Biogen names new CEO

Biogen has promoted its chief commercial officer, Michel Vounatsos, to become its new CEO, taking over from George Scangos.

Vounatsos will take over the position from Scangos on 6 January. Scangos has led Massachusetts-based Biogen since 2010 and had previously announced that he would step down once a successor was found.

Shares in Biogen slipped following the announcement as investors reportedly felt the appointment made an acquisition of the company less likely.

Vounatsos is relatively new to Biogen, having joined in April 2016 after a 20-year career at Merck.

While at Merck, he held leadership positions of increasing responsibility in Europe, China and the US.

Biogen said Vounatsos had impressed with his leadership of the company’s commercial organisation, having implemented iitiatives to extend the company’s reach in multiple sclerosis – a key market for the company and its blockbuster Tecfidera (dimethyl fumarate).


Michel Vounatsos

Biogen’s incoming CEO, Michel Vounatsos.

Chairman of the Biogen board, Stelios Papadopoulos, said: “It was clear to us through a rigorous search process that Michel is that leader who can guide Biogen in the next phase of its evolution.”

Vounatsos takes the leadership position as Biogen has embarked on phase 3 trials to see whether a big bet on Alzheimer’s drug aducanumab will pay off, after a string of high-profile failures from other drugs.

Vounatsos said his near-term priorities are to get Spinraza (nusinersen) approved in spinal muscular atrophy, and to fully complete recruitment on the two phase 3 aducanumab trials in Alzheimer’s.

He also hinted that acquisitions may be ahead, saying the company aims to “reinvigorate” its pipeline in neurology and neuro-repair.

Vounatsos attended the Université Victor Segalen, Bordeaux II, in France, where he received his C.S.C.T. certificate in medicine. He then graduated with an MBA from the HEC School of Management in Paris.

Scangos said: “Michel is deeply committed to Biogen’s mission, our values, and our great research and science. Importantly, he brings a background in both medicine and business, along with a global perspective and keen focus on execution that will serve this company well as Biogen transitions into its next stage of growth and innovation.”


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