UCB taps biopharma chief to step up to CEO job, prep for new launches

Jean-Christophe Tellier--Courtesy of UCB

UCB is preparing for a changing of the guard. The Belgium-based drugmaker has tapped Jean-Christophe Tellier, who heads up its biopharma brands unit, to take over as CEO beginning next year, replacing current chief Roch Doliveux.

Tellier, who held down management positions at Ipsen and Novartis ($NVS) before joining UCB, will become CEO-elect March 1 and stand for shareholder approval at the company's annual meeting in late April.

Doliveux has been CEO since 2005, and as Reuters notes, presided over UCB's patent cliff transition. Its epilepsy drug Keppra went off patent in 2011, and the company has been building its other drugs to fill the sales gap. Its second-best-seller, Cimzia, an anti-inflammatory treatment for Crohn's disease and rheumatoid arthritis, leads the pack of UCB meds with €420 million ($575 million) in sales for the first 9 months of 2013, a 27% increase year over year. The company sees Cimzia peaking at €1.5 billion ($2.1 billion), minimum.

UCB's top three also includes Neupro, for Parkinson's disease, which delivered €120 million ($164 million) for the 9-month period, and Vimpat, approved as adjunctive therapy for partial onset seizures in adults with epilepsy., which brought in brought in €294 million ($403 million). The company has blockbuster ambitions for Vimpat as well as Cimzia, expecting peak sales of at least €1.2 billion ($1.6 billion).

The company could get a boost soon from Asia, where UCB has agreed to market Biogen Idec's ($BIIB) multiple sclerosis drugs, including the blockbuster Tysabri and the brand-new, fast-growing Tecfidera.

Doliveux said Tellier will step into his job just as UCB is poised for new launches, first for Cimzia and Vimpat in new indications, and then new drugs designed to treat osteoporosis, lupus and epilepsy. "Jean-Christophe has played a key role in UCB's successes, and he has been instrumental in helping establish our current strategy, Doliveux said in a statement. "Jean-Christophe's ... patient-centric approach, his medical background as a rheumatologist and his passion for developing talent make him the perfect candidate to lead the company through its next phase of evolution."

Tellier will work with Doliveux for the rest of the year to ensure a smooth transition, UCB said.

- read the UCB statement

Special Reports: Top 15 Drug Launch Superstars - Tecfidera | Top 10 Drugmakers in Emerging Markets

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