What’s a biotech CEO worth? The top 15 pay pack­ages puts a spot­light on per­for­mance — usu­al­ly

Re­gen­eron CEO Leonard Schleifer at­tends Cold Spring Har­bor Lab­o­ra­to­ry’s Dou­ble He­lix Medals at the Amer­i­can Mu­se­um of Nat­ur­al His­to­ry on De­cem­ber 1, 2016.
Patrick Mc­Mul­lan/Get­ty Im­ages

All biotech glo­ry is fleet­ing. But the high pay can con­tin­ue even af­ter the plau­dits and cheers are stilled.

Ex­am­in­ing this year’s list of the 15 high­est paid CEOs in biotech, you’ll find three ex-CEOs: Two who head­ed back to the biotech start­up world, the oth­er pushed out af­ter a sales scan­dal. They all got one last year of com­pen­sa­tion that dwarfs the pay­rolls of your av­er­age lit­tle biotech in search of fame and for­tune.

A con­sum­mate deal­mak­er leads the list, fol­lowed by a self-made bil­lion­aire, but be­tween the first and last you’ll see how com­pen­sa­tion at this stage of the game is fig­ured for your av­er­age high-pro­file pub­lic en­ter­prise. With a cou­ple of glar­ing ex­cep­tions, they’re all gam­bling big on next-gen drugs, and sev­er­al are un­der ex­treme pres­sure to start pro­duc­ing some sol­id re­sults.

Of course, high ex­pec­ta­tions should go with high pay. You don’t get paid the big bucks for noth­ing. And none of these CEOs would be shy about ex­plain­ing why they qual­i­fy for the top pay in the in­dus­try.

Most make less than the Big Phar­ma CEOs you’ll find at the very top of every com­pen­sa­tion count down. Peo­ple like J&J’s Alex Gorsky (2016 com­pen­sa­tion $26.9 mil­lion) or Ken Fra­zier at Mer­ck ($21.8 mil­lion)  are on top, with Ian Read ($17.3 mil­lion) and ex-Lil­ly CEO John Lech­leit­er ($18.3 mil­lion) com­ing in not far be­hind.

Hat tip to STAT, which help­ful­ly pulled a lot of raw da­ta on com­pen­sa­tion. I weed­ed out a bunch of non-biotechs from that list, in­clud­ing all the gener­ic play­ers, and added back­ground num­bers on salary and com­pen­sa­tion with some new com­men­tary for each. I added Medi­va­tion to in­clude David Hung’s com­pen­sa­tion and dropped Jazz, which has yet to file a proxy this year.

Here they are:


David Hung

1. David Hung

Medi­va­tion (ex-CEO) $MD­VN
2016 com­pen­sa­tion: $35.6 mil­lion
2015 com­pen­sa­tion: $9.5 mil­lion
Sold: $14 bil­lion

The scoop: There’s no doubt who scored the biggest com­pen­sa­tion pack­age in biotech last year. David Hung worked full time on get­ting the most for Medi­va­tion, af­ter Sanofi put it in play. It was his swan song at the biotech, but he was well com­pen­sat­ed for it. With stock op­tions worth a cu­mu­la­tive $182 mil­lion, $14 mil­lion in in­cen­tive shares, ap­pre­ci­a­tion rights reg­is­ter­ing in at $37 mil­lion, $1.82 mil­lion in sev­er­ance pay and an $868,015 bonus for 2016, who could say that Hung had any­thing but a great year, sell­ing the com­pa­ny to Pfiz­er for $14 bil­lion. That’s all on top of the $118,574,269 in stock he al­ready owned, but that won’t count as com­pen­sa­tion. Add up all the gold­en para­chute com­pen­sa­tion and it comes to $35.6 mil­lion. The full pay­out: $354 mil­lion for the com­pa­ny he found­ed in 2003.


Len Schleifer

2. Len Schleifer

Re­gen­eron $REGN
Salary: $1.24 mil­lion
2016 com­pen­sa­tion: $28.3 mil­lion
2015 com­pen­sa­tion: $47.4 mil­lion
Mar­ket cap: $45.3 bil­lion

The scoop: Len Schleifer doesn’t apol­o­gize for set­ting his own stan­dard for this list every year. But then, the out­spo­ken Schleifer doesn’t apol­o­gize for much of any­thing. He and George Yan­copou­los found­ed the com­pa­ny, they built it and they’re steer­ing in­to a bright fu­ture. The oth­ers can talk about peers and so on, it’s doubt­ful Schleifer thinks that any­one else out there should match him on this score, which is still far out ahead of the pack even af­ter tak­ing a big step back on the com­pen­sa­tion side. Like Yan­copou­los, Schleifer’s stock hold­ings in the com­pa­ny amount to well over a bil­lion dol­lars. And that’s be­cause of the suc­cess of drugs like Eylea and more re­cent­ly Dupix­ent. We’ll see how its PC­SK9 con­tender does in the long run, but it’s not off to a good start. No­body, though, throws a per­fect game every time.


George Scan­gos

3. George Scan­gos

Bio­gen (ex-CEO) $BI­IB
Salary: $1,500,000
2016 com­pen­sa­tion: $17.7 mil­lion
2015 com­pen­sa­tion: $16.9 mil­lion
Mar­ket cap: $56 bil­lion

The scoop: George Scan­gos didn’t look like he was en­joy­ing him­self very much dur­ing his last year as CEO of Bio­gen. Tec­fidera, hand­ed to him in the clin­ic on his ar­rival, had gone on to be­come the com­pa­ny’s flag­ship drug, but it was look­ing a lit­tle tat­tered by 2016. Rev­enue de­clined, new ri­vals ap­peared, and the com­pa­ny’s pipeline wasn’t near­ly big enough to sat­is­fy an­a­lysts. Every­one want­ed to see a big M&A deal, but they got Scan­gos’ de­par­ture in­stead as he head­ed back to the West Coast. Most of his team — a promi­nent and ag­gres­sive bunch — had al­ready left by then, pur­su­ing their own biotech dreams and leav­ing the new CEO a shot at build­ing his own crew.


Jef­frey Lei­den

4. Jef­frey Lei­den

Ver­tex $VRTX
Salary: $1.3 mil­lion
2016 com­pen­sa­tion: $17.4 mil­lion
2015 com­pen­sa­tion: $28 mil­lion
Mar­ket cap: $28.6 bil­lion

The scoop: When Jef­frey Lei­den was named CEO at Ver­tex in ear­ly 2012, the com­pa­ny faced a scary chal­lenge. It’s flag­ship drug for hep C was head­ed for ear­ly ex­tinc­tion and the biotech had to make a risky leap to cys­tic fi­bro­sis in or­der to sur­vive. But that’s what Ver­tex ac­com­plished, first with Ka­ly­de­co and then with Orkam­bi. True, Eu­ro­pean pay­ers have been un­der­whelmed by the ef­fi­ca­cy they were see­ing for the prices Ver­tex de­mand­ed, but the US mar­ket has been fu­el­ing rapid gains in rev­enue. In the mean­time, the com­pa­ny has been mak­ing an as­sault on new triples that could con­tin­ue to mark im­prove­ments for the CF com­mu­ni­ty. While not pret­ty on the da­ta side, Lei­den met the chal­lenge Ver­tex faced. And he’s been well re­ward­ed for it.


Jean Jacques Bi­en­aimé

5. Jean-Jacques Bi­en­aimé

Bio­Marin $BM­RN
Salary: $1 mil­lion
2016 com­pen­sa­tion: $16.9 mil­lion
2015 com­pen­sa­tion: $13.6 mil­lion
Mar­ket cap: $16.3 bil­lion

The scoop: As a big play­er in rare dis­ease R&D, Bio­Marin is of­ten held up as a mod­el of what many small­er com­pa­nies would like to grow up to be. And CEO Jean-Jacques Bi­en­aimé with R&D chief Hen­ry Fuchs seem to rel­ish the role of trend­set­ter. The com­pa­ny scored an ap­proval for Brineu­ra with da­ta on on­ly 22 pa­tients, help­ing set a new stan­dard for tiny stud­ies and ac­cel­er­at­ed ap­provals. And they’re shoot­ing for an ac­cel­er­at­ed OK on their gene ther­a­py for he­mo­phil­ia A, which may point to a cure. Bio­Marin is al­so ag­gres­sive on pric­ing, as we saw with the $702,000 WAC price on Brineu­ra. That’s not the kind of spot­light the CEO is seek­ing, but it goes with the ter­ri­to­ry. Bi­en­aimé makes mis­takes, as we saw with an ex­pen­sive mis­step in Duchenne mus­cu­lar dy­s­tro­phy, when he bought out Pros­en­sa’s failed drug for $680 mil­lion in cash. But he’s more of­ten right than wrong, and that will keep him on this list.


Mar­tine Roth­blatt (Cred­it: An­dre Chung, CC BY-SA 4.0)

6. Mar­tine Roth­blatt

Unit­ed Ther­a­peu­tics $UTHR
Salary: $1,226,949
2016 com­pen­sa­tion: $15.4 mil­lion
2015 com­pen­sa­tion: $2.3 mil­lion
Mar­ket cap: $5.5 bil­lion

The scoop: Mar­tine Roth­blatt has her eye on three pri­ma­ry op­por­tu­ni­ties at Unit­ed Ther­a­peu­tics; dri­ving the growth of Re­mod­ulin, ex­pand­ing the la­bel on Ty­va­so and push­ing through a crit­i­cal study dubbed FREE­DOM-EV for Oren­itram. The CEO is stay­ing fo­cused on those three pro­grams to de­liv­er the block­buster rev­enue she’s promis­ing in­vestors. Pul­monary hy­per­ten­sion is a big fo­cus at Unit­ed, and Roth­blatt shrugged off the prospect of go­ing toe-to-toe with a gi­ant like J&J, which re­cent­ly closed on an ac­qui­si­tion of Acte­lion. “I think that’s of no con­cern what­so­ev­er,” she said in the 2016 wrap-up with an­a­lysts. “We have com­pet­ed against com­pa­ra­bly large com­pa­nies for al­most our en­tire life – ex­cuse me, al­most our en­tire life and suc­cess­ful­ly.” Roth­blatt is no stranger to think­ing out­side the box, though. And that pe­ri­od­i­cal­ly takes her up to the top of the pay charts with a com­pa­ny that scores clos­er to the mid­dle of the pack.


John Mil­li­gan

7. John Mil­li­gan

Gilead Sci­ences $GILD
Salary: $1,465,385
2016 com­pen­sa­tion: $13.9 mil­lion
2015 com­pen­sa­tion: $8.3 mil­lion
Mar­ket cap: $88.6 bil­lion

The scoop: For one of the best-paid CEOs in biotech, John Mil­li­gan gets a lot of free ad­vice from an­a­lysts. Most of it boils down to this: Buy some­thing. Make it big and pret­ty and just as im­pact­ful as Phar­mas­set was. Find some­thing that can suc­ceed the way hep C suc­ceed­ed, just don’t let it start to fade so quick­ly. That’s like­ly an im­pos­si­ble task, but the com­pa­ny has been sign­ing on to some ma­jor li­cens­ing deals and has prospects in the clin­ic. Just don’t ex­pect any of that to stop the ad­vice from flow­ing in. And don’t look for Mil­li­gan to start obey­ing the com­mands at every snap of the fin­gers. Is he right? Time will tell.


David Hal­lal

8. David Hal­lal

Alex­ion (ex-CEO) $ALXN
Salary: $1,153,846
2016 com­pen­sa­tion: $13.1 mil­lion
2015 com­pen­sa­tion: $14.7 mil­lion
Mar­ket cap: $29 bil­lion

The scoop: David Hal­lal re­signed last year for “per­son­al rea­sons,” but the board was none too pleased to hear re­ports that the sales force was be­ing urged to fill ear­ly or­ders of Soliris so the com­pa­ny could hit its fi­nan­cial goals. Hal­lal’s de­par­ture was a good time to as­sess the com­pa­ny’s po­si­tion, and a re­or­ga­ni­za­tion fol­lowed. Now for­mer Bax­al­ta chief Lud­wig Hantson, who lost his po­si­tion at the spin­out when Shire came in and bought them out, is at the helm. De­spite hav­ing a very bad, no good year in 2016, Hal­lal still came out in the biotech top 10.


Mark Alles

9. Mark Alles

Cel­gene $CELG
Salary: $ 1,062,583
2016 com­pen­sa­tion: $12.2 mil­lion
2015 com­pen­sa­tion: $7.9 mil­lion
Mar­ket cap: $95.6 bil­lion

The scoop: Mark Alles was pro­mot­ed to the top job at Cel­gene when Bob Hug­in be­came ex­ec­u­tive chair­man. That leaves Alles in the hot seat while the com­pa­ny sees if it can start cap­i­tal­iz­ing on the bil­lions bet on the com­pa­ny’s pipeline. Cel­gene’s suc­cess in grow­ing rev­enue has made it pos­si­ble to cov­er one of the biggest bets on the biotech side of the re­search busi­ness. And signs would in­di­cate that a few of these will like­ly hit. Giv­en Cel­gene’s fo­cus on lead­ing, first-in-class drugs, the pay­off has the po­ten­tial to be big. And it will come as many big­ger play­ers con­tin­ue to dither over the price of biotech as­sets. Win or lose, though, Alles will be held ac­count­able along­side Hug­in.


Hervé Hop­penot

10. Hervé Hop­penot

In­cyte $IN­CY
Salary: $937,738
2016 com­pen­sa­tion: $11.8 mil­lion
2015: $5.9 mil­lion
Mar­ket cap: $25 bil­lion

The scoop: Hervé Hop­penot is build­ing a com­pa­ny in his own way. His big pay­day came in 2014, when he qual­i­fied for a pack­age worth $32.7 mil­lion. But this is the year we’ll see just how ef­fec­tive­ly the com­pa­ny lives up to Hop­penot’s am­bi­tion of be­com­ing “big with­out be­com­ing stu­pid.” That means ag­gres­sive­ly fol­low­ing up on a big slate of IDO-check­point col­lab­o­ra­tions with the lead­ers in the field. And he’ll be watch­ing the rear view mir­ror to see who’s com­ing up be­hind him. We still don’t know what went wrong at Eli Lil­ly, which was sup­posed to be prepar­ing a mar­ket launch for baric­i­tinib this year, in­stead of deal­ing with an FDA re­jec­tion. But that one — fol­low­ing an OK in Eu­rope — is on Lil­ly.


Isaac Ciechanover

11. Isaac Ciechanover

Atara $ATRA
Salary: $546,000
2016 com­pen­sa­tion: $10 mil­lion

2015 com­pen­sa­tion: $6.5 mil­lion
Mar­ket cap: $435 mil­lion

The scoop: So what is Isaac Ciechanover do­ing in this group? The Am­gen spin­off ran in­to a se­ri­ous set­back when its tri­al for PIN­TA 745 failed a Phase II study for the treat­ment of pro­tein en­er­gy wast­ing in pa­tients with end stage re­nal dis­ease in late 2015. The biotech has oth­er fish to fry in the clin­ic, but the share price nev­er has re­cov­ered. It’s now trad­ing at a quar­ter of its two-year high and its mar­ket cap puts it well out­side this com­pen­sa­tion class.


Richard Pops

12. Richard Pops

Alk­er­mes $ALKS
Salary: $911,228
2016 com­pen­sa­tion: $9,647,420 mil­lion
2015 com­pen­sa­tion: $12.4 mil­lion
Mar­ket cap: $9.14 bil­lion

The scoop: Richard Pops has be­come some­thing of an evan­ge­list for the com­pa­ny’s top late-stage drug prospect, ALKS-5461. The de­pres­sion drug scored a big suc­cess in the fi­nal of three Phase III stud­ies, and he’s tak­ing the mixed da­ta from the pro­gram in a big pitch to the FDA that will say a lot about the com­pa­ny’s fu­ture. De­pres­sion is one of the tough­est dis­eases to tar­get in biotech, plagued by a high place­bo ef­fect that has scut­tled many a drug be­fore it. To come out on top now would wow the in­dus­try and pos­si­bly mark a turn­around in R&D fo­cus as more com­pa­nies start to tar­get de­pres­sion again. Don’t mis­take Pops’ soft-spo­ken ways for an ab­sence of fer­vor. He speaks soft­ly, and al­ways well.


Clay Sie­gall

13. Clay Sie­gall

Seat­tle Ge­net­ics $SGEN
Salary: $852,354
2016 com­pen­sa­tion: $9,559,397 mil­lion
2015 com­pen­sa­tion: $6.9 mil­lion
Mar­ket cap: $8.8 bil­lion

The scoop: Clay Sie­gall has been much in the news late­ly, which is not typ­i­cal of this CEO. He’s in­tent on ex­pand­ing the use of Ad­cetris, with a Phase III read­out from ECH­E­LON-1 com­ing up. A clin­i­cal hold was im­posed but then quick­ly lift­ed on its armed an­ti­body dubbed SGN-CD33A (vadas­tux­imab talirine). And en­for­tum­ab ve­dotin (ASG-22ME) is get­ting the spot­light as well. But it was the on and off re­la­tion­ship with Im­munomedics that at­tract­ed the li­on’s share of the at­ten­tion more re­cent­ly. Sie­gall’s $2 bil­lion pact on Im­munomedics’ lead drug fell apart just days ago when an ac­tivist in­vest­ment group won con­trol of the com­pa­ny, oust­ed the CEO and found­ing CSO and then sev­ered the deal with Seat­tle Ge­net­ics. 2017 still marks a ma­jor year for Sie­gall, who just bare­ly missed the top 10 in terms of com­pen­sa­tion pack­ages. Maybe he’ll break in­to that club this year.


Stephen Davis

14. Stephen Davis

Aca­dia $ACAD
Salary: $675,992
2016 com­pen­sa­tion: $9.3 mil­lion
2015 com­pen­sa­tion: $12.1 mil­lion
Mar­ket cap: $4 bil­lion

The scoop: Steve Davis got the top job at Aca­dia back in 2015, when then CEO Uli Hack­sell got the heave-ho fol­low­ing an­oth­er un­ex­pect­ed de­lay in their long-await­ed NDA for pi­ma­vanserin. Davis was moved up from the CFO’s job and a year lat­er the com­pa­ny scored an FDA ap­proval for the an­tipsy­chot­ic for Parkin­son’s — de­spite frets about pos­si­ble side ef­fects and a high­er death rate in the drug arm. The drug is now mar­ket­ed as Nu­plazid. Davis got a taste of the fluc­tu­at­ing sen­ti­ment for their ther­a­py late in the year, when it was her­ald­ed as a suc­cess for Alzheimer’s psy­chosis but failed a key sec­ondary end­point.


Stan­ley Crooke

15. Stan­ley Crooke

Io­n­is $IONS
Salary: $824,535
2016 com­pen­sa­tion: $9.2 mil­lion
2015 com­pen­sa­tion: $8 mil­lion

Mar­ket cap: $5.9 bil­lion

The scoop: A cou­ple of months ago Io­n­is’ sub­sidiary Akcea came out with some up­beat Phase III da­ta for volane­sors­en, but an­a­lysts quick­ly ze­roed in on some trou­bling safe­ty da­ta in rais­ing ques­tions about its fu­ture. That’s of­ten how it goes with Io­n­is, which will re­main the pri­ma­ry share­hold­er in Akcea as the spin­off pur­sues an IPO of its own. For every big ad­vance, there are hes­i­ta­tions about safe­ty. Its part­ner Bio­gen has scored well with Spin­raza, one of the most ex­pen­sive ther­a­pies to hit the mar­ket in re­cent times. Through it all, Stan­ley Crooke has tren­chant­ly in­sist­ed on a place in the biotech sun for his com­pa­ny. He is an un­com­pro­mis­ing ad­vo­cate for all things Io­n­is and RNA. It hasn’t been a smooth ride, but you can’t de­ny his suc­cess­es amid all the carp­ing.