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Top Research Exec, 4 Others Fired in CoCensys Shake-Up


CoCensys Inc.'s top research executive lost his job in a management shake-up announced Monday, as the pharmaceutical company's recently hired chief executive, F. Richard Nichol, moved to make his mark on the organization.

The Irvine-based company eliminated five positions, including that of vice president of research and development held by David A.H. Lee. Analysts noted that slow progress in clinical tests has dogged CoCensys' efforts to develop drugs to treat brain disorders--a problem that has jeopardized the financially shaky firm.

Nichol attributed Lee's departure to efforts to streamline management, and he said the elimination of the post will save money. "We were able to reassign all of his responsibilities to other people and flatten the organization so we could increase efficiency," he said.

Nichol wouldn't comment on whether there is a link between Lee's departure and sluggish drug development. Instead, he emphasized that the company has plenty of expertise in both laboratory and clinical trials.

Lee, hired in 1992, served as the No. 2 executive under Chief Executive Daniel L. Korpolinski. Korpolinski resigned in October and Nichol was hired to replace him in January.

Edmund Debler, an analyst at Mehta & Isaly in New York, said he is concerned about whether the company can produce successful human tests of its drugs fast enough to keep attracting new infusions of cash.

"They need to advance their products to get the money. And to get the money, they need to advance the products," Debler said. In April, Debler cut his rating on the stock to a "hold" from a "buy."

In other changes, CoCensys eliminated its human resources manager and three jobs in its research and clinical areas.

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