Changing of the guard at Swiss biotech Vifor; nabs Sanofi exec as new CMO

Sanofi
The former Sanofi exec joins as its chief medical officer. (Sanofi)

Vifor Pharma is losing a chief commercial officer but gaining a new chief medical officer in the form of Sanofi’s Klaus Henning Jensen.

Jensen joins from the French Big Pharma where he was its global therapeutic area head, responsible for diabetes, cardiovascular and metabolism development for three years. Before this, he worked for more than 11 years at diabetes specialist Novo Nordisk as its VP, and later its head of clinical, medical and regulatory.

At Vifor, he will now lead its clinical development, drug safety and medical affairs.

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The company has had an interesting few years: Back in 2017, Vifor became independent following the IPO of its sister unit, Galenica Santé. The split and stock listing gave Vifor money to pay off debt it accrued in its $1.5 billion (€1.4 billion) takeover of Relypsa.

Prior to the split, Vifor was part of the larger Galencia Group, but the health and beauty product and services unit Galencia Santé struck out on its own, raising CHF 1.9 billion ($1.9 billion) through an IPO in its native Switzerland. This left Vifor to focus on its pharma biz.

It already has several already-approved drugs, including the hyperkalemia treatment Veltassa. The Zurich, Switzerland-based company kicked off the period of checkbook pipeline and portfolio building back in 2015 with a view to establishing a stable of assets capable of making it a viable independent biopharma.

The centerpiece of the strategy—and drug that enabled Vifor to shorten the timeline to independence from an initial three to five years—was Mircera, a treatment for chronic kidney disease-associated symptomatic anemia Vifor secured regional rights to from Roche.

With Mircera giving Vifor the makings of a commercial operation, the business development team began trying to stock the company’s pipeline with late-phase assets. In 2015, Vifor snagged rights to Relypsa’s then-experimental hyperkalemia drug in certain markets, before returning to the dealmaking table the following year to acquire the whole company.

In between those transactions, Vifor picked up the rights to ChemoCentryx’s phase 3-ready anti-neutrophil cytoplasmic antibody-associated vasculitis drug and Opko Health’s Rayaldee, which at the time was stumbling toward an FDA approval. Vifor later returned to ChemoCentryx to bag rights to another of its experimental candidates, chronic kidney disease asset CCX140.

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The biotech also announced today that Dario Eklund, a five-year veteran and formerly its head of global business operations, and most recently its chief commercial officer, “has decided to pursue opportunities outside of Vifor Pharma, and will leave the organization by the end of September.” The company added that a search for a successor “is underway.”

Stefan Schulze, president of Vifor Pharma Group executive committee and COO, said: “We are delighted to announce the appointment of Dr. Klaus Henning Jensen. Dr. Jensen brings a wealth of experience from leading global clinical development and medical affairs functions at Sanofi and Novo Nordisk. We greatly look forward to welcoming him to the team in January.

“We would also like to thank Dario Eklund for his leadership and outstanding contributions to our success over the past 5 years. We wish him the very best for his future endeavors, both professionally and personally.”

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