Cipher CEO Shawn O’Brien leaves

  • Strong signs for push-out forces
  • After around two years on the job
  • Thanks and good wishes for O’Brien
  • Stephen Lemieux takes over in the interim
  • Search for a successor

( — Mississauga, Ontario, Canada, November 11, 2016 — Shawn O’Brien, chief executive of Cipher, leaves. As announced by Cipher Pharmaceuticals Inc. in a news release on Friday, November 11, 2016, Shawn O’Brien leaves the post as Chief Executive Officer at the specialty pharmaceutical dermatology company in a surprising move after around two years on the job.

No company wants a CEO to flame out in the first years.

The exact date of O’Brien’s departure was not specified. Obviously, it was an abrupt change.

Cipher will undertake a search for a successor.

O’Brien’s duties are taken over in the interim by Stephen L. Lemieux, currently Chief Financial Officer and Secretary of the Company at Cipher Pharmaceuticals Inc.

“Is pursuing other opportunities”

O’Brien’s departure is explained as follows. Cipher said: Shawn O’Brien “is pursuing other opportunities”.

The phrase “is pursuing other opportunities” is often used in corporate announcements and opens the door to speculation.

Precise information about the future plans of O’Brien was not immediately available.

Share price decline

The change follows a decline in the share price of Cipher Pharmaceuticals Inc. since December 2014.

Chaired by John Mull

Cipher Pharmaceuticals Inc. is chaired by John Mull.

John Mull, MD, is CEO of Typhon Group Limited, a private equity capital corporation. Mull is the founder and former CEO of Cipher Pharmaceuticals Inc.

On the job as CEO since 2014

Shawn Patrick O’Brien has been the Chief Executive Officer of Cipher Pharmaceuticals Inc. since June 30, 2014 and also served as its President since June 30, 2014.

Shawn O’Brien has spent the past 31 years in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology sectors and has extensive experience in building highly successful global enterprises.

He has significant international experience in business development, marketing, selling, licensing, researching and developing both small and large molecules, with strong sales results.

O’Brien is a founder of AltheRx Pharmaceuticals and served as President and CEO, where he built the business and secured funding to acquire and develop a mid-stage asset from GlaxoSmithKline Inc.

Previous roles include President and Chief Executive Officer of Profectus BioSciences Inc., where he secured two rounds of equity financing and a major vaccine licensing deal with Wyeth that provided Profectus with more than $100 million in non-dilutive funding.

O’Brien also served as President and CEO of Solstice Neurosciences, Inc., which was spun out of Elan Pharmaceuticals. At Solstice, he built a fully integrated organization of more than 150 employees and raised $125 million in private financing prior to the sale of the business.

Previously, O’Brien spent 17 years with AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals, where he held multiple senior-level positions in Canada, UK and the U.S., most recently as Vice President of Commercial Operations for Emerging Brands.

Prior to that, he was Vice President and Therapy Area Leader, Respiratory & Inflammation and Commercial & Development Group Director for the Oncology Therapeutic area, each of which had in excess of $1 billion in annual sales.

O’Brien began his career at The Upjohn Company of Canada. He received his Bachelor of Science degree from University of Western Ontario.


As a general rule, when a top manager announces to step aside with no permanent successor in place, it is a sign that the move was unexpected and too early.

Strong signs for push-out forces

It is not completely certain what forces eventually triggered Shawn O’Brien’s move.

The Push-out Score™ determined by suggests strong signs for push-out forces that may have contributed to the management change.

Read the full story in the report 42.2016 ($).