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Regulus Therapeutics CEO Xanthopoulos Quits Unexpectedly

Xconomy San Diego — 

Kleanthis Xanthopoulos, who has served more than seven years at the helm of San Diego microRNA drug developer Regulus Therapeutics (NASDAQ: RGLS) unexpectedly resigned as CEO and from the company’s board, according to a statement from the company.

The company named Paul Grint, who previously served as chief medical officer at Regulus, as CEO and board member. Regulus also named Neil Gibson, who has served as chief scientific officer, as a president’s fellow through June 30 to assist Grint form a new leadership team.

Regulus, founded in September 2007 as a joint venture between Cambridge, MA-based Alnylam Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: ALNY) and Carlsbad, CA-based Isis Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: ISIS), and Xanthopoulos was named CEO a few months later.

Kleanthis Xanthopoulos

Kleanthis Xanthopoulos

According to documents filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Xanthopoulos this calendar year has exercised roughly 440,000 Regulus stock options, worth 38 cents each, selling the shares in a price range of $16 to $20. All the transactions were part of a regulated share sale plan that was put into place last November. Share sale plans for executives, known as “Rule 10b5-1” plans by the SEC, are meant to make insider sales more transparent, although they have come under scrutiny from regulators in recent years.

Investors have not taken well to the news of Xanthopoulos’s departure. As of this writing, Regulus shares have fallen more than 15 percent, or $2.12 this morning, to $11.66 apiece.

The company had been banking on its hepatitis C treatment to be an improvement upon the current curative treatments from Gilead Sciences and AbbVie, which require taking pills over several weeks. But data released in February sidelined hopes of a potential one-shot cure for hep C.

Before joining Regulus, Xanthopoulos was a managing director at San Diego’s Enterprise Partners Venture Capital and the co-founder and CEO of San Diego’s Anadys Pharmaceuticals.

In the company’s statement, Xanthopoulos is quoted as expecially proud of advancing microRNA therapeutics as a major new class of drugs, with RG-101 moving into mid-stage trials. Regulus said Xanthopoulos resigned “to pursue investment opportunities in the biotechnology industry.”

—Alex Lash contributed to this report