Agios crowns Celgene veteran Jackie Fouse CEO to spearhead leukemia drug launches

Jackie Fouse
Jackie Fouse will take the baton from Agios CEO David Schenkein in February. (Agios)

Jackie Fouse has been a prime biopharma CEO candidate since leaving her COO role at Celgene, and after plenty of speculation, it’s Agios that finally gets to claim her as its next skipper.

The Massachusetts biotech said Tuesday that Fouse—who has been part of Agios’ board since last December—would succeed longtime chief executive David Schenkein, who's sliding into the executive chairman spot next February. And it will now be her job to guide Agios’ two new blood cancer launches, tapping her Celgene experience in the process.

Those are the targeted acute myeloid leukemia drugs Idhifa and Tibsovo, which grabbed their FDA approvals last August and this July, respectively. Fouse is already plenty familiar with the field: Agios is partnered with Celgene on Idhifa, which grabbed its green light just after Fouse's official retirement in June last year.

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“With the recent approval and launch of our second internally discovered medicine … now is the right time to begin this transition. Having worked closely with Jackie for several years and as a member of our board, I am confident that she is the right person to build on the strong foundation we’ve established,” Schenkein said in a statement.

Fouse will bid farewell to Dermavant, a member of Vivek Ramaswamy’s Roivant family of biotechs, where she served as executive chair.

RELATED: Agios wins FDA nod for targeted AML drug Tibsovo

Agios will call on Fouse’s expertise as it rolls out pricey Tibsovo in relapsed and refractory AML patients with the IDH1 mutation. At $26,115 per month, it’s the first drug with a go-ahead to treat the specific mutation, which currently affects about 700 to 1,100 patients in the U.S.

SunTrust analyst Yatin Suneja has predicted the drug could rack up $300 million at its peak. First, Agios will have to navigate a black box warning for differentiation syndrome, though Suneja predicts doing so won’t be a problem.

In the meantime, Agios will be pushing forward with Idhifa, which generated $3.1 million in this year’s second quarter. Priced just slightly below Tibsovo at $24,872 before discounts, the drug has the potential to rake in $500 million in the IDH1 mutation population, Celgene has said.

RELATED: Gilead investors see Celgene veteran Jackie Fouse as top pick for CEO spot: analyst

With Fouse’s move to Agios comes an end to rumors that she could be headed to Gilead to succeed John Milligan, who will step down at the end of the year. Investors of the California biotech had considered her a top pick, given her “track record (both vision and execution), relationship with the Street, and ability to attract talent,” RBC Capital Markets analyst Brian Abraham wrote to clients last month.

Last year, Fouse also turned down the head honcho position at troubled Teva, according to reports. Sol Barer, Celgene’s founder, was leading the CEO search at the time; Lundbeck helmsman Kåre Schultz eventually accepted the job.