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Monday, July 7, 2014, 4:33 pm

Raptor Pharmaceuticals names new CEO

Follows $70 million private stock placement

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    Julie Anne Smith

    Julie Anne Smith

    NOVATO — Raptor Pharmaceuticals (Nasdaq:RPTP), maker of treatments for rare genetic diseases, promoted its chief operating officer to succeed the co-founder who had been top executive for going on nine years.

    This planned transition follows news that Raptor inked a deal to receive $70 million in a private placement of stock.

    Julie Anne Smith, executive vice president of strategy and chief operating officer, was promoted, effective immediately. She will succeed CEO Christopher Starr, Ph.D., and join the board of directors on Jan. 1. He plans to continue working closely with her during the transition and will remain on the board and consult on Raptor development projects.

    “Since the beginning, our vision at Raptor has been to use innovative science to develop highly effective therapeutics to treat patients with rare, debilitating diseases,” Dr. Starr said in a statement. “With last year’s U.S. and EU Procysbi approvals, its successful initial launch, promising data in both Huntington’s and NASH and a strong balance sheet, I am confident in Raptor’s long-term outlook. Thus it is a great time to focus my energy on the next generation of therapeutic compounds at Raptor and to pursue other interests.”

    Ms. Smith is a “proven leader,” instrumental in the launch and commercialization of Procysbi, Raptor’s first product, according to Llew Keltner, M.D., Ph.D., chairman of the board.

    Christopher Starr

    Christopher Starr

    “She has a wealth of experience in commercializing products for rare disease and has had the opportunity to work alongside Chris to share in the vision and future direction of the company,” Dr. Keltner said. “The board of Raptor wholeheartedly supports her nomination and has confidence in her ability to lead Raptor to achieve its full potential.”

    Reaching full commercial value for the treatments for Huntington’s and NASH conditions will be the next goal for Raptor, according to Ms. Smith.

    “The team we’ve built at Raptor is talented, passionate and unwavering, and together we will build a leading global biopharma company focused on helping patients with rare diseases live better,” she said.

    Ms. Smith joined Raptor in September 2012 and has had a 20-year career in biotechnology. Previously, she was chief commercial officer at Enobia Pharm, responsible for corporate business planning, commercial development, human resources and negotiations that led to the company’s acquisition by Alexion. Before that, she was vice president for commercial functions at Jazz Pharmaceuticals and vice president of global marketing at Genzyme, where she led the worldwide commercialization and planning for Myozyme, an infused enzyme replacement therapy for an ultra-orphan genetic disease.

    She holds a B.S. in biological and nutritional science from Cornell University.

    On July 1, Raptor said it entered into agreements for $70 million in private-placement funding from HealthCare Royalty Partners. The funding includes $60 million in new convertible senior notes and an additional $10 million of funding upon adjustments to a loan originally obtained on Dec. 20, 2012. The funds will be used to expand manufacturing capacity and commercial operations in Europe, advancement of product development programs and working capital.

    The deal is set to close by the end of this month. In it, convertible notes would be issued to HealthCare Royalty and affiliates at a interest rate of 8.0 percent a year and principal-payment premium rate of 10 percent. The notes mature on Aug. 1, 2019.

    Raptor (415-408-6200, raptorpharma.com) focuses on the development and commercialization of life-altering therapeutics that treat rare, debilitating and often fatal diseases. Those include nephropathic cystinosis, Huntington’s disease, nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), Leigh syndrome and other mitochondrial diseases.

    Procysbi is approved in the U.S. and European Union. Raptor also holds several orphan-drug designations, including exclusivity for nephropathic cystinosis in the U.S. and EU and orphan-drug designation for HD in the U.S. A request for EU orphan designation for RP103 in HD has been submitted. A request for orphan designation for Leigh syndrome has been submitted to the U.S. Food & Drug Administration.

    Raptor holds intellectual property for the use of cysteamine in HD and other neurodegenerative disorders, including Parkinson’s disease and Rett syndrome.

    The price of the company’s stock was $10.76 a share after the Monday session, down 78 cents, or almost 6.8 percent, from the previous trading day.

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