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New Inspire CEO Shakes Up Leadership

New Inspire CEO Shakes Up Leadership [The News And Observer, Raleigh, N.C.]

From News & Observer (Raleigh, NC) (July 3, 2010)


July 03--Inspire Pharmaceuticals’ new CEO, Adrian Adams, is putting his stamp on the company’s top management team.

But that team will move ahead without longtime executive Benjamin Yerxa, whose resignation as executive vice president and chief of research and development takes effect Aug. 1.

Late Thursday, Inspire announced the new leadership team that includes revised responsibilities for some as well as plans to hire two executives -- a new head of research and development and a senior vice president who also will serve as chief technical officer -- to replace Yerxa.

Adams is "just building a more commercially oriented organization, I believe, and making a distinct separation between the respiratory and ophthalmology sections," Cowen & Co. analyst Ian Sanderson said.

Inspire sells eye-disease medicines and is developing a treatment for cystic fibrosis. The Durham company expects sales to exceed $100 million for the first time this year.

Adams most recently was CEO of Massachusetts-based Sepracor, a much larger company that was acquired for $2.6 billion last year by Dainippon Sumitomo Pharma of Japan. Adams replaced Christy Shaffer, who was the company’s first full-time employee when she joined in 1995 and became CEO in 1999.

Company spokeswoman Jenny Kobin said that the company’s increased focus on sales and the fact that its experimental cystic fibrosis drug is in the latter stages of the third and final phase of drug development factored into Yerxa’s decision to depart.

"Ben decided now is the time to make this transition," she said. "His passion is in the area of drug discovery and research. We are at the point where we are in the later stages of that right now."

Yerxa, 44, joined the company in August 1995, putting him among the company’s first employees, and his name is on a number of the company’s patents. He has been in his current position since September 2008.

Yerxa will serve as a $10,000-a-month consultant to the company through the end of the year, according to a company statement.

Yerxa also will receive a notable severance package: a $336,600 cash payment (the amount of his current salary) and a pro-rated amount of his performance-based bonus for this year. While he is a consultant, Yerxa can’t work for a company whose products compete directly with Inspire’s.

The revamped seven-person executive team includes: R. Kim Brazzell, executive vice president of medical and scientific affairs; Andrew I. Koven, EVP and chief administrative and legal officer; Joseph K. Schachle, EVP of the pulmonary business; Joseph M. Spagnardi, senior vice president and general counsel; Thomas R. Staab II, executive vice president and chief financial officer; Gerald W. St. Peter, senior vice president of the ophthalmology business; and Francisca K. Yanez, vice president of human resources. or 919-829-4766

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Posted: July 2010