Placeholder Banner

Fireside Chats with Five CEOs Featured at Day Two of the BIO CEO & Investor Conference

February 10, 2015
Fireside Chat with John F. Milligan, PhD, President & COO, Gilead Sciences

The first fireside chat of the BIO CEO and Investor Conference featured John F. Milligan, Ph.D. President & COO of Gilead Sciences.  In a session moderated by Barclays analyst Geoff Meacham, Dr. Milligan was optimistic that sales of Gilead’s Hepatitis C treatments would see expanded sales volumes as more providers become comfortable with the regimens and treating HCV patients, according to Milligan. He was surprised last year to see physicians prescribing a combination of Sovaldi and J&J’s Olysio, a combination which the company believes eliminated the need for ribavirin and interferon. Based on an analysis of PBM data for Harvoni, they are seeing higher sales volumes as payers approve treatment for patients earlier on in their disease progression.

“As we’ve launched Harvoni this year, we recognized that the volumes have the capacity to increase, and when we talk about volume, what we really mean is the restrictions that payers are putting on who can have access to the medication are likely to come down, and you’ve seen with some of the analysis of the PBMs with the rebates that are now being granted, there are volumes that are expanding based on payers allowing patients with lower and lower fibrosis scores  -- the lower the score, the better you are – as low as zero in some cases… those patients will now be eligible for therapy, and it is our belief that the barriers to getting those prescriptions reimbursed will go down.”

Reimbursement deals with governments in Italy, Spain, and France will also provide a boost this year following successful negotiated volume discounts for patients in those countries, according to Milligan.

Fireside Chat with John Maraganore, Ph.D., CEO, Alnylam Pharmaceuticals:

The second Fireside Chat of Day Two featured a candid conversation between Michael King, Managing Director, Senior Research Analyst, JMP Securities and John Maraganore, PhD, CEO, Alnylam Pharmaceuticals. When Maraganore and Alnylam formed in 2002, the company started with raw science. He told the audience, “what an amazing journey, it always takes more time, always takes more money, but the rewards are amazing.” Maraganore discussed his company’s business plan, with every 3-5 years having a new market goal to reach, whether that was consolidating the IP, building a clinical pipeline or studying the products. Maraganore said this business model allowed Alnylam to go public in 2004 at a very young age. The capital markets were not accommodating at the time but the momentum and enthusiasm in the RNAi space allowed the company to raise the necessary capital from the venture community, according to Maraganore.

As a sitting member of the BIO Board and the BIO Executive Committee, as well as the chair of the Emerging Company Section and co-chair of the Regulatory Environment Committee, Maraganore closed the conversation with the changing policy landscape, particularly related to the recent announcement that FDA Commissioner Hamburg will be retiring. “Hamburg was fantastic for the FDA, the nation and the industry. In general, I think there will be a continuum of positive industry and FDA interaction.” PDUFA reauthorization and 21st Century Cures are two timely pieces of legislation that Maraganore sees as an opportunity for the industry to help elevate the patient voice. “We must find a way to take the patient perspective and make it useful to drug discovery and drug development.”

Fireside Chat with Peter Greenleaf, CEO, Sucampo Pharmaceuticals

The third Fireside Chat featured a lively and wide-ranging conversation with Peter Greenleaf, CEO of Sucampo Pharmaceuticals. The Fireside Chat was moderated by Tony Gibney, Managing Director at Leerink Partners LLC.

During the talk, Greenleaf discussed his time as CEO of the company and his efforts to grow and strengthen the business. He focused on capital strategy, deepening the company's bench of talent and communicating with investors.

On the policy side, Greenleaf, who is a member of BIO's board, talked about several of the key policy issues the industry faces, including intellectual property and taxation. Greenleaf, like previous speakers, praised the work of Dr. Hamburg, saying she "moved the needle" in terms of getting drugs approved at FDA. He also talked about the need for good policy in Washington, given the high-risk, unpredictable nature of biotechnology innovation.  Greenleaf also cited the important role that conferences, like the BIO CEO & Investor Conference, can play in fostering partnerships and industry deals.

Fireside Chat with Ron Cohen, M.D., President & CEO, Acorda Therapeutics

Acorda CEO Ron Cohen, who also serves as Chairman of BIO’s Emerging Companies Section, participated in a fireside chat moderated by Lazard’s Andrew Dickinson.

Cohen spoke about their recent acquisition of Civitas Therapeutics last September. The acquisition included a Phase 3 treatment for OFF episodes of Parkinson’s disease as well as  Civitas’ proprietary ARCUSTM pulmonary delivery technology, a set of assets which fits in well with Acorda’s existing portfolio and pipeline.

About a year and a half before the Civitas acquisition, Acorda had looked at buying the company and conducted full due diligence, but talked themselves out of making the deal. Around that same time, Cohen realized they were lacking certain ingredients within the company, particularly a lack of senior-level staff with experience making such deals: they were looking at dozens and dozens of deals, but never pulling the trigger. Cohen corrected that with a series of strategic executive hires. Civitas later came out with positive Phase 2b data which answered many of their early questions about the company. As a consequence of that positive data, the company had become much more highly valued and rebuffed their renewed interest, as buyers with much more cash had expressed interest.

Soon after conducting a convertible offering that brought their cash on hand to $750 million, Cohen was sitting with his chief business development officer, Andrew Hindman, discussing potential acquisitions, who mentioned that Civitas was conducting an IPO roadshow; their earlier deal talks had fallen through. Cohen said, “Well, if they’re on their roadshow, then we can’t do a deal.” “Oh yes we can,” Hindman replied. “It won’t be easy, but we can.” Less than a week later – three hours before their IPO was scheduled to price – Acorda and Civitas announced the acquisition for $525 million in cash.

The flexibility provided by their large cash balance, together with strategic recruiting which brought new perspectives to the company, allowed them to make a deal which will be pivotal to the future of the company.

Fireside Chat with Ian C. Read, Chairman of the Board and CEO, Pfizer

The final Fireside Chat of the BIO CEO & Investor Conference featured Pfizer’s Ian Read, moderated by Stephen Sands, Vice Chairman Investment Banking and Global Co-Head Healthcare Group at Lazard. Read shared the company’s focus on reorganizing innovative and established products to create a structure that fits each division. “While both teams operate separately since they are different businesses, both teams are guided by increasing shareholder value,” said Read. He went on to emphasize that the company made the decision to sell off animal health and nutrition in order to unlock value. Read added that smaller business units can help to speed communication while increasing accountability. He also noted that corporate decision making is focused on value and determining how Pfizer can best add value.

Read criticized the U.S. tax code for encouraging investment abroad and providing incentives to remove business from the U.S. “It is a great place to invest, but foreign companies have a huge relative advantage – what is the competitive advantage for U.S. companies?” Read asserted that the tax code needs to be fixed in order to stimulate investment in the U.S.