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Biogen elevates Vounatsos to top seat

US biotech’s CCO to succeed George Scangos on 6 January
Biogen

Biogen has named Michel Vounatsos as its new chief executive, ending a five-month search for a successor to George Scangos.

Vounatsos is currently chief commercial officer at Biogen, joining the company in April after a 20-year career at Merck & Co, and is due to take over as CEO on 6 January when Scangos will end his six-year run in charge of the US biotech.

Shares in Biogen slid 2.7% on the announcement yesterday, although this was attributed to disappointment in some quarters that the company is less likely to succumb to a takeover with a new CEO in place. The stock gained ground in after-hours trading.

Scangos' departure was announced in July and came amid something of an exodus of senior figures at the company, coming shortly after the departure of R&D head Doug Williams and commercial chief Tony Kingsley.

Vounatsos takes over at a time when Biogen has been facing slowing growth for top-selling multiple sclerosis drug Tecfidera (dimethyl glutamate) and declines for its older interferon-based MS products, causing it to miss some sales and earnings targets. 

Vounatsos said that near-term priorities for the company are "clear", and include gaining approval for spinal muscular atrophy therapy Spinraza (nusinersen), growing the MS franchise through new products such as recently-approved Zinbryta (daclizumab) and bringing forward phase III Alzheimer's disease candidate aducanumab.

He also said the company needs to "reinvigorate" its pipeline in key R&D areas including neurology and neuro-repair.

Scangos said Vounatsos is "an inspiring leader who cares deeply for patients and our employees; he has a clear understanding of what is needed to drive our business forward".

"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."

Article by
Phil Taylor

20th December 2016

From: Sales

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