Exelixis Promotes Morrissey to CEO, Replacing Scangos as He Heads to Biogen Idec

Xconomy San Francisco — 

Exelixis didn’t have to spend a lot of time searching for a CEO to replace George Scangos. The South San Francisco-based biotech company (NASDAQ: EXEL) said today that its president of R&D, Michael Morrissey, is being promoted to the company’s top job as Scangos is leaving to become CEO of Cambridge, MA-based Biogen Idec.

Morrissey, 49, will take over as president and CEO at Exelixis on July 15, the company said in a statement. He will also take a seat on the company’s board.

Morrissey is a familiar name to anyone who has followed Exelixis, as he joined the company in 2000 and has been a visible spokesman for the company and its scientific programs. While Exelixis hasn’t yet brought a drug all the way to the U.S. marketplace, it has a pipeline of 14 drug candidates in clinical trials, and a big group of corporate partners that includes GlaxoSmithKline, Sanofi-Aventis, Pfizer, Daiichi Sankyo, and Genentech. Morrissey, who got his doctorate in chemistry from Harvard University, has played a key role in advancing the company’s scientific programs and working with the existing partners.

“In Michael Morrissey, we have a strong leader who has earned the respect of the board and has been central to the company’s research and development efforts, which are the core of the company’s activities,” said Exelixis chairman Stelios Papadopoulos, in a statement.

Exelixis has had its share of headaches lately, which Morrissey will have to deal with. Back in March, the company cut 40 percent of its workforce, or about 270 jobs. Earlier this month, it announced that its partner Bristol-Myers Squibb had pulled the plug on a deal to co-develop XL184. At the time, Exelixis said the two companies “were not able to align on the scope, breadth and pace of the ongoing clinical development” of the drug because of progress in Bristol’s internal cancer drug pipeline.

Investors weren’t immediately thrilled by the news of a leadership changes at Exelixis. Shares of the company fell 9 percent to $3.15 in after-hours trading following the official announcement of Scangos’ departure and Morrissey’s promotion. The company closed trading today with a market valuation of $376 million.

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