NOVATO, Calif., July 7, 2014 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Raptor Pharmaceuticals (Nasdaq:RPTP) today announced that Julie Anne Smith, Executive Vice President, Strategy and Chief Operating Officer at Raptor, has been named President and CEO-designate effective immediately. Smith will succeed Christopher Starr, Ph.D., as Chief Executive Officer and will join the Board effective January 1, 2015. As President and CEO-designate, Smith will oversee all company operations based out of Raptor's headquarters in Novato, California. Dr. Starr will continue working closely with Smith during this transition period, will remain on the Board of Directors and will consult on Raptor development projects following the succession. Dr. Starr, Ph.D., chief executive officer and Raptor co-founder, said, "It's been exciting and personally fulfilling to have led Raptor these past nine years. Since the beginning, our vision at Raptor has been to use innovative science to develop highly effective therapeutics to treat patients with rare, debilitating diseases. With last year's U.S. and EU PROCYSBI approvals, its successful initial launch, promising data in both Huntington's and NASH and a strong balance sheet, I am confident in Raptor's long-term outlook. Thus it is a great time to focus my energy on the next generation of therapeutic compounds at Raptor and to pursue other interests." Llew Keltner, M.D., Ph.D., chairman of the Raptor board of directors, said, "Julie is a proven leader and has been instrumental in the launch and commercialization of Raptor's first product, PROCYSBI. She has a wealth of experience in commercializing products for rare disease and has had the opportunity to work alongside Chris to share in the vision and future direction of the company. The Board of Raptor wholeheartedly supports her nomination and has confidence in her ability to lead Raptor to achieve its full potential." Dr. Keltner added, "The Board would like to thank Chris for his extraordinary leadership – initially creating Raptor with great science and vision and building it into a commercial organization that is now changing medicine and improving patients' lives around the world. We look forward to Chris' continued involvement and guidance on company research and strategy."