Ipsen grabs new R&D lead as Shire's neuro head leaves amid Takeda takeover

Takeda US facility
Howard Mayer, M.D., joins after Takeda bought out his former company. (Takeda)

As Japanese pharma Takeda keeps divesting assets, its new big biotech buy Shire keeps divesting research executives.

In the last few months, rare disease-focused Shire has seen its former head of R&D, Andy Busch, Ph.D., hit the exit, joining Cyclerion as its new chief innovation officer back in April, and, just this week, AstraZeneca’s antibiotics spinout Entasis nabbed David Altarac, M.D., as its chief medical officer.

At Shire, he had been head of global regulatory affairs, global drug safety and R&D quality and compliance.

Now, it’s losing Howard Mayer, M.D., Shire’s ex-senior vice president, chief medical officer and head of R&D at its neuroscience unit. He moves over to French biotech Ipsen as its new EVP and head of R&D from Dec. 1 after being at Shire for nearly seven years.

He succeeds Dr. Alexandre Lebeaut, who will be retiring by year-end. Mayer will report directly to David Meek, Ipsen’s CEO, and will be based out of the company's U.S. site in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

RELATED: Takeda whittles away costs—and assets—to keep its debt-cutting promises

Meek said: “As Ipsen enters its next phase of growth, it is my great pleasure to appoint Dr. Mayer to lead Ipsen’s R&D organization. He brings a wealth of outstanding clinical, medical and leadership experience from a number of global biopharmaceutical companies. Ipsen’s pipeline has never been as rich as it is today, with six Phase 3 or registration trials scheduled for 2020.

“Dr. Mayer will play a pivotal role in driving our R&D strategy to further grow our pipeline and build a truly differentiated and sustainable portfolio across our key areas of expertise. He will lead the development of innovative therapeutic solutions for our oncology and neuroscience franchises including Systemic Radiation Therapy (SRT), while building on our leadership position in neurotoxin research. With extensive experience in rare diseases, Dr. Mayer will also advance our fast-growing rare diseases portfolio.”

In his role, Mayer “will work closely” with Ipsen’s business development team to “assess and execute on in-licensing or out-licensing opportunities and build internal expertise accordingly,” the Paris-headquartered company said, as it looks for pipeline asset deals.

Ipsen has already been ramping up the deals, spending $1.3 billion on its Clementia buyout back in February to boost its rare disease unit, following this up last month with a backloaded, $535 million (€485 million) deal with Blueprint Medicines to add another treatment for fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva to its rare disease pipeline.