Michelle McMurry-Heath, the CEO of the Biotechnology Innovation Organization, has stepped down from her position running the industry association amid reported disagreements between members over the group’s role.
She will remain an adviser to the group’s executive committee as the organization searches for a permanent successor, BIO said in a statement released late Monday. In the meantime, Rachel King, a founder and former CEO of the biotechnology company GlyoMimetics, will serve as BIO’s interim president and chief executive.
The change in leadership comes two months after Congress passed major drug pricing legislation that industry groups, including BIO, had strongly opposed. The law, which allows Medicare to negotiate prices on some drugs, was the most significant political defeat for the pharmaceutical industry in years.
Over the weekend, The Wall Street Journal reported McMurry-Heath was on leave and described a “clash over direction” within the organization, such as disputes about whether the group should focus only on policies specific to biotech or also weigh in on broader social and political issues. BIO conducted a review of McMurry-Heath’s job performance, the Journal said.
“The Board of Directors thanks Dr. McMurry-Heath for her service to BIO as CEO and appreciates her continued work with BIO in the months ahead in support of biotech innovation and the patients the organization serves,” said Paul Hastings, chair of BIO’s executive committee and head of biotech Nkarta Therapeutics.
BIO did not provide further comment on the Journal’s reporting when asked by BioPharma Dive.
McMurry-Heath has served as BIO’s CEO since May 2020, succeeding the group’s longtime head Jim Greenwood. An immunologist and physician, McMurry-Heath had previously worked at Johnson & Johnson, and the Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health. At one point, she was rumored to be on the Biden administration’s short list to run the FDA.
During her tenure she revamped BIO’s mission and restructured its leadership. As head of the group, she strongly opposed the drug pricing policies passed as part of the Inflation Reduction Act, warning that the law would result in “fewer cures for patients.” She also pushed back on the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ decision to restrict coverage of Biogen’s Alzheimer’s drug Aduhelm, and the Biden administration's support for a limited patent waiver around COVID-19 vaccines.
BIO counts roughly 1,000 biotech companies, academic institutions and related industry organizations as its members. Typically, the group aligns itself with smaller, research-focused biotechs, although larger drugmakers AbbVie and Pfizer are also part of the organization. PhRMA, another powerful industry lobby, also advocates for larger pharmaceutical and biotech companies.
King, who will serve in McMurry-Heath’s place on an interim basis, previously worked at Novartis and biotech Genetic Therapy in addition to leading GlycoMimetics.
“I am deeply committed to the mission and vision of BIO,” King said in a statement. “The strategy of BIO remains on track.”