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To Replace Loiret-Bernal, GeneProt Needs Leader With Pharma Experience, Co-founder Says

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Shedding a sliver of light on the reasons behind the departure of GeneProt’s former CEO Cédric Loiret-Bernal, Denis Hochstrasser, a co-founder of the company and chairman of GeneProt’s scientific advisory board, said that the increasing maturity of the company required its CEO to hold a different set of skills. Loiret-Bernal was replaced April 19 as CEO by a management team consisting of the company’s general counsel and CFO. On June 6, GeneProt said Loiret-Bernal had also resigned from his position on the company’s board of directors.

“It’s very simple. Most startup companies evolve, and what you need is different at different stages,” Hochstrasser told ProteoMonitor. The first thing we had to do was raise money, and Loiret-Bernal did an outstanding job to raise the money and to get GeneProt started. After a while we had 115 people, and the challenge has become different and that’s why Loiret-Bernal left.”

Hochstrasser said Loiret-Bernal had done “a beautiful job,” but declined to say whether he had been pushed out, or left on his own.

While Hochstrasser said GeneProt has so far succeeded in delivering excellent results in its differential proteomics studies for Novartis, its primary customer, he said the new CEO should have experience in the pharmaceutical business, rather than just in raising money. Hochstrasser added that his comments should be interpreted as his personal opinion, rather than an expression of the company’s formal search criteria. As of press time, GeneProt officials could not be reached for comment.

In recent weeks, GeneProt disclosed through its mass spectrometry vendors that it had decided to indefinitely postpone its planned expansion to a new facility in North Brunswick, NJ. Originally, both Waters and Bruker Daltonics were slated to provide liquid chromatography and mass spectrometry equipment valued at upwards of $20 million for the site. Hochstrasser declined to comment on whether Loiret-Bernal’s departure was related to the decision to postpone establishing a second proteomics facility in addition to its flagship operation in Geneva.

Hochstrasser added that the decision not to expand to the US should not be viewed as a setback, but rather an unavoidable business decision based on currently weak economic conditions. “As a scientific founder, [GeneProt] is a great success and I’m extremely pleased,” he said. “The question of [whether or not we have] already now in a year a second facility in the US, that is just a question of the market. Just look at market conditions, and you have the answer.

“It’s not a setback; I would call it careful management of the company,” Hochstrasser.

GeneProt continues to have success in identifying important proteins for Novartis, Hochstrasser said, and has recently identified low abundance proteins such as specific hormones with potential therapeutic value. “We’re starting to find hormones, and we’re starting to find very interesting molecules at much lower concentrations than anything published so far with proteomics techniques,” he said. Hochstrasser declined to name the hormones GeneProt has associated with specific diseases, citing the privacy concerns of Novartis.

— JSM

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