Checkmate CEO hits the exit as Art Krieg's crew struggles to warm investors to TLR9 strategy
Almost three years after picking up the baton from Art Krieg to help steer Checkmate’s TLR9 agonist deeper into the clinic, CEO Barry Labinger is out.
Alan Fuhrman, a board member and chairman of the audit committee, has stepped in to fill the interim president and CEO role, steadying the ship with his background in financial operations. A former board director at Loxo Oncology, Fuhrman has also been CFO at Amplyx, Mirna and Ambit.
The responsibility of working with Krieg, the CSO, to prepare its mid-stage drug for approval — and set up potential commercialization — will fall on a new permanent CEO whom Checkmate has begun a search for.
“Our strategic priority is to rapidly advance our vidutolimod clinical program toward meaningful clinical data, and I am excited to lead the Company at this important time,” Fuhrman.
Checkmate has essentially all its eggs in the vidutolimod basket, setting up combo trials over the years with PD-1 inhibitors: Merck’s Keytruda, Bristol Myers Squibb’s Opdivo and Regeneron’s Libtayo. The idea is that activating TLR9, a receptor that triggers a chain reaction resulting in pro-inflammatory cytokine response, in tumors can fight cancer even among patients who are refractory to anti-PD-1 drugs.
Labinger led the biotech to Nasdaq with a $75 million IPO with that strategy, although many investors appear to have lost their patience. The stock $CMPI, which debuted at $15, now trades at $3.93.
No reason was given for Labinger’s departure. Chairman Mike Powell wished him success in future endeavors.
“Mr. Labinger’s resignation from the Board was not due to any disagreement with the Company’s operations, policies or practices,” the company wrote in a filing.