Dendreon vets grab the helm of a troubled vaccine developer

A pair of Dendreon veterans has swooped in to take charge of the troubled Swiss biotech Mymetics with ambitious plans to move the company to the U.S., find some fresh financial backing and get back into gear developing a slate of new vaccines.

Biotech vet Grant Pickering, who has been scouting opportunities recently as executive-in-residence at Kleiner Perkins, is taking the helm of the company as CEO while Dendreon ($DNDN) co-founder Chris Henney takes the chairman's spot at Mymetics. The publicly traded Mymetics ($MYMX) has burned through about $64 million since it was founded in the late '90s, fueling the development of a pipeline with 5 vaccines for RSV, flu, HIV-1/AIDS, malaria and herpes. Its claim to fame rests on a virosome platform that promises a better approach to vaccine development. Now trading as a penny stock, though, Mymetics hadn't managed to make it "over the hump" of its latest financing challenge, says Pickering.

"For me the draw of vaccines was quite intoxicating," Pickering told FierceBiotech this morning. The company has an RSV candidate the new CEO wants to get into the clinic. "There's been hard work under way," adds Pickering. "They've been making good progress but hadn't pulled the financing together. We think we can deliver on that."

Pickering has been CEO of Juvaris BioTherapeutics, another vaccine developer that out-licensed its lead program in the fall of 2011, wrapping up its involvement in the development process. That left him focused on his role at Kleiner Perkins, looking for the new, new thing. Now he says Mymetics' best shot at success lies in one of the biotech hubs in the U.S. And his experience gained in San Francisco and Seattle make those two locations leading contenders in an upcoming relocation. 

"Mymetics' novel virosome vaccine platform appears to have the potential to address a variety of important infectious diseases that have yet to be addressed with prior vaccine technologies," noted Henney in the company's release.

- here's the press release