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Ludwig Hantson is cleaning house at Alexion, booting R&D chief Martin Mackay and other execs

Ludwig Hantson

Two months ago, ex-Baxalta CEO Ludwig Hantson got the CEO’s job at Alexion $ALXN after the former helmsman got the heave-ho following accusations that the company had been pushing advance sales to make the numbers look better.

Today, Hantson is cleaning house and preparing to bring in his own team.

Martin Mackay

The group of departing execs includes R&D chief Martin Mackay, who is now being forced out for the second time since he was ousted by Pascal Soriot as head of R&D at a struggling AstraZeneca in early 2013. Mackay will leave at the end of August.

Chief commercial officer Carsten Thiel will be the first to go on June 1. He’s being replaced by Baxalta vet Brian Goff. CFO David Anderson, in the job only six months, is also on the way out at the end of August. And Clare Carmichael, the head of human resources, is also leaving June 1.

Alexion’s shares tanked, dropping 9.3% on news of the latest upheaval at the biotech.

Leerink’s Geoffrey Porges didn’t sound surprised by the spring cleaning in the C-suite. Hantson, he says, has been profoundly displeased by the pipeline, with the exception of ALXN1210. He notes:

After these removals and replacements, none of the management team that built the Soliris business, or presided over the value-destroying Synageva deal in 2015, remain in place. While the success of these transitions can only be judged retrospectively, we are at least encouraged tht the new CEO is taking decisive steps to focus the company on simple steps. These steps are aligned with maintaining and growing the Soliris business, capitalizing on the opportunity for MG and the line extension ALXN1210.

Mackay has had a long and storied career in R&D. Former AstraZeneca CEO David Brennan — who ironically filled the interim CEO role at Alexion after the first purge in December — poached him from a top job at Pfizer. And Mackay was wheeling and dealing his way to beefing up Big Pharma’s worst pipeline when Soriot arrived.

Mackay earned $4.2 million in total compensation last year, managing a $757 million research budget.

Brennan, meanwhile, is now chairman of the board after Alexion founder Leonard Bell announced his decision to leave that post in March as the biotech was starting a complete overhaul.

Hantson had nothing but nice things to say about the execs he was pushing out of the company. On Mackay, he said:

The R&D function at Alexion is core to our business and to our future, and it is our intent to recruit a new head of R&D who can build on Martin’s successes. During his time at Alexion, Martin distinguished himself as a leader in researching and developing promising therapies for rare diseases while building an outstanding R&D leadership team and organization. Martin also led the development of Strensiq, bringing the first enzyme replacement therapy to market for patients with hypophosphatasia, and significantly advanced our complement pipeline programs.


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