Rebooted Merrimack names Sanofi Genzyme SVP as CEO

Employment contract
Peters will take responsibility for making a success of Merrimack's reboot strategy

Merrimack Pharmaceuticals has lured Dr. Richard Peters from Sanofi Genzyme to serve as its CEO. Peters will take charge of a rebooted, slimmed-down organization that is focused on pushing three anticancer candidates through clinical proof of concept.

The appointment ends the search for a CEO that began when Robert Mulroy resigned in October. Since then, Gary Crocker has helmed the company, during which time it struck a deal with Ipsen to offload FDA-approved cancer drug Onivyde. That deal led Merrimack to further cut its staffing levels, resulting in the company Peters takes charge of looking very different from that left behind by Mulroy three months ago.

Responsibility for making a success of the plan will fall on Peters, a physician-scientist who spent the past nine years at Sanofi Genzyme. Peters joined Sanofi Genzyme as a medical affairs VP after spells at Onyx Pharmaceuticals and Amgen, and went on to rise to the post of head of global rare diseases.

That position gave Peters control of a $3 billion-a-year business with 10 commercial products. The new Merrimack, which is about to sell its one approved product, poses a different challenge.

Once the deal with Ipsen goes through, Merrimack will have $575 million more in cash, far fewer employees and no revenue generating products. That puts the focus on getting three experimental candidates to clinical proof of concept.

"With the support of the board of directors and the expected near-term infusion of capital, several compelling clinical assets are now primed to realize their full potential. Together with the rest of the management team, we plan on continuing to take substantial steps to grow our robust pipeline to its full potential, with an eye toward early data readouts,” Peters said in a statement.

The cash infusion from Ipsen is expected to see Merrimack through to the middle of 2019, by when the merits of the company’s decision to tie its fate to MM-121, MM-141 and MM-310 should be clearer.