A biotech bil­lion­aire tops the list of the 15 high­est paid R&D ex­ecs in bio­phar­ma

George Yan­copou­los at­tends old Spring Har­bor Lab­o­ra­to­ry’s Dou­ble He­lix Medals at Amer­i­can Mu­se­um of Nat­ur­al His­to­ry on De­cem­ber 1, 2016 in New York City. Get­ty Im­ages


A few peo­ple in the top ech­e­lon of the 15 high­est paid R&D ex­ecs in the US — based on avail­able da­ta from the wave of proxy state­ments that have been filed so far this year — did bet­ter in 2017. But the trend over­all was down, by a bit, and way off from the go-go years topped by 2014. Still, no one on this list could be con­sid­ered hard up for cash.

The list is based on to­tal com­pen­sa­tion, in­clud­ing stock awards and op­tions that typ­i­cal­ly de­liv­er the li­on’s share of the val­ue. We’re stick­ing with the US due to re­port­ing re­quire­ments that make these num­bers pub­lic, which is lack­ing over­seas. Iron­i­cal­ly, though, the Eu­ro­pean Big Phar­mas have a dif­fer­ent — low­er — pay scale that typ­i­cal­ly keep them far be­hind their bet­ter paid US coun­ter­parts.

So let’s get start­ed.


George Yan­copou­los

1 George Yan­copou­los Re­gen­eron

Pres­i­dent and Chief Sci­en­tif­ic Of­fi­cer

2016: $27.8 mil­lion

2015: $40.0 mil­lion

George Yan­copou­los is in a class of R&D ex­ecs all on his own. While his com­pen­sa­tion pack­age was trimmed to $27.8 mil­lion last year, it was still more than dou­ble the next name on the list. The rea­son is that as co-founder of the high­ly suc­cess­ful com­pa­ny, he’s been mov­ing to par­i­ty with CEO Len Schleifer. Yan­copou­los al­so owns a chunk of Re­gen­eron stock that makes him a bil­lion­aire —2.9% to be ex­act, or 3,047,986 shares. worth $1.2 bil­lion on Fri­day’s close.


Paul Stof­fels

2 Paul Stof­fels J&J

Chief Sci­en­tif­ic Of­fi­cer

2016: $12.7 mil­lion

2015: $10.8 mil­lion

The scoop: Get­ting back clos­er to the re­al world, but still head and shoul­ders above his peers, is J&J chief sci­en­tist Paul Stof­fels. Stof­fels cre­at­ed a glob­al net­work of busi­ness de­vel­op­ment teams in the top hubs: Boston/Cam­bridge, Lon­don, San Fran­cis­co and Shang­hai. They’re re­spon­si­ble for reel­ing in a wide va­ri­ety of new tech­nolo­gies each year, but it’s the big late-stage work that’s de­liv­er­ing the goods at J&J, which isn’t in the least re­luc­tant to tie some big num­bers to the ther­a­pies they like.


Roger M. Perl­mut­ter

3 Roger Perl­mut­ter Mer­ck

EVP and Pres­i­dent of Mer­ck Re­search Lab­o­ra­to­ries

2016: $8.3 mil­lion

2015: $8.2 mil­lion

The ex-Am­gen re­search chief was brought back to Mer­ck to shake things up af­ter a long and em­bar­rass­ing run of R&D set­backs. Keytru­da — al­ready in the clin­ic — helped cor­rect their course. And Perl­mut­ter has kept the com­pa­ny at the fore­front of im­muno-on­col­o­gy with a savvy de­vel­op­ment pro­gram. Perl­mut­ter is known for a rel­a­tive­ly small sam­pling of deals. But when he likes some­thing, he will go all out to get it.


Mikael Dol­sten

4Mikael Dol­sten Pfiz­er

Pres­i­dent, World­wide Re­search & De­vel­op­ment

2016: $8.2 mil­lion

2015: $6.0 mil­lion

Dol­sten led Pfiz­er through one of the biggest re­or­ga­ni­za­tions in the his­to­ry of bio­phar­ma. At the time, he made it clear that the com­pa­ny will al­ways be chang­ing its R&D struc­ture as it al­ters course from time to time. One big fo­cus at Pfiz­er that has paid off: On­col­o­gy. New drug ap­provals have pushed the com­pa­ny in­to a promi­nent po­si­tion. And Ian Read is un­apolo­getic about his will­ing­ness to go short and long to ac­quire what­ev­er it wants.


Michael Sev­eri­no

5 Michael Sev­eri­no Ab­b­Vie

Chief Sci­en­tif­ic Of­fi­cer

2016: $7.2 mil­lion

2015: $6.6 mil­lion

For Ab­b­Vie to be a long-term suc­cess, then Michael Sev­eri­no has to come up with a string of new block­busters to even­tu­al­ly re­place the $16 bil­lion be­he­moth Hu­mi­ra. Maybe that’s why he’s this high on the list. Talk about great ex­pec­ta­tions.


Jan Lund­berg

6 Jan Lund­berg Eli Lil­ly

EVP and Pres­i­dent, Lil­ly Re­search Lab­o­ra­to­ries

2016: $6.5 mil­lion

2015: $6.8 mil­lion

Jan Lund­berg has had some suc­cess­es re­cent­ly. And he’s had some of the biggest set­backs in the in­dus­try. New drug ap­provals tied to an ag­gres­sive an­nu­al hike in their port­fo­lio price list has helped Lil­ly get up from the floor and start rev­enue climb­ing again. Then so­la’ stag­gered to an­oth­er fail­ure for Alzheimer’s in Phase III (not sur­pris­ing) while baric­i­tinib just got a re­jec­tion (a stun­ner.) Lil­ly owes in­vestors a long string of ap­provals if it is go­ing to keep its promis­es, which have a nasty habit of shift­ing sig­nif­i­cant­ly to what­ev­er course it is on. They should just stick with the two per year that was promised. That’s how you per­form.


Nor­bert Bischof­berg­er

7 Nor­bert Bischof­berg­er Gilead

Chief Sci­en­tif­ic Of­fi­cer

2016: $6.2 mil­lion

2015: $7.0 mil­lion

Gilead has at­tract­ed a con­sid­er­able amount of crit­i­cism for its fail­ure to de­liv­er a ma­jor deal/pipeline ex­pan­sion as its hep C fran­chise starts a fast slide. But Nor­bert Bischof­berg­er’s R&D team can still demon­strate in­cred­i­ble fo­cus and com­pe­tence when they want to move. That zeal was on dis­play just a week ago when the com­pa­ny un­veiled new NASH da­ta for a drug Gilead paid Nim­bus $600 mil­lion to land.


Sean Harp­er

8Sean Harp­er Am­gen

EVP, Re­search and De­vel­op­ment

2016: $6.2 mil­lion

2015: $5.6 mil­lion

Sean Harp­er took over in R&D af­ter Roger Perl­mut­ter was pushed out of the com­pa­ny, and then went on to big­ger things. But Harp­er had plen­ty to fol­low up on. There was the big PC­SK9 drug, which just scored sig­nif­i­cant — though for many in­ad­e­quate — car­dio ef­fi­ca­cy.  There’s new late-stage work un­der­way in mi­graine as well as os­teo­poro­sis and a tardy FDA OK for the CKD drug Parsabiv. CEO Bob Brad­way has been an ea­ger ad­vo­cate of reg­u­lar purg­ing of the R&D group, which has some con­sid­er­able achieve­ments to boast about. But the com­pa­ny has nev­er ful­ly lived up to ex­pec­ta­tions.


Fran­cis Cuss

9 Fran­cis Cuss Bris­tol-My­ers Squibb

Ex-Chief Sci­en­tif­ic Of­fi­cer

2016: $6.0 mil­lion

2015: $6.7 mil­lion

Some­body had to take the fall af­ter Bris­tol-My­ers Squibb took a wrong turn and drove straight in­to an R&D stone wall last year on its over­reach on lung can­cer. And that some­body was Fran­cis Cuss. The com­pa­ny has now turned to Tom Lynch to cor­rect course. Lynch by the way is get­ting a bet­ter com­pen­sa­tion pack­age in his first year — $7.2 mil­lion — than Cuss got in his last. Much is ex­pect­ed.


Hen­ry Fuchs

10 Hen­ry Fuchs Bio­Marin

Pres­i­dent, World­wide Re­search and De­vel­op­ment

2016: $5.8 mil­lion

2015: $4.8 mil­lion

Bio­Marin is rou­tine­ly held up as a top takeover can­di­date in biotech be­cause of the com­pa­ny’s suc­cess un­der Hen­ry Fuchs to ma­neu­ver rare dis­ease drugs to the mar­ket. His abil­i­ties were on dis­play just last week, when Bio­Marin picked up a quick OK for Brineu­ra, a new drug for ex­treme­ly rare cas­es of CLN2 af­ter study­ing the drug in on­ly 22 pa­tients in a sin­gle-arm study. Fuchs is help­ing re­struc­ture the way rare dis­ease drugs are tri­aled, short­en­ing the time­line con­sid­er­ably. That’s why he’s in the top 10 this year.


Michael Ehlers

11Michael Ehlers Bio­gen

EVP, Re­search and De­vel­op­ment

2016: $5.5 mil­lion (first year)

Michael Ehlers was re­cruit­ed to Bio­gen from Pfiz­er, where he had been lead­ing the neu­ro­science di­vi­sion. Pfiz­er has been fo­cus­ing in­creas­ing­ly on on­col­o­gy, but Bio­gen is all about neu­ro­science now, with one of the lead­ing late-stage ef­forts now in the clin­ic. It’s a tough field. If it works out, he’ll have earned every pen­ny of what they’re pay­ing him.


Ru­pert Vessey

12 Ru­pert Vessey Cel­gene

Pres­i­dent of Re­search and Ear­ly De­vel­op­ment

2016: $4.9 mil­lion (first year)

An­oth­er first timer on this list, Ru­pert Vessey stepped in to a job that in­cludes man­ag­ing a thick pipeline of drugs in-li­censed or ac­quired by one of the busiest teams in busi­ness de­vel­op­ment. He al­so in­her­it­ed a busy sched­ule of big cat­a­lysts for 2017 as Cel­gene looks to start cash­ing in on top prospects.


David Alt­shuler

13 David Alt­shuler Ver­tex

Chief Sci­en­tif­ic Of­fi­cer

2016: $4.8 mil­lion

2015: $12.4 mil­lion

David Alt­shuler took the biggest one-year drop in com­pen­sa­tion for this group, but every­one in the com­pa­ny stepped back from those 2015 highs. Ver­tex has had to shift from hep C to cys­tic fi­bro­sis, which is no easy task. And it’s been mak­ing progress un­der Alt­shuler.


David Chang

14 David Chang Kite

EVP, Re­search & De­vel­op­ment and Chief Med­ical Of­fi­cer

2016: $4.6 mil­lion

2015: $4.4 mil­lion

For a com­pa­ny that cur­rent­ly doesn’t have a mar­ket­ed prod­uct, David Chang — an Am­gen vet — finds him­self at the high end of the pay scale for a biotech like Kite. But CEO Arie Bellde­grun be­lieves he has as­sem­bled one of the best R&D teams in the busi­ness to wran­gle a pi­o­neer­ing OK for its CAR-T, a com­plex ther­a­py be­set by mul­ti­ple safe­ty is­sues and a de­mand­ing man­u­fac­tur­ing pro­ce­dure. And he’s will­ing to pay ac­cord­ing­ly.


Mar­tin Mack­ay

15 Mar­tin Mack­ay Alex­ion

Ex­ec­u­tive Vice Pres­i­dent, Head of Re­search & De­vel­op­ment

2016: $4.1 mil­lion

2015: $4.7 mil­lion

Long­time biotech watch­ers will re­call that Mar­tin Mack­ay was head of re­search at As­traZeneca un­der CEO David Bren­nan. Bren­nan got the boot by in­vestors who were pained by the com­pa­ny’s lack of progress in the clin­ic, and Mack­ay was un­able to sal­vage the sit­u­a­tion af­ter a fren­zy of deal­mak­ing. Pas­cal So­ri­ot want­ed his own team. Mack­ay, mean­while, took a po­si­tion at Alex­ion, where the CEO al­so just got the boot — but for dra­mat­i­cal­ly dif­fer­ent rea­sons.