Michelle Berrey — the woman who replaced Chimerix CEO Kenneth Moch in 2014 after the company notoriously denied a dying child compassionate use of its experimental treatment — has stepped down for undisclosed reasons, the Durham, North Carolina-based drug developer said on Wednesday.
Berrey, who served as the company’s chief medical officer prior to becoming CEO, came to Chimerix from Pharmasset where she was also CMO until the company was swallowed by Gilead in 2012, enabling the latter to generate billions in hep C drug sales. She steered the ship at Chimerix as the company sought to spin setback after setback in the late-stage developmental program of its oral antiviral drug, brincidofovir, for the prevention of cytomegalovirus (CMV) disease in kidney transplant patients.
Eventually, the company terminated developing the drug in that indication and shifted focus to testing the drug for smallpox, among other patient populations. Data from two pivotal smallpox studies in rabbits and mice are expected this year, and if positive will form the basis of a marketing application. Meanwhile, an IV version of brincidofovir is also in development.
Over the last three years, the company has kept a relatively low-profile. On Wednesday, Chimerix said a newly created office of the CEO — encapsulating three senior executives Garrett Nichols, Timothy Trost and Michael Alrutz — will man the fort while a replacement for Berrey is found.
The three will also continue to serve in their original posts: Nichols as CMO; Trost as CFO, senior VP and corporate secretary; and Alrutz as senior VP, general counsel.
Chimerix declined to comment on Berrey’s departure.
The company went public in 2013 under Moch — who quickly found a way to temper the firestorm of public criticism that emerged in response to the rejection of the compassionate use request in 2014 — by enrolling the child Josh Hardy in a small open-label trial set up in agreement with the FDA.
Moch, who is currently CEO of Cognition Therapeutics in an emailed statement told Endpoints News: “Actually, I notoriously got Josh Hardy the drug in 120 hours after our medical department (led by Michelle Berry) turned down the request from the Hardy family.”
Image: Michelle Berrey. CHIMERIX
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