After five years at the helm, Deciphera’s President and CEO Michael Taylor, Ph.D., is stepping down just as the company is waiting for a key phase 3 readout for its lead drug ripretinib.
Taylor will be replaced by Deciphera board member Steve Hoerter, a 25-year-plus biopharma industry veteran who joins from Agios Pharma, where he has been chief commercial officer for three years. Hoerter has previously held senior positions at Clovis, Roche/Genentech, Chiron and Eli Lilly.
Deciphera says Taylor—who is retiring— will remain on the board of directors and will continue to have an advisory role with the kinase inhibitor specialist for the next six months.
That means he should still be around to see phase 3 data on ripretinib (DCC-2618), Deciphera’s KIT/PDGFRα-targeted kinase inhibitor as a fourth-line or later therapy for gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GIST) that is due midyear.
Phase 1 data with the drug were released at ESMO last year and spooked investors due to a reduction in objective response rates versus an earlier readout at ASCO, although the resulting selloff was dismissed by a JMP Securities analyst as an overreaction as the dataset was still maturing.
Taylor was in charge when Deciphera went public in 2017, raising around $128 million for its pipeline of kinase-targeting drugs. Along with ripretinib, its clinical-stage candidates are TIE2 immunokinase blocker rebastinib for solid tumors, in phase 1/2 testing, and CSF1R inhibitor DCC-3014 which recently had positive results in a phase 1 study in tenosynovial giant cell tumor (TGCT).
“I am very proud of what our team has accomplished over the last five years,” said Taylor in a statement. “Having worked closely with Steve since he joined as a board member, I am confident that he is the right person to lead Deciphera as we move toward our next goal of becoming a commercial oncology company.”
The company recently started a second phase 3 trial of ripretinib as a second-line treatment after Novartis’ front-line Gleevec (imatinib), which would make it a rival to Pfizer’s Sutent (sunitinib). Deciphera reckons ripretinib will tackle the full range of KIT mutations seen in GIST patients and so should be a strong challenger in the market.
Deciphera isn’t the only company developing a KIT/PDGFRα inhibitor, however, and its closest rival in that regard is Blueprint Medicines with its candidate avaprinitib (BLU-285) in phase 1 testing for GIST.
Deciphera claims DCC-2618 has the edge thanks to a broader inhibition profile across clinically relevant KIT mutations and a favorable safety profile.