Biogen Idec taps two ex-CEOs to head R&D, corporate development

The big shakeup at Biogen Idec's ($BIIB) R&D division will now be directed by a new research chief. Ex-ZymoGenetics CEO Douglas Williams is taking over as head of R&D, which has already undergone significant remodeling at the hands of new CEO George Scangos (photo).

Two months ago Biogen said it would halt its efforts in oncology and cardiovascular medicine, concentrating its efforts in neurology, immunology and hemophilia and targeting a new round of partnerships to help drive innovation. Biogen also said that it would cut 650 jobs in the shakeup.

Williams helmed Seattle-based ZymoGenetics at the time the company was sold to Bristol-Myers Squibb for $725 million. And Williams, handed a post that has been empty for more than a year, steps in keenly tuned to the new reality.

"As an outsider looking in, the steps that were taken made perfect sense,'' Williams told the Boston Globe's Robert Weisman. "That focusing step will be an important one for the company. The mandate is really clear, and that is to take what is a very good R&D organization and turn it into a great R&D operation. I think I can add firepower.''

In addition to the new R&D chief, Scangos also named Steven Holtzman--the former CEO of Infinity Pharmaceuticals--as the EVP in charge of corporate development. Michael Lytton, who had been head of business development, is on his way out. For Scangos, the personnel moves leave him with his own team on the field, with full responsibility for the future success or failure of the company.

"I have known Doug and Steve for a long time and have great respect for their capabilities, accomplishments and character. Doug has repeatedly demonstrated the ability to build and lead high quality research groups and, importantly, to aggressively focus the science and transform promising research into products," says Scangos. "Steve is one of the most thoughtful and creative business people I know and has demonstrated over the years the ability to build great organizations and create innovative collaborative structures that meet the needs of both partners. Steve and Doug represent the completion of what I believe is now an excellent management team."

- read the Biogen release
- and here's the report from the Boston Globe
- see the Bloomberg story