2014 pay package: $13.8 million
2013 pay package: Not disclosed
2014 compensation: $539,077 in salary; $250,000 in bonus cash; $9 million worth of stock awards; $3.2 million in options; $630,000 in nonequity incentive pay; and $241,936 in other compensation.
Vertex Pharmaceuticals' ($VRTX) newest executive officer picked the right time to jump ship after more than 20 years at Merck ($MRK), taking the R&D reins just as the company geared up for the biggest bet in its history.
Taking over for the now-retired Robert Kauffman, Jeffrey Chodakewitz joined Vertex as it worked through late-stage trials for a combination cystic fibrosis treatment that is integral to its future. The drug, Orkambi, came through with positive results last summer and secured FDA approval just this month, putting Vertex in line for blockbuster sales and, analysts expect, consistent profitability for the first time.
The run-up to that approval sent Vertex's share value up about 56% in 2014, fueling the nearly $9 million value of the restricted shares granted to Chodakewitz in his first year on the job. And Chodakewitz's sizable paycheck stands out in recent Vertex history: Kauffman didn't make the list of highest-paid Vertex execs last year, and Peter Mueller, who stepped down as chief scientific officer in the fall, took home just $4.2 million in 2013.
Vertex's bet on a Big Pharma vet like Chodakewitz reflects its maturation as a company. The coming Orkambi launch will set the tone for the drugmaker's future, and, if all goes well, analysts say the combo drug could bring in more than $3 billion a year at its peak. At Merck, Chodakewitz oversaw the programs that became Crixivan, Gardasil and Zostavax, and Vertex is counting on him to help the company pull off a crucial launch and transition from a loss-taking outfit focused on R&D into a differentiated biopharma.
Meanwhile, the company is working through Phase III on another CF combo, featuring the investigational VX-661, and has partnered up with Parion Sciences to collaborate on some earlier-stage treatments for the disease. Vertex is also moving toward Phase II with VX-803 and VX-970, a pair of oncology treatments that work by regulating the repair of damaged DNA within cancer cells.
- here's the proxy
Vertex beefs up its cystic fibrosis pipeline with $1.2B Parion R&D pact
Look out, payers. Vertex's new CF med Orkambi is one step closer to market
Vertex clears an FDA hurdle with its cystic fibrosis combo
Vertex gets 500-patient boost with FDA's newest Kalydeco nod