Voyager founder and CEO to step down, no replacement yet

gene therapy
Gene therapy. (Image: NIH)

Voyager Therapeutics’ chief and founder Steven Paul, M.D., is stepping down to become an “executive science advisor.”

Paul is an Eli Lilly veteran who has been with the company since its inception six years ago, initially as president of R&D, then as president and CEO since September 2014. He will move to a new role focusing on preclinical discovery research and portfolio development, according to a statement by the biotech.

But there is no replacement on the horizon, as its board says it will now “conduct a retained search during which time Dr. Paul will remain in his current role until a new CEO has been appointed.”

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This all means that Paul will be taking a step into much earlier projects, while a new CEO is sought to work on its later-stage tests for VY-AADC, the gene therapy Sanofi didn’t want.

Voyager, a 2014 Fierce 15 winner, talked up Paul’s achievements. “Steve has been an integral part of creating the foundation for Voyager, advancing the lead and pipeline programs, its gene therapy platform and manufacturing capabilities, and assembling a superb leadership team that will continue the mission of building a world-class company,” said Mark Levin, partner of Third Rock Ventures and chairman of the Voyager board.

RELATED: Voyager Therapeutics, Fierce 15 winner 2014

“Our Parkinson’s disease program is nearing its pivotal stage with our recent IND clearance for VY-AADC, which has the potential to improve the disabling motor symptoms of a disease that afflicts hundreds of thousands of patients in the advanced stages,” Paul said.

“Our preclinical programs are also advancing towards the clinic, and with all of these programs in motion, in my new role, I look forward to working with the team and the board to advance further this exciting platform and ensuring a smooth transition with the new CEO. Having the opportunity to help create the Company from concept, and then immerse myself over the past six years in its development, has been one of the truly satisfying accomplishments of my career.”

This comes three months after Sanofi walked away from the Parkinson’s gene therapy covered by its $845 million alliance with the company. The decision gave Voyager the full global rights to VY-AADC, but left it without a partner as it geared up for a pivotal global phase 2/3 clinical trial.

At the time, Voyager said Sanofi’s decision as a result of the Big Pharma’s desire to own the U.S. rights to the gene therapy. A formal reason for the CEO change was not revealed, but the biotech said it was not related to the Sanofi decision. 

RELATED: Sanofi embarks on an $845M gene therapy R&D odyssey with Voyager