Akcea CEO Paula Soteropoulos leaves

  • Push-out Score determined
  • After about five years in the position
  • Accolades, praise and thanks for Soteropoulos
  • Damien McDevitt taking over in the interim

(exechange) — Boston, Massachusetts, September 23, 2019 — Paula Soteropoulos, chief executive of Akcea, leaves. As announced by Akcea Therapeutics Inc. in a news release and in a regulatory filing published on Monday, September 23, 2019, Paula Soteropoulos has left her post as chief executive officer at the majority-owned affiliate of Ionis Pharmaceuticals, Inc. after about five years in the role, effective September 18, 2019.

Among the 3,000 largest publicly held companies incorporated in the U.S. based on market capitalization, the average tenure of the CEOs who announced their departure over the past 12 months was 7.3 years, according to data compiled by exechange.

Paula Soteropoulos’s duties as CEO will be taken over in the interim by Damien McDevitt, most recently chief business officer of Ionis Pharmaceuticals, Inc., as interim chief executive officer.

Already a director

McDevitt is already a director of Akcea. Generally speaking, most director-turned-CEO appointments occur following a sudden resignation of the outgoing CEO and signal a lack of preparedness on the company’s part to groom internal talent. On the other hand, directors-turned-executives represent a blend of outsider and insider.

They don’t have the constraints of a pure insider when it comes to leading painful changes or making unpopular decisions, and they have more company knowledge than a pure outsider.

Having been a director, McDevitt understands the expectations and dynamics of the board and has knowledge of Akcea’s organization, risk-management practices and strategy.

No reason given

In the announcement, Akcea did not explicitly explain the reason for Paula Soteropoulos’s move.

Precise information regarding Paula Soteropoulos’s future plans was not immediately available.


Akcea said: “The company also announced the departures of Paula Soteropoulos, chief executive officer, Sarah Boyce, president, and Jeff Goldberg, chief operating officer, effective immediately. Ms. Soteropoulos and Ms. Boyce have also resigned from the Company’s board of directors. Ms. Soteropoulos and Mr. Goldberg will serve as advisors to the company to ensure a smooth transition.”

Share price decline

The announcement follows a decline in Akcea Therapeutics, Inc.’s share price of 36% since September 2018.

Chaired by Christopher Gabrieli

Akcea Therapeutics, Inc. is chaired by Christopher Gabrieli.

Gabrieli has served on Akcea’s board of directors since April 2016. Gabrieli is chief executive officer of Empower Schools, a non‑profit education innovation organization, and since May 2014, Gabrieli has served as a Partner Emeritus at Bessemer Venture Partners, a venture capital fund.

In the position of CEO since 2015

Paula Soteropoulos became CEO of the Company in January 2015.

Paula Soteropoulos joined Akcea as President and Chief Executive Officer and as a member of the Company’s board of directors in January 2015.

In connection with the closing of a development, commercialization, collaboration and license agreement and a related stock purchase agreement with Ionis Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (“Ionis”), which closing occurred on April 17, 2018 (such transaction, the “Inotersen Transaction”), Soteropoulos resigned from the position of President in April 2018, but remained the Company’s Chief Executive Officer.

Prior to joining Akcea, Soteropoulos was a member of the executive leadership team of Moderna Therapeutics Inc., a private biotechnology company, serving as the Cardiometabolic Business Unit General Manager and Senior Vice President of Strategic Alliances from July 2013 to December 2014.

Prior to Moderna, Soteropoulos spent 21 years at Genzyme Corporation in various leadership positions driving strategy, sales and marketing, business development, manufacturing process development, strategic capacity planning, and supply chain development.

Since July 2013, Soteropoulos has served on the supervisory board of uniQure N.V., a public biotechnology company.

Soteropoulos also serves on the advisory board of the Tufts University Chemical and Biological Engineering Department.

Push-out Score determined

The Push-out Score™ determined by exechange gauges the pressure surrounding the management change on a scale of 0 to 10.

exechange reached out to Akcea and offered the company the opportunity to comment on the score.

Read the full story in the exechange report 39.2019 ($).