) -- The Best Biotech CEO of 2011 Award is in your hands.
biotechnology coverage will vote for the chief executive officer who exemplifies outstanding leadership and performance this year.
The five nominees for Best Biotech CEO of 2011 honors are Schaefer Price of
(SPPI - Get Report)
Raj Shrotriya, Matt Emmens of
(VRTX - Get Report)
, David Hung of
(MDVN - Get Report)
(BIIB - Get Report)
One of these executives will win the Swanson Trophy, named in honor of Robert Swanson,
founding CEO. Past winners include
Mitch Gold (2010),
Human Genome Sciences'
Thomas Watkins (2009) and
Peter Meldrum (2008).
Similar to the
Worst Biotech CEO of 2011 Award
, please read the following nominating summaries and make your selection in the interactive poll at the end of this story. Feel free to post comments if you believe a CEO deserving of acclaim was left out of the voting. I'll tally your votes and award the trophy in a week.
Schaefer Price, Pharmasset
Price was already a Best Biotech CEO nominee before he negotiated the $11 billion acquisition of his company by
(GILD - Get Report)
. The jaw-dropping valuation for Pharmasset, a company without meaningful revenue and with hepatitis C drugs still in clinical trials cemented Price's spot on the list. [He was helped by Gilead's desperation, of course.]
Price is a finance guy running a company that hasn't generated any profits yet, so if he wins, let's hope he shares credit with the scientists working under him developing Pharmasset's exciting oral drugs for hepatitis C. Pharmasset's shareholders have already won, and if the company's drugs are approved and injections to treat Hep C are no longer needed, patients will win, too.
Pharmasset shares doubled in value in 2010. That's impressive, but 2011 has been even more amazing -- a $20 stock at the beginning of the year ends with a $137-per-share takeout offer.
Raj Shrotriya, Spectrum Pharmaceuticals
Shrotriya promised investors in the beginning of the year that adding colon cancer to the approved indications for Spectrum's cancer drug Fusilev would fuel a sharp surge in the drug's sales growth. Doubters, myself included, said no way. Fusilev sales were growing only because a cheaper generic version of the same drug, leucovorin, was experiencing a temporary supply shortage. Once leucovorin supplies normalized, Fusilev would flop.
A year later, leucovorin is still in short supply and Fusilev has prospered, validating Shrotriya's strategy and helping Spectrum become profitable on an annual basis for the first time. Spectrum shares are up 117% this year.
Matt Emmens, Vertex Pharmaceuticals
Emmens oversaw one of the most impressive new drug launches in biotech history. Approved in May, Vertex's hepatitis C drug Incivek will generate cumulative sales of more than $1 billion by the end of the year, fueling the company's first-ever annual profit. Few drugs have ever reached blockbuster status as fast as Incivek, a remarkable feat in an era where the complexities and logistics of new drug launches are more challenging than ever.
Under Emmens' tenure, Vertex also made big strides in 2011 to become more than just company known for hepatitis C drugs. Vertex's cystic fibrosis therapy VX-770 is the first to repair the underlying genetic cause of the debilitating and fatal respiratory disease, and is now awaiting FDA approval. Vertex is also developing a promising pill for rheumatoid arthritis.
Critics may say Emmens doesn't deserve a Best Biotech CEO nod because Incivek may soon be eclipsed by newer Hep C therapies (See Pharmasset-Gilead). Vertex's stock price is also well off its highs. True, but Emmens' 2011 performance cemented his reputation as one of the best marketers in the drug sector.
David Hung, Medivation
The knock on Hung has been that he excelled at finding drugs to fill Medivation's pipeline and proved savvy in negotiating lucrative partnerships with Big Pharma but he couldn't quite find clinical success or get a drug approved.
In November, Hung proved the naysayers wrong when Medivation announced stellar results from a phase III study of its prostate cancer drug MDV3100. Medivation shares tripled in value.
George Scangos, Biogen Idec
Prior to Scangos' arrival at Biogen, the biotech giant was becoming famous more for boardroom drama than drug -development prowess. A protracted battle with activist shareholder Carl Icahn left Biogen bruised and investors unsure whether the company had anything left to spur growth beyond Avonex and Tysabri, its core multiple sclerosis drugs.
Scangos joined Biogen from
TICKER TYPE="EQUITY" SYMBOL="EXEL"/> in the middle of 2010. He cut costs, trimmed the workforce and closed the company's West Coast research facility while refocusing Biogen's R&D. Scangos has also been lucky. The success of late-stage clinical studies that were started when his CEO tenure began -- most notably the oral multiple sclerosis drug BG-12 -- have fueled Biogen's stellar stock performance. Biogen shares are up 70% this year, tops among the big-cap biotech stocks by a wide margin.
--Written by Adam Feuerstein in Boston.
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