Evocutis on lookout after chief executive decides to leave

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EVOCUTIS is searching for a new chief executive after Stephen Jones said he is quitting to join another company, just weeks after the skin technology group reported tentative commercial progress.

The Wetherby-based company said Dr Jones will leave in a maximum of six months to join an unnamed and unrelated healthcare company.

Shares in Evocutis, which recently changed its name from Syntopix after an acquisition and fundraising, fell XXX to XXXX.

Dr Jones, who joined Syntopix shortly after its flotation and spin-out from the University of Leeds in 2006, will leave by October 3 or earlier if a replacement has been appointed.

Chairman Tom Bannatyne said: “It’s a little bit of a surprise but as with all surprises in life you deal with it.

“It’s an inconvenience but we’ve identified what needs to be done to deal with it.

“He is, as you would expect, extremely keen to make this as seamless as possible.”

The loss-making spin-out recently admitted it was “disappointed” by its lack of progress in commercialising a key acne compound.

Asked if Dr Jones’s exit would delay the company’s journey to profitability, Mr Bannatyne said “as little as possible”.

“Stephen’s principal role while still on the board is to make sure those links with the customer base are secure, transferable and handed over.”

He paid tribute to Dr Jones’s contribution to bringing the group together, and said he leaves Evocutis “well positioned for continued growth”.

Dr Jones previously held roles with major firms including GlaxoSmithKline, Scherer Drug Delivery Systems, Sterling Winthrop, Beecham, Merck Sharp & Dohme and Amersham International.

Mr Bannatyne said Evocutis had started searching for a new CEO with experience of big consumer products firm, helped by major shareholder IP Group’s network of contacts.

“The more experience we can find of the consumer products industry and the deployers of resource, the better,” he said.

“Our customer base is big-hitting companies for whom we are an important part of the process.

“The joy of it for someone who wants to take it on is the upside is still there. It will appeal to the entrepreneurial side of the candidate.”

Evocutis changed its name in October after buying Leeds Skin for £900,000, a deal which transformed it into a services-dominated business. The company recently said revenues more than doubled to £344,000 in the six months to the end of January. Pre-tax losses of £434,000 were down from a £557,000 deficit a year earlier. Analysts at house broker XCap Securities expect Evocutis to break even in 2014.