Going so soon? Scholar Rock CEO makes swift exit, leaving Nagesh Mahanthappa back at the helm
Just over a year after taking the helm at Cambridge, MA-based Scholar Rock — and just as the company prepares to send its lead spinal muscular atrophy candidate to Phase III — CEO Tony Kingsley is already on his way out.
According to an SEC filing, the Biogen vet’s departure “was not the result of any disagreement with the Company on any matters relating to the Company’s operations, policies or practices.”
Kingsley declined a request by Endpoints News to comment on the reason behind his departure, or his plans for the future. He’s also vacating the company’s board of directors.
Scholar Rock’s stock $SRRK dipped nearly 12% on Tuesday morning, with shares pricing at $30.24 apiece.
“I am proud of what we have accomplished this past year as the Company prepares for the next set of opportunities and advancements in science and programs,” the outgoing CEO said in a statement. “Scholar Rock has tremendous prospects and I look forward to watching the Company’s success.”
Scholar Rock tapped Kingsley as CEO last July, just months after he joined the company’s board of directors. Before that, he was CEO and president of Taris Bio, which was bought out by Janssen back in 2019.
His swift exit leaves Nagesh Mahanthappa — founder and former CEO of Scholar Rock — back at the helm as the company searches for a permanent chief executive. Mahanthappa had spent more than eight years leading the company before handing the baton to Kingsley, and stayed on as a scientific advisor.
“I am honored by the opportunity to return to Scholar Rock to lead the Company through this interim phase and continue the tremendous progress we’ve made towards bringing our potentially transformative therapies to patients,” Mahanthappa said in a statement.
Scholar Rock reported a $27.7 million net loss in Q1, up from a $17.1 million net loss in Q1 last year. The company also spent $5.9 million more on R&D compared to Q1 2020, which it says partially reflects manufacturing costs for its lead candidate apitegromab.
According to chairman David Hallal, Scholar Rock is still “well-positioned” to launch a Phase III trial for apitegromab in SMA, a rare neuromuscular disease that’s already treatable by approved drugs like Biogen’s Spinraza, Novartis’ Zolgensma and Roche’s Evrysdi.
Unlike most drugmakers, which aim to treat the condition by targeting active myostatin, Scholar Rock is seeking out the growth factor in its latent, or inactive state. By doing so, it’s easier to identify and differentiate myostatin from other growth factors, Mahanthappa told Endpoints back in 2018.
Earlier this year, Scholar Rock read out topline results from the Phase II TOPAZ trial in type 2 and 3 SMA patients, which showed that 74% of both younger and older non-ambulatory patients who were treated with apitegromab and a background SMN upregulator — i.e. Spinraza — saw at least a 1-point improvement on the Hammersmith Functional Motor Scale Expanded (a scale commonly used to measure the physical abilities of SMA patients) over 12 months. Kingsley said back in May that a Phase III trial would begin by the end of the year.
The company had also said it was expecting the first data from its Phase I trial of its immuno-oncology candidate SRK-181 later this year.
“We have great confidence in Scholar Rock’s ability to continue to execute on its operating plans and believe Nagesh’s extensive experience, and deep knowledge of Scholar Rock’s innovative science and clinical programs, will ensure a smooth transition of leadership,” Hallal said in a statement.
Scholar Rock did not respond to a request for comment.