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Christoph Westphal finds the exit at his latest biotech creation — after the stock cratered

Christoph Westphal

High-profile Boston biotech financier Christoph Westphal is leaving the helm of his latest biotech flop.

A little more than two years after debuting their IPO with a $16 share price, tiny Flex Pharma $FLKS announced that serial entrepreneur Westphal is handing the lead role to R&D chief William McVicar, at least on an interim basis, and staying on as chairman.

McVicar was recruited to Flex two months ago. Its shares closed Monday at $3.43, just a shrunken reflection of its one-time high.

Westphal achieved star status in the big Cambridge/Boston hub when he sold Sirtris to GlaxoSmithKline for $720 million in cash 9 years ago. GSK later laid off the Sirtris gang and absorbed the research work in its US ops, going silent on the work. Westphal briefly ran GSK’s venture group, SR One, then set up Verastem. He is also a partner at Longwood Fund, which he co-founded.

Verastem’s early 2012 IPO also debuted high, with a $10 price that helped shine a light on the biotech IPO boom to come. Later he turned the lead role over to Robert Forrester and then left the board a year ago after the biotech experienced devastating clinical setbacks, leaving Forrester working on a turnaround plan.

Among the biotechs Westphal co-founded are Alnylam, Concert and OvaScience.

Last fall Flex’s one and only clinical asset, FLX-787, failed a study for preventing nocturnal leg cramps among a high-risk group, though Westphal’s team insisted that if you left out one of the three sites with questionable results the data were good.

Flex is pushing ahead with with two planned Phase II trials.

“On behalf of the Board and the Company, I want to thank Christoph for his vision and entrepreneurial leadership since the company’s inception,” said Dr. Rod MacKinnon, Nobel laureate and Flex Pharma scientific co-founder, in a prepared statement.


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