Alexion brings on former Baxalta chief Hantson to fill vacant CEO spot

Ludwig Hantson
Ludwig Hantson will be the permanent replacement for former CEO David Hallal, who left the company in December amid a sales fraud investigation.

Alexion’s CEO search is over. The Connecticut biotech, which bade its skipper farewell late last year, is bringing former Baxalta chief Ludwig Hantson into the fold.

Hantson will take the reins from David Brennan, who stepped in as interim CEO after David Hallal made his exit last December. Brennan will remain on Alexion’s board, which expects to appoint him chairman at the company’s mid-May annual meeting, Alexion said.

RELATED: Alexion replaces CEO, CFO amid Soliris sales fraud investigation

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All eyes will be on the newcomer CEO, who will be tasked with helping Alexion move on after an investigation that found that, to hit financial targets, former execs pressed staffers to get customers to place their orders of lead med Soliris earlier than they would have otherwise. During that probe, both Hallal and then-CFO Vikas Sinha left the company, with one source telling CNBC that the pair had lost the confidence of Alexion’s board.

RELATED: Alexion says its top brass inappropriately pressed staff to pad Soliris sales

Meanwhile, Hantson’s experience in the rare-disease field will come in handy at Alexion, whose marketed products are used to treat orphan diseases such as paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria and lysosomal acid lipase deficiency. Baxalta’s hemophilia prowess is what drew rare-disease drugmaker Shire’s attention, and its 2016 buyout of the Baxter spinoff put Hantson out of a job.

He’ll need to lean on that know-how early, with plenty of near-term events on Alexion’s horizon. Among them: regulatory decisions in the U.S. and EU for Soliris in refractory generalized myasthenia gravis, an indication that could kick in about $200 million in additional sales by 2020, Barclays analyst Geoff Meacham has predicted.

On his resume, Hantson has more than the stint at short-lived Baxalta, which stood on its own for less than a year before the $32 billion Shire deal closed. He held a number of roles with Novartis—including CEO of Novartis’ North American pharma division and CEO of Novartis Europe—as part of a decade-long tenure at the Swiss pharma giant.

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