Regeneron chair Vagelos steps down at 93

Regeneron's chair, P. Roy Vagelos
International Biomedical Research Alliance

P. Roy Vagelos

Biopharma legend P. Roy Vagelos will step down as chairman of Regeneron Pharmaceuticals after 29 years in June, at the age of 93.

Vagelos will stay in his post until his current term comes to an end on 9th June, but won’t seek re-election, In an unusual move, Regeneron co-founders Leonard Schleifer and George Yancopoulos, will become co-chairmen in addition to their current role as chief executive and chief scientific officer, respectively.

Discussing his retirement, Vagelos said that over nearly three decades he has “watched with pride as Regeneron has been transformed from a small biotechnology company with big ideas into a successful research-based biopharmaceutical company that improves the lives of many patients.”

“I am confident that the company, under the leadership of Len, George, and the other esteemed members of the board, will continue to bring forward important medicines for patients in need and deliver even more value to shareholders and society,” he added.

Vagelos took over as chair from Schleifer in 1995 after stepping down from a 10-year stint as chief executive of Merck & Co. At the time, Regeneron was struggling with the decision to abandon trials of a drug candidate for neurodegenerative disorder amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, forcing it to turn its attention to other pipeline projects.

In the intervening period, the company has successfully brought eight medicines to market, notably blockbuster eye disease therapy Eylea (aflibercept) with Bayer and Sanofi-partnered pipeline-in-a-product Dupixent (dupilumab), and seen its valuation rocket to almost $90 billion, with annual sales of more than $12 billion.

“Roy Vagelos has served as my role model since the day in 1975 when my father showed me an article in the Greek newspaper about his similar background and incredible achievements at Merck,” said Yancopoulos in a statement.

“Since becoming our chair in 1995, Roy has remained my hero and role model. We will continue to strive to live up to the standard Roy has set of using science to change the practice of medicine and improve lives,” he added.

Vagelos also had a transformative effect on Merck during his tenure, growing the firm four-fold and delivering the company its first $1 billion-selling drug, the heart failure therapy Vasotec (enalapril).

Regeneron also said Christine Poon, a member of the board since 2010, will become its lead independent director.