People, Startups

Celgene vet Jackie Fouse grabs the reins of a Vivek Ramaswamy vant-up

Jackie Fouse has landed.

A little more than four months after Fouse said she was “retiring” as president of Celgene, she’s back running her own biotech as executive chairman of Dermavant, one of several new “vants” that Roivant chief Vivek Ramaswamy has kicked into play over the last three years.

Fouse wrapped up her final lap at Celgene a few days ago, ending a 3-month leg as a company adviser to see out her transition from the big biotech, which has perhaps the busiest dealmaking group in the industry.  She moves from a top job at a bellwether company to a startup with a few advanced therapies in the clinic. And she tells me that the partnering work she did at Celgene will help her get started on her new job as executive chairman.

Dermavant is a private startup, so we aren’t getting any details on the pay package. But if Ramaswamy’s recent hires are any indication, it likely includes a hefty slice of equity with potential to pay off with a few successes in the clinic.

For Ramaswamy, who’s been ramping up a lineup of new companies, a high-profile hire like Fouse fits perfectly into a strategy to build credibility quickly by wooing some noteworthy figures to run his companies. He did that just a few months ago with the move to bring in David Hung to run Axovant, focused on Alzheimer’s and dementia, not long after Hung completed the $14 billion sale of Medivation to Pfizer.

“Over the past three years, I have come to the conclusion that quality of leadership and personnel will be the most important determinants of success for Roivant over the long run,” Ramaswamy told me. “In three years, it is my hope that Dermavant will be one of the leading companies in the world in developing truly innovative treatments for medical dermatologic conditions, as opposed to following the historical path of ‘derm-focused’ companies that have sought to sell reformulations or alternatively-branded versions of drugs that have been around for many decades. We hope to build not only a world-class development team at Dermavant, but also a leading commercial organization in the field of medical dermatology.”

These days, when you hear a senior biopharma exec at a top-20 company is retiring, it’s often just a prelude to a new job at a biotech startup, where an equity stake can pay off in ways that a career often can’t.

In a preview to today’s news, I got a chance to ask Fouse a few questions by email. Here’s what she had to say about the move.

JC: I would safely say that everyone in the industry has been looking to see where you’d land after Celgene. I’m going to assume you had some choices on your next role. Was there one key, deciding factor that steered you to Dermavant?

JF: What I found most compelling about Dermavant was the company’s mission, namely offering innovative solutions to pressing unmet needs in medical dermatology. I think the therapies in development at Dermavant have strong mechanistic rationales and I have been impressed with what the Dermavant and Roivant teams have done up to now to put together a pipeline of late stage, interesting assets and continue to advance their development. The combination of the clinical and medical skills of the existing Dermavant team and those of the Roivant non-clinical, regulatory and business development teams have delivered a great existing pipeline for Dermavant.

JC: You’ve got a couple of drugs in the pipeline. Do you plan on more deals and is an IPO on the horizon? In short, what are you going to do with the company now? What’s your mandate?

JF: We have no plans for an IPO in the near term. The company is fully funded and supported by Roivant to pursue all of its current and future development programs at full speed. My immediate mandate is to rapidly build the pipeline further through the right sort of partnerships, while advancing the three drugs which are in the company’s pipeline today. My long-term objective at Dermavant is to scale a company from the early stages of its growth into an industry leader in an important and neglected therapeutic area.

JC: And finally, what’s the one thing you learned at Celgene that will be most helpful in this new role?

JF: At Celgene I was responsible for managing a portfolio of corporate partnerships through the company’s distributed research and development model. I learned how to manage those relationships and deliver mutually beneficial solutions that served the needs of our partners. At Dermavant, I intend to do the same thing as the company forms new partnerships with other companies working in medical dermatology.

In a followup, she noted:

I should also add that at Celgene the distributed R&D model and portfolio of partnerships was a joint construction across our early research team, namely Tom Daniel who I think you know, and BD team led by George Golumbeski along with others and me when I was CFO, head of hem/onc and COO. Team effort, not just my supervision.

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