Geron taps new CEO amid historic stem cell trial

After its last chief executive hit the road early this year, stem cell-therapy developer Geron ($GERN) has lured former Proteolix CEO John Scarlett to the top job. And the veteran chief executive's appointment gave the developer's stock a much-needed boost after the announcement late yesterday, Reuters reports.

Scarlett jumps on board about a year into the Menlo Park, CA-based firm's early-stage clinical trial of an embryonic stem cell therapy for spinal cord injury, GRNOPC1, the start of which made it the first firm to garner U.S. approval to test such a treatment in humans. His last stint as a CEO was at Proteolix, which developed the promising blood cancer drug carfilzomib until Onyx Pharmaceuticals scooped up the company in an $851 million deal in 2009.

"I look forward to applying the lessons learned from those experiences at Geron, where the company's differentiated human embryonic stem cell derived therapies and oncology drug candidates, imetelstat and GRN1005, have entered the clinic, and have the potential to become important human therapeutic products," Scarlett said in a statement.

Geron has navigated some tough terrain this year and could use some help from its new chief executive. The company hasn't landed partnership deals this year for its top programs as some had hoped. Its former CEO Thomas Okarma left the company in February after there were apparent differences about how the firm should move forward. And the firm's stock is down about 60% so far this year, Reuters reports.

With Scarlett in as chief executive, David Greenwood, who has been serving as interim CEO, is stepping down from the company's board. He's staying on as president and financial chief through the end of this year during a leadership transition.

- here's the Geron release
- and check out Reuters' coverage