The hunt is on for next Biogen CEO

Biogen Idec CEO James Mullen may be ready to walk out the door, but the big biotech doesn't have a replacement lined up yet. It appears there is no clear internal successor for the top spot, so Biogen Chairman Bill Young is looking both internally and externally to fill one of the most attractive open jobs in the industry.

"We have a whole list of criteria, but the most important of which is that we find someone who has managed and understands the role of science in a biotech company, and how that needs to be bridged to the commercial side of things," Young tells Xconomy. "That may mean it's a scientist or someone who understands how that fits into what biotech companies are designed to do, which is develop products." He adds that while some internal candidates are being evaluated, the company's CEO hunt is focused on external talent.

The new CEO will be joining one of the industry's leading biotechs, but it won't be a cakewalk. He or she will be facing some substantial challenges. There are ongoing questions about the safety of Biogen's multiple sclerosis drug Tysabri, which has been linked to a serious disease called PML. And investor Carl Icahn blasted the company last year for what he considered to be poor R&D performance. Icahn was also critical of Mullen's leadership, which likely contributed to the CEO's decision to make a career change.

The board has hired recruitment firm Spencer Stuart to help find candidates and hopes to announce a hiring in 90 to 120 days. Biogen is also looking for a new R&D chief, but Young says that position will remain unfilled until a CEO is named, so that the company is sure its new CEO and R&D chief are comfortable working together.

- read the Xconomy article