Flex Pharma, which develops therapies to reduce the cramps and shaking that are hallmarks of ALS and other neurological diseases, has a new CEO.
Dr. William McVicar, head of the company’s research and development arm, will assume the interim chief executive’s post on July 3. He replaces Dr. Christoph Westphal, who moves up to board chairman.
The change comes a month after the company presented results of a preclinical-trial study indicating that its lead therapy candidate, FLX-787, significantly reduced cramping and shaking, or spasticity, in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and multiple sclerosis patients. Flex is also developing treatments for Charcot-Marie-Tooth, or CMT.
Dr. Rod MacKinnon, who shared a Nobel Prize in chemistry in 2003, and Dr. Bruce Bean founded Flex in 2014. The two are leaders in the fields of neurobiology and ion channels.
Flex’s presentation last month was at the American Academy of Neurology’s annual meeting in Boston. The title was “Chemical Neuro Stimulation by FLX-787, a co-activator of TRPA1/TRPV1, for the Potential Treatment of Cramps, Spasms and Spasticity.”
Many people with neurological diseases have painful leg cramps while sleeping. FLX-787 significantly reduced both the frequency and pain of nocturnal leg cramps, according to the presentation.
“I am proud of the progress Flex Pharma has made to date, with the advancements made in the clinical development of FLX-787 for ALS, MS and CMT,” Westphal said in a press release.
“Now that Flex is about to initiate two Phase 2 studies in the U.S., this is the right time for me to hand the reins to Bill, given his extensive clinical development experience and successful track record of multiple drug approvals. I look forward to working with the team as chair and to returning to my full-time venture capital role as partner at Longwood Fund.”
“I am honored to be stepping into the leadership role, and personally want to thank Christoph for his immense contributions to the company,” McVicar said. “Flex is in an excellent position to continue to deliver on our strategy. I look forward to working with Christoph, the board, and the entire Flex team to accelerate the clinical development of FLX-787, with the objective of addressing the significant unmet medical needs of patients living with ALS, MS and CMT.”