Lycera CEO Resigns After Less Than One Year, Michigan Startup Plans to Keep Boston Presence

Xconomy Detroit/Ann Arbor — 

The CEO of Lycera, one of Michigan’s high-profile biotech startups, has left the company after less than a year on the job. CEO Bill Sibold, the former Biogen Idec executive who was hired to lead the Plymouth, MI-based startup in January, has resigned to pursue other interests, Xconomy has confirmed.

Sibold’s corporate biography no longer appears on the Lycera website, and Gary Glick, the University of Michigan chemistry professor who founded Lycera in 2006, confirmed that Sibold has left the company. Glick wouldn’t say whether Lycera has started to search for a replacement. Sibold didn’t respond to a request for comment.

“Bill is a senior and experienced biotech executive with an excellent track record at Biogen, but both he and the board felt that the fit was not optimal with a heavily science based company like Lycera,” said Jeff Leiden, Lycera’s chairman, in an e-mailed statement.

Leiden added: “All scientific, development and business development activities are on or ahead of schedule and will continue to move forward unchanged. The board remains extremely excited about the progress and prospects of the company. We wish Bill the best of luck in his next leadership position.”

The hiring of Sibold made news in our pages back in January. Sibold, then 43, said he was excited to take on his first position running a startup, saying that “Lycera can be a great company that can compete with anybody.” The startup raised a $36 million Series A venture round a year ago from InterWest Partners, Arch Venture Partners, Clarus Ventures, and EDF Ventures.

The money represents a big bet on a new method of treating autoimmune diseases, in which the immune system goes awry and attacks healthy tissue like a virus. While companies like Amgen, Abbott Laboratories, and Johnson & Johnson have developed groundbreaking treatments for many patients with these disorders, the products are injectable, and they disable part of the immune system, leaving patients vulnerable to infections. Lycera is seeking to go a step further with oral pills that are more convenient, and which are made to hit different targets on cells that can tamp down the excess inflammation without weakening people’s immune defenses.

Lycera, when it hired Sibold, agreed that its core scientific team would remain in Michigan while Sibold and the head office would reside in Boston to tap into the New England biotech talent pool. In an April follow-up story, Sibold said managing the two separate sites wasn’t difficult, since it was only a 90-minute flight to Detroit, and that between phone and e-mail, “we stay in touch.”

Lycera plans to keep its Boston office going, Glick says, noting that is where the company’s vice president of preclinical development, Robin Goldstein, is based. Nothing major has changed with the progress of company’s two lead drug candidates since investors agreed to supply the second tranche of the $36 million financing back in April, Glick says.

“The board is delighted with the progress of the company. Both of our programs are proceeding very well,” Glick says.

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