) --

Savient Pharmaceuticals


said late Tuesday it's launching a search for a new chief executive officer.

The East Brunswick, N.J.-based drug developer has been led by Paul Hamelin, its president, since November 2008 when Christopher Clement

resigned from the CEO and president positions by mutual agreement with the company

. Savient didn't provide further detail on when it expects to hire a new CEO and said Hamelin will continue to direct day-to-day activities in the interim.

The move comes near the end of a volatile year for Savient, which secured regulatory approval for Krystexxa, a treatment for chronic gout, in September. Savient

had announced plans in May

to pursue a sale of the company upon receiving clearance for Krystexxa from the

Food and Drug Administration

, and the stock soared above $23 in the wake of the approval news.

But the shares came crashing back down in late October when Savient wasn't able to work out a deal for a strategic sale. The stock lost more than 40% with volume exceeding 45 million, closing at $12.07 on Oct. 25, and it's traded in a tight range ever since. The stock finished Tuesday's regular session at at 11.77, down 1.3%, and year-to-date, it's fallen more than 12%, although it's still more than doubled from November 2008 when Hamelin took over.

Krystexxa became available by prescription in the United States on Dec. 1, according to Savient, which has set up a specialty distribution network for the drug. The company is targeting a full promotional launch of Krystexxa in early 2011.

Wall Street has a bullish lean when it comes to Savient with eight of the 13 analysts covering the company at either strong buy (4) or buy (4), although two of the bears on the stock are bold enough to bestow sell ratings on the shares.

Collins Stewart, which has a buy rating and 12-month price target of $16, issued a research note on Dec. 20, saying it was encouraged by the response so far from insurers to Krystexxa. The firm cited an "open-ended" coverage determination by


(HUM) - Get Report

as a bright spot, saying it "bodes well for re-treatment and chronic treatment of treatment-failure gout patients."

For its fiscal third quarter ended on Sept. 30, the company reported a net loss of $59.4 million, or 89 cents a share, reflecting a non-cash writedown of $43.2 million related to a warrant transaction. As of Nov. 2, Savient's balance of cash and short-term investments stood at $75.7 million.

Savient shares ticked 1.4% lower in after-hours action to $11.60 on volume of less than 25,000, according to



Written by Michael Baron in New York.

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