Rafael resets after phase 3 flop, parting ways with 5 execs and reinstating telecom tycoon as CEO

Woman tears agreement documents in front of agent
The chief survivors of Rafael Holdings' clearout are Mimi Huizinga, M.D., and Patrick Fabbio. (Getty/BernardaSv)

Rafael Holdings is clearing out its C-suite. Weeks after the failure of its lead cancer drug, Rafael has disclosed the planned departures of five executives as it adapts to life without a near-approval asset.

Late last month, Rafael, an umbrella company covering drug developer Rafael Pharmaceuticals, reported the failure of devimistat in phase 3 clinical trials in pancreatic cancer and acute myeloid leukemia. The failures derailed Rafael’s plans to become a commercial-stage oncology company and thereby raised questions about the futures of people it hired to lead its evolution.

Ameet Mallik and William Conkling, both formerly of Novartis, respectively joined Rafael as CEO and chief commercial and business officer in the spring. Rafael hired Mallik and Conkling because of their track records of bringing oncology drugs to market. 

With the time when Rafael may bring a drug to market disappearing into the distance after the phase 3 failures, the near-term value of those skills to the company has fallen. Mallik has resigned as CEO, effective Jan. 31, but will remain involved in Rafael as chairman. The board of directors decided that Conkling will leave at the same time.

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While Mallik and Conkling have only been at Rafael for a matter of months, they are veterans of the company compared to the other executives who are set to follow them out the door. Ashok David Marin, Brandi Robinson and Melissa Lozner arrived in August and September to fill Rafael’s top legal, corporate affairs and compliance positions. All three are set to leave by the end of January.

The chief survivors of the clearout are Mimi Huizinga, M.D., and Patrick Fabbio. Huizinga, who arrived from Novartis in October, is staying on as chief medical officer in a revised role that gives her responsibility  for R&D. Fabbio is adding the president role to his existing responsibilities as chief financial officer, a position he took up in September.

Huizinga and Fabbio will work with Howard Jonas, the telecommunications tycoon who set up Rafael and served as its CEO for several years before making way for Mallik in April. The trio will now work to revitalize Rafael by focusing on its early-stage pipeline.