Dendreon Names John Johnson CEO After Volatile Year

2/1/12Follow @arleneweintraub

Seattle-based Dendreon Corp. (NASDAQ: DNDNsaid today it has named John Johnson to the position of president and CEO, succeeding longtime CEO Mitchell Gold. Johnson was previously the CEO of East Brunswick, NJ-based Savient Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: SVNT).

The appointment comes after a difficult run for Dendreon. In 2010, the company won approval for sipuleucel-T (Provenge), the first in a new class of immune-boosting therapies for prostate cancer. But the product has been slow to take off, causing the company to fall short of Wall Street expectations. On January 5, Dendreon surprised investors by announcing that it sold $228 million of the drug in 2011—better-than-expected results—but it hasn’t been enough to sway shareholder sentiment.

Today’s news was welcome on Wall Street. “I am very pleased to hear this morning about Dendreon’s succession plan for its CEO and Chairman,” wrote shareholder activist Brad Loncar in a statement.” In August, Loncar sent a letter to Dendreon chairman Richard Brewer expressing concerns about poor management at the company. “After joining together and asking for this change, this is a big win for Dendreon’s shareholders and for corporate governance in general.”

Dendreon’s shares rose 6 percent to $14.40 in pre-market trading.

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