Seattle Genetics Gets New Commercial Boss for Early Days of Adcetris

Xconomy Seattle — 

[Update: 2/24/12, 11 am PT] Seattle Genetics is getting a new leader for the commercial side of its business, about six months after its first cancer drug hit the U.S. market.

The Bothell, WA-based cancer drugmaker (NASDAQ: SGEN) said today that Chris Boerner, the former vice president of marketing, has been promoted to senior vice president in charge of commercial operations. Boerner replaces Bruce Seeley, Seattle Genetics’s executive vice president of commercial, who is leaving the company “to pursue other opportunities,” according to a statement.

The switch in commercial leadership comes at an important time for Seattle Genetics, as it won FDA approval of its first cancer drug, brentuximab vedotin (Adcetris), back in August. Seeley, a veteran of cancer drug marketing at Genentech, joined Seattle Genetics in October 2009 and oversaw the critical early days of the product rollout, and the pre-launch phase in which the sales, marketing, pricing, naming, and reimbursement strategies were put in place. Sales of the new drug, for patients with rare forms of relapsed lymphomas, easily beat Wall Street expectations in the early going, with $10 million in sales in its first quarter on the market, and $33.2 million in its second quarter.

Chris Boerner

Boerner, like Seeley, is a veteran of the commercial side of Genentech, the unit of Roche that is the world’s largest cancer drugmaker. Boerner joined Seattle Genetics in November 2010, shortly after the company had generated key clinical trial data that laid the groundwork for the FDA approval of the drug.

“Chris has been a strategic leader in our commercial organization for more than a year, and has contributed significantly to the successful launch of Adcetris,” said Clay Siegall, Seattle Genetics’s CEO, in a statement. “He has brought to Seattle Genetics extensive experience from the commercialization and life-cycle management of several oncology products. We anticipate a seamless transition.”

[Updated comments from Seattle Genetics CEO] Siegall explained the leadership change in a phone interview by making a baseball analogy, saying the move was made to take advantage of Boerner’s talents. Boerner, he says, was a rising star at Genentech and was a key architect of the Adcetris launch behind the scenes at Seattle Genetics. “He’s a great speaker, and motivator, and leader,” Siegall says.

“If you think about this in baseball terms, we had a very good first baseman playing ball for us, who hit .250 with 80 RBIs, and now we have Albert Pujols. So what are you going to do, put him (Boerner) on the bench?” Siegall says. “Bruce (Seeley) did an excellent professional job in building a commercial team, as well as overseeing our initial launch.” He added that the leadership change was made internally “without a hiccup,” and that “everyone internally embraced this.”

Seeley’s employment ends on March 1, and he departs with a severance payment equal to 12 months of his base salary, plus a bonus equal to 35 percent of his salary that’s pro-rated for the time he worked in 2012, according to a regulatory filing.