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Chief scientist quits at Germany's Morphosys ahead of product launch

FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Morphosys' <MORG.DE> chief scientific officer will quit after 17 years with the group, the latest change at the top of the German biotech firm as it gears up for its first product launch.

The group said late on Wednesday that CSO Markus Enzelberger would step down at the end of February to explore new opportunities.

The shares dropped 2.1% at 0853 GMT on Thursday as one trader pointed to Enzelberger's "crucial position" at Morphosys.

Malte Peters, head of clinical development, will take on additional responsibility for drug research and discovery now held by Enzelberger.

Earlier this year, co-founder and former chief executive Simon Moroney retired after 27 years with the company.

Morphosys is undergoing major transition, using recent proceeds from a second listing in the United States to build a U.S. sales force from scratch in expectation of a market introduction next year of its most advanced drug tafasitamab, previously known as MOR208.

Morphosys has had mixed fortunes in drug development.

Last week, it moved to recruit more patients for a study testing tafasitamab against a common type of blood cancer, following an encouraging interim data readout.

But it suffered a setback when it ceased development of an experimental atopic dermatitis treatment that analysts expected to deliver blockbuster sales.

(Reporting by Ludwig Burger; Editing by Edmund Blair)