Under new CEO, Alexion continues overhaul of leadership
- Alexion Pharmaceuticals is conducting a sweeping shake-up of its executive leadership, announcing earlier this week the departure of recently installed Chief Financial Officer David Anderson, along with its chief commercial officer, head of R&D and chief human resources officer.
- Brain Goff, a biopharma exec who most recently served as chief operating officer at Neurovance, Inc., will replace Alexion's outgoing CCO Carsten Thiel on June 1. A search for replacements for the other positions is underway.
- The leadership changes come only two months after former Baxalta Chief Ludwig Hantson took office as Alexion's new CEO. The drugmaker's former head, along with its then CFO, left in December after an internal investigation was launched into company sales tactics.
Alexion, a rare disease specialist which sells one of the most expensive drugs in the world, has had a turbulent few quarters.
Hantson's appointment as CEO in March ended a months-long search for a replacement of ex-CEO David Hallal. But it appears the leadership overhaul hasn't yet reached its conclusion.
CFO David Anderson, who will resign at the end of August, was only appointed to the role in December, filling the opening left by outgoing financial chief Vikas Sinha. While Alexion appointed an interim CEO as it searched for a permanent replacement, Anderson was an outside candidate with more than a decade of experience running Honeywell International's books.
Taken together, the changes suggest Hantson seeks to turn the page on the struggles and setbacks of the past months, which have damaged the company's image.
While Alexion's internal investigation into its sales practices found no evidence of improper accounting, the company faulted an inappropriate "tone at the top" for weakening financial controls. According to company statements, senior management improperly pressured staff to meet sales targets for its pricey best-seller Soliris (eculizumab).
Soliris — approved to treat a rare blood disorder and an inherited disease caused by the formation of blood clots — accounts for more than 90% of Alexion's revenue, despite a relatively small pool of treatable patients.
First-quarter sales of the drug checked in higher than expected, but the company still faces challenges in expanding the drug's label and market opportunity.
Scrutiny has not ended with the company's all-clear signal. Brazilian authorities raided Alexion's Sao Paolo offices as part of a probe into Soliris sales tactics, Bloomberg reported earlier this month.
The departure of Alexion's R&D head could also signal a shift in direction. "We need to do a better job with our R&D productivity," Hantson said on an April 27 earnings call.
Before Hantson arrived, Alexion announced a restructuring that would cut 7% of the company's workforce and a focusing of resources on the most promising R&D programs. One month before that, the company ended further development of drug candidate SBC-103, a potential treatment for mucopolysaccharidosis (MPS) IIIB that was picked up in the $8.4 billion acquisition of Synageva in 2015.
- Alexion Statement
- BioPharma Dive Alexion to cut R&D, 7% of workforce
- BioPharma Dive Alexion's earnings signal a turnaround, but how will that pan out?
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