Hookipa CEO waives 50% of salary in bet on brighter days

Hookipa CEO waives 50% of salary in bet on brighter days

Hookipa Pharma CEO Joern Aldag is betting on brighter days for biotech. With Hookipa’s stock stuck in the doldrums, Aldag is waiving 50% of his salary over the first half of the year in return for shares in a show of confidence in the company.

Shares in the biotech have tumbled almost 90% over the past year, falling to around $1.50 a piece as a surge, which briefly took the stock toward $20, and collapse either side of a data drop in June 2021 was followed by months of steady decline amid the wider retreat of investors from the sector. The shares given to Aldag in return for waiving half of his salary are valued at $3 each.

Other executives echoed Aldag’s action, waiving 20% of their salaries over the first half of 2022 in return for shares valued at $3. The executive team also agreed to receive half of its 2021 bonus in the form of an options grant at $3 a share.

The sums being waived are significant. Aldag’s employment agreement with Hookipa features a base salary of 460,000 euros ($505,000), suggesting that waiving half the cash for half the year will cause the CEO to miss out on more than 100,000 euros. The CEO’s annual incentive compensation is half of the base salary.

Aldag and his fellow executives could profit from the arrangement if Hookipa’s stock rises down the line. The stock continued its decline after the release of phase 1 data on HB-200, the lead oncology candidate engineered with Hookipa’s replicating arenaviral vector platform, and only temporarily rallied after Gilead paid $15 million to amend its HIV agreement with the Austrian biotech.

Factoring in the Gilead money and a follow-on financing, Hookipa’s cash reserves stood at $156.9 million at the last count, giving it the funds to weather the current bear market and get to readouts that may trigger an upturn in its fortunes. Preliminary data from a phase 2 trial of HB-200 are due in the second quarter. Hookipa calculates its cash will see it through to the first half of 2024.

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