Top Celgene exec pins the blame for ozanimod fiasco on the Receptos team — acquired 3 years ago

Celgene’s top execs have been reeling for months, staggered by the FDA’s decision to kick back their application on ozanimod, the big drug in the late-stage pipeline that is badly needed as the company looks to build new revenue and lessen its dependence on Revlimid price hikes. And now one of the leaders involved in the embarrassing refuse-to-file setback with ozanimod isn’t just agreeing that their application was inadequate, he’s pointing fingers directly at the team they brought in when they acquired the drug with their $7.2 billion Receptos buyout.

Nadim Ahmed

“I think that 99% of folk at Celgene wouldn’t have submitted, but we had Receptos out on the West Coast and, for whatever reason, the decision was made to submit,” Celgene’s head of hematology and oncology Nadim Ahmed told David Crow at the Financial Times. “We learned a lesson of humility and that when you do an acquisition it’s better to be more integrated rather than be completely away from the mother ship.”

Celgene — helmed by a current ex-Marine, who got the job from another ex-Marine — has been known for a forward-thinking, can-do approach to biopharma. Presumably that extends to the way it integrates the companies it buys. The Receptos team, though, evidently never measured up to Celgene standards, and regulators expressed amazement that the Celgene NDA was unacceptable.

Said Ahmed:

[The FDA] kinda said ‘what happened guys, this isn’t what we usually expect from Celgene?’ And we had to say, you know, ‘mea culpa it’s on us’.

Or them.

Ronny Gal

Completing the blame-it-on-Receptos approach, Ronny Gal at Bernstein noted that little biotechs may cut corners that a big cap company like Celgene wouldn’t dream of. And he cautioned that any acquirer has to keep that in mind during the M&A process.

Of course, Celgene has had three years to fix anything that was wrong at Receptos. So somebody on the inside also fell short. But we’re not hearing about that today.

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Research Scientist - Immunology
Recursion Pharmaceuticals Salt Lake City, UT
Director of Operations
Atlas Venture Cambridge, MA

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