Dendreon CEO John Johnson didn’t waste much time putting together
a new management team to help him turn things around at the
Seattle-based biotech company (NASDAQ: DNDN).
Johnson, who took over as Dendreon’s CEO on February 1, today
installed a trio of new executives. Two of the three are new hires who
previously worked with Johnson at New York-based ImClone Systems before
that company was acquired for $6.5 billion by Eli Lilly (NYSE: LLY).
With that, here are new names joining the company, according to
today’s statement. Johnson pointed out that he’s flattening the
company’s management structure, and all three of the new executives will
report directly to him.
—Joe DePinto, executive vice president, global
commercial operations. He will oversee sales and marketing efforts in
the U.S., and in Europe, where Dendreon is now seeking regulatory
approval for its prostate cancer drug, sipuleucel-T (Provenge). He is
new to Dendreon, and most recently was a vice president and product
champion at ImClone, the company that developed cetuximab (Erbitux) as
a treatment for colorectal cancer.
—Robert Poulton, executive vice president, technical
operations. Poulton was promoted from global head of quality to this
new executive role. He will now oversee global manufacturing,
operations, logistics and quality functions, Dendreon said. Poulton
previously worked at Wyeth, where he oversaw the supply chain.
—Christine Mikail, executive vice president,
corporate development, general counsel, and secretary. Mikail was most
recently a senior vice president at Savient Pharmaceuticals, where
Johnson worked previously, as well as ImClone, where she was vice
president, general counsel, and secretary.
Johnson was brought in to help boost the sales of Dendreon’s lone
marketed drug, after a 2011 to forget. The company forecasted $350
million to $400 million of sales last year for the drug, and ended up
delivering $213 million. The company blamed confusion among doctors
about whether they’d get adequate or timely reimbursement for a drug
that costs $93,000 per patient. That sales shortfall caused Dendreon to
lose more than $3 billion of its market value, and prompted the layoffs
of 500 employees last fall. Just yesterday, after the stock had surged
for a few weeks, it fell 20 percent again on word that the company
expects only “moderate” single-digit sales growth in the first quarter of 2012.
The new executives will have some unique challenges to solve at
Dendreon, which is marketing the first treatment of its kind that uses
intravenous infusions to “teach” the patient’s immune system to
recognize prostate cancer cells as invaders to be destroyed like
a virus. The drug has shown an ability to prolong lives by a median time
of about four months, with minimal side effects. But the process of
delivering the drug is costly. Dendreon’s near-term goal is to reach
cash-flow break-even. That goal should be achievable, Dendreon has said,
once it gets to $500 million in annual sales, and finds efficiencies in
its processes to bring the cost of goods sold down from the current 74
percent to about 50 percent.
Johnson said on Monday’s quarterly conference call that he spent part
of his first month on the job meeting with employees at Dendreon’s
manufacturing sites in Georgia, southern California, and New Jersey, as
well as at headquarters in Seattle. He also spent time meeting with
physicians at the American Society of Clinical Oncology’s Genitourinary
Cancers Symposium in San Francisco, where clinical trial data was
presented on the company’s product.