Five Prime taps Genentech vet Civik to take the helm

Five Prime Therapeutics has had bumpy few years, losing a couple of CEOs, facing layoffs and coming up empty on a pancreatic cancer trial. Now, it’s recruited a new CEO to steady the ship: Thomas Civik, who spent more than a decade at Genentech commercializing cancer meds.

Civik joins from Foundation Medicine, where he was chief commercial officer, and takes over from William Ringo, Five Prime's executive chairman who’s been filling in as interim CEO since September.

“Having led teams through the launch, commercialization and lifecycle development of several blockbuster oncology products, including some of the most revolutionary cancer treatments and diagnostics, Tom brings leadership experience to a strong executive team that will enable Five Prime to realize its full potential,” Ringo said in a statement.

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Five Prime has been without a permanent CEO since September, when Aron Knickerbocker left to “pursue new challenges and opportunities.” But the company hasn’t always had a revolving door of CEOs; Knickerbocker, formerly Five Prime’s chief operating officer, took over from Rusty Williams, who stepped down in 2017, 16 years after founding the company.

Knickerbocker exited the company after it laid off 41 workers, about one-fifth of its workforce. As interim CEO, Ringo axed another 70 jobs “across all functions” so it could concentrate its resources on three “wholly-owned, late-stage research assets.”

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One of those assets was bemarituzumab, which the company is testing in advanced solid tumors, including stomach cancer. Last month, Five Prime posted positive safety data from a phase 1 study in 79 patients with gastroesophageal adenocarcinoma—a stomach cancer that begins where the esophagus and stomach meet—whose cancer overexpressed FGFR2b.

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A second prospect, a CSF-1 receptor inhibitor called cabiralizumab, didn’t fare so well. In February, Five Prime reported that a study testing the drug alongside Bristol Myers Squibb’s checkpoint inhibitor Opdivo missed its endpoint in a pancreatic cancer study. BMS said it “has no near-term plans for additional sponsored development of cabiralizumab” but “may continue to assess future development opportunities for the investigational asset.”

One day later, Five Prime licensed out a family of monoclonal antibodies to Seattle Genetics, which will develop antibody-drug conjugates based on those antibodies.

“This agreement allows Five Prime to realize value from our pre-clinical pipeline while prioritizing our clinical investments based on upcoming data readouts for our programs,” Ringo said at the time.