Sarepta CEO pick, an Allergan vet, draws analyst praise—and some takeover talk, too

The company's newest additions include a global director of revenue management, global director of sales and a food & beverage director for their Tucson property.
New Sarepta CEO Doug Ingram formerly served as president of Allergan and CEO of Chase Pharmaceuticals, both of which sold to larger rivals.

Sarepta landed an experienced biopharma hand as its new CEO, prompting praise from industry watchers who think he can navigate a tricky Duchenne drug launch. And the way some see it, the appointment could get the M&A rumor mill churning again, too.

The Massachusetts biotech announced late Wednesday it had installed former Allergan president Doug Ingram as its new chief exec. He replaced Edward Kaye, CEO and former chief medical officer, who said in April that he’d be moving on.

Investors cheered the Ingram pick, sending shares upward, while analysts dubbed his biopharma background a "positive fit," particularly for a central nervous system (CNS) drug specialist like Sarepta. After serving as Allergan’s president until 2015, when the company merged with Actavis, Ingram helmed CNS-focused Chase Pharmaceuticals, which sold to Dublin-based Allergan last year.

RELATED: Sarepta finally crosses the finish line with controversial DMD med Exondys

“His corporate success across biotech and pharma companies, and knowledge and expertise in the neurodegenerative diseases make him an ideal appointment for Sarepta,” Leerink Partners’ Joseph Schwartz wrote in a note to clients. 

As Schwartz noted, it’s a good time for Sarepta’s leadership to pivot from the “scientific-minded Dr. Kaye” to a “commercially-driven” skipper, with Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) med Exondys51 in its early launch days. While the med, which snagged an FDA approval last September after iffy trial results and patient lobbying sparked controversy, “appears to be gaining momentum, he said, in his view, the rollout could “further benefit from Mr. Ingram’s leadership.”

RELATED: Doctors ready to roll with Sarepta's $300K DMD med Exondys 51. Are payers?

But the way analysts see it, those aren’t the only qualities that could serve Ingram well in the driver’s seat. As RBC Capital Markets’ Matthew Eckler pointed out in his own investor note, the CEO pick “may reignite M&A expectations, as investors are likely to point to the sale of Mr. Ingram’s last two companies as evidence that Sarepta is on the auction block.” And if it is, “Mr. Ingram’s experience would prove highly valuable.”

While Schwartz agreed that M&A chatter—particularly surrounding a takeover by deal-frustrated Sanofi—is “likely to re-emerge” with the appointment, he also said Ingram’s track record could “benefit the company’s recent penchant for in-licensing of DMD assets to expand the pipeline.”

Either way, though, his presence “should have immediate positive impacts at Sarepta as the Exondys51 launch continues to roll out,” he noted.