Hawaii Biotech executive steps down
After less than a year as CEO, Leonard Firestone resigns over "a need for change"
Leonard Firestone, who took over as chief executive of Hawaii Biotech after the company merged its vaccine business with an Australian company, has stepped down, effective immediately, after less than a year on the job.
Board member Steven Mento, who has been appointed chairman of the 45-employee company, said in a statement yesterday that "the strategic vision of the CEO and board diverged and there was mutual agreement that there was a need for change."
Carolyn Weeks-Levy, the company's vice president and chief scientific officer, will act as interim senior executive. She will retain her responsibilities as chief scientist of the company.
Weeks-Levy said the company will find a replacement CEO "at the appropriate time."
"Len Firestone came to Hawaii Biotech to revitalize the company's vaccine efforts," she said. "During his tenure, the company has made significant progress in the development of novel vaccines to treat important infectious diseases."
Hawaii Biotech focuses on research and development of vaccines for infectious diseases, including West Nile virus and influenza. Weeks-Levy said a West Nile vaccine is expected to begin clinical trials in the first quarter of 2008.
Firestone, who could not be reached for comment, previously was the CEO of Avantogen Ltd., which merged with Hawaii Biotech in May 2006. As part of the transaction, Hawaii Biotech spun off its anti-inflammatory research business into a new company, Cardax Pharmaceuticals. David Watumull, CEO of Hawaii Biotech before the merger, took over the same position with Cardax. Both companies are based in Aiea.
Six months after the merger, Hawaii Biotech spun off its drug-development business to Science & Technology International Inc., a Honolulu research and development firm. That company has now been renamed PanThera Biopharma Inc.