Reports: Biogen Picks Exelixis Chief George Scangos as New CEO

Xconomy Boston — 

Biogen Idec won’t be the biggest biotech without a CEO for long. Bloomberg News reported late this morning that the Cambridge, MA-based company (NASDAQ: BIIB) is expected to announce its appointment of George Scangos as its new chief executive as soon as today.

Scangos, a microbiologist by training, has been CEO of the South San Francisco-based cancer drug developer Exelixis (NASDAQ: EXEL) since 1996. He got his doctorate in microbiology at the University of Massachusetts, so he’d be in familiar surroundings as head of one of the two largest biotech companies in the Bay State. (Genzyme is the other of the two.)

A Biogen spokeswoman wasn’t immediately available to confirm the Bloomberg report this afternoon.

Biogen (NASDAQ:BIIB), which also has significant operations in San Diego, has been without a CEO since June 8 when long-time chief executive James Mullen finished his tenure at the firm. Mullen had been CEO of the company since 2000, and announced his retirement in January. He’d been a big target of billionaire investor Carl Icahn’s complaints about the company’s poor stock performance, and Mullen decided to retire at age 51 after multiple proxy fights with Icahn.

Scangos brings extensive scientific expertise to the CEO’s office at Biogen, which is the world’s largest maker of multiple sclerosis drugs. Biogen chairman Bill Young, who oversaw the search for a new Biogen CEO, told Xconomy back in February that the company was looking for a scientist, or at least someone with a deep understanding of the role of science in a biotech company, to replace Mullen, who has a business background. Scangos, who is also the chairman of San Diego-based Anadys Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: ANDS), has an appointment as an adjunct professor of biology at Johns Hopkins University.

Exelixis has built its reputation with a broad pipeline of drug candidates against some of the hot targets in cancer biology, but it is still no Biogen in terms of commercial might. Exelixis, which does not yet have a product on the market, brought in $151.8 million in revenue in 2009 primarily through payments from collaborations with Bristol-Myers Squibb, GlaxoSmithKline, and Roche/Genentech, to name a few. Last week, Exelixis lost Bristol-Myers as its partner to commercialize its lead cancer drug candidate, XL-184. Back in March, Exelixis cut 40 percent of its work force, eliminating about 270 jobs.

Biogen, on the other hand, raked in $4.4 billion in revenue last year. Its products include the multiple sclerosis drugs natalizumab (Tysabri), its fastest-growing franchise, and interferon-beta (Avonex), its biggest seller. The company also develops drugs for cancer and inflammatory diseases.

We’ll update this story later as needed.