Resignation galore: Exicure CEO resigns, CTO departs, 3 board members exit after December woes

Brian Bock lasted two months in the CEO and president posts before resigning from the top perch of Exicure on Feb 4. His departure comes alongside three board member resignations and the exit of chief medical and technology officers. 

The news is a blow to the Chicago biotech, which has no programs in the clinic but is betting on a neuroscience tie-up with Ipsen and hair loss disorders pact with AbbVie. The company's shares are worth about 20 cents.

The mass exodus comes after a tumultuous fall 2021, in which the company's board conducted an internal investigation that found former neuroscience group leader Grant Corbett, Ph.D., misreported data on a preclinical program throughout much of the first nine months of 2021. The program, in Friedreich's ataxia, was axed, the company said in December. 

When revealing those findings in December, Exicure said it would refocus the company and lay off half of its staff by January of this year. At that time, Bock was promoted from chief financial officer to CEO and president to replace David Giljohann, Ph.D., who transitioned to chief technology officer. 

RELATED: Ipsen puts down $20M in $1B deal with Exicure for rare neuro disorders

At the time, Giljohann and Chief Medical Officer Douglas Feltner, M.D., both said they'd depart the Chicago biotech on Jan. 31. Also in December, Exicure culled its immuno-oncology program cavrotolimod.

Giljohann did depart, the company said in a regulatory filing, and Feltner also left as of Jan. 31, a spokesperson confirmed. The spokesperson could not confirm whether the 50% staff reduction happened yet. 

Now, Bock is out after less than eight full weeks to "pursue other opportunities," the company disclosed in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing. Succeeding Bock is Chief Scientific Officer Matthias Schroff, Ph.D., who was promoted from chief operating officer just two months ago. 

Also departing are three board members, so the company can "right size" and "optimize" leadership, Schroff said in a statement. The board, now five members instead of eight, said goodbye to Timothy Walbert, Bosun Hau and Andrew Sassine this week. 

RELATED: Allergan pays Exicure $25M to discover nucleic acid hair loss drugs

Schroff tried easing qualms by saying partnerships with Ipsen and AbbVie were continuing. Ipsen doled out $20 million upfront and will dish out up to $1 billion more for two preclinical assets focused on rare genetic disorders Huntington's disease and Angelman syndrome, the companies said in August 2021. 

"We are strengthened by our valuable partnerships and have received reassurances in 2022 of continuing commitments by both Ipsen Biopharm Limited and AbbVie to moving forward our joint development plans and look forward to progressing these programs," the new CEO said in the press release.