Verastem signs on Stuglik as CEO

Verastem Oncology has a new leader: Brian Stuglik, the Eli Lilly veteran who sat on Verastem’s board of directors. Stuglik’s appointment comes a month after Robert Forrester stepped down from the CEO post. 

Stuglik wore a number of hats at Lilly, ending his tenure as global vice president and chief marketing officer of the Big Pharma’s Oncology Global Marketing unit. During that time, he grew Lilly Oncology from one approved drug to a stable of marketed products and late-stage programs across more than 10 cancer types, Verastem said in a statement Monday. 

“Brian brings deep commercial and biopharmaceutical leadership experience that we believe will accelerate the growth of COPIKTRA and progress overall company goals,” said Michael Kauffman, M.D., Ph.D., Verastem Oncology’s lead director, in the statement. “Throughout his career, Brian has demonstrated an ability to deliver results through a clear strategic vision, focused teams and excellent execution. We are confident that he will capitalize on the significant opportunities in front of the company on behalf of patients, customers and our shareholders.” 

RELATED: Forrester steps down as CEO of Verastem

Stuglik’s predecessor, Forrester, joined Verastem as chief operating officer in 2011 and replaced Christoph Westphal as CEO in 2013. He steered the company through turbulent times marked by the foundering of its lead asset and the subsequent regrouping around the AbbVie castoff duvelisib. 

Now known as Copiktra, duvelisib earned an FDA nod last September as a third-line treatment for chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), small lymphocytic lymphoma (SLL) and follicular lymphoma. But that approval came with a black-box warning that could limit use of the drug. The company predicted Copiktra to log about $10 million in sales this year, but analysts expect revenues to rise beyond that. Peak sales for the drug have been forecast as high as $850 million. 

The responsibility for those expectations will now fall on Stuglik. 

Verastem is also testing Copiktra in relapsed and refractory blood cancers and as a first-line treatment for younger patients with CLL and SLL. 

“I am honored to join the Verastem Oncology team as CEO and am energized to build on our commitment to patients as we realize the full potential of COPIKTRA and the pipeline,” Stuglik said in the statement. “Being a member of the Board of Directors and, more recently, serving as a strategic partner to the team, I have great confidence in Verastem Oncology’s ability to rapidly progress our mission to improve the lives of cancer patients.”