Scangos to leave Biogen at a crossroads

Biogen’s chief executive George Scangos is to leave the company after six years at the helm, having transformed the company into a fast-growing mid-sized pharma company.

The company has launched six new products in that time, including its most successful product, multiple sclerosis drug Tecifdera.

Revenues have more than doubled since 2010, reaching $10.8 billion last year, and the firm has just announced results for Q2 which saw sales up 12% and produced an upward revised forecast for its full year performance.

This means Scangos will be going out on a high note – and yet the company also stands at a crossroads, with its future direction uncertain.

“This is the right time for a new leader to take the reins and lead Biogen through its next stage of development,” Scangos said yesterday.

The main dilemma is that the firm remains overly reliant on its MS franchise. Sales of its company’s five top MS drugs made up more than 93% of revenues, with Tecfidera accounting for nearly 40% of the total.

This is problematic because Tecfidera has begun to see its growth flatten, and its patent, along with that of another MS drug, Tysabri, faces legal challenges.

Yesterday’s results saw Tecfidera’s sales bounce back, but Scangos’ departure has at the same time stoked talk of Biogen being a potential takeover target.

Other future directions are possible, but will need a clear vision from the next CEO to make it happen, or otherwise any takeover offers may look the most appealing option to shareholders.

Earlier this year the company announced that it would spin off its haemophilia business into a separate company, with the aim of freeing Biogen up to concentrate on its key neurological portfolio. However this is likely to only underline its reliance on its MS products, heightening the need for newer products to diversify its portfolio.

Biogen’s pipeline certainly has great potential, but also looks risky, with a number of cutting edge treatments. Most notable among these is its Alzheimer’s candidate aducanumab (BIIB037), which is still recruiting for phase 3 trials.

Meanwhile, it is working with Ionis on a new treatment for spinal muscular atrophy, nusinersen and has completed enrolment in two Phase 3 studies of in infants and children. Finally it has also recently announced a joint project on an innovative gene therapy collaboration with the University of Pennsylvania focused on treating diseases of the central nervous system.”

However in June a pipeline drug for relapsing forms of multiple sclerosis missed its primary and secondary endpoints in a Phase 2 trial, dashing hopes of another product for the disease.

The company’s board will now begin a search for Scangos’ successor. It says it will consider both internal and external candidates, and the entire transition will take at least a few months.

Meanwhile the company is also investing in the biosimilar market – suggesting a broad number of directions for the company, but ones which it may further rationalise,depending on the next CEO and their vision for the firm’s future.

Don't miss your daily pharmaphorum news.
SUBSCRIBE free here.