Celgene’s COO quits after troubles with new drugs

Celgene’s chief operating officer and inflammatory diseases guru Scott Smith has quit the company, in the aftermath of the FDA’s rejection of a key multiple sclerosis pill, and a late-stage trial failure in Crohn’s disease late last year.

While the company gave no reasons why Smith has left, the decision sparked immediate speculation that he had paid the price for the FDA’s refusal to accept a filing for the potential blockbuster ozanimod.

Celgene has built a business around blood cancer drugs but is trying to branch out into new areas to increase sales.

The company paid $7.2 billion for San Diego biotech Receptos to add ozanimod to its pipeline, and things seemed to be going well until February when the FDA returned a shock Refusal to File letter.

The FDA said that the nonclinical and clinical pharmacology sections in the filing were insufficient for a complete review – and the speculation is that Smith has left as a result of oversights in the development process.

Scott Smith

Sales of psoriasis pill Otezla (apremilast) have also fallen short of expectations at just under $1.3 billion for 2017, and last autumn the company axed development of gene silencing drug mongersen, following a phase 3 trial failure in Crohn’s disease.

Smith had been COO since April last year and joined Celgene in 2008, holding several senior positions including head of global marketing for inflammation and immunology, and global head of immunology and inflammation.

Celgene’s CEO Mark Alles will assume Smith’s responsibilities, as well as leading Celgene’s haematology and oncology franchise, and its inflammation and immunology franchise including manufacturing, regulatory and clinical development.

Alles noted Smith’s contribution to the company, including his role in the development of Otezla.

Mark Alles

Alles said: “Scott has made significant contributions to Celgene, most notably building our Inflammation and Immunology franchise, including the global launch of Otezla. We thank Scott for his service and wish him well in his future endeavours.”

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