Longtime Biogen Exec Jumps Ship to Become COO of Scangos' Bay Area Startup

Published: Aug 30, 2017

Longtime Biogen Exec Jumps Ship to Become COO of Scangos' Bay Area Startup August 29, 2017
By Mark Terry, BioSpace.com Breaking News Staff

Alpna Seth, the head of Cambridge, Mass.-based Biogen’s biosimilars division, has left the company to join her former boss, George Scangos. Seth will be Scango’s startup company’s chief operating officer. Scangos is the chief executive officer and director of Vir Biotechnology, based in San Francisco.

Alpna Seth was the senior vice president, head of Biosimilars at Biogen. She joined Biogen Idec in 1998 in the commercial organization, and relocated to India in 2007 to launch Biogen Idec’s India office. Earlier roles at the company included senior director of Emerging Market Development, head of Global Marketing for the Immunology Business Unit, and program executive, Program & Alliance Management.

Early in her career at Biogen, Seth led the enterprise-wide Long Range Planning Process that pushed portfolio prioritization and resource allocation decisions. She conducted her post-doctoral research in immunology and structural biology at Harvard University after receiving her PhD in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from the University of Massachusetts Medical School. She holds a Master of Science in Pharmacology from the University of Florida and is also a graduate of Harvard Business School’s Advanced Management Program (AMP).

Scangos left Biogen this summer. He was Biogen’s chief executive officer and board member from July 2010. From 1996 to July 2010, Scangos was president and chief executive officer of Exelixis.

Vir focuses on developing treatments for viral and bacterial infectious diseases, utilizing immune programming to manipulate pathogen-host interactions. Lead investors in the company include ARCH Venture Partners and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The company launched in January 2017 with a $150 million investment from ARCH Venture Partners

The company is utilizing a broad technology portfolio that includes viral vectors it picked up when it acquired TomegaVax, which were originally developed by researchers Louis Picker and Klaus Frueh at Oregon Health & Science University.

Alpna Seth joins a number of high-level Biogen executives besides Scangos who have recently left the company. The company’s chief financial officer, Paul Clancy, left in June to join Alexion Pharmaceuticals, and Spyros Artavanis-Tsakonas, chief scientific officer, made a shift to part-time visiting scientist earlier this year. As part of his departure, Biogen made a deal with Harvard University where Artavanis-Tsakonas and his laboratory at Harvard Medical School will continue to conduct research work related to Biogen interests.

In 2015, the head of R&D, Doug Williams, and the head of commercial operations, Tony Kingsley, left. In 2016, Adam Koppel, corporate development and strategy chief, and Matt Griffiths, chief information officer, also left the company. In March 2017, Adriana Karaboutis, executive vice president of technology, business solutions, and corporate affairs, left the company.

The Boston Business Journal reports, “The biosimilars unit falls outside of Biogen’s core focus on neurological disorders, and makes up just a tiny fraction of its revenue. Still, during a recent earnings call, Vounatsos described the division as ‘an important contributor to our growth.’”

Michel Vounatsos replaced Scangos as Biogen’s chief executive officer in January 2017.

Biogen, via a joint venture with Samsung Biologics, had three biosimilars approved in Europe, all generic-copycat versions of rheumatoid arthritis drugs. The most recent approval was last week, for Imraldi, a biosimilar to AbbVie (ABBV) ’s Humira.

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