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Alba co-founder is replaced as chief executive

By Megan Hartley | Sun reporter

Dr. Blake M. Paterson, who co-founded Baltimore biotech Alba Therapeutics Corp. and recently won the Greater Baltimore Committee's Leadership in Bioscience Award for the second consecutive year, has been replaced as chief executive of his company, Alba confirmed yesterday.

Bruce A. Peacock, a venture partner with SV Life Sciences Advisors LLC, will take over for Paterson, who launched Alba in April 2004 to help commercialize the discoveries of Dr. Alessio Fasano, a professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

Alba Therapeutics, in the University of Maryland, Baltimore BioPark, is a development-stage company working on drugs to treat autoimmune and inflammatory diseases such as celiac disease, a digestive disorder caused by a reaction to a wheat protein called gluten. It grew in four years from a two-person start-up at the Emerging Technologies Center in Baltimore into a company with 45 employees and more than $41 million in venture capital backing. Last year, it closed on a licensing and collaboration deal with Shire Pharmaceuticals that could be worth about $325 million.

The company recently completed a Phase 2 study for its celiac disease drug, larazotide acetate. The company estimated the worldwide market for a celiac disease therapy is more than $1 billion.

Paterson could not be reached yesterday. In a statement, he said that his successor's appointment will position the company for the "next level of financial and developmental success."
The company did not say why it was making the change, other than to say Paterson had left to pursue other entrepreneurial interests.

Fasano said he believed the company wanted to position itself for rapid growth, and that it could eventually employ about 500 people.
"It's a different kind of approach, the dynamic is very different," Fasano said. "The investors, they really want to create a new story here in Maryland. They thought it was time to have a different kind of leadership that would be more seasoned and experienced in doing that kind of transition."

James L. Hughes, president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore BioPark, said Wednesday that the company had been looking for a new chief executive that could "take it to the next level."

Fasano said the company grew quickly under the leadership of Paterson, a former Eli Lilly  executive. "Blake, in only 2 1/2 years brought this technology to trial," Fasano said. "It was his strength that did this in three or four years. He raised so much money in a really harsh environment. It's like a crisis enterprise."

Peacock has served as chief executive or as a member of senior management for a number of health and biotechnology companies, including Cephalon Inc. and Centocor Inc.

Dan Janney, an Alba board member, said in the announcement that the company had selected Peacock for his "wealth of experience and leadership with a proven track record of success."
"His experience in leading successful research and development and commercial infrastructures will be invaluable to Alba," Janney added.

Catherine Vorwald, director of business development for Wexford Science and Technology, a developer of the UM BioPark, said she and others in the community are sad to see Paterson leave.
"Blake has been a tremendous leader, he always steps up to the plate," Vorwald said Wednesday. "He is a scarce resource. You can get money. You can get the technology. But what is hard to get is the people that dare to do it."

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Sun reporters Lorraine Mirabella and Tricia Bishop contributed to this article.