Gossamer rehires Hasnain as CEO after midphase flop

Gossamer Bio CEO Faheem Hasnain (Gossamer Bio)

Gossamer Bio has reappointed Faheem Hasnain as CEO one month after its lead drug failed in phase 2. Hasnain, the former CEO of Receptos, ran Gossamer Bio early in its history before handing off to Sheila Gujrathi in 2018.

Gujrathi, who worked with Hasnain at Receptos, took over as CEO in connection with Gossamer Bio’s $230 million series B round and saw the biotech through its IPO. The situation soured late last year, though, when Novartis dumped a rival to Gossamer Bio’s lead drug. Novartis’ decision to walk away from a DP2 antagonist raised doubts about Gossamer Bio’s prospects of succeeding against the same target.

Those doubts were validated last month when Gossamer Bio revealed its DP2 drug had failed phase 2 trials in asthma and chronic rhinosinusitis. However, rather than follow Novartis’ lead and abandon the drug, Gossamer Bio zeroed in on data on asthma worsening to argue a further trial is warranted. 

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Responsibility for overseeing the next steps will fall on Hasnain. After a little more than two years in charge, Gujrathi is leaving Gossamer Bio, although she will continue in an advisory role. 

The change in CEO, which follows a 12-month period in which Gossamer Bio’s stock price fell around 60%, gives the biotech a leader with more experience of running companies. Gujrathi was part of the C-suite at Receptos, which Celgene bought for $7.2 billion, but Gossamer Bio was her first CEO role. Hasnain has been CEO of Gossamer Bio, Receptos, Facet Biotech and PDL BioPharma.

That experience could prove valuable as Gossamer Bio tries to salvage its lead drug. Gossamer Bio came away from the midphase failure arguing the data support the advancement of the drug into a phase 3 asthma trial. Before that happens, Gossamer Bio needs to talk to regulators and firm up its thinking about potential partnerships or strategic alternatives for the program.

Hasnain will bring his experience to bear on that process but ultimately may still be unable to find a way to market for GB001. The midphase flops added GB001 to a list of failed DP2 inhibitors featuring drugs from Amgen, AstraZeneca and Novartis. Those companies walked away after the setbacks. For now, Gossamer Bio is sticking with GB001, although it focused more on other assets on a recent third-quarter results conference call.  

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