Bristol Myers' Giovanni Caforio to hand CEO baton to commercial chief Chris Boerner

In a surprise announcement Wednesday, Bristol Myers Squibb said its CEO Giovanni Caforio, M.D., will end his eight-year tenure and hand the baton to Chief Commercialization Officer Chris Boerner.

Caforio, 58, will vacate the top job Nov. 1 and will continue to lead BMS’ board as executive chairman for a transition period that’s yet to be determined, the company said. Before the official transition, Boerner will serve as chief operating officer for a few months.

The unexpected transition means that Boerner will be responsible for guiding BMS through one of the steepest patent cliffs in the biopharma industry. Three of BMS’ top-selling drugs—Pfizer-shared blood thinner Eliquis, blood cancer med Revlimid and PD-1 inhibitor Opdivo—are all set to lose U.S. patent protections this decade.

BMS elevated Boerner to the chief commercial officer post in 2018 and immediately after that unveiled the acquisition of Celgene. A former exec at Seagen and Roche’s Genentech, Boerner has been credited for building BMS’ immuno-oncology presence, growing its cardiovascular franchise and launching multiple new medicines.

“Chris’s expertise has been integral to our commercial success during his tenure at BMS,” Caforio said in a statement. “His strategic focus and passion for science, coupled with his commitment to patients make him uniquely suited for the role.”

BMS has tripled its revenue under Caforio’s leadership, mainly thanks to the Celgene deal. In addition, BMS launched 12 new medicines, including five first-in-class drugs in different disease areas, during his tenure.

In 2022 alone, BMS introduced the first LAG-3 inhibitor in a combination now sold as Opdualag for melanoma. It also won an FDA go-ahead for Camzyos for obstructive hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, and it got the TYK2 inhibitor Sotyktu approved in plaque psoriasis.

“I'm really proud today [that] BMS, probably more than other companies, really has an integrated approach to external and internal innovation that complement each other. That wasn’t the case a few years ago, and I believe it's going to be critical to our success in bringing new medicines to patients,” Caforio said in a recent interview before the transition news.

At BMS, Boerner has followed a similar career path to Caforio’s. Both served as chief commercial officer before being named chief operating officer as preparation for the CEO job.

Adam Lenkowsky, head of major markets at BMS, is succeeding Boerner as the new chief commercialization officer, effective immediately.

BMS joins a growing list of drugmakers that have changed their helmsmen recently. Roche, Bayer, Biogen, Seagen, Astellas, Teva and Viatris are among large biopharma companies that have named new CEOs in the past few months.

Editor's note: Nick Taylor also contributed to this story.