Bristol Myers Squibb may still be digesting its $74 billion Celgene acquisition, but it’s clearly looking ahead to making more transformative deals.
The company announced Tuesday it has hired a replacement for Paul Biondi, the 17-year company veteran who headed up business development until last November. Barclays executive Elizabeth Mily will take on the role of executive vice president of strategy and business development.
Mily served most recently as managing director and chair of life sciences at Barclays, where she was involved in $200 billion worth of completed mergers and acquisitions, in addition to advising on “an extensive amount of debt, equity and equity-linked financings,” BMS said in a statement. And she had plenty of dealmaking experience before that, serving for 16 years as a healthcare investment banker at Goldman Sachs before heading up strategy and development at Thermo Fisher Scientific.
Mily will play an “important role” in “sourcing external innovation to drive our vision of transforming patients’ lives through science,” said Bristol Myers CEO Giovanni Caforio in the statement.
BMS has done quite a bit of remodeling of its executive suite since the Celgene deal was announced last year. The company shoved aside oncologist and chief scientific officer Thomas Lynch and replaced him with Novartis’ former head of oncology development, Samit Hirawat, M.D. And CFO Charlie Bancroft headed for retirement to be replaced by Celgene CFO David Elkins.
Biondi’s departure was a bit of a surprise, however. Initially, BMS appointed him to the 15-member management team of the combined company. But he chose instead to leave and join the biotech venture capital firm Flagship Pioneering.
Bristol's continued focus on looking outside its own labs for innovative products is no surprise, given how quickly the Celgene acquisition has paid off for the company. Last month, Caforio and colleagues delighted investors with a fourth-quarter report that included exceedingly bullish forecasts for 2020 and 2021. Their optimism was fueled by a 33% jump in fourth-quarter revenues to $7.9 billion, which beat the average analyst estimate of $7.1 billion. Adjusted earnings per share of $1.22 flew past the consensus estimate of 88 cents.
The results were driven largely by Celgene’s top performers, including blood cancer drugs Revlimid and Pomalyst. Their sales were up 10% and 23% respectively.
Still, analysts have expressed concerns about whether BMS can continue to grow in immuno-oncology. Despite a new approval of a combination of its I-O treatments Opdivo and Yervoy in liver cancer, the company has suffered some notable disappointments. It recently withdrew an application in Europe for use of the combo in first-line lung cancer after the European Medicines Agency's Committee for Medicinal Products griped about changes the company made to the design of a clinical trial. And last year, a combination of Opdivo and chemo failed in previously untreated non-small cell lung cancer patients.
Opdivo sales in the fourth quarter fell 2% to $1.76 billion, driven by a 10% drop in the U.S. market. BMS continues to face tough competition from Merck’s PD-1 blocker Keytruda, which has been piling up new approvals, including three in bladder cancer alone.
During the fourth-quarter presentation, Caforio said BMS’ short-term growth would be fueled by its late-stage pipeline, which includes highly anticipated Celgene assets like CAR-T cancer treatments liso-cell and bb2121—but that long-term growth would be enabled largely by business development. Now he’ll be counting on M&A veteran Mily to make that vision a reality.