Martine Rothblatt, United Therapeutics

Martine Rothblatt
A mind for innovation drives the highest-paid pharma CEO

Company: United Therapeutics
Title: Chairman and CEO

Martine Rothblatt, the founder and CEO of United Therapeutics ($UTHR), led her company to a surprise regulatory reversal at the eleventh hour last year with the approval of its oral pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) drug Orenitram, a candidate shot down twice before. An analyst at the time called it "one of the top 10 biggest upside surprises in the history of the biotech sector." United's shares skyrocketed, and it paid off for Rothblatt, who had tied her own compensation to the company's performance.

She's unlike anyone else on this list--or on virtually any list for that matter. First off, she made more than any other CEO in the industry last year with a $38.22 million compensation package on an increase in the company's market cap. It made her the highest-paid female CEO in the U.S. in 2013, period.

Also, though, she wasn't born a woman, and according to a New York Magazine feature last month, she's humbled by the challenges that other women face in the business: "I can't claim that what I have achieved is equivalent to what a woman has achieved," she told the magazine. "For the first half of my life, I was male."

But as a transgendered CEO in a traditionally male-driven field, it took an impressive entrepreneurial spirit and an incomparably innovative mind to demonstrate just how surmountable some barriers can be, both social and technological.

As for United--of which Rothblatt owns a 7.5% stake--the company has been pursuing treatments for PAH for over a decade now, motivated by Rothblatt's daughter who had been diagnosed in the 1990s with the disease. Up until late 2013, United offered injected, intravenous and inhaled forms of treprostinil, but it had tried time and again to get its oral version over the U.S. regulatory hurdle. In this effort, it failed twice until the FDA changed its tune at the end of the year. United's stock jumped in a few days from $87.84 to top $114 upon Orenitram's ultimate approval, vaulting Rothblatt to the top of the CEO pay scale.

Shares of United have settled down through 2014 due to Orenitram's small PAH patient group and some recent competition from Actelion ($ATLN) and Bayer. But the pill is ramped up for a bigger indication, and the company has a new North Carolina research lab in the works to--along with biotech entrepreneur and Rothblatt's personal friend Craig Venter--focus on using pig lungs for human transplant in PAH patients.

And United isn't Rothblatt's only venture. To name a few from the New York piece, she has had a hand in communications satellites, played a role in the Human Genome Project, begun the Terasem Movement for the promotion of "technological immortality" and commissioned the development of a machine-based version of her wife called Bina48.

For more:
New highest-paid CEO: United Therapeutics chief collected $38M in 2013
In surprise reversal the FDA approves United's oral PAH drug Orenitram

-- Michael Gibney (email | Twitter)

Martine Rothblatt, United Therapeutics