David Loew swaps Sanofi’s top vaccine job for CEO role at Ipsen

Sanofi had no sooner announced the departure of David Loew, its head of vaccines, before he surfaced as the new chief executive of French specialty drugmaker Ipsen, taking over from acting CEO Aymeric Le Chatelier.

Le Chatelier took the top job at Ipsen on an interim basis last December after former CEO David Meek resigned from the company last year to take the helm of FerGene, a gene therapy spin-out from Ferring Pharma.

Loew is due to start as CEO at Ipsen on 1 July, after which Le Chatelier will continue in his role of chief financial officer of the firm.

The new CEO will be based at Ipsen’s headquarters in Boulogne-Billancourt, and will be tasked with bolstering Ipsen’s pipeline through external partnering, as well as fostering a culture of “entrepreneurship, agility and patient-centricity” at the company.

Ipsen has been enjoying good sales growth in the last couple of years on the back of products like Somatuline (lanreotide) and Cabometyx (cabozantinib) for cancer, as well as Dysport (abobotulinumtoxinA), a rival to AbbVie’s big-selling Botox brand.

Its late-stage pipeline was hit last year however after the FDA placed a clinical hold on palovarotene, a treatment for rare diseases fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva (FOP) and multiple osteochondroma (MO), and the drug subsequently failed a futility test in the pivotal MOVE trial.

The FDA has since said the company can restart testing the retinoic acid receptor gamma (RARγ) selective agonist in FOP, but prospects for the drug look diminished and the MO indication has now been dropped.

Ipsen paid $1.3 billion for palovarotene’s developer Clementia Pharma in 2018 when Meek was CEO,  saying at the time that the drug was a “de-risked” asset. The company had to take a €669 million ($744 million) pretax charge in the last quarter of 2019 related to the palovarotene programme.

Ipsen has a couple of other FOP candidates coming through development, including an antibody-based drug from Regeneron – garetosmab – that showed positive phase 2 results in January.

It also has another FOP candidate in its portfolio via its $535 million agreement with Blueprint last October for BLU-782, an ALK2 inhibitor. FOP is caused by a mutation in the gene for ALK2, which is known as ACVR1.

Extending the pipeline in cancer, neuroscience and rare diseases is a key priority however as some of its current products start to look a little mature, with generics to Somatuline and older drug octreotide due to arrive around the world from next year.

Loew was CEO of Sanofi Pasteur Vaccines from 2016, and is credited with overseeing a number of acquisitions and licensing deals that expanded the company’s pipeline. He left the company as part of a revamp of senior management by Sanofi CEO Paul Hudson.

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