Vertex (VRTX) - Get Report CEO Joshua Boger is stepping down, the company announced Thursday.

Matthew Emmens, chairman of British pharmaceutical firm

Shire PLC

(SHPGY)

, will be Vertex's president effective immediately, and will take the helm as chairman and CEO when Boger -- who co-founded the company in 1989 -- retires in May.

Emmens, a 35-year veteran of the pharmaceutical industry, Mr. Emmens, 57, has a resume that includes work at

Merck KGaA

,

Astra Merck

and

Merck

(MRK) - Get Report

, in addition to Shire, where he has worked since 2003, according to a statement Vertex released Thursday.

Vertex Chairman Charles Sanders, who will remain lead director of Vertex's board, said the following:

"The board recognizes Joshua for the inspiration he has provided to Vertex, its employees, shareholders and patients and their families for the past 20 years. His commitment to making a difference in the lives of patients, and his track record of scientific and medical advances has generated breakthrough product opportunities and significant value for shareholders. Joshua is a true scientific and business visionary, and also a leader for many people connected to the biopharmaceutical industry. We look forward to his continuing active role in guiding the direction of Vertex."

Emmens was similarly ebullient in his portion of the statement Thursday:

"We have a rare opportunity to create a world class commercial enterprise that complements Vertex's excellence in R&D innovation. In the area of hepatitis C, and also in cystic fibrosis, Vertex has the potential to transform patients' lives and build tremendous value, and together with the employees my goal is to make this vision a reality."

Vertex, which focuses on products to treat viral diseases, inflammation, autoimmune diseases, cancer, pain and cystic fibrosis and whose hepatitis C drug telaprevir has been the subject of

biotech discourse

, is also known for having co-discovered the HIV protease inhibitor, Lexiva, with

GlaxoSmithKline

(GSK) - Get Report

.

Vertex is in the midst of conducting two large phase III studies of telaprevir, with the first results expected in the first half of 2010. Biotech investors are keen to see the data from these studies to determine how the drug might stack up against those from competitors

Schering-Plough

(SGP)

,

Pharmasset

(VRUS)

,

InterMune

(ITMN)

,

Boehringer Ingelheim

,

Johnson & Johnson

(JNJ) - Get Report

, Merck and

Pfizer

(PFE) - Get Report

.

Vertex shares closed Thursday up 1.7% to $33.96 and rose marginally in extended trading. Shire, meanwhile, closed up 1.3% to $46.14.