Sara Gilgore, Staff Reporter
Bill Enright will step down as president and CEO of Gaithersburg-based Altimmune Inc. (NASDAQ: ALT), after leading the company through more than a decade of growth involving acquisitions and an initial public offering.
“I think this is the right time for me,” Enright said in an interview Tuesday. “I’ve been with the company a little over 10 years and transitioned this from a little lab in Birmingham, Alabama, through two acquisitions, and going public, and getting some solid clinical data in the last couple months, and then being able to raise almost $42 million. I brought a good team on board, and I think it’s positioned very well for someone to come and take it from here and move it to the next level.”
Enright’s decision to resign “involved a disagreement over the scope of his responsibilities, but is not otherwise the result of any disagreement,” the company disclosed in an Oct. 16 filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. That, he told me, simply refers to the fact that he has less autonomy as CEO thanks to the “typical transition from a private to a public company.”
Enright will stay on as chief, and on the board, until his successor is appointed or Feb. 22, 2019, whichever comes first. He said a search for his replacement is underway, managed by board members Philip Hodges, chair of the corporate governance and nominating committee, and Mitchel Sayare, executive chairman of the board. His departure comes soon after the company lost CFO Elizabeth Czerepak, who resigned in May. Consultant Will Brown as acting CFO amid a search for her replacement.
So, what will Enright do next?
“I’ve got to figure that out,” Enright said. “My strengths are in helping earlier-stage companies get to this point, and that’s where I’m probably going to lean, but we’ll have to see. … Looking for something else is a full-time job, so it’s not where I’m focused right now. I’m focused on continuing to move this company forward.”
Enright started in 2008 with the immunotherapeutics company, founded as Vaxin Inc. in 1997 to develop novel products to prevent and treat diseases. The company, with a pipeline anchored by flu and anthrax vaccines, later moved to Maryland and changed its name to Altimmune in 2015.
Under Enright’s leadership, the then-privately held company bought Immune Targeting Systems in March 2015 and merged with Annapolis biodefense company PharmAthene Inc. in January 2017, a publicly traded company that Amplimmune tapped to go public. It's since expanded into a new Gaithersburg headquarters and nabbed federal contracts for vaccine development.
It’s keeping up that momentum, most recently raising $41.9 million in direct stock offerings in the past couple of months. This quarter, the company expects crucial data on its anthrax vaccine NasoShield, “and hopefully we’ll get interest from BARDA in continuing to exercise the options and moving that program forward,” Enright said. It also awaits follow-up data on its HepTcell program, an immunotherapy for patients with the hepatitis B virus, to determine paths forward, Enright said.
Earlier this year, Altimmune faced a delisting threat from the Nasdaq, after its share price dropped below $1 — common among biotechs because of high costs and long product development timelines. By late Tuesday afternoon, Altimmune stock was trading at $4.07.
Before joining Altimmune, Enright headed up business development for GenVec Inc., now owned by Germantown-based Intrexon Corp. (NYSE: XON), and spent 12 years in licensing, manufacturing, research and business management at California biotech Life Technologies Inc. He earned a bachelor’s in molecular biology and master’s in biology from SUNY at Buffalo, and an MBA from Johns Hopkins University.