Biogen Shareholders Elect Susan Langer to Board of Directors Despite Controversy 

Pictured: A Biogen building/courtesy of PictureDesignSwiss/shutterstock

Pictured: A Biogen building/courtesy of PictureDesignSwiss/shutterstock

After a June 12 shakeup of Biogen’s board of directors that included three directors foregoing their re-election, the company announced Monday that shareholders elected Susan Langer, who currently serves as president of Souffle Therapeutics, to the board.  

Langer will serve on the board for a one-year term, according to the press release. She was nominated by Alex Denner, a former member of the board who did not stand for re-election. According to reporting by Endpoints News and STAT News, Langer is Denner’s romantic partner and the mother of his child. 

BioPharma Dive reported that during Monday’s annual meeting of stockholders, Biogen management was asked why the company didn’t disclose this potential conflict of interest. Caroline Dorsa, the new chair, replied that Langer’s “personal matters obviously are much less relevant than what she brings to this board.” 

Langer has previously worked at Biogen in various roles and is the daughter of Bob Langer, the co-founder of Moderna.  

Shareholders also re-elected Biogen’s nominees for the seven other directors. Biogen stated that these votes remain preliminary and that it plans to announce the final voting results within four business days.  


Original article published June 13:

Biogen Makes Changes to Board of Directors Ahead of Annual Shareholder Meeting

Biogen announced Monday that three of its directors—Alexander Denner, William Jones and Richard Mulligan—will not stand for re-election at the company’s annual stockholder meeting Wednesday. Instead, Susan Langer will be up for election to Biogen’s board of directors.

This latest shake-up comes after board chair Stelios Papadopoulos announced he was stepping down from his post after the annual meeting. Papadopoulos will be succeeded by Caroline Dorsa, a long-standing member of Biogen’s board who had previously served for more than two decades at Merck.

Meanwhile, Langer is currently serving as president of Souffle Therapeutics, a privately held start-up that has most recently scored $50 million in investments, according to PitchBook. Before that, Langer was also the founding president of Kojin Therapeutics and the founding chief business officer of Paratus Sciences. She also previously worked at Biogen in posts of increasing responsibility.

Endpoints News reported that Langer is Denner’s “longstanding romantic partner,” according to sources familiar with the situation. STAT News reported that Langer is the mother of Denner’s child, born in November, according to court records.

“The full board nominated all candidates for election, including Ms. Langer. Ms. Langer is a highly qualified candidate given her experience in biotech. She will bring fresh perspective to the board. As a former Biogen colleague, she also knows the company and the biotech ecosystem very well,” the company said in an emailed statement to BioSpace.

To give Biogen stockholders enough time to review these changes, the board will hold and adjourn the annual meeting on June 14 and reconvene on June 26.

These changes come amid an “important time for Biogen,” CEO Christopher Viehbacher said in a statement. “We are working to put the company back on a sustainable growth path to deliver enhanced value for our patients, employees and shareholders,” he said.

Viehbacher is relatively new to the company. Following stints at Sanofi and GSK, Viehbacher was appointed as Biogen’s CEO in November 2022.

Busy Year So Far

Biogen’s new board will navigate the company through a dynamic year. Biogen opened 2023 with accelerated approval from the FDA for its Alzheimer’s antibody Leqembi. On Friday, the FDA’s Peripheral and Central Nervous System Drugs Advisory Committee unanimously backed Leqembi’s full approval.

The FDA will release its verdict on or before July 6.

Beyond Alzheimer’s, Biogen won FDA approval for its amyotrophic lateral sclerosis drug, tofersen—now Qalsody—in April 2023. This followed an advisory committee meeting where external experts unanimously agreed that using a neurofilament light chain biomarker could be a reasonable predictor of tofersen’s clinical benefit.

Amid these regulatory developments, Biogen pushed through with its strategic realignment initiative and trimmed its headcount in April 2023 and its pipeline in May 2023.

Tristan Manalac is an independent science writer based in metro Manila, Philippines. He can be reached at tristan@tristanmanalac.com or tristan.manalac@biospace.com.

Correction (June 20): This story has been updated from its original version to correct that tofersen (Qalsody) is not awaiting FDA approval but rather was approved to treat SOD1-ALS in April 2023. BioSpace regrets the error. 

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