Ipsen names Sanofi Pasteur CEO Loew as new leader

Newly appointed Ipsen CEO David Loew (Business Wire)

Ipsen has named the head of Sanofi’s vaccines division as its CEO. The new hire, David Loew, arrives at a company reeling from a torrent six months that have crushed hopes for its $1 billion bet on rare disease drug palovarotene.

Loew spent more than 20 years rising through the ranks at Roche, culminating in him holding the title of head of the Eastern Europe, Middle East and Africa regions, before moving to Sanofi in 2013. By 2016, Sanofi had put Loew in charge of its vaccine unit, giving him responsibility for R&D, industrial affairs and commercial operations.

At Ipsen, Loew will seek to use his almost 30 years of experience in the pharma industry to improve the fortunes of a company that has suffered an almost 30% drop in its share price over the past six months, even accounting for a rally that has more than doubled its value from the recent low.  

Ipsen hit the skids in December when FDA put two trials of palovarotene on partial clinical hold. The regulatory action came eight months after Ipsen acquired the drug in its $1 billion takeover of Clementia Pharmaceuticals. At the time, then-CEO David Meek called the drug “largely derisked” and analysts at Jefferies later forecast peak sales of $1.5 billion in one of the targeted indications.

The buyout was central to Ipsen’s efforts to add growth drivers to mitigate the anticipated arrival of generic versions of Somatuline, the company’s bestselling drug. Yet, the news about palovarotene went from bad to worse in January when an interim analysis of a phase 3 trial found it was unlikely to meet its primary efficacy endpoint.

Meek, the CEO who oversaw the Clementia buyout, left between the two setbacks to take up the top job at FerGene, a Ferring Pharmaceuticals spinout that received Blackstone Life Sciences funding to bring a bladder cancer gene therapy to market. 

Ipsen subsequently scrapped one palovarotene trial in response to the hold imposed on it, and, while the company is yet to give up on the drug, events of recent months have tempered expectations that it will drive growth for years to come.

Finding ways to grow despite the setbacks to palovarotene will be a key part of Loew’s tenure as CEO of Ipsen. In disclosing the appointment, Ipsen highlighted that Loew “piloted a successful worldwide growth strategy via acquisitions and licensing deals” and developed a global pipeline during his time in charge of Sanofi’s vaccine division. 

Ipsen has continued to strike deals since buying Clementia early in 2019, notably by picking up a drug from Blueprint Medicines that targets the same indication as palovarotene, but the $1 billion buyout significantly diminished its M&A firepower.