Sanofi re­cruits No­var­tis' top phar­ma ex­ec Paul Hud­son as its new CEO — so what hap­pens now?

Sanofi’s board has turned to some­one who’s not French to be its next CEO.

The Paris-based phar­ma gi­ant named No­var­tis phar­ma chief Paul Hud­son — a British phar­ma ex­ec­u­tive with an in­ter­na­tion­al pedi­gree — to the top post as cur­rent CEO Olivi­er Brandi­court heads off to an ear­ly “re­tire­ment.”

Marie-France Tschudin AAA

In a care­ful­ly or­ches­trat­ed re­sponse, No­var­tis CEO Vas Narasimhan con­grat­u­lat­ed Hud­son and named Marie-France Tschudin, a Swiss cit­i­zen who’s head­ing up the re­cent­ly ac­quired can­cer group Ad­vanced Ac­cel­er­a­tor Ap­pli­ca­tions, as Hud­son’s re­place­ment. In do­ing so, he im­me­di­ate­ly po­si­tioned Tschudin — who speaks 6 lan­guages — as a top can­di­date for any fu­ture Big Phar­ma CEO open­ing.

Hud­son joined No­var­tis and the ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee just three years ago, af­ter serv­ing as the US phar­ma chief for As­traZeneca. He has a de­gree in eco­nom­ics from Man­ches­ter Met­ro­pol­i­tan Uni­ver­si­ty in the UK.

Hud­son will take the top slot on Sep­tem­ber 1, where he’ll be greet­ed by an ex­tra­or­di­nary chal­lenge. The com­pa­ny has an R&D group with a rep for slow mo­tion move­ment and a mar­ket­ing team that’s faced with some tough chal­lenges on the di­a­betes front, among oth­ers.

In­vestors re­spond­ed warm­ly to the ac­tion, bid­ding Sanofi’s shares up 5.5%  on Fri­day.

Brandi­court came on board just 4 years ago, fol­low­ing in the wake of Chris Viehbach­er, who was axed by the Gal­lic board and pow­er­ful chair­man — Serge Wein­berg — in charge of Sanofi af­ter mov­ing back home to the US. The French clear­ly want­ed a na­tive to run the com­pa­ny at the time, but ap­par­ent­ly feel that pro­fes­sion­al­ism trumps na­tion­al­i­ty as it works to­ward a turn­around.

One of Reuters sources, who tipped the wire ser­vices off ear­ly on the an­nounce­ment, said that Hud­son was picked be­cause of his sol­id man­age­ment ex­pe­ri­ence and ex­pe­ri­ence with dig­i­tal tech­nolo­gies, where No­var­tis has been care­ful­ly fo­cused.

So now the guess­ing games be­gin. What will Hud­son do to shake things up at Sanofi, where its R&D or­ga­ni­za­tion has pro­duced lit­tle of re­al val­ue, with the pos­si­ble ex­cep­tion of their late-stage can­cer drug isat­ux­imab?

Sanofi ex­e­cut­ed ma­jor al­liances with Re­gen­eron and Al­ny­lam on ground­break­ing drugs, but on its own the com­pa­ny is known as large­ly mori­bund and bu­reau­crat­ic, tak­ing a long stretch to fi­nal­ly ex­e­cute on the M&A front un­der Brandi­court. And now they’ve backed away from those al­liances to lean more heav­i­ly on the pipeline and R&D chief John Reed.

If Hud­son’s back­ground at No­var­tis is an in­di­ca­tor, he may turn to deal­mak­ing to help en­liv­en the late-stage pipeline, where all big phar­mas are judged. An in­ter­nal shake­up in key ar­eas like on­col­o­gy may al­so be in the off­ing, as new ex­ecs like Di­et­mar Berg­er join up. And just about every new CEO — Dave Ricks and Em­ma Walm­s­ley, for ex­am­ple — like to bring out the axe to chop away at the dead wood be­fore adding any­thing.

Reed has al­ready re­vamped the pipeline. But look for an even greater re­liance on the US re­search ops around Boston to car­ry the bulk of the weight.

Any­one look­ing for the next sig­nal on Hud­son’s sta­tus should look to his com­pen­sa­tion pack­age. Brandi­court took home a 2018 com­pen­sa­tion pack­age of $8.1 mil­lion — down $2.7 mil­lion, a painful 33% drop — com­pared to his al­lot­ment for 2017. Eu­ro­pean ex­ecs tend to be paid sig­nif­i­cant­ly less than their US coun­ter­parts, but a cut in com­pen­sa­tion like that un­der­scored the board’s feel­ings about Brandi­court’s lack of ef­fec­tive­ness as a man­ag­er.

How much did Hud­son get in his ne­go­ti­a­tions?

Im­age: Paul Hud­son (No­var­tis)

 

UP­DAT­ED: In sur­prise switch, Bris­tol-My­ers is sell­ing off block­buster Ote­zla, promis­ing to com­plete Cel­gene ac­qui­si­tion — just lat­er

Apart from revealing its checkpoint inhibitor Opdivo blew a big liver cancer study on Monday, Bristol-Myers Squibb said its plans to swallow Celgene will require the sale of blockbuster psoriasis treatment Otezla to keep the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at bay.

The announcement — which has potentially delayed the completion of the takeover to early 2020 — irked investors, triggering the New York-based drugmaker’s shares to tumble Monday morning in premarket trading.

Celgene’s Otezla, approved in 2014 for psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis, is a rising star. It generated global sales of $1.6 billion last year, up from the nearly $1.3 billion in 2017. Apart from the partial overlap of Bristol-Myers injectable Orencia, the company’s rival oral TYK2 psoriasis drug is in late-stage development, after the firm posted encouraging mid-stage data on the drug, BMS-986165, last fall. With Monday’s decision, it appears Bristol-Myers is favoring its experimental drug, and discounting Otezla’s future.

The move blindsided some analysts. Credit Suisse’s Vamil Divan noted just days ago:

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Novotech CEO Dr. John Moller

Novotech CRO Award­ed Frost & Sul­li­van Best Biotech CRO Asia-Pa­cif­ic 2019

Known in the in­dus­try as the Asia-Pa­cif­ic CRO, Novotech is now lead CRO ser­vices provider for the grow­ing num­ber of in­ter­na­tion­al biotechs se­lect­ing the re­gion for their stud­ies.

Re­flect­ing this Asia-Pa­cif­ic growth, Novotech staff num­bers are up 20% since De­cem­ber 2018 to 600 in-house clin­i­cal re­search peo­ple across a full range of ser­vices, across the re­gion.

Novotech’s ca­pa­bil­i­ties have been rec­og­nized by an­a­lysts like Frost & Sul­li­van, most re­cent­ly with the pres­ti­gious Asia-Pa­cif­ic CRO Biotech of the year award for best prac­tices in clin­i­cal re­search for biotechs for the fifth year. See oth­er awards here.

Fol­low­ing news of job cuts in Eu­ro­pean R&D ops, Sanofi con­firms it’s of­fer­ing US work­ers an 'ear­ly ex­it'

Ear­li­er in the week we learned that Sanofi was bring­ing out the bud­get ax to trim 466 R&D jobs in Eu­rope, re­tool­ing its ap­proach to car­dio as re­search chief John Reed beefed up their work in can­cer and gene ther­a­pies. And we’re end­ing the week with news that the phar­ma gi­ant has al­so been qui­et­ly re­duc­ing staff in the US, tar­get­ing hun­dreds of jobs as the com­pa­ny push­es vol­un­tary buy­outs with a fo­cus on R&D sup­port ser­vices.

Suf­fer­ing No­var­tis part­ner Cona­tus is pack­ing it in on NASH af­ter a se­ries of un­for­tu­nate tri­al events

The NASH par­ty is over at No­var­tis-backed Cona­tus. And this time they’re turn­ing off the lights.

More than 2 years af­ter No­var­tis sur­prised the biotech in­vest­ment com­mu­ni­ty with its $50 mil­lion up­front and promise of R&D sup­port to part­ner with the lit­tle biotech on NASH — ig­nit­ing a light­ning strike for the share price — Cona­tus $CNAT is back with the lat­est bit­ter tale to tell about em­ri­c­as­an, which once in­spired con­fi­dence at the phar­ma gi­ant.

Dean Hum. Nasdaq via YouTube

Gen­fit goes to Chi­na with a deal worth up to $228M for NASH drug

Fresh off the high of its Nas­daq IPO de­but, and the low of com­par­isons to Cymabay — whose NASH drug re­cent­ly stum­bled — Gen­fit on Mon­day un­veiled an up to $228 mil­lion deal with transpa­cif­ic biotech Terns Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals to de­vel­op its flag­ship ex­per­i­men­tal liv­er drug — elafi­bra­nor — in Greater Chi­na.

The deal comes more than a week af­ter Gen­fit $GN­FT is­sued a fiery de­fense of its dual PPAR ag­o­nist elafi­bra­nor, when com­peti­tor Cymabay’s PPARδ ag­o­nist, se­ladel­par, fiz­zled in a snap­shot of da­ta from an on­go­ing mid-stage tri­al. The main goal at the end of 12 weeks was for se­ladel­par to in­duce a sta­tis­ti­cal­ly sig­nif­i­cant im­prove­ment in liv­er fat con­tent, but da­ta showed that pa­tients on the place­bo ac­tu­al­ly per­formed bet­ter.

Alex­ion wins pri­or­i­ty re­view for Ul­tomiris' aHUS in­di­ca­tion; FDA ex­pands ap­proval of Ver­tex's Symdeko

→ Alex­ion $ALXN has scored a speedy re­view for Ul­tomiris for pa­tients with atyp­i­cal he­molyt­ic ure­mic syn­drome (aHUS) af­ter post­ing pos­i­tive da­ta from a piv­otal study in Jan­u­ary. The drug is the rare dis­ease com­pa­ny’s shot at pro­tect­ing its block­buster blood dis­or­der fran­chise that is cur­rent­ly cen­tered around its flag­ship drug, Soliris, which is a com­ple­ment in­hibitor typ­i­cal­ly ad­min­is­tered every two weeks. Ul­tomiris has a sim­i­lar mech­a­nism of ac­tion but re­quires less-fre­quent dos­ing — every eight weeks. The de­ci­sion date has been set to Oc­to­ber 19. Late last year, Ul­tomiris se­cured ap­proval for noc­tur­nal he­mo­glo­bin­uria (PNH) pa­tients.

Bet­ter than Am­bi­en? Min­er­va soars on PhI­Ib up­date on sel­torex­ant for in­som­nia

A month af­ter roil­ing in­vestors with what skep­tics dis­missed as cher­ry pick­ing of its de­pres­sion da­ta, Min­er­va is back with a clean slate of da­ta from its Phase IIb in­som­nia tri­al.

In a de­tailed up­date, the Waltham, MA-based biotech said sel­torex­ant (MIN-202) hit both the pri­ma­ry and sev­er­al sec­ondary end­points, ef­fec­tive­ly im­prov­ing sleep in­duc­tion and pro­long­ing sleep du­ra­tion. In­ves­ti­ga­tors made a point to note that the ef­fects were con­sis­tent across the adult and el­der­ly pop­u­la­tions, with the lat­ter more prone to the sleep dis­or­der.

Gene ther­a­py biotech sees its stock rock­et high­er on promis­ing re­sults for rare cas­es of but­ter­fly dis­ease

Shares of Krys­tal Biotech took off this morn­ing $KRYS af­ter the lit­tle biotech re­port­ed promis­ing re­sults from its gene ther­a­py to treat a rare skin dis­ease called epi­der­mol­y­sis bul­losa.

Fo­cus­ing on an up­date with 4 new pa­tients, re­searchers spot­light­ed the suc­cess of KB103 in clos­ing some stub­born wounds. Krys­tal says that of 4 re­cur­ring and 2 chron­ic skin wounds treat­ed with the gene ther­a­py, the KB103 group saw the clo­sure of 5. The 6th — a chron­ic wound, de­fined as a wound that had re­mained open for more than 12 weeks — was par­tial­ly closed. That brings the to­tal so far to 8 treat­ed wounds, with 7 clo­sures.

Ab­b­Vie gets a green light to re­sume re­cruit­ing pa­tients for one myelo­ma study — but Ven­clex­ta re­mains un­der a cloud

Three months af­ter reg­u­la­tors at the FDA forced Ab­b­Vie to halt en­rolling pa­tients in its tri­als of a com­bi­na­tion us­ing Ven­clex­ta (vene­to­clax) to treat drug-re­sis­tant cas­es of mul­ti­ple myelo­ma, the agency has green-light­ed the re­sump­tion of one of those stud­ies, while keep­ing the rest on the side­lines.

The CANO­VA (M13-494) study can now get back in busi­ness re­cruit­ing pa­tients to test the drug for a pop­u­la­tion that shares a par­tic­u­lar ge­net­ic bio­mark­er. To get that per­mis­sion, Ab­b­Vie — which is part­nered with Roche on this pro­gram — was forced to re­vise the pro­to­col, mak­ing un­spec­i­fied changes in­volv­ing risk mit­i­ga­tion mea­sures, pro­to­col-spec­i­fied guide­lines and an up­dat­ed fu­til­i­ty cri­te­ria.