2018 median employee pay: $263,237
2018 number of employees: 8,852
CEO: Mark Alles
2018 CEO pay: $16.22 million
CEO-to-employee pay ratio: 61.6:1
We were surprised to see a large company like Celgene rank so high on median employee pay. After all, as evident in Big Pharma companies’ numbers, big organizations with thousands of staffers typically don’t perform well on that measure.
But at $263,237, Celgene’s median pay increased almost a quarter in 2018 over 2017, and the pay ratio between CEO Mark Alles and his employees remained stable at 62:1 both years.
The new median pay calculation didn’t include the 663 Juno Therapeutics staffers who joined Celgene’s roster last March via the $9 billion acquisition. On the employee count side, the Juno deal and the smaller $1.1 billion takeover of startup Impact Biomedicines helped boost Celgene’s payroll to 8,852 employees at the end of 2018—3,212 of those based outside the U.S.—from 7,467 the prior year.
Those two clinical-stage biotech buys tilted Celgene’s workforce composition more toward the scientific realm. In 2018, R&D jobs accounted for 45.1% of Celgene’s total workforce, up from 2017’s 37.9%.
JAK2 inhibitor Inrebic (fedratinib), the lead candidate in Impact’s pipeline and now one of the key drugs in Celgene’s lineup, was recently approved for myelofibrosis. A boxed warning of potentially fatal encephalopathy could make Inrebic a hard sell over Incyte’s Jakafi, though, at least in new patients starting treatment.
Meanwhile, anti-CD19 CAR-T therapy liso-cel (JCAR017), the centerpiece of Celgene's Juno buy, is in registrational testing for diffuse large B-cell lymphoma. The timeline for a potential U.S. approval has been pushed back to mid-2020. And Celgene seems to be downplaying a lymphoma indication, where Gilead’s rival drugs Yescarta and Novartis’ Kymriah have seen slow uptake; instead, it’s putting more weight behind chronic lymphocytic leukemia.
But to hear Celgene tell it, innovative products and cutting-edge research represent only part of the company's story. “Most fundamentally, Celgene is its employees,” the company writes on its website. “Only by appreciating the talents, backgrounds and diverse perspectives of each employee can we do our best work for the patients we serve.”
Touting its diverse set of staffers, Celgene said women made up 52.8% of its global workforce and scored 53.3% of all promotions during 2017. Last year, the company launched the Celgene Pride Alliance, a new employee resource group to support its LGBTQI employees.
The company's efforts to promote employee welfare have paid off. It stands as No. 9 among the World's Best Employers in 2018, as ranked by Forbes, and it's the only drugmaker on that top 10 list. And based on an annual Science magazine survey, Celgene ranked 17th on its 2018 top employer list, moving up two places from its 2017 slot.
Now, of course, Celgene is about to be subsumed. Its $74 billion acquisition by Bristol-Myers Squibb is moving steadily forward—and toward U.S. antitrust clearance, now that it inked a deal to sell blockbuster psoriasis star Otezla to Amgen for $13.4 billion.
At least from a salary perspective, the new employer doesn’t look too bad for Celgene workers. Last year, Bristol-Myers’ median pay stood at $112,174, the highest among all Big Pharmas that have reported such data. It marked a 1.2% increase from 2017. But of course, as we summarized in the introduction to this report, cross-company comparisons can be problematic. BMS, for example, employed 23,300 people in 2018, while fellow New York-based Pfizer employed 92,400.
Until the deal closes, though, Celgene will still be totting up its solo numbers, and it has a trio of top performers to lead the way. Otezla is a member of the double-digit sales growth club at Celgene, alongside multiple myeloma stalwarts Revlimid and Pomalyst; kudos to Celgene’s 2,500-strong commercial team, some of whom will be invited to join Amgen when Otezla switches sides.
Together, those three blockbusters brought in $13.3 billion last year, making up 87% of Celgene’s total haul, which busted even the high end of the sales goal used to evaluate executive performance.
Revlimid, on the market for over a decade, is still a growing asset and still racking up new approvals. A combination of Revlimid, Takeda’s Velcade and dexamethasone recently won a nod for previously untreated multiple myeloma patients, for instance, helping push up Revlimid sales in the second quarter by 11%, to $2.73 billion. And Revlimid and Roche’s Rituxan recently became a chemo-free option for two types of previously treated lymphomas.
Meanwhile, thanks to a favorable ruling from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office—a decision that came as welcome news to buyer BMS—Revlimid will be free of generic competition until 2023. And the Celgene drug could reach $123.6 billion in cumulative sales by 2024, ranking fifth among the industry’s top-selling drugs, Evaluate Pharma analysts predicted in a recent tally.
Celgene had its fair share of setbacks last year, though—notably the FDA refuse-to-file on its multiple sclerosis therapy ozanimod. Executives have said the oral S1P receptor agonist would be worth $4 billion to $6 billion a year in peak sales. Approval applications in relapsing forms of MS recently were accepted by the FDA and EMA, and their decisions are expected March 25, 2020, and in the first half next year, respectively.