Synta CEO bolts after less than a year, leaving a biotech on the mend

Anne Whitaker

Synta Pharmaceuticals ($SNTA) CEO Anne Whitaker is stepping down after just 9 months at the helm, heading back to Big Pharma as the company trims down and rallies around its cancer candidate.

Whitaker, who left Sanofi ($SNY) to join the biotech last year, is leaving "to pursue a professional opportunity at a large multinational pharmaceutical company," Synta said, declining to specify just which one.

After a three-year stint at Sanofi that culminated with running the French drugmaker's North American operation, Whitaker decamped for Synta in August, hoping to build "a world-class global oncology and immunology business" and reverse years of misfortune for the biotech. Whitaker presided over a 20% headcount reduction in February, trimming the staff down to just 90 workers and going all in on ganetespib, the company's best shot at success.

Now, with Whitaker out the door, Synta is moving on with its third CEO in a year, appointing Chief Operating Officer Chen Schor to the top spot and keeping the focus on ganetespib and its ongoing Phase III trial in lung cancer, Chairman Keith Gollust said.

"We appreciate Anne's contributions to Synta during her tenure here, including her work in streamlining the organization and prioritizing its rich pipeline opportunities," Gollust said in a statement. "We understand her rationale for leaving Synta was due to both personal and professional goals. This new leadership opportunity allows her to be located closer to her family. We wish her the best in her future endeavors."

Synta is expecting Phase III data on ganetespib next year, planning to file for FDA approval in lung cancer thereafter. Beyond its top prospect, Synta is at work on the preclinical STA-12-8666, expecting to file an IND in the first quarter of 2016.

- read the statement

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