Scratch that: Biogen's board expansion hits snag as Catalent CEO John Chiminski drops out

Biogen board nominee John Chiminski, who serves as CEO of Catalent, withdrew his candidacy. Biogen)

With its Alzheimer's trial flop still smarting, Biogen's infusing new blood into its board. But now, one nominee for the expanded slate is bowing out.

Catalent CEO John Chiminski withdrew from the race after his company bought a gene therapy player, Paragon Bioservices, creating a potential conflict of interest. And at least for now, Biogen isn’t planning to nominate a replacement.

Still, Biogen’s board is “committed to ensuring that it is well-equipped to oversee the company’s business and effectively represent the interests of stockholders," the company said in an SEC filing. It’ll keep scouting new directors to add to its board, the filing said.

Last month, amid struggles related to a high-profile Alzheimer’s trial flop, the drugmaker nominated Chiminksi, plus ex-Medtronic CEO William Hawkins and IBM exec Jesus Mantas to its board. At the time, Biogen chairman Stelios Papadopoulos said the company “heard the calls from our shareholders” and planned to add new expertise to the board.

Biogen’s aducanumab failed a phase 3 Alzheimer’s trial in March, and investors sent the company’s shares down sharply. The company's scrambling to recover, but it still faces other threats. The newest? Novartis' spinal muscular atrophy gene therapy Zolgensma, which won its FDA nod Friday and could steal share from Biogen growth engine Spinraza. Meanwhile, intellectual property questions linger over the company's blockbuster multiple sclerosis med Tecfidera.

Meanwhile, Catalent picked up Paragon last month for $1.2 billion, scoring a new commercial-scale manufacturing plant near Baltimore and 380 employees. Paragon has expertise in adeno-associated virus vectors, plasmids and lentivirus vectors, Catalent said. With that expertise, Catalent believes it can capture a portion of a multibillion-dollar gene therapy market. 

Biogen also recently scaled up in gene therapy, buying Nightstar Therapeutics for $877 million in March. The deal brought a suite of ophthalmology candidates with it, including the phase 3 prospect NSR-REP1 for a now-untreatable eye disease, choroideremia.