several months. On May 6, Fate announced a research collaboration and licensing deal with Seattle-based Juno Therapeutics (JUNO). Juno paid $5 million upfront and acquired one million shares of company stock at $8 per share. Various payments could hit $50 million for milestones, as well as low single-digit royalties.

On June 5, Fate announced a two-year sponsored research agreement with Boston Children's Hospital to spur development of an adoptive immunoregulatory cell therapy to treat autoimmune diseases.

And on July 14, the company announced it had inked a research collaboration with Regents of the University of Minnesota to develop natural killer (NK) cell-based cancer immunotherapeutics.

"Cell-based immunotherapies are rapidly emerging as one of the most promising treatment paradigms for many oncology indications, and NK cell-based therapeutics in particular may offer a compelling off-the-shelf therapeutic approach to adoptive cancer immunotherapy," said Christian Weyer, president and chief executive officer of Fate, in a statement. "The University of Minnesota has pioneered the basic research and clinical investigation of NK cell-based therapeutics, and we look forward to collaborating with their expert team in the development of NK cell-based immunotherapies that may provide distinct advantages in transforming the treatment of cancer."

Of the executive changes, Bill Rastetter, chairman of the company's board, said in a statement, "Fate Therapeutics is well-positioned to advance its growing pipeline of programmed cellular immunotherapeutics, and Scott (Wolchko) is the perfect choice to lead the organization during our new phase of innovation."