- Sage Therapeutics has tapped Barry Greene, the former president of Alnylam Pharmaceuticals, to replace Jeff Jonas as CEO after a year of significant setbacks for the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based biotech.
- Jonas will continue on with Sage, taking on a new role as chief innovation officer. He will also stay on the board and chair the company's science and technology forum, Sage said in a release Wednesday.
- The public face of Sage since joining as CEO in 2013, Jonas led the company to its first drug approval in 2019 and, this year, a major deal with Biogen that could be worth more than $3 billion. But his tenure also encompassed a damaging clinical setback for an experimental antidepressant that led to layoffs of half of Sage's staff in April.
In Greene, Sage is taking on a leader who has already shepherded a biotech from the research and development stage into a successful commercial company. Just last month, Alnylam announced the approval of its third medicine, Oxlumo, used to treat a rare genetic disorder.
Alnylam is now considered one of the "higher quality companies in the industry," and Greene was a driving force behind that, Stifel analyst Paul Matteis wrote in a Wednesday note to investors. Though Sage's switch in leadership is a surprise, it's likely to be welcomed by shareholders, he wrote.
Greene joined Sage as a member of the board in October, after wrapping up 17 years at Alnylam. He served there as chief operating officer from 2003 to 2016 and as president from 2007 until September. Greene has also worked at Millennium Pharmaceuticals, AstraZeneca, Mediconsult.com and Andersen Consulting.
The new CEO said he plans to leverage his own strengths along with the "unique neuroscience expertise" of Jonas to move the company forward. Jonas is likely to remain an important player at Sage; the chief innovation officer role doesn't appear to be a transition toward an exit, Matteis wrote.
Greene and Jonas have more to work with as they look toward the future, thanks to the Biogen deal announced last month. The transaction, which the companies expect to close by January, would give Sage an upfront cash infusion of $875 million.
Sage is working to rescue its depression treatment, zuranolone or SAGE-217, after a failed Phase 3 trial. The company is running three more studies of the drug and expects results next year.
Sage's only marketed product, Zulresso, was the first treatment approved by the Food and Drug Administration for postpartum depression. While about one in nine women suffer from the condition — providing a significant market opportunity — the need for a 60-hour intravenous treatment has limited initial sales of the medicine.
Sage shares climbed about 3%, to $73.87 apiece, in early trading Wednesday.