Former Baxalta CEO to Helm Struggling Alexion

Published: Mar 28, 2017

Former Baxalta CEO to Helm Struggling Alexion March 27, 2017
By Mark Terry, BioSpace.com Breaking News Staff

New Haven, Conn. – Alexion Pharmaceuticals named Ludwig Hantson as its new chief executive officer and board member. Hantson was most recently president and chief executive officer of Baxalta .

In late November and early December 2016, Alexion delayed its quarterly filing. The reason was an internal investigation based on a whistleblower’s allegations regarding the company’s sales of Soliris.

In its annual report, Alexion indicated that in May 2015 it had received a subpoena regarding an investigation by the Enforcement Division of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) asking for information related to grant-making activities and compliance with the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) in several countries. The data was related to Alexion’s recalls of specific lots of Soliris, as well as related securities disclosures.

As the result of the scandal, the company’s chief executive officer and chief financial officer left the company. At around the same time, its attempts to diversity by acquiring Synageva for $8.4 billion fell apart, and sales of its lead drug, Soliris, started to decline as competition heated up.

Hantson will take over from David Brennan, who was named interim chief executive officer after chief executive officer David Hallal and chief financial officer Vikas Sinha stepped down in December. In January, after an internal investigation, Alexion indicated it had not found improper revenue recognition related to Soliris, although it had found “a material weakness in internal controls over financial reporting for previous quarters,” according to Reuters.

As for Hantson, he had headed Baxter BioScience, then was given control of Baxalta when Baxter spun it out. At that point he helmed a $6 billion company that planned to launch 13 products. Then, within weeks of the spinout, Shire (SHPGY) approached Baxalta about an acquisition. Baxalta turned it down, but Shire persisted and after a sixth-month pursuit, acquired Baxalta for $32 billion.

John Carroll, writing for Endpoints News,writes, “Hantson will have his work cut out for him. Just days ago the company—run on an interim basis by board member David Brennan, who was axed by the board at AstraZeneca after saddling the company with the worst pipeline in Big Pharma—triggered a reorganization, cutting 7 percent of the company’s workforce. That’s more than 200 employees.”

Hantson, in a statement, said, “I am honored and proud to join Alexion, an innovator and pioneer in rare diseases and a company that shares my commitment to serving patients and families. I believe Alexion is in a strong position to continue to advance the science and build upon its global capabilities to serve even more patients with devastating and rare diseases in over 50 markets. Alexion is on-track to achieving its near-term priorities, including: growing its complement and metabolic franchises; obtaining approval of Soliris in refractory gMG; and advancing its pipeline programs including ALXN1210 and eculizumab in relapsing NMOSD. I also look forward to building our future R&D and commercial growth strategies which will be guided by the Company’s long-standing goal of transforming lives.”

Before Baxalta and Baxter BioScience, Hantson had several leadership positions at Novartis from 2001 to 2010, including chief executive officer of Novartis Pharma North America, chief executive officer of Novartis Europe, and president of Novartis Pharma Canada. His career began at Smith & Nephew , then he moved to Johnson & Johnson from 1988 to 2001. He earned a PhD in motor rehabilitation and physical therapy, a Master’s degree in physical education, and a certification in high secondary education from the University of Louvain in Belgium.

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