Pfenex CEO Bert Liang leaves abruptly

  • After about seven years on the job
  • Praise and thanks for Liang
  • Patrick Lucy taking over in the interim
  • Search for a successor

( — San Diego, California, January 24, 2017 — Bert Liang, chief executive of Pfenex, leaves. It is an abrupt change. As announced by Pfenex Inc. in a news release and in a regulatory filing published on Tuesday, January 24, 2017, Bertrand C. (Bert) Liang leaves the post as Chief Executive Officer at the clinical-stage biotechnology company in a surprising move after about seven years on the job, effective immediately.

Pfenex will undertake a search for a successor.

Liang’s duties are taken over in the interim by Patrick K. Lucy, most recently Chief Business Officer at Pfenex Inc.

“Failure to comply with certain Board approval procedures for third-party contracts”

The sudden management change is explained as follows. Pfenex said: “The resignation of Dr. Liang … followed the completion of an independent investigation overseen by the audit committee of the Board … and with the assistance of outside legal counsel. The investigation focused on violations of the Company’s Board Approval Process Policy and related violations of the Company’s Code of Ethics and Conduct. The investigation determined that Dr. Liang had not acted in accordance with the Company’s Board Approval Process Policy and Code of Ethics and Conduct as a result of his failure to comply with certain Board approval procedures for third-party contracts.”

Pfenex added: “The Company does not believe its current operating results or previously disclosed operating results were affected by Dr. Liang’s actions, pending completion of the audit of the Company’s financial statements for fiscal year 2016.”


Pfenex said: “On January 23, 2017, Dr. Bertrand C. Liang submitted a letter to the Board of Directors … of Pfenex Inc. … resigning from all officer positions and as a member of the Board, effective immediately on such date. Following his resignation, the Board reduced the size of the Board to five directors.”

Precise information about the future plans of Liang was not immediately available.

Share price decline

The change follows a sharp decline in the share price of Pfenex Inc. since September 2015.

Dow Chemical holds 9.49 percent stake

Dow Chemical Company reported a 9.49 percent stake in Pfenex Inc. as of September 30, 2016.

Chaired by William R. Rohn

Pfenex Inc. is chaired by William R. Rohn.

Rohn joined the board of directors as the chairman in connection with Pfenex’s initial public offering in July 2014.

On the job as CEO since 2009

Liang served as the Chief Executive Officer of Pfenex Inc. since December 2009.

Bert Liang is a serial entrepreneur, scientist and clinician.

He is a founding CEO of Pfenex, and led the company’s successful IPO (NYSE MKT: PFNX) and secondary financings.

As CEO, he was selected as inaugural Chair, BioDefense Advisory Committee for BIO (Biotechnology Industry Organization), where he leads and advocates for policies in the Biodefense Industry, and inaugural Chair, the Biosimilars Council, a division of GPhA (Generic Pharmaceuticals Association), the leading voice for the Biosimilars Industry.

He was previously founder, Chairman and CEO of Tracon Pharma (NASDAQ: TCON); founder and Chairman, Coronado Biosciences (NASDAQ: CNDO); Site Head Biogen, in charge of Pre-clinical and Clinical Development and Vice President, New Ventures (partnered with MPM Capital).

Previously at IDEC, he was Vice President and Head, Hematology and Oncology.

Liang joined IDEC from Amgen, where he led the development to approval of various cytokines.

Liang has held academic positions at the NCI, University of Colorado and University of Vermont, where he headed Human Medical Genetics.

Liang is an alumnus of the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University, the Institute of Materials Research and Innovation, University of Bolton, the University of London, Regis University, the MIT Sloan School of Management, and trained in internal medicine at Brown University, Neurology and Oncology at the University of Michigan, with post-doctoral studies in molecular biology and genetics at the NCHGR and NCI at NIH.

He has authored over 75 peer-reviewed publications, chapters and books, and edited a number of volumes in the fields of Neurology and Oncology, such as Hematology-Oncology Clinics of North America, Neuro-oncology, published by Harcourt (now Elsevier) and is the author of two management books, including Pragmatic MBA for the Scientific and Technical Executive, and Managing and Leading for Science Professionals (What I wished I’d known when moving up the Management Ladder) both published by Elsevier (Academic Press).

Read the full story in the report 05.2017 ($).