Lundbeck Reaches Across Atlantic, Picks Dunsire for CEO Post

Xconomy Boston — 

Deborah Dunsire, a veteran of Boston’s biotech scene, is taking off. Specifically, she’s taking the top job at Danish pharma firm Lundbeck, according to an announcement this morning.

The move comes only a year after Dunsire said she would lead 30-employee XTuit Pharmaceuticals of Waltham, MA, a preclinical cancer company. At the time, she told Xconomy that “it was time to learn something different,” and a post on her LinkedIn page emphasized the “frontier” she was exploring.

Though a startup, Xtuit also had the imprimatur of two famous local researchers, Harvard University’s Rakesh Jain and MIT’s Bob Langer, with backing from New Enterprise Associates, Polaris Partners, and others.

Up to that point, Dunsire, who was trained as a physician, had spent much of her career at large public companies Novartis (NYSE: NVS) and Millennium Pharmaceuticals. When Takeda Pharmaceutical bought Millennium in 2008, Dunsire stayed on as president and CEO for five years.

In 2013, she took the reins at Forum Pharmaceuticals, a renamed developer of neurological drugs that began life as EnVivo. Under her watch, Forum took two punches to the gut. Its lead drug first failed a pair of late-stage trials in Alzheimer’s disease in 2015 then failed in schizophrenia in 2016.

That seemed to be the final straw. Xconomy was first to report in May 2016 that Dunsire had left the company and was thinking about her next steps. She was “exploring all the many and varied options there are in Boston,” Dunsire told Xconomy at the time. “I’m going to take the summer off first.”

Forum shut down a month later.

With Lundbeck, Dunsire gets about as far as possible from startup land as possible. Headquartered in Copenhagen, the 103-year-old drug maker also marks a return to neurological disease for Dunsire. Lundbeck’s clinical pipeline focuses on Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and schizophrenia. Last year, the company announced that its experimental Alzheimer’s drug idalopirdine failed two late-stage studies.

In a prepared statement, Lars Rasmussen, chairman of Lundbeck’s board of directors, said that Dunsire brings to the company her “robust knowledge and experience in neuroscience.” Dunsire did not return a message seeking comment. She told Reuters that Lundbeck has “some very interesting things in the pipeline,” adding that she would not rule out acquiring drugs or partnering with other companies.

Dunsire is slated to start her new role on Sept. 1. Lundbeck’s U.S. operations are based in Deerfield, IL, but the company says she will move to Denmark. She will take the place of former CEO Kaare Schultz, who was hired away by Teva Pharmaceutical last year. After Dunsire assumes her new post at Lundbeck, interim CEO Anders Götzsche will return to his position as CFO.

Frank Vinluan contributed to this report.