Bluebird bio on Monday said its chief strategy and financial officer, Jason Cole, will leave the company this fall, marking the second time in less than a year the cash-strapped gene therapy developer will replace its top financial executive.
In a statement, Bluebird said that Cole is resigning to “pursue other opportunities.” Cole has been with the company for more than eight years, most recently as its chief business officer, and took on the CFO role in March, after Gina Consylman resigned.
He’ll be replaced by Katherine Breedis, an executive from Danforth Advisors, on an interim basis while Bluebird searches for a full-time replacement.
Cole’s departure comes just as Bluebird is preparing to launch its gene therapy Zynteglo for the inherited blood disease beta thalassemia in the U.S. The drug, which the Food and Drug Administration approved last month, is priced at $2.8 million, making it one of the world’s most expensive pharmaceutical products on a single-use basis and a test of the commercial potential of gene therapies.
Bluebird has said it will refund up to 80% of the treatment’s price for two years if the treatment doesn’t work as expected. It estimates that the cost of lifetime treatments for beta thalassemia, which include chronic blood transfusions, can exceed $6 million.
The sales trajectory of Zynteglo, along with a second product called eli-cel that the FDA could approve this week, are critical to Bluebird’s future. The company entered 2022 in financial peril following a string of clinical, regulatory and commercial setbacks. It’s been looking to the launches of Zynteglo and eli-cel, and the special, sellable vouchers the FDA could award upon their approvals, to bolster its dwindling cash reserves.
But Bluebird took some additional steps to shore up its balance sheet under Cole’s tenure as well. In April, the company announced plans to lay off 30% of its workforce. The following month, it began moving into a new headquarters.
“We are extremely grateful to Jason for stepping in as CFO during a difficult time for the company. His experience and thoughtful approach have been a stabilizing force through a period of significant change,” said CEO Andrew Obenshain, adding the company has “solidified [its] financial position and financing plans.”
Cole’s last day will be on Oct. 14, though he’ll consult for the company on corporate strategy through next April.