Biogen's Vounatsos to focus on neuro as new CEO
- Biogen finally named a successor to replace departing CEO George Scangos, promoting Chief Commercial Officer Michel Vounatsos to the top spot, effective Jan. 6.
- Vounatsos joined the company in April after spending 20 years as an executive at Merck & Co. in roles across Europe, China and the U.S.
- Scangos, who took over the CEO role in 2010, announced in July he would step down once a successor was found.
Biogen announced its succession plans after the close of the market on Dec. 19, following unconfirmed reports from several media outlets that Vounatsos would take over.
The move is unlikely to please investors who have been unhappy with the Scangos' strategy and were hoping to see the big biotech bring in fresh blood from outside the organization.
Biogen is best-known for its multiple sclerosis business, but that has suffered from a few missteps recently, particularly as sales growth for the blockbuster Tecfidera sputtered in the wake of a safety warning from the Food and Drug Administration.
When Scangos joined the company, he was a big proponent of the hemophilia drugs the company was developing and pushed to move further into that space. That bet doesn't appear to have panned out as planned: Along with Scangos' departure, Biogen announced earlier this year that the hemophilia business would be spun out into a publicly-traded company.
Scangos also took some risky pipeline bets, including on Alzheimer's disease. Its experimental drug aducanumab has shown some promising data so far, but late-stage failures in the space, including Eli Lilly's recent miss with solanezumab, don't inspire confidence.
Expect Vounatsos to move back to the company's strengths in MS — a move investors are desperately hoping to see.
"I am excited to build upon Biogen’s legacy, as we pursue innovative new therapies for those suffering from serious neurologic and neurodegenerative diseases and create value for shareholders by maintaining a clear focus on what is best for patients," said Vounatsos in a statement.
"We intend to gain approval for Spinraza to provide the first treatment for spinal muscular atrophy; continue to grow our global MS franchise; fully enroll our phase 3 trials for aducanumab as we advance our lead candidate in Alzheimer’s disease; reinvigorate our pipeline in the areas of neurology and neuro-repair; and invest in our employees as we work together to define our future," he added.
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