4. Exelixis

(Exelixis)

4. Exelixis
2018 median employee pay: $248,850
2018 number of employees: 484
CEO: Michael Morrissey, Ph.D.
2018 CEO pay: $7.98 million
CEO-to-employee pay ratio: 32.1:1

Exelixis CEO Michael Morrissey’s 2018 pay package shrank 15%, to $7.98 million, just as the biotech’s median-paid employee earned $248,850—10% less than the previous year.

At the same time, the company’s stock went on a ride. Amid investor questions about Exelixis' key cancer drug Cabometyx, shares peaked around the 2018 New Year and then mostly slid the rest of the year, before picking up some ground toward the end of the year.

Such are the risks of practically being a one-drug company for executive and employee compensation alike, and the Cabometyx story has certainly had its ups and downs.

After gaining an FDA nod in 2016 for kidney cancer patients after one line of VEGF therapy, in December 2017, Cabometyx scored a first-line nod—and blockbuster sales estimates to go with it. Exelixis shares soared to an all-time high.

But once the excitement cooled, potential threats from immuno-oncology drugs sank in. Bristol-Myers Squibb’s Opdivo and Yervoy combo snared a first-line green light in kidney cancer in April 2018. 

RELATED: Exelixis enters crowded liver cancer field with Cabometyx, taking on Bayer, BMS and Merck

Cabometyx was still marching ahead in the third quarter despite competition, though. Exelixis sales, the majority of which came from Cabometyx, jumped 69% year over year. By November, the drug had scored an EU nod in liver cancer patients who'd failed on Bayer's Nexavar—and a similar FDA approval would follow in April 2019.

For all of 2018, the company’s total revenues, including collaboration income, reached $853.8 million, compared to $452.5 million for 2017.

Amid all the hubbub around Cabometyx, last year Exelixis officially moved its headquarters from South San Francisco to Alameda, California. The new Alameda waterfront facilities include brand-new labs and additional office space. Its total headcount has grown to more than 550, according to its website, up from 484 as of the end of 2018 and 372 at the end of 2017. Its personnel expenses went up as a result, as the company expands across its commercial, R&D and administrative organizations.

That spending has fed into Cabometyx's competition with rivals and its follow-up studies, as well as other pipeline work. One competitive threat seemed to ease as Roche gave up on a pairing of its PD-L1 drug, Tecentriq, and Avastin in kidney cancer. But Merck & Co.’s checkpoint inhibitor Keytruda wasn’t going away. This April, the FDA waved through a combo of Keytruda and Pfizer's Inlyta in previously untreated kidney cancer, and Credit Suisse analysts said at the time that they expected the pair “to quickly be adopted in the majority of new patients.”

RELATED: Merck heaps early pressure on Bristol-Myers' Opdivo with Keytruda's kidney cancer debut

That prediction has borne out; uptake for the Keytruda-Inlyta pairing does “appear rapid,” Exelixis commercial chief P.J. Haley said on the company’s second-quarter call. But it's mostly at the expense of the Opdivo-plus-Yervoy combo, he said, as Cabometyx’s first-line share remained stable for the second quarter. Cabometyx prescriptions grew by 6% in the quarter, partly because of its second-line success, and it kept its leading TKI position with 34% market share, he said. 

Meanwhile, Exelixis has joined hands with its rivals. It's working with Roche to test Cabometyx alongside Tecentriq in liver cancer, and Cabometyx-plus-Opdivo is in trials against Sutent in first-line kidney cancer, with readouts in that study expected next year. Another trial is comparing the triplet of Cabometyx, Opdivo and Yervoy against the BMS dual-drug regimen.

In Exelixis’ pipeline, the company recently started a phase 1 trial on XL092, an oral TKI that targets VEGF receptors, MET and other kinases implicated in cancers. It marks the first internally discovered compound to enter the clinic after Exelixis revived research activities in 2016.

4. Exelixis

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