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Biogen Promotes Vounatsos to CEO, Capping Scangos’s 6-Year Run

Xconomy Boston — 

Biogen didn’t go far to find its new CEO. The company promoted chief commercial officer Michel Vounatsos to the top spot on Monday, succeeding former chief executive George Scangos.

When Scangos announced this summer that he would step down from Biogen (NASDAQ: BIIB), the Cambridge, MA-based biotech said it would consider both internal and external candidates to succeed him. Vounatsos joined the company in April following a 20-year career at Merck (NYSE: MRK), where he held numerous management positions at the company.

Scangos came to Biogen in 2010 from Exelixis (NASDAQ: EXEL), where he was the top executive. During his tenure at Biogen, the company won FDA approval in 2013 for multiple sclerosis drug dimethyl fumarate (Tecfidera). That pill has since gone on to become a blockbuster drug, ranking as Biogen’s top-selling product. In the third quarter, Biogen reported $1.03 billion in sales for the drug, which accounted for more than 40 percent of the company’s revenue.

But Biogen under Scangos also pursued riskier drug candidates in Alzheimer’s disease and nerve repair in patients with multiple sclerosis, sacrificing several other programs along the way. It halted work on preclinical drugs in immunology and fibrosis, a late-stage clinical trial of dimethyl fumarate in secondary progressive multiple sclerosis, and a drug for lupus nephritis.

Nearly a year ago, Biogen announced a restructuring that cut 880 jobs. But Scangos’s tenure can be seen as a success from the standpoint of stock performance. When Scangos started at Biogen in 2010, the company’s stock traded for $55.88 per share. On Monday, Biogen’s stock price closed at $278.77, down 2.66 percent from Friday’s closing price.

In a prepared statement, Vounatsos said Biogen’s near-term priorities include securing an FDA nod for nusinersen (Spinraza), a drug that could become the first approved treatment for spinal muscular atrophy. The company will also continue work on its portfolio of multiple sclerosis drugs, as well as aducanumab, its Phase 3 Alzheimer’s disease drug candidate.

Vounatsos will start in his new role on Jan. 6.

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