Biogen’s board has elected Caroline Dorsa, a tenured director, to serve as chairman, succeeding Stelios Papadopoulos, the biotech said Wednesday morning.
The change will take effect immediately following Biogen’s annual meeting of stockholders, slated for June 14.
Dorsa has chaired the company’s audit committee since 2010, the year she joined the board. A former Merck and Gilead Sciences executive, she also serves on the boards of biotech Intellia Therapeutics and gene-sequencing firm Illumina.
Dorsa was selected after Papadopoulos, who’s been chairman since 2014, decided not to stand for reelection at the upcoming meeting.
“The entire board has great respect for Caroline and the tremendous contributions she has made during her 13-year tenure and as chair of our audit committee, where she has exhibited exceptional judgment, integrity and dedication,” stated Papadopoulos.
Papadopoulos joined Biogen’s board in 2008. Under his stewardship, the company enjoyed a number of commercial hits, including blockbuster Tecfidera for multiple sclerosis and Spinraza for rare disease spinal muscular atrophy. Its aging therapeutic lineup, however, is facing growing pressure from generics, payers and competition.
In more recent years, the company threw its weight behind Alzheimer’s disease drug development, co-developing both Aduhelm (aducanumab) and Leqembi (lecanamab) with Japanese pharma company Eisai. But its neuroscience odyssey has produced mixed results.
The two drugs were approved under the Food and Drug Administration‘s accelerated pathway in 2021 and 2023, respectively. Aduhelm’s green light came amid controversy, however, with independent advisors split as to whether the drug’s evidence indicated a slowing of disease progression.
With coverage extremely limited, the company had to scuttle the launch. A congressional probe that wrapped up in December concluded that the Aduhelm approval was “rife with irregularities.”
Leqembi secured FDA “priority review” this week and could see full FDA approval this summer. Although significant sales of Leqembi depend on more clarity around Medicare reimbursement, there’s been a renewed push for the federal insurance program to cover the drug, with patient and physician groups alike weighing in.
Also under Papadopoulos’ watch, the board oversaw the replacement of former CEO Michel Vounatsos, whose rocky tenure was inextricably linked to the Aduhelm debacle. The executive search resulted in last fall’s appointment of former GSK and Sanofi exec Christopher Viehbacher to take the helm.
In a fireside chat at this year’s JPM conference, Viehbacher acknowledged the need to get the biotech’s house in order by lowering the cost base and reducing the amount spent on MS marketing. He also touched on the commercial preparations for Leqembi’s launch, which is being led by Eisai.
As important as Alzheimer’s disease is to the company’s future, Viehbacher hinted that he may seek to take Biogen beyond neuroscience and move more deeply into therapeutic areas like immunology, psychiatry and neurodegenerative and rare diseases.