Codexis’ interim CEO Peter Strumph , speaking at Jefferies’ Clean Technology conference today in New York, took the opportunity to dispel rumors circulating following the recent resignations of CFO Bob Lawson and CEO Alan Shaw, insisting “many threads of continuity” still exist among the company’s management and the departures do not indicate a breakdown in Codexis’ key enzyme partnership with Shell.
Strumph acknowledged concerns from investors over the proximity of the two resignations, but says there is no connection. Lawson left to accept a position at a private software company, while Shaw’s departure “was more prospective by the board of directors,” he said.
Codexis shares plummeted 19% Monday following Codexis’ announcement Friday that Shaw, who had been with Codexis since it was spun out of Maxygen in 2002, had stepped down. Lawson’s resignation was announced in late January, although he is staying on until the annual report is complete.
Rumors that the turnover indicates delays in the roll-out of biocatalysts developed under a long-standing biofuel collaboration agreement with Shell—set to expire this year—are also false. Nothing changed in the Shell relationship to provoke the board, Strumph said. “Our interests and Shell’s interests are very aligned,” he added. “Our work is nearly but not completely done, and there is a shared interest in moving the project forward.”
Shell and Codexis first signed the collaboration and licensing agreement in 2006, and over the years Shell has both committed significant funding to biocatalyst development and increased its equity stake in Codexis to 15.7% (which was placed into Shell’s Raizen sugarcane ethanol jv with Cosan in June).
While Shell is not the only player on Codexis’ dance card (a recent agreement with Mossi & Ghisolfi subsidiary Chemtex gives Codexis exclusive access to the highly regarded Proesa technology for the production of biobased detergent alcohols), royalties from the partnership are substantial. For the nine months ended September 30, 2011, Codexis posted $47 million in revenue from the agreement, accounting for 52% of the company’s total sales.