UniQure CEO quits after 9 months in the job

DNA

Daniel Soland has quit as CEO of uniQure ($QURE) 9 months after taking the job. Soland said the decision “was solely due to personal family reasons,” but the upshot for uniQure is more disruption at the top of its leadership at a time when it is struggling to make a case for its pipeline of gene therapies.

UniQure unveiled former ViroPharma COO Soland as its leader in December. Soland arrived with a CV burnished by his role in driving ViroPharma to its $4 billion (€3.6 billion) takeover by Shire ($SHPG). That track record was enough to persuade the uniQure board Soland was the man to step in when Jörn Aldag stepped down, but his reign at the top was short, unsuccessful in some important regards and leaves the company with more turmoil at the top.

“I regret the abrupt nature of this decision but believe that it is in the best interests of uniQure, its employees and shareholders to ensure that the business has the fully committed leadership it requires,” Soland said in a statement. “I have continued confidence in the company’s gene therapy platform, its research and clinical development programs and its leadership in manufacturing. I wish everyone associated with the company tremendous success.”

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“Tremendous success” isn’t a phrase that has been used much to describe uniQure over the past 12 months, least of all by its investors. The Dutch gene therapy specialist is down more than 50% on its IPO price. And the fall has been even steeper for those who bought in during the heady month of September 2015.

Since then, uniQure has been through two CEOs, lost its chief business officer and director of regulatory affairs, scrapped plans to seek FDA approval for Glybera and struggled to make the case that its hemophilia B program can compete with Spark Therapeutics’ ($ONCE) rival gene therapy.

The task of improving uniQure’s fortunes will fall, at least on an interim basis, on Matthew Kapusta. UniQure hired Kapusta as CFO in January 2015, and is now seemingly set to give him a decent run at the top of the leadership tree.

“At this time, the board has elected not to initiate a search process for a permanent CEO while the company focuses on implementing the corporate strategy being finalized with Matt and the leadership team,” uniQure Chairman Philip Astley-Sparke said.

The decision is perhaps indicative of uniQure’s confidence in Kapusta, who was becoming one of the more visible members of the leadership team even before news of Soland’s resignation broke. When uniQure posted its calendar for September and October last month, Soland was listed as attending one of the five events. Kapusta was down to speak at three of the events, a number that increased to four when he replaced Soland on the roster for the Rodman & Renshaw 18th Annual Global Investment Conference earlier this month.

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