FibroGen, a biotechnology company specializing in anemia drugs, has announced the resignation of its CEO, Enrique Conterno, amid a series of layoffs and clinical setbacks. Conterno cited “personal reasons” for his departure and will remain as a special advisor during the transition period. In the interim, Thane Wettig, the Chief Commercial Officer with previous experience at Intarcia Therapeutics and Eli Lilly, will serve as the acting CEO.
Conterno joined FibroGen in 2019 after an extensive 27-year career at Eli Lilly, where he played a pivotal role in bringing the anemia pill roxadustat to market in Europe and other regions. However, despite successes outside of the U.S., the company has faced challenges obtaining approval for roxadustat within the country, and has experienced several clinical setbacks. Recently, FibroGen underwent a restructuring in response to disappointing study readouts.
This year has been particularly challenging for biotechnology companies, and FibroGen is no exception. Hopes were pinned on positive study results to improve the company’s outlook, but unfortunately, all study readouts have thus far been disappointing. In May, roxadustat missed its mark in a Phase 3 study for myelodysplastic syndrome, followed by the failure of its only other candidate in human testing, pamrevlumab, in late-stage trials for Duchenne muscular dystrophy and idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.
The failure in the pulmonary fibrosis study resulted in significant costs for FibroGen, leading to a second restructuring since 2021 and job cuts affecting 104 of its U.S. employees, amounting to 32% of its workforce. The company’s situation is not unique, as more than 90 other biotech companies have also implemented job cuts this year due to various challenges in the industry.
Despite the setbacks, FibroGen remains committed to its ongoing Phase 3 study for Duchenne, and roxadustat continues to be marketed in nearly 30 countries. Thane Wettig, the interim CEO, is determined to lead the company through this critical study and beyond, expressing confidence in the company’s strong cash position and a highly experienced leadership team. Wettig reaffirmed their dedication to applying groundbreaking science to improve patient outcomes worldwide.