Kezar CEO John Fowler leaves

  • After almost nine years in the position
  • Praise and thanks for Fowler
  • Chris Kirk taking over
  • Fowler spoke at length and said 132 words

(exechange) — South San Francisco, California, October 3, 2023 — John Fowler, chief executive of Kezar, leaves his position. As announced by Kezar Life Sciences Inc. in a news release and in a regulatory filing published on Tuesday, October 3, 2023, John Fowler leaves his post as chief executive officer at the clinical-stage biotechnology company, after almost nine years in the role, effective November 7, 2023.

Generally speaking, it raises questions when a CEO leaves his post at short notice.

John Fowler’s duties as CEO will be taken over by Christopher (Chris) Kirk, a former President and Chief Scientific Officer at Kezar Life Sciences Inc.

Already a director

Kirk has already been a member of the board of directors of Kezar. Having been a director, Kirk understands the expectations and dynamics of the board and has knowledge of Kezar’s organization, risk-management practices and strategy.

John Fowler’s move coincides with a management shake-up also involving the position of Chief Medical Officer.

No reason given

In the announcement, Kezar did not explicitly explain the reason for the move.

Precise information regarding John Fowler’s future plans was not immediately available.

On the day of the leadership-change announcement, the Company also announced that the board of directors of Kezar approved a reduction in force to prioritize the Company’s clinical-stage assets and extend its cash runway. The Company will reduce its workforce by approximately 41% to preserve cash resources. All employees affected by the workforce reduction will be eligible to receive, among other things, severance payments based on the applicable employee’s level and years of service with the Company and the continuation of group health insurance coverage for a specified time period post-termination. Each affected employee’s eligibility for severance benefits is contingent upon such employee’s execution of a separation agreement, which includes a general release of claims against the Company. In addition to the reduction in force, the Company will pause all research and drug discovery activities.

The Company anticipates the one-time severance-related charge associated with the workforce reduction to be approximately $2.9 million to $3.2 million. The severance-related charge, which is expected to represent cash expenditures that the Company expects to incur in connection with the workforce reduction, are subject to a number of assumptions, and actual results may differ materially. The Company expects that the majority of the restructuring charges will be incurred in the fourth quarter of 2023. The Company may also incur other charges or cash expenditures not currently contemplated due to events that may occur as a result of, or associated with, the workforce reduction, including potential impairment charges due to the pausing of the Company’s research and drug discovery activities.

Noreen Roth Henig, M.D., will be stepping down as Chief Medical Officer effective October 6, 2023. Zung To, SVP, Clinical Development Operations, will assume responsibilities for clinical trial execution and will oversee development operations.


Kezar said: “John Fowler will be resigning from his role as Chief Executive Officer effective November 7, 2023, and Christopher Kirk, Ph.D. has been appointed as Chief Executive Officer.”

Kezar further said: “On September 30, 2023, John Fowler, the Company’s co-founder, Chief Executive Officer and member of the Board, notified the Board that he will resign and cease serving as Chief Executive Officer, effective November 7, 2023 (the “Effective Date”).”

Share price decline since October 2022

The announcement follows a decline in Kezar Life Sciences Inc.’s share price of 87% since October 2022.

In the position of CEO since 2015

John Fowler became CEO of the Company in 2015.

Fowler will continue as a member of Kezar’s Board of Directors.

John Fowler is the Company’s co-founder and has served as the Company’s Chief Executive Officer since March 2015 and as a member of the Company’s Board since February 2015.

Prior to founding the Company, Fowler was Chief Executive Officer of HealthCPA, a provider of patient advocacy and insurance navigation services, from June 2009 to October 2014.

Fowler received his A.B. and M.B.A. degrees from Stanford University.

132 words by John Fowler

In the release announcing his departure as CEO of Kezar Life Sciences Inc., John Fowler received praise and thanks.

In announcing his departure, John Fowler spoke at length and said 132 words.

“Difficult but necessary decisions”

John Fowler stated: “These difficult but necessary decisions to streamline our operations and align resources around our clinical programs should put us on a path to long-term success, extending our runway past key data points, particularly the readout for our PALIZADE trial. I would like to thank Dr. Henig for her contributions to the company over the last three years and express my enthusiasm for Dr. Kirk’s leadership of Kezar moving forward. I am leaving the company in great hands, and I look forward to supporting the company’s success in the years to come. It’s incredibly difficult to part ways with so many talented members of our Kezar team who were instrumental to getting us where we are today. I want to thank every one of our departing employees for their dedication to our mission.”

Push-out Score for John Fowler’s move determined

The Push-out Score indicates on a scale of 0 to 10 how likely it is that John Fowler was pushed out or felt pressure to leave his position.

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

Read the full story in the exechange report 41.2023 ($).