New CEO George Scangos Says Biogen Idec’s R&D Has to Improve
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unanimous in its decision, said Bill Young, the company’s chairman. In Scangos, Young was also able to fulfill his and the company’s objective—which he told Xconomy about in February—to find a new CEO at Biogen with a strong scientific background or at least an appreciation for the important role science plays in the biotech business.
Scangos picked up his PhD in microbiology from the University of Massachusetts, and he spent six years on the faculty at Johns Hopkins University before he became a staff scientist at Bayer in 1987. At Bayer, he worked his way up to president of the Germany-based company’s biotechnology organization, where he led the deal with Emeryville, CA-based Onyx Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:ONXX) that brought Bayer certain commercial rights to the big-selling cancer drug sorafenib (Nexavar).
In 1996, Scangos joined Exelixis, where his claim to fame has been to license the company’s anti-cancer compounds to large drug companies such as Daiichi Sankyo, Genentech, GlaxoSmithKline, Sanofi-Aventis, and Pfizer. Exelixis has not yet brought a drug to market, yet last year it brought in $151.8 million in revenue mainly from licensing fees and payments from these large collaborators.
Young, a former chief operating officer of South San Francisco-based Genentech, said that he has known Scangos for years and they both live in the Bay Area. So Biogen’s chairman was already familiar with Scangos’s accomplishments when Scangos landed on the company’s list of candidates for the CEO job. (Biogen began the search process back in January, after Mullen announced his retirement early that month.)
“Science is really at the heart of our business, and you don’t necessarily have to be a scientist, but you have to appreciate it and understand how you work with the R&D folks and relate that commercially,” Young said. “We were looking for someone who had that spirit, and George fills the bill for us.”