You'll notice a few changes to this year's roster of nominations for Best Biopharma CEO of 2015.
For starters, I widened the eligibility criteria to include Big Pharma and drug company CEOs, hence the change to "Best Biopharma CEO" from just "Best Biotech CEO." The latter was too limiting given all the criss-crossing ways in which traditional biotech and pharmaceutical technologies are merging together within single companies.
This year's nominees are all doers, not dreamers. I made a conscious decision this year to recognize CEOs who delivered real, tangible results for shareholders. They've all completed deals or demonstrated success selling approved drugs.
Lastly, I went big by grouping together a gang of biopharma CEOs who all sold their companies in 2015. The takeouts lauded here were valued at $1 billion or more. Some were far larger than that, but making a judgment about which deal was better than others seemed less important than recognizing them all equally.
Please read the nominating summaries and vote for your favorite candidate in the interactive poll at the end of the story. One of these executives, or the grouped nominees, will win the Swanson Trophy, named in honor of Robert Swanson, Genentech's founding CEO.
I'll tally your votes and award the trophy at the end of the week.
Brent Saunders, Allergan (AGN)
This nomination was easy. Saunders is the hottest executive in the biopharmaceutical industry today. Purists might furrow their brows over his aversion to basic drug discovery and research, but no one else comes close to matching his deal-making skills.
If the $160 billion merger between Allergan and Pfizer (PFE) closes next year, Saunders will lose his job to become president and chief operating officer of the combined drug giant. We all know that's just temporary. There's little doubt he'll ascend to the CEO chair in due time.
- Faheem Hasnain, Receptos (RCPT)
- Sanj Patel, Synageva Biopharma (GEVA)
- Bob Duggan, Pharmacyclics (PCYC)
- Keith Leonard, Kythera Biopharma (KYTH)
- Don Santel, Hyperion Therapeutics
- Robert Alexander, ZS Pharma (ZSPH)
- Gustav Christensen, Dyax (DYAX)
Blessed are the dealmakers, for they deliver super-sized returns to shareholders.
Mergers and acquisitions were a big story in biotech for 2015, particularly as company valuations reached stratospheric levels this past summer.
Combined, the CEOs on this list sold their companies for $48 billion this year. Almost half of that total was delivered by Bob Duggan when Abbvie (ABBV) acquired Pharmacyclics for $21 billion. Still, it didn't seem right to nominate Duggan alone without also praising the other CEOs for landing shareholder-friendly takeout deals.
The jury's out on whether the acquirers paid too much, but then, that's not any concern for these guys. Group nominations for Best Biotech CEO of the Year are unusual but deserving in this case.