Lycera Hires New CEO, Plans Move to U-M Research Center

Plymouth, MI-based biopharmaceutical company Lycera announced yesterday it has hired a new CEO: Kathleen Metters, former senior vice president and head of worldwide basic research at Merck. The company is also in the process of moving from Plymouth to a spot at the University of Michigan’s North Campus Research Center. Metters will continue to be based primarily in Cambridge, MA.

“Cambridge is such an important hub, and I can really leverage VC expertise here,” Metters said. “I’m very excited about taking this position. The science [behind Lycera’s drugs] is very intriguing.”

Prior to joining Lycera, Metters spent more than 20 years at Merck, where she held multiple leadership roles, most recently, senior vice president of external discovery and preclinical sciences.

The hiring of Metters caps a busy year for Lycera. Last fall, previous CEO Bill Sibold left the company after less than a year on the job. In February, the journal Science Translational Medicine published a Lycera study that validated its key cellular bioenergetics technology to treat autoimmune diseases. In March, Lycera announced that it would collaborate with drug giant Merck to develop its Th17 drug program, a deal that includes $12 million in upfront cash, research funding, and clinical and regulatory milestone payments worth up to $295 million.

Metters says the company is on target to begin clinical trials of its drug candidates in 2012. She says the challenge of preparing for clinical trials is one thing that drew her to the job. “It’s always hard, but it’s also incredibly rewarding,” she says. “We’re opening up a whole new area of biology.”

Metters also says she’s looking forward to leading a small company after working in big pharma for most of her career.

“I appreciate the dynamism of a small company and their ability to move things forward in real time,” Metters says. “I’m very excited to be back in this milieu.”

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