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Shakeup: Trimeris Ousts CEO, To Reduce Workforce

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MORRISVILLE, N.C. — Trimeris

, the maker of the anti-AIDS drug Fuzeon, is shaking up its management team, cutting workers and reducing programs in an attempt to improve profitability.

Trimeris (Nasdaq: TRMS) announced just as the markets closed on Tuesday that Chief Executive Officer Steven Skolsky was leaving “to pursue other opportunities.”

At the same time, Dani Bolognesi, the CEO Skolsky replaced, will return as CEO. He also will keep his title as chief scientific officer, Trimeris said in a statement.

“We will reduce programs and our workforce as a result of these changes,” Bolognesi said. “We expect to have the new business structure and supporting plans in place by year-end and look forward to creating significant shareholder value with these actions. We will remain a vibrant, science-oriented company.”

The news sparked an 18 percent jump, or $1.81, in Trimeris stock to $11.85 in after-hours trading. Trimeris had closed at $10.04, up 25 cents, on Tuesday.

The stock has rebounded from a recent 52-week low of $7.21 as Trimeris reported increased Fuzeon sales. Its 52-week high is $14.92. Bolognesi, a former professor at Duke University, was a founder of Trimeris in 1993 and took over as CEO in 1999. Trimeris hired Skolsky, a former executive at GlaxoSmithKline, as its top executive in September of 2004.

As part of the latest shakeup, Trimeris also will cut workers and programs.

The company said it would improve earnings “by sharply reducing expenses.”

Trimeris is en route to profitability for the first time as a company this year, based on increasing global sales for Fuzeon. Trimeris partners with drug giant Roche to produce, market and sell the drug.

Fuzeon was approved for use in 2003. Trimeris and Roche have worked together on the drug since 1999.

However, Fuzeon is expensive ($20,000 a year) and must be administered by needle. Both factors have limited Fuzeon’s acceptance worldwide. To help boost sales, Trimeris has trained people on how to instruct patients in the administration of the drug. Trimeris and Roche are also developing a means of delivering the drug without a needle, but the Food and Drug Administration has raised questions about the delivery mechanism. It is not expected to be approved until next year.

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