Monday, April 14, 2014
The real story behind the
unexpected departure of Chimerix
Inc. President and CEO Kenneth
Moch 29 days after the company extricated itself from a public relations crisis
will probably never be known. It certainly wasn't because of the stock's
The stock climbed steadily even
as the embattled company tried to explain its initial refusal to grant
compassionate access to brincidofovir for Josh Hardy, a pediatric cancer
Hardy had contracted a
potentially fatal adenovirus infection following bone marrow transplant and
could not withstand the nephrotoxic effects of cidofovir, the marketed drug
upon which brincidofovir is based (see BioCentury, March 31).
But Chimerix had ceased
providing the antiviral under compassionate access in December 2012 - at the
end of a contract from HHS's Biomedical Advanced Research and
Development Authority (BARDA) that had funded the access program - in order to
focus resources on controlled trials designed to lead to FDA approval.
When the Josh Hardy storm
erupted, brincidofovir was in Phase III development for a different virus,
Between March 7 and March 11,
as the Hardy family launched a desperate campaign for access to brincidofovir,
Chimerix and Moch were vilified in both traditional and social media.
As the public outcry grew,
including death threats to company management, Moch was repeatedly quoted in
the media as saying Chimerix had an ethical obligation to focus finite
resources on Phase III trials and approval of brincidofovir for the thousands
of patients who needed it, and that the company could not grant compassionate
access to some patients and not others.
The solution was announced the
evening of March 11: FDA and Chimerix agreed on a clinical trial in which Hardy
could enroll the next day, and which also could help support approval of brincidofovir
in the adenovirus indication.
Shares of Chimerix gained $5.68
(30%) to $24.58 between March 6, before the crisis hit the media, and March 12,
the first trading day after Chimerix brought the saga to a close with a new
Overnight, the focus of media
coverage changed to how well Hardy was responding to Chimerix's potent
antiviral, and supporters of Josh Hardy tweeted thanks to Chimerix and praise
for the company, Moch and FDA for devising a solution that allowed the child to
Chimerix closed that week up
$8.41 (45%) to $27.14 and on March 17 hit a 52-week high of $27.69 (see "Chimerix
Most of those gains had been
given back by the time the company announced on April 9 that CMO M. Michelle
Berrey would succeed Moch as president and CEO "following his resignation
from that role to pursue other interests."
Neither Moch, the company nor
several members of its board contacted by BioCentury are talking about the
circumstances that led to his departure and the installation of Berrey into the
role, which she takes on in addition to her responsibilities as CMO.
Chimerix lost $2.56 (11%) to
$19.85 last week. The BioCentury 100 Index was down 4% last week, the NASDAQ
fell 3% and the Dow Jones Industrial Average was off 2%.
Inc. (NASDAQ:CMRX), Durham, N.C.
Department of Health & Human Services (HHS), Washington, D.C.
Food and Drug Administration
(FDA), Silver Spring, Md.