EntreMed hires ex-Merck official as chair

Rebuilding management to be Tarnow's first task

February 07, 2003|By Julie Bell | Julie Bell,SUN STAFF

EntreMed Inc. has hired former Merck & Co. Inc. executive Michael Tarnow as chairman, giving it a pharmaceutical industry veteran whose first job will be to rebuild a management team decimated by resignations.

Tarnow, 58, who EntreMed said now works as an adviser to a number of companies, was at Merck 22 years. He held such positions as head of corporate development and, later, chief executive officer of its Canadian subsidiary, Merck Frosst Canada.

Later, from 1995 to 2000, he was president and CEO of Boston's Creative BioMolecules Inc.

"Michael brings the leadership, insight and know-how to move EntreMed's business and science forward strategically," Vice Chairman Wendell Starke said in a statement.

"Clearly, it looks like a step in the right direction," Wells Fargo Securities analyst Alan Auerbach said, noting that Tarnow appears to have extensive experience and has plenty to do. "No. 1 is trying to fill the empty management positions."

The Rockville drug developer's co-founder, John W. Holaday, stepped aside as CEO in November and resigned from his remaining positions as chairman and chief scientific officer last month. President Neil Campbell has been running the company, which earlier lost its chief financial officer and head of research.

EntreMed cut its staff and narrowed its focus last year as it came precariously close to running out of cash. It has decided to continue current clinical trials of its anti-cancer protein drugs but will not begin any new trials without the financial backing of a larger pharmaceutical company. Instead, the company is focusing on drugs that are cheaper to make and less complicated to administer than those with proteins, which are large, complex molecules that generally are injected.

EntreMed's most advanced small-molecule drug is Panzem. The pill is in clinical trials in cancer patients.

The company sold Celgene Corp. the rights to one of its early-stage drug candidates in a New Year's Eve deal that grossed $27 million, which the company has said is enough to keep operating into next year.

Tarnow couldn't be reached yesterday. He said in a statement that he was "pleased to join EntreMed at this important time in the company's history as it transitions toward an exciting future as a small-molecule biopharmaceutical business."

Shares of EntreMed lost 8 cents yesterday to close at 95 cents.

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