Sanofi Genzyme Exec Exits to Become CMO of Flexion—Sanofi's Rumored Buyout Target

Sanofi Genzyme Exec Exits to Become CMO of Flexion—Sanofi's Rumored Buyout Target April 7, 2017
By Mark Terry, Breaking News Staff

Flexion Therapeutics , headquartered in Burlington, Mass., announced that Yamo Deniz will be the company’s new chief medical officer (CMO). Current CMO, Flexion co-founder Neil Bodick, will take on the role of chief scientific officer.

What makes this particularly notable is that Deniz’s previous position was vice president and Global Head of Medical for Rare Diseases at Sanofi Genzyme . On March 23, there were reports that Sanofi was in talks to acquire Flexion. And it was also reported that Flexion’s board of directors had accepted a non-binding offer from Sanofi.

Deniz received his medical degree from the University of Massachusetts Medical School and completed his residency at Long Island Jewish Medical Center. He completed a fellowship at Duke University Medical Center. He is an allergist and immunologist. He has also held positions as chief medical officer, Global Head of Medical & Pharmacovigilance and vice president and Global Head of Development at GE Healthcare Medical Diagnostics.

“With his demonstrated track record of clinical development and medical affairs, Dr. Deniz is a superb addition to Flexion’s management team as we prepare for the potential approval and commercialization of Zilretta, also known as FX006,” said Michael Clayman, president and chief executive officer of Flexion, in a statement. “His extensive pharmaceutical R&D background will be invaluable to us as we expand Flexion into a fully integrated pharmaceutical company. In addition to his deep industry knowledge, Dr. Deniz’s team-based approach and entrepreneurial spirit exemplify Flexion’s core values and make him an excellent fit for our company culture.”

Deniz is not the first high-level Sanofi-Genzyme executive to join Flexion. Mark Fraga, formerly head of Global Marketing for Sanofi Biosurgery, joined Flexion as vice president of Marketing in June 2016. And Scott Kelley, formerly vice president of Global Medical Affairs for Sanofi Biosurgery joined Flexion as vice president of Medical Affairs in May 2016.

Flexion’s Zilretta is a sustained-release corticosteroid. It filed with the U.S. Food and Drug administration (FDA) in December, and if approved, would be launched in the fall.

Genzyme has marketed Synvisc for osteoarthritis since 2009. It is a hyaluronon-based injection that supplements the natural fluid in the knee. Analysts have projected that if Zilretta is approved, it could hit $500 to $600 million in peak sales, and if it is approved for other joint indications, could hit the $1 billion blockbuster mark.

“A deal for Flexion,” John Carroll, writing for Endpoints News two weeks ago, said, “would amount to a relatively small but reliable bolt-on buyout for Sanofi, which needs to prove that it can close on a negotiation. It would also mark a big payout to investors who have backed this company through the development phase.”

Sanofi has been beaten out on several high-profile acquisitions in the last year. In August, Pfizer snagged San Francisco’s Medivation for about $14 billion. In January, Johnson & Johnson beat out Sanofi for Swiss-based Actelion for $30 billion.

Flexion took a noticeable leap after news of a possible Sanofi bid came to light. Shares traded on March 21 for $19.24. They hit $29.26 on March 27. Shares are currently trading for $27.09. Reports indicate the initial Sanofi bid was in the mid-30s.

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