Two more Big Phar­ma CEOs en­joyed hefty rais­es in 2018, leav­ing the in­dus­try’s on­ly ma­jor league fe­male chief in firm con­trol of last place

By any mea­sure, Mer­ck had a big year in 2018 as its PD-1 drug cruised in­to first place for the megablock­buster check­point mar­ket. And CEO Ken Fra­zier, who start­ed the year by earn­ing head­lines for di­rect­ly re­buk­ing Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, was re­ward­ed with a fat, 19% hike in com­pen­sa­tion.

Ken Fra­zier

Fra­zier grabbed a pack­age worth just un­der $21 mil­lion, with $13.4 mil­lion worth of stock and op­tion awards go­ing his way to de­liv­er the goods, on top of his $1.6 mil­lion salary. His com­pen­sa­tion jumped $3.6 mil­lion, though it still fell shy of the $21.7 mil­lion earned in 2016.

That’s worth a num­ber 3 spot on the CEO com­pen­sa­tion charts.

We al­so learned from SEC fil­ings that Am­gen CEO Robert Brad­way reg­is­tered a bump in his wealth counter, weigh­ing in at a to­tal of $18.5 mil­lion, a three-year high. His $1.6 mil­lion up­siz­ing was worth a 10% hike over 2017.  Brad­way capped his year last year with an ap­proval for Aimovig, a drug he no longer wish­es to share with No­var­tis, where CEO Vas Narasimhan earned just a lit­tle more than half of what Brad­way gained.

The 2018 chart on Big Phar­ma com­pen­sa­tion is still topped by ex-Gilead CEO John Mil­li­gan’s $26 mil­lion, with GSK chief Em­ma Walm­s­ley firm­ly at the bot­tom of the list for the top 15 Big Phar­ma chiefs we track. She earned $7.7 mil­lion.

Robert Brad­way

All the CEOs’ pay fluc­tu­a­tions can the­o­ret­i­cal­ly be tied to the suc­cess or fail­ure, ul­ti­mate­ly, of their R&D groups. But in Mer­ck’s case the ex­tra largesse didn’t ex­tend in any ex­tra­or­di­nary way to Roger Perl­mut­ter, who grabbed a pack­age worth $7 mil­lion, just up 4%. 

Sean Harp­er fin­ished out his ca­reer at Am­gen with $6.8 mil­lion, which sits right in the same ball­park as Perl­mut­ter.

We’re al­most done now run­ning through the com­pen­sa­tion list for phar­ma­land’s top ex­ecs. As usu­al, the Amer­i­cans did far bet­ter than the Eu­ro­peans. And the rel­a­tive new­com­ers — like Richard Gon­za­lez and David Ricks — made up for some lost time with some of the biggest pack­ages on the list.

Over­all, it’s a good time to run a Big Phar­ma com­pa­ny, de­spite con­gres­sion­al in­ves­ti­ga­tions re­lat­ed to the on­go­ing bat­tle over drug prices, un­end­ing ques­tions about the sus­tain­abil­i­ty of a ques­tion­able R&D mod­el and so on.

Jake Van Naarden, Josh Bilenker, Nisha Nanda (Credit: Loxo, Aisling Capital)

Josh Bilenker and his Loxo crew are tak­ing the reins on on­col­o­gy R&D at Eli Lil­ly, culling the weak and map­ping a new path

Josh Bilenker, Jake Van Naarden and Nisha Nanda came out of Eli Lilly’s $8 billion Loxo Oncology buyout with a bundle of cash and plenty of choices on what they could do next. Start a new company, go public. Live on the beach in 5-star luxury. Contemplate the stars — in their own observatory.

So what are they doing?

They formed a new executive team that is taking over the management of Eli Lilly’s hundreds-strong oncology R&D group — essentially using Loxo as a base for a bold new experiment in Big Pharma R&D in an attempt to create a true biotech environment with the deep pockets of a top-15 industry player. They’ve recruited David Hyman from Memorial Sloan Kettering to join the team as chief medical officer. And the mandate includes culling out the oncology pipeline, highlighting their star prospects and going after new programs wherever they can find the best prospects.

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J&J team shows off 'break­through' BC­MA CAR-T da­ta, and it's every bit as good as they had ex­pect­ed

Just hours after J&J’s oncology team bragged about scoring a breakthrough therapy designation for their BCMA CAR-T drug, they pulled the wraps off the multiple myeloma data for JNJ-4528 that impressed the FDA.

Following up on some attention-grabbing data initially presented by their Chinese development partners at Legend 2 years ago during ASCO, investigators say they tracked some jaw-dropping results that confirmed the early promise of a therapy that’s shaking up a crowded field led by bluebird bio.

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J&J's Mathai Mammen at an Endpoints News event in Boston, June 2018 (Photo: Rob Tannenbaum for Endpoints News)

J&J fronts $750M cash to grab a failed can­cer drug that’s been re­pur­posed as a pow­er­ful an­ti-in­flam­ma­to­ry

J&J has stepped up with one of its blockbuster drug buys, agreeing to pay Austin-based XBiotech $XBIT $750 million in cash and up to $600 million more in milestones for their late stage-ready anti-inflammatory drug bermekimab — which some longtime biotech observers may recognize as a failed cancer therapy with a disaster-prone past.

The drug targets the IL-1a pathway. J&J $JNJ R&D chief Mathai Mammen is cutting a check for a drug that has produced positive mid-stage data in patients suffering from a skin condition called hidradenitis suppurativa with another mid-stage program underway for atopic dermatitis.

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One of Wall Street’s most high-pro­file hedge funds push­es Alex­ion's CEO to the auc­tion block — and he's not budg­ing

Fresh off buying Barnes & Noble and prodding AT&T with some heavy-handed criticism after picking up a $3.2 billion stake in the company, the activist — and supremely high profile — hedge fund Elliott Management has stepped up with some M&A advice for Alexion’s management team.
And the execs on the team $ALXN are giving them a polite — but very firm — stiff arm Friday morning.
In a release out early Friday, the big biotech said that the Elliott team had been in touch to encourage them to sell the company. But that’s not on the agenda.

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Samantha Budd Haeberlein. Biogen via YouTube

UP­DAT­ED: Skep­tics pounce as Bio­gen de­tails pos­i­tive sub­group analy­sis on ad­u­canum­ab — and both sides are dig­ging in

“Exhilarating.” “A major advance.” “A milestone achievement.” If one had just tuned into the panel comments on Biogen’s presentation at CTAD, it would seem that the biotech had an impressive, disease-modifying Alzheimer’s drug in aducanumab.

But off the stage, reactions to their admittedly complicated dataset and the biotech’s explanation for resurrecting a drug that failed its futility analysis were a lot more mixed, with analysts continuing to question whether the evidence is substantial enough to warrant an FDA approval and raising new doubts on the safety side.

In an investor call later in the day, execs noted that they are not planning another study and stood by their intention, publicized in October to much surprise, to submit regulatory filings based on what they have.

“We don’t file willy nilly,” said Al Sandrock, head of R&D. “We only go to filing when we believe that there is a benefit-risk argument based on science, based on data. And if you look at our history, we haven’t done filings right and left without good reason.”

Biogen had a theory going into the Clinical Trials on Alzheimer’s Disease meeting.

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Un­lock the full End­points ex­pe­ri­ence for your com­pa­ny — and sup­port our mis­sion of in­de­pen­dent bio­phar­ma re­port­ing

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Jasper Ther­a­peu­tics launch­es out of Stan­ford with new ap­proach to stem cell treat­ment

The first girl in the trial came in with chronic diarrhea and the immune system of an untreated HIV patient. Born with a rare genetic disease that impeded her ability to make B and T cells, she had once been given a stem cell transplant but it didn’t take.  Back in the hospital, she was injected with a new experimental antibody and then given a new stem cell transplant. Soon, she gained weight. The diarrhea stopped.

Ex-Cel­gene ex­ec Ter­rie Cur­ran puts her Phath­om team in place; Car­away taps Mar­tin Williams as CEO

→ Gastrointestinal disease-focused Phathom Pharmaceuticals has shaken up its leadership team. The company has tapped former Celgene exec Terrie Curran as CEO, succeeding David Socks, who is transitioning to interim CFO. Curran was president of Celgene’s global inflammation and immunology franchise — helping with the sale of Otezla for $13.4 billion to Amgen — and has held a previous stint at Merck. In addition to Curran, the company also welcomed former Omeros CMO Eckhard Leifke as CMO, ex-Celgene exec Joseph Hand as chief administrative officer, and former general counsel for Cyclerion Therapeutics Larry Miller as general counsel. They also replaced Chris Slavinsky on the board with Takeda exec Asit Parikh.

UCB buffs up in block­buster pso­ri­a­sis race as bimek­izum­ab beats Hu­mi­ra in head-to-head

Just weeks after boasting head-to-head victories over first placebo and then J&J’s IL-23 contender Stelara in clearing psoriasis, the results are in for UCB’s last Phase III trial, in which bimekizumab went up against the world’s best-selling drug.

Only topline results are provided for today’s readout of the BE SURE study, so we won’t find out just how superior bimekizumab proved against Humira on the co-primary endpoints — standard scores known as PASI90 and IGA measuring the impact and severity of the disease — until a scientific conference in 2020.