After Vifor acquisition and gene therapy approval, CSL taps McKenzie as its next CEO

Three weeks removed from capturing FDA approval for its hemophilia B gene therapy, CSL has tapped a new CEO who should be able to ensure the company can make the stuff.

Manufacturing veteran Paul McKenzie, Ph.D., will take the reins in March after serving for three years as CSL's chief operating officer. McKenzie headed up manufacturing and supply chain management at Biogen before coming to Australia-based CSL in 2019.

McKenzie replaces Paul Perreault, who has guided CSL for 10 years and plans to retire in September after more than 25 years with the company. McKenzie’s appointment becomes effective on March 6.

McKenzie takes over as the blood products firm looks to chart a new course after a challenging couple of years when plasma donations were down because of the pandemic.

Last December, CSL made a major move to diversify with its $11.7 billion acquisition of Vifor Pharma, which added the Switzerland-based company’s kidney disease and iron deficiency franchises.

In 2020, CSL acquired the global rights to commercialize uniQure’s Hemgenix. Upon its approval last month, the company established a $3.5 million price tag for the one-time treatment, making it the most expensive therapy in history. CSL also is developing a gene therapy for sickle cell anemia.

“We will continue focusing on executing our 2030 strategy, investing in innovation, and continue achieving sustainable and profitable growth,” McKenzie said in a release.

McKenzie brings plenty of Big Pharma experience to the role, starting his career with a six-year stint at Merck, followed by a decade at Bristol Myers Squibb, eight years at Johnson & Johnson and three at Biogen.

Based out of CSL’s U.S. headquarters in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, McKenzie has helped grow and transform several of CSL's business units, the company said.

Wilsons analyst Melissa Benson told the Australia Financial Review that McKenzie was "the best possible choice to fill the role."

The company has had extraordinary stability over the last three decades. Brian McNamee, who was CEO from 1990 to 2013, remains its chairman of the board. McNamee refers to McKenzie as a “patient-focused global leader.”

“With his deep understanding of CSL’s strategy, culture and operations, Paul is well positioned to lead CSL to its next level of sustainable growth,” McNamee said in a statement.

McKenzie studied chemical engineering at the University of Pennsylvania (B.S.) and Carnegie Mellon (Ph.D.).