The founder and former CEO of Seattle well being tech startup Navigating Cancer, Gena Cook dinner, is suing one in all its traders, pharmaceutical large Merck’s International Well being Innovation Fund, on claims together with gender discrimination, wrongful termination, and blocking a possible acquisition of the startup by one in all Merck’s rivals.
Cook dinner’s lawsuit, filed Oct. 29 in King County Superior Court docket in Seattle, alleges that David Rubin, managing director of Merck’s International Well being Innovation Fund and a Navigating Most cancers board member, led an effort to demote and in the end push her out of the corporate. The criticism claims that Rubin stated Cook dinner didn’t match his notion of “what a CEO should look like.” The swimsuit says the alleged assertion was relayed by one other, unnamed board member.
GeekWire has contacted Merck, Rubin, Navigating Most cancers and its present CEO Invoice Bunker for remark. The swimsuit names Bunker and Navigating Most cancers as defendants together with Rubin and the Merck International Well being Innovation Fund.
Navigating Most cancers makes software program to assist healthcare suppliers and sufferers handle most cancers remedy. It has raised $44 million in funding, together with a $26 million Series D round in September 2019, led by the Merck International Well being Innovation Fund and TT Capital Companions. Navigating Most cancers had 80 workers on the time.
Cook dinner’s farewell message to her Navigating Most cancers colleagues (above) was posted to YouTube in July of this year.
“Simply put, we’re improving the care experience for patients every single day. And we’ve done that for millions of cancer patients. I can’t think of anything more rewarding. It’s been my honor and my privilege to work on this problem for the last 12 years,” she stated within the video, earlier than indicating that her departure wasn’t voluntary. “And although I’m not leaving by choice, I’m excited about taking the skills and things I’ve learned to help solve new problems in healthcare.”
Cook dinner, who acquired her begin within the business in pharmaceutical gross sales for Bristol-Myers Squibb, based Navigating Most cancers in 2008 and introduced on Michael Graff as co-founder the next 12 months.
The swimsuit alleges that Rubin, appearing on behalf of Merck, blocked acquisition talks after “a multi-billion dollar international pharmaceutical company who was a competitor to Merck” made an unsolicited supply to amass Navigating Most cancers in June 2019. The criticism says the preliminary supply from the unnamed suitor “would have provided tremendous value to the shareholders” of the corporate, together with Cook dinner, who had an fairness stake of about 12% in inventory and choices on the time, in keeping with the swimsuit.
Merck’s International Well being Innovation Fund first invested in Navigating Cancer in 2015, main a Collection C spherical that in the end totaled $12 million, the swimsuit says.
“Thereafter, on behalf of Merck GHI, Rubin wielded control over the company’s strategic planning, direction, and operations,” the swimsuit alleges. “The control Rubin exercised on behalf of Merck GHI was unlike that exercised by any other financial investor in the company.”
In accordance with the swimsuit, Rubin was closely centered on Merck’s Venture BOLD knowledge initiative, as a part of a broader effort to lower business reliance on Flatiron Well being. Merck rival Roche purchased Flatiron for more than $2.1 billion in 2018. The swimsuit says Rubin pushed Navigating Most cancers to shift its focus to knowledge merchandise and away from patient-care expertise. Cook dinner opposed the transfer, in keeping with the swimsuit.
The swimsuit alleges a sequence of efforts to sideline and in the end exchange Cook dinner as CEO, with out her full information, by a search course of that “did not seriously consider any female candidates.”
Bunker, beforehand CEO at EagleView and ClarityHealth, was named Navigating Cancer CEO in December 2018. Cook dinner was named president on the time.
The swimsuit alleges that Cook dinner was terminated from her employment in July 2020, faraway from the board in September 2020, and denied severance advantages that the criticism says she was contractually owed.
We’ll replace this publish with any response from Merck or Navigating Most cancers to our inquiries. Right here’s the total textual content of the criticism.
GeekWire editorial operations director Cara Kuhlman contributed to this report.