Deshpande leaves Achillion after overseeing R&D pivot, freeing CEO chair for Truitt

Milind Deshpande (left) and Joseph Truitt (Achillion)

Achillion has promoted Joseph Truitt to replace outgoing CEO Milind Deshpande, Ph.D. The change puts the person who has overseen Achillion’s business development and commercial strategy for almost a decade in charge of the biotech as it nears midphase complement factor D data.

Truitt joined Achillion in 2009 after previously working at Viropharma and a Johnson & Johnson unit. Back then, Achillion was an infectious disease player looking to carve out a piece of the hepatitis C market. Gilead put pay to that plan, prompting Deshpande to reposition Achillion as a specialist in complement biology. 

That repositioning means the company Truitt is inheriting is significantly different than the one he joined. The big clinical milestones ahead of Achillion 2.0 relate to rare diseases, specifically the renal condition C3 glomerulopathy (C3G) and paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria (PNH). Achillion expects to have interim phase 2 data in C3G in the third quarter, with an update on a PNH to follow shortly after.

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Achillion has set Truitt’s base salary at $560,000, 37% more than his base salary as EVP and COO but less than his predecessor pulled in. Truitt also stands to receive a bonus of up to 55% of his base salary if he hits certain goals. Last year, Truitt received 75% of his maximum possible bonus as reward for his role in Achillion’s business development and the offering of stock held by Johnson & Johnson.

The biotech signaled its intent to hand Truitt more responsibility in February when it gave him the role of president, which was previously held by Deshpande. That move came months after the board signed off on a $26,000 pay bump for Truitt and added EVP to his existing title of COO.