BOSTON ( TheStreet) --The winner of the 2010 Worst Biotech CEO of the Year Award goes to ... you decide. In a new and democratic twist this year, readers of TheStreet's biotech coverage will vote on which chief executive deserves this most ignominious award. To simplify the voting and help reach a consensus, I've nominated four CEOs who, for various reasons you'll read below, deserve to hold aloft the Nance Trophy amid an angry, insult-throwing crowd of biotech investors. The four Worst Biotech CEO nominees for 2010 are: Jack Lief of Arena Pharmaceuticals ( ARNA), Brian Pereira, Amag Pharmaceuticals ( AMAG), Steve Engle of Xoma ( XOMA) and Dan Bradbury, Amylin Pharmaceuticals ( AMLN). The Nance Trophy honors David Nance, the former CEO of now bankrupt and defunct Introgen Therapeutics. Few CEOs in biotech did more to hone the fine craft of investor bamboozlement and outright incompetence as Introgen's Nance. Past winners (or should I say losers?) of the Worst Biotech CEO of the Year Award are Elan's ( ELN) Kelly Martin in 2008 and Genzyme's ( GENZ) Henri Termeer in 2009. For the 2010 crowning, I'd like readers to cast the deciding votes. Read the following nominating summaries and make your selection in the interactive poll below. Feel free, also, to post comments at the bottom of the story if you feel I left off a CEO deserving of shame. In a week or so, I'll tally the votes and award the trophy. Jack Lief, Arena Pharmaceuticals: For months, Arena and U.S. drug regulators engaged in a debate over preclinical data showing high doses of the company's weight-loss drug lorcaserin caused various tumors in male and female rats. Arena insisted that the "rat cancer" data had no relevance to lorcaserin's use in humans. The FDA disagreed and eventually rejected lorcaserin in large part because of concerns about the unresolved "rat cancer" issue. Investors were kept entirely in the dark about this important issue, only learning about it after the FDA posted a lorcaserin clinical review two days before its advisory panel meeting in September. Arena, under Lief's direction, decided that the rat cancer data weren't material and therefore didn't need to be disclosed publicly. The thrashing of Arena's stock price when investors learned about the animal cancer issue suggests otherwise. Arena's stock is down 60% this year -- down 80% from the stock's high in September just before the "rat cancer" issue was eventually disclosed.
For this serious lapse in judgment and stunning disregard for his shareholders, Lief earns a nomination as one of the worst biotech CEOs in 2010. Brian Pereira, Amag Pharmaceuticals: Launching a new drug is never an easy task. Launching a new drug into the competitive, price-sensitive and complex chronic kidney disease market is an even more daunting challenge. For that reason, Pereira deserves some insulation against criticism for his management of Amag's thoroughly disappointing marketing of the intravenous iron replacement therapy Feraheme. Pereira, however, still deserves inclusion on this list of worst biotech CEOs nominees because he promised way too much and delivered far too little throughout 2010. Almost everything Pereira promised about the Feraheme launch failed to materialize, while the critics with questions he somewhat arrogantly brushed aside in the early days of the launch have been proven right. Feraheme today fights an uphill battle. Changes to the way kidney disease drugs and services are reimbursed have made Feraheme's convenience factor irrelevant and its premium price a liability. A new FDA-mandated Feraheme label warns doctors to watch patients for potentially life-threatening allergic reactions. Quarterly sales of the drug have fallen consistently below expectations, forcing the company to restructure and retool its marketing approach, which still seems to have no clear direction. Pereira is a nephrologist who repeatedly told investors to trust his hands-on expertise in the chronic kidney disease market. He, better than most, knew how to make Feraheme a commercial success, he said. Well, one year later, Feraheme borders on failure, and whatever reservoir of trust Pereira built with Wall Street is gone. Amag shares are down 71% this year from their peak in mid-January. Shareholders are angry, and some are starting to push the company's board to make significant changes. Steven Engle, Xoma: I can't point to one single, ignominious act that landed Engle a nomination for worst biotech CEO of 2010. He's here more for his overall incompetence and lack of accomplishments that have done nothing to reverse Xoma reputation as one of the most unproductive and unsuccessful companies in the entire biotech sector.
Xoma is one of the country's oldest biotech companies yet has little to show for it except a mountain of losses and years of dismal shareholder returns. Xoma's chosen field of expertise -- the manufacture of humanized monoclonal antibodies -- has helped other companies like Genentech develop successful products. Yet Xoma, working alone, has never been able to develop a drug. The company's R&D graveyard is a crowded place. Engle doesn't deserve all the blame for Xoma's long history of futility, but he joined the company in 2007, promising change. He exits 2010 delivering little or nothing. Under Engle, Xoma's drug research still shows no sign of life. Promises he made to partner an early-stage diabetes drug candidate went nowhere, and balance sheet and debt issues diverted way too much time and corporate resources. Investors long ago gave up on Xoma. As a result, the stock has slid deeper into the tank, and not even a 1-for-15 reverse stock split needed to maintain a Nasdaq listing has helped turn things around. Xoma shares are down 78% this year. Dan Bradbury, Amylin Pharmaceuticals: By now, Amylin was supposed to be putting the sales launch of its diabetes drug Bydureon into high gear. After years of clinical trials, Bydureon, a drug given just once a week, was supposed to herald a new era of convenience for what seems like an ever-increasing population of diabetics in the U.S. Yet Amylin's dream of launching its first blockbuster drug was put on long-term hiatus when the FDA rejected Bydureon in October. Gathering the new data requested by FDA, including a new study needed to test Bydureon's effect on the electrical signaling of the heart -- means the diabetes drug may not be approved until 2012. By that time, competing drugs could be either entrenched in the market or well on there way to being there. Bradbury's No. 1 responsibility this year was to carry Bydureon across the finish line. He failed to get the job done. As CEO of Amylin, that failure sits squarely on his shoulders. Bradbury, therefore, finds himself nominated as one of the worst biotech CEOs of the year. Vote below.
--Written by Adam Feuerstein in Boston. >To contact the writer of this article, click here: Adam Feuerstein. >To follow the writer on Twitter, go to http://twitter.com/adamfeuerstein. >To submit a news tip, send an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org.