Vertex CEO Kewalramani collects $9.1M in 2020 pay, less than her biopharma peers

Reshma Kewalramani, chief medical officer at Vertex
Reshma Kewalramani started as Vertex's CEO last April and ended the year with a 49% year-over-year revenue boost in cystic fibrosis. (Vertex)

Vertex CEO Reshma Kewalramani took the helm last April as one of a few women leading a drugmaker. Now, her pay package has gone public—and it's smaller than the compensation collected by her peers. She nabbed $9.11 million for 2020, about half of what her predecessor, Jeffrey Leiden, made his final year in the CEO job.

Kewalramani’s 2020 salary came in at just under $1.1 million, while her stock awards totaled $5.25 million, a new proxy filing shows. She picked up a $2.72 million cash bonus and collected perks and miscellaneous compensation worth $40,000. 

In total, her $9.11 million pay package was about half of the final-year pay for Vertex’s former CEO—and current executive chairman—Jeffrey Leiden. During his last full year as Vertex’s CEO, Leiden scored a pay package worth nearly $18.8 million. 

Leiden served as Vertex's CEO through March 31, 2020, and is now executive chairman. In 2020, Lieden’s overall pay totaled $16.47 million.

While Kewalramani's pay package doesn't cover a full year of her being CEO, it significantly trails the pay of most of her Big Biotech and Big Pharma peers. The only other woman CEO in the group, GlaxoSmithKline’s Emma Walmsley, also collected a pay package lower than her male counterparts. Last year, Walmsley’s pay fell to about $9.7 million

RELATED: As Trikafta launched, Vertex's Leiden scored $18.8M in final full year as CEO 

That compares with other Big Pharma CEO pay packages ranging from $11.6 million for Novartis’ Vas Narasimhan to nearly $30 million for Johnson & Johnson’s Alex Gorsky

In Vertex's direct peer set, which comprises Alexion, Regeneron, BioMarin, Gilead Sciences and Biogen, only Gilead has reported 2020 CEO compensation so far. That company's CEO, Dan O'Day, scored a $19 million pay package last year. 

Despite the pandemic, Vertex “continued to execute successfully on its business strategy,” the company's compensation committee members wrote in a letter to investors. By the end of last year, most eligible U.S. cystic fibrosis patients had begun treatment with Trikafta after the triple combo CF drug’s initial FDA approval in October 2019. 

Plus, Vertex scored new drug approvals and label expansions in countries around the world, and it struck reimbursement deals in Europe, enabling new launches, the committee members wrote. Overall the company’s CF product revenues jumped 49% to $6.2 billion last year. 

RELATED: Vertex CEO faces growing pressure for pipeline deals despite major hike in Trikafta sales 

On the R&D front, the team “significantly expanded the Vertex pipeline, establishing proof-of-concept in two disease areas, advancing several clinical programs, spanning multiple modalities, including our first cell-based therapy in T1D that entered clinical development in 2021,” the compensation committee members wrote. 

Following the performance, Vertex’s top execs collected “above-target cash bonuses” and performance-based stock payouts based one one-year business goals and three-year R&D targets, they added.