3. Neurocrine Biosciences
2018 median employee pay: $259,000
2018 number of employees: 585
CEO: Kevin Gorman
2018 CEO pay: $8.63 million
CEO-to-employee pay ratio: 33.3:1
From an in-house commercial perspective, Neurocrine Biosciences is still a one-drug company built around tardive dyskinesia therapy Ingrezza. That drug has had its ups and downs lately, as has the company’s stock price.
One measure's on the upswing, though: compensation. Neurocrine CEO Kevin Gorman’s pay package swelled 14% last year, to $8.63 million, mainly thanks to a $1.57 million increase in stock awards. That was higher than the 3% compensation increase the company handed its median-paid employee among the 585-strong team.
Both hikes came despite some setbacks at the company. Ingrezza, in its first full year on the market, hauled in $410 million in 2018 sales. But a few weeks before Neurocrine unveiled its annual numbers, Ingrezza flunked a key study, sending the shares reeling. On Dec. 12, the company said its closely watched phase 2b T-Force Gold study testing Ingrezza in children with Tourette syndrome didn’t meet its primary endpoint, marking its third failure in the disease.
That’s one clinical flop. On the commercial side, in April 2018, Express Scripts kicked Ingrezza off its 2019 formulary and instead named Teva’s Austedo the preferred alternative. Back then, Evercore ISI analysts figured Neurocrine is handling access well “through a combination of preferential clinical profile and physician assistance with the step edits.”
Then, during the company’s second-quarter earnings call in July, Neurocrine Chief Commercial Officer Eric Benevich labeled the Ingrezza market as a bit unusual in that “being on or off formulary hasn’t had a meaningful impact on the likelihood of securing reimbursement for a particular patient’s claim.” He said the company had started to engage in payer contracting talks “on a selective basis.”
Still, if you're looking for a biopharma job in San Diego, Neurocrine could be a solid choice. Last year, it ranked 6th among midsize companies on The San Diego Union-Tribune's Top Workplaces for 2018, an award based solely on employee survey feedback. The company says it counts passion, integrity, collaboration, innovation and tenacity as its values.
There’s obviously more room for Neurocrine’s growth. For 2019’s second quarter, the drug generated sales of $181 million, nearly 20% above analysts’ expectations. And by Evercore ISI’s calculations, tardive dyskinesia is still a significantly underdiagnosed market, with only about 10% of Ingrezza's target patients properly identified by physicians.
At heart, Neurocrine is still a biotech. Under a GnRH collaboration with AbbVie, Neurocrine helped the Illinois giant earn an FDA nod for Orilissa as a treatment for pain associated with endometriosis. According to Goldman Sachs analyst Jami Rubin, that drug is “well positioned to hit management expectations of greater than $2 billion by 2025.”
Orilissa’s market expansion into uterine fibroids, expected by 2020, could face a challenger, though, as Myovant Sciences’ direct rival relugolix recently hit goals in two phase 3 studies.
Neurocrine’s marketing team could soon have a new drug to work on. An application for opicapone—which Neurocrine in-licensed from BIAL in 2017—as an add-on treatment in patients with Parkinson’s disease has been accepted by the FDA with a target decision date set for April 25.
Plus, Neurocrine's dealmaking appetite is only growing. In October last year, it signed on Jnana Therapeutics, a 2018 FierceBiotech Fierce 15 company, to develop drugs that target solute carrier (SLC) metabolite transporters for central nervous system disorders. SGLT2 inhibitors for diabetes are a recent example of successfully targeting SLC membrane proteins. Then, in January of this year, it paid Voyager Therapeutics $165 million upfront for tickets into the hot-and-new gene therapy area. The lead drug covered by the pact, VY-AADC, is in phase 2 development in Parkinson’s.