Former CEO Alexis Borisy Voices Mixed Feelings on CombinatoRx Saga

Xconomy Boston — 

Alexis Borisy stepped down from his chief executive role at drug developer CombinatoRx (NASDAQ:CRXX) last week after nine years on the job. His departure was revealed on the same day as the planned merger between Cambridge, MA-based CombinatoRx and Vancouver’s Neuromed Pharmaceuticals. I caught up with Borisy, an Xconomist, on the heels of the merger announcement to hear his thoughts about the deal and to discuss his plans for the future.

Borisy isn’t saying what his next move will be, but he sounds optimistic about his career prospects and the CombinatoRx-Neuromed merger. The merger deal initially gives owners of each of the two firms a 50-percent stake in the combined operation. Neuromed chief executive Christopher Gallen is expected to become CEO of CombinatoRx after the planned completion of the merger in the fourth quarter of 2009. Borisy credits Gallen with leading efforts at Neuromed to develop its lead anti-pain drug, called Exalgo, which is an oral, extended-release version of the opioid drug hydromorphone. The FDA is expected to say whether it will approve the drug on Nov. 22.

It’s been a difficult year for CombinatoRx and Borisy. The company’s stock lost three-quarters of its value when it reported early last October that its experimental osteoarthritis drug, Synavive, failed in a mid-stage clinical trial. To conserve cash, Borisy cut about two-thirds of the company’s staff, or about 100 workers, last year alone. He says that was a “miserable” experience to go through, especially after spending the previous nine years of his life founding and building the company. Also, Borisy says activist investors such as the Biotechnology Value Fund have bought up large stakes in CombinatoRx since the steep decline in its stock price last October.

“After we had the setback late last year,” Borisy tells me, “I felt an obligation, one, to … Next Page »

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