Chiasma is a public, clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company focused on improving the lives of patients who face challenges associated with their existing treatments for rare and serious chronic diseases. Employing its Transient Permeability Enhancer (TPE®) technology platform, Chiasma seeks to develop and ultimately commercialize oral medications that are currently only available as injections. The company is developing octreotide capsules (conditionally trade named Mycapssa®) for the potential maintenance treatment of adults with acromegaly.
With a lead program in phase 2, Chiasma had a viable drug candidate for a rare disorder. In anticipation of FDA approval, the company hired Occam to recruit a CEO—someone with commercial expertise who could help bring this new drug to market.
In CEO searches, clients often want the serial offender: a proven CEO with big and small company experience who has delivered successful liquidity events for investors.
The attendant risk here is psychological. The CEO role is an exquisitely challenging one. And finding a proven successful CEO who has the intensity and commitment to want to do it again is rare. Thus, Occam encourages clients to look at first-time CEO candidates. This phenotype is overtly riskier for investors but also opens up new possibilities. And first-time CEO candidates have something to prove. This hunger, if channeled correctly and coupled with other relevant virtues, can lead to success.
The key experiential attribute Occam was looking for in a first-time CEO candidate for Chiasma was commercial savvy. Because companies with commercial products or those approaching the market are typically larger, more established firms, however, the Occam team cast against type, looking for an entrepreneurial commercial executive ready to break out.
The placement of Chiasma’s new CEO, Raj Kannan, involved an educational process for the client, with Chiasma meeting Raj, looking elsewhere, and then returning to his candidacy with a fresh perspective when they realized that he had the requisite skills and enterprising disposition for the role. While Raj was a first-time CEO, he had proven himself over a 25-year career at pharmaceutical giant Merck and on a smaller, more entrepreneurial scale with Kiniksa. He brought with him extensive experience introducing drugs to market and overseeing both the commercialization and strategic direction for new clinical assets.