The drugmaker Targacept Inc. said Monday that its longtime CEO and president, J. Donald deBethizy, has stepped down and has resigned from the company's board.
The company said it will start its CEO search immediately. DeBethizy had been CEO for almost 12 years and president since March 1997, according to CapitalIQ.
The departure comes as the company has slashed its work force to cut costs after ending development of an experimental depression drug and setbacks in tests of another drug to treat asthma and diabetes.
Its shares are down more than 80 percent in the past year.
The company said Monday that it has created an Office of the Chairman that will assume deBethizy's responsibilities as well as help guide Chairman Mark Skaletsky on the company's "strategic direction, resource allocation and pipeline development."
In addition to Skaletsky, members of the Office of the Chairman include Jeffrey Brennan, its chief business officer; Alan Musso, its chief financial officer and treasurer; and Peter Zorn, secretary and general counsel.
Targacept said deBethizy will serve as a special advisor.
In March, Targacept and its partner AstraZeneca PLC ended development of a depression drug candidate called TC-5214 because the drug failed in clinical studies. In April, it said a drug it was testing to treat asthma failed to meet one of its two goals in a clinical trial. Targacept had previously reported that the drug did not work as a treatment for diabetes.
In April, Targacept announced that it planned to eliminate 65 jobs, cutting its work force by almost half.
Shares of Targacept added 2 cents to $4.16 in morning trading. But its stock is down 82 percent from its 52-week high of $22.48 almost a year ago.