Alder CEO leaves as CGRP migraine race nears end

Boardroom (Image: Jo Johnston / Pixabay)
Alder has put board member Paul Cleveland in charge on an interim basis. (Jo Johnston/Pixabay)

Alder BioPharmaceuticals has parted company with its CEO. The decision, which Alder described as mutual, leaves the biotech without a permanent leader in the runup to filing for approval of migraine drug eptinezumab.

Neither Alder nor outgoing CEO Randall Schatzman, Ph.D., have provided much detail about the motivations for the split. Schatzman said now is the “right time” to pass control over to “the next generation of leadership” in prepared remarks included in Alder’s release about the change at the top. Alder said the decision for Schatzman to leave step down as president, CEO and director was mutual.

Bothell, Washington-based Alder has put board member Paul Cleveland in charge on an interim basis while it searches for a permanent successor with the support of executive recruitment firm Russell Reynolds Associates.

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Schatzman cofounded Alder in 2002 and has led the biotech ever since. In the final years of his time at the company, Schatzman took Alder public and raced against Amgen, Novartis, Eli Lilly and Teva to bring an anti-CGRP migraine drug to market. 

With a BLA penciled in for the second half of the year, Alder will finish the race behind at least some of the other runners and riders. Beyond that, Alder faces the prospect of finding a partner or buyer or pitting a fledgling sales team against the well-established commercial machines run by its rivals. Late-phase data suggest Alder may struggle to persuade payers and physicians that its drug offers a clear advantage over the competition.

Those factors have dampened perceptions of Alder’s prospects over the past 30 months, causing the stock to fall 70% from the highs it hit in 2015. Responsibility for engineering a happy ending to the story will now fall on Cleveland and his successor, although Schatzman will remain affiliated to the biotech through an 18-month consulting agreement.