Dendreon Goes on Hiring Binge After Prostate Cancer Drug Boosts Survival
Dendreon partied at a medical meeting last week in Chicago after it showed that its immune-stimulating therapy could extend the lives of prostate cancer patients with minimal side effects. Now the biotech company is fast at work again, looking to hire 60 new people to make sure it performs all the work necessary to turn its drug into a blockbuster.
The Seattle-based company (NASDAQ: DNDN) has posted almost all of these new positions on its website in the past week. It is looking to fill 37 spots at headquarters, another 22 at its commercial manufacturing plant in Morris Plains, NJ, and one person in Research Triangle Park, NC, where it has an important relationship with a supplier. Dendreon had just 198 total employees at last count on March 2, so this represents a 30 percent expansion.
The job descriptions posted online represent a broad range of skills Dendreon will need to maximize the value of sipuleucel-T (Provenge). Dendreon is looking for people in quality assurance and quality control, finance, marketing, human resources, and logistics. These people, together with the current Dendreon staff, will be charged with amending an application to the FDA to start marketing the drug in the U.S., and then producing enough of the drug to meet demand. Prostate cancer kills 30,000 men nationwide each year, and analysts predict the product—the first drug of its kind likely to win FDA approval—will go on to exceed $1 billion a year in sales.
Dendreon has been mum about the commercial game plan it needs to execute to make this really happen, deferring all questions about strategy to an analyst day it plans to host this summer. But it confirmed the massive push is on to hire and grow.
“Dendreon is beginning hiring to support the regulatory and commercial plans for Provenge,” said Katherine Stueland, a spokeswoman for the company.
Hiring well, and fast, ought to be among the top priorities at the company, says David Miller, CEO of Biotech Stock Research. Right off the bat, the company has holes to fill in its executive ranks. It needs a sales and marketing executive, following the departure last year of James Caggiano, who had been hired in 2004 from Abbott Laboratories to lead marketing of Provenge.
Dendreon’s chief scientific officer, David Urdal, has experience in manufacturing biotech drugs and can handle this critical task, Miller says, so there’s no need to bring in an outsider. Yet with Urdal busy with that job, the company needs to designate someone else to spearhead development of the company’s other experimental immune-boosting drugs with potential to advance through clinical trials, Miller says. The company also doesn’t have a senior executive responsible for business development, although that’s what CEO Mitchell Gold used to do before he climbed the ranks to the top. Gold will personally lead partnership talks with any large companies that want a piece of the drug in Europe or other parts of the world, Miller says.
At lower ranks, the company will need the quality assurance and quality control people to get up to speed now—not a year from now when orders could be pouring in—because Provenge is an unusual product that requires different training to manufacture than other biotech drugs, Miller says. While that’s happening, the company must move quickly … Next Page »