Dendreon Adds ImClone Vets to New Management Team

Xconomy Seattle — 

[Updated: 1:40 pm 3/1] Seattle-based biotech company (NASDAQ: DNDN).

Johnson, who took over as Dendreon’s CEO on February 1, today installed a trio of new executives. Two of the three are new hires who previously worked with Johnson at New York-based ImClone Systems before that company was acquired for $6.5 billion by Eli Lilly (NYSE: LLY).

With that, here are new names joining the company, according to today’s statement. Johnson pointed out that he’s flattening the company’s management structure, and all three of the new executives will report directly to him.

[Updated to include executives’ ages and annual base salaries, based on an 8-K filing with the SEC]

Joe DePinto, 44, executive vice president, global commercial operations. He will oversee sales and marketing efforts in the U.S., and in Europe, where Dendreon is now seeking regulatory approval for its prostate cancer drug, sipuleucel-T (Provenge). He is new to Dendreon, and most recently was a vice president and product champion at ImClone, the company that developed cetuximab (Erbitux) as a treatment for colorectal cancer. DePinto’s annual base salary will be $390,000.

Dendreon CEO John H. Johnson

Robert Poulton, 55, executive vice president, technical operations. Poulton was promoted from global head of quality to this new executive role. He will now oversee global manufacturing, operations, logistics and quality functions, Dendreon said. Poulton previously worked at Wyeth, where he oversaw the supply chain. Poulton’s annual base salary will be $390,000.

Christine Mikail, 34, executive vice president, corporate development, general counsel, and secretary. Mikail was most recently a senior vice president at Savient Pharmaceuticals, where Johnson worked previously, as well as ImClone, where she was vice president, general counsel, and secretary. Mikail’s annual base salary will be $400,000.

Johnson was brought in to help boost the sales of Dendreon’s lone marketed drug, after a 2011 to forget. The company forecasted $350 million to $400 million of sales last year for the drug, and ended up delivering $213 million. The company blamed confusion among doctors about whether they’d get adequate or timely reimbursement for a drug that costs $93,000 per patient. That sales shortfall caused Dendreon to lose more than $3 billion of its market value, and prompted the layoffs of 500 employees last fall. Just yesterday, after the stock had surged for a few weeks, it fell 20 percent again on word that the company expects only “moderate” single-digit sales growth in the first quarter of 2012.

The new executives will have some unique challenges to solve at Dendreon, which is marketing the first treatment of its kind that uses intravenous infusions to “teach” the patient’s immune system to recognize prostate cancer cells as invaders to be destroyed like a virus. The drug has shown an ability to prolong lives by a median time of about four months, with minimal side effects. But the process of delivering the drug is costly. Dendreon’s near-term goal is to reach cash-flow break-even. That goal should be achievable, Dendreon has said, once it gets to $500 million in annual sales, and finds efficiencies in its processes to bring the cost of goods sold down from the current 74 percent to about 50 percent.

Johnson said on Monday’s quarterly conference call that he spent part of his first month on the job meeting with employees at Dendreon’s manufacturing sites in Georgia, southern California, and New Jersey, as well as at headquarters in Seattle. He also spent time meeting with physicians at the American Society of Clinical Oncology’s Genitourinary Cancers Symposium in San Francisco, where clinical trial data was presented on the company’s product.