New CEO George Scangos Says Biogen Idec’s R&D Has to Improve

George Scangos, the newly appointed chief executive of Biogen Idec (NASDAQ:BIIB), is calling for the biotech powerhouse to improve its research and development productivity. Which could mean that some projects get cut, Scangos said in a call with analysts yesterday. The news broke on Wednesday that Biogen selected Scangos for the big job.

Scangos, 62, knows how to run a tight R&D ship. He comes to Weston, MA-based Biogen after 14 years as CEO of the South San Francisco-based cancer drug developer Exelixis (NASDAQ:EXEL), an organization with fewer than 400 employees and an impressive 14 compounds in development. Some credit for that efficiency also goes to Michael Morrissey, who is taking the helm as CEO of Exelixis after serving as the firm’s president of R&D. (Biogen recently moved its headquarters from Cambridge, MA, to Weston, and it also has a base of operations in San Diego.)

A big knock on the R&D engine at Biogen, one of the world’s leading makers of multiple sclerosis drugs, is that the company hasn’t brought a product to market since the 2004 launch of its MS therapy natalizumab (Tysabri). Scangos, who starts work at Biogen on July 15, indicated that he would like to recreate some aspects of the Exelixis culture at his new company.

“At Exelixis, we were able to create a culture with a sense of urgency, a lack of bureaucracy, and great productivity—but with much more limited financial resources,” Scangos said. “One of the compelling characteristics of Biogen Idec is its size; it’s large enough and has great cash flow, and it’s small enough so that we can instill a greater sense of urgency and move quickly and decisively.”

Scangos reminded analysts and journalists at least twice yesterday that he doesn’t officially start work at Biogen for another couple weeks, and he declined to discuss specific changes he would make. But a focus of his early days will be on reviewing Biogen’s pipeline, which includes five products in late-stage development that have the potential to be launched on the market over a three-year period, he said.

“Another priority for me is to take a hard look at R&D. We spend a lot of money on R&D and we have to make … Next Page »

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