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Biogen loses another top exec

May 26, 2017

Maybe it’s just the normal shifts of top jobs in biopharma, but Cambridge, Mass.-based Biogen (BIIB) seems to be a bit of a revolving door at the top recently. In the latest news, Kenneth DiPietro, Biogen’s executive vice president of human resources, announced he is stepping down.

On May 15, the company announced that Spyros Artavanis-Tsakonas, its chief scientific officer, was stepping down to act as a part-time visiting scientist. As part of his departure, Biogen made a deal with Harvard University where Artavanis-Tsakonas and his laboratory at Harvard Medical School will continue to do research work related to Biogen interests.

In 2015, the head of R&D, Doug Williams, and the head of commercial operations, Tony Kingsley, left. In 2016, Adam Koppel, corporate development and strategy chief, Matt Griffiths, chief information officer, and George Scangos, chief executive officer, all left. Scangos was replaced by Michel Vounatsos. In March of this year, Adriana Karaboutis, executive vice president of technology, business solutions, and corporate affairs, left the company.

Koppel was in the news earlier this week. After leaving Biogen, he joined Bain Capital, where he just raised $720 million to launch Bain Capital Life Sciences, the firm’s first life sciences fund.

DiPietro joined Biogen in 2012. Prior to that, he was senior vice president, Human Resources, at Lenovo Group from 2005 to 2011. From 2003 to 2005, he acted as corporate vice president, Human Resources at Microsoft. And from 1999 to 2002, DiPietro was vice president, Human Resources at Dell. Prior to that he worked at PepsiCo for 17 years.

Max Stendahl, writing for the Boston Business Journal, says, “The wave of departures comes as Biogen confronts an uncertain future. The company has seen tepid growth in its multiple sclerosis franchise, placing added pressure on its newly-launched infant disease drug Spinraza, as well as on a promising neuroscience pipeline that includes late-stage Alzheimer’s treatment aducanumab.”

Zacks Equity Research, noted today that in the month since its first quarter earnings report, Biogen shares have lost about 9.5 percent, underperforming the market. In the first-quarter, the company reported results that were better than expected for both earnings and sales. Earnings per share for the quarter were $5.20, beating the Zacks Consensus Estimate of $4.97 by 4.6 percent. Earnings improved 9 percent year over year.

Despite the Boston Business Journal’s description of Biogen’s MS franchise as “tepid,” Zacks notes that sales of Tecfidera and Tysbari for the year so far are stable overall, with a modest decline in the U.S. because of increased competition, including Genentech (RHHBY)’s Ocrevus. However, sales outside the U.S. have increased, balancing out the MS franchise.

The launch of Spinraza is considered promising, bringing in $47.4 million in the first quarter compared to $4.6 million in the fourth-quarter 2016, and is still building its inventory and expanding access to all patients. And the drug hasn’t launched in Europe yet.

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