Jonathan Ayers, the top executive of Idexx Laboratories Inc., is undergoing rehabilitation for a spinal cord injury he sustained in a bicycling accident that has paralyzed most of his body.

Idexx CEO Jonathan Ayers Photo courtesy of Idexx

Ayers filed a statement Wednesday with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission saying that he currently has limited arm and wrist movement but no mobility or sensory perception in his legs, torso and fingers.

He said the accident fortunately did not cause any head trauma or brain injury.

“With full-time rehab, I expect to recover some neuromuscular capability, but the exact nature of any rehab is unique to the individual and injury,” Ayers said. “While I can’t put a precise timeline on my rehab process, based on the feedback I have received from my doctors and the rehab center staff, they currently expect my full-time rehab process to take three to five months.”

Ayers added that he is receiving treatment at “a world-class spinal cord injury rehabilitation center, one of the very best in the country.” He said the accident occurred when he was riding with his regular early morning cycling group, but he did not provide details about how it happened or who was at fault.

“Fortunately I have a wonderful and supportive family with me, was in excellent physical condition prior to the accident, and received exceptional care in the weeks following the trauma,” Ayers said.

Idexx, a fast-growing veterinary diagnostics firm based in Westbrook, announced this month that Ayers – the company’s chairman, president and CEO – had been injured in a serious cycling accident on June 27 and was taking medical leave. The company appointed Executive Vice President Jay Mazelsky as interim president and CEO in Ayers’ absence.

Ayers’ predecessor, Idexx founder David Shaw, was diagnosed in 2011 with viral encephalitis, an infection of the brain, after scuba diving in the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System. The illness robbed Shaw of many cognitive functions, but he has since undergone a full recovery.

Shaw, who is now managing partner of the investment firm Black Point Group, said he was encouraged by the positive tone of Ayers’ public statement.

“My treasured friendships within the Idexx community and elsewhere across the globe were wonderful sources of support to me and my family when, like Jon Ayers, I struggled to survive, thrive, and fully recover after a near-lethal neurotrauma injury in 2011,” Shaw said. “I know from firsthand experience that Jon and his family can benefit greatly from the Idexx support network, from high-quality medical care, from the love of his family, and from extraordinary recent advances in neuroscience.”

For a publicly traded company, news that the top executive has left, died or become incapacitated can have a significant, negative impact on the price of shares. Idexx’s share price fell slightly Wednesday from the previous day’s closing price, but was still up about 2 percent from July 1, the day the news broke about Ayers taking medical leave for a severe injury.

In his statement Wednesday, Ayers said he has remained in close contact with Larry Kingsley, lead director of the Idexx board, as well as the company’s senior corporate management team.

“I have great confidence in Jay Mazelsky as interim president and CEO; he knows our markets, technologies and innovation processes well, and is deeply respected by our employees,” Ayers said. “Jay is also supported by our (chief financial officer), Brian McKeon, who has a track record of doing an outstanding job steering the company’s financial performance.”

Idexx issued a statement Wednesday in response to the public update on Ayers’ health condition.

“While Jon and his family are in our thoughts as he continues to recover from his recent cycling accident, we remain steadfast in our focus and dedication to our customers and our business,” it said.

Portland-area business leaders reacted to the news of Ayers’ paralysis Wednesday with encouragement and sympathy.

Quincy Hentzel, CEO of the Greater Portland Chamber of Commerce, said she is confident that Ayers has the strength to overcome his injury.

“Everyone who knows Jonathan understands that he will bring the same focus and determination to his rehabilitation and recovery that he brings to all his business, philanthropic and community endeavors,” Hentzel said. “He has brought energy and invaluable vision to Greater Portland’s business community, and has also brought his personal commitment to making Idexx an involved and active participant of that community.”

Michael Brigham, president and CEO of Portland-based ImmuCell Corp., another publicly traded company in the animal health sector, said he was “absolutely overcome with sadness” when he heard about the severity of Ayers’ injury.

“I do not know Jonathan personally, but have nothing but the utmost respect for what he has done at Idexx since taking over from the company’s founder,” Brigham said. “We are a small community of animal health companies in Maine and even a smaller one of publicly held companies. On behalf of every ImmuCell employee and family member, we send our very best wishes for an effective recovery.”

Melissa Smith, president and CEO of Portland-based payment processing technology firm Wex Inc., also a publicly traded company, said her heart goes out to Ayers and his family.

“Jon has led Idexx through amazing growth, facing difficult decisions throughout his career,” Smith said. “I know he will use that same level of resourcefulness and drive in his recovery. All of us at Wex are sending positive thoughts to him and his family.”

Idexx is Maine’s largest publicly traded company in terms of market capitalization, or the number of outstanding shares multiplied by the value of each share. Its shares trade on the Nasdaq Stock Market under the symbol IDXX.

The company reported revenue of $2.2 billion in 2018, up 12 percent from the previous year. Its net income in 2018 was $377 million, a 22 percent increase from the year before. It received city approval in 2018 to construct a multilevel, 135,000-square-foot expansion to its Westbrook headquarters that will accommodate 600 additional workers when completed.

Idexx, which produces veterinary diagnostic testing equipment, software and other products, has been based in Westbrook since 1991. It has nearly 3,000 employees in Maine and more than 8,000 worldwide.

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