9. Alexion Pharmaceuticals
2018 median employee pay: $223,882
2018 number of employees: 2,656
CEO: Ludwig Hantson
2018 CEO pay: $16.49 million
CEO-to-employee pay ratio: 73.7:1
Last year, Alexion CEO Ludwig Hantson, Ph.D., racked up an 8% pay raise and collected a total of $16.5 million. At the same time, the median annual compensation of its employees jumped nearly 34%.
Across Alexion's 2,656-employee workforce, the median pay amounted to $223,882 in 2018, a big leap from the $167,282 recorded in 2017.
Alexion's employees are spread among 29 countries, with about half of them outside of the U.S. Besides North America and Europe, it boasts operations in Latin America, the Middle East, Australia, China and Japan.
It expects its employees to be “resourceful, willingly hands-on, and ambitiously driven to take on multiple challenges at any given time.” Working at a company that develops drugs for patients with rare diseases, “they have the dedication and passion it takes to fight for patients and families that have no other options,” it says.
With four marketed products, Alexion has a relatively large commercial team of 1,299 members, versus 954 for R&D and manufacturing combined. Among those drugs, rare disease therapy Soliris and its follow-up Ultomiris are the most important.
Soliris generated $3.56 billion in 2018, 13% more than its 2017 haul. After snagging an FDA priority review to treat atypical hemolytic uremic syndrome, in June it added an FDA nod in patients with neuromyelitis optica spectrum disorder (NMOSD), an ultrarare autoimmune disease. SVB Leerink analyst Geoffrey Porges figured NMOSD could bring Alexion an additional $1 billion in annual sales by 2028.
Some of that will likely come from Ultomiris, which nabbed an early FDA approval in December for the treatment of rare disease paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria (PNH), and recently added Japan and Europe. It’s expected to start a phase 3 trial in NMOSD this year.
The idea is to transfer Soliris patients to its new sister, and Alexion's commercial team has made good progress so far. In the second quarter, Ultomiris raked in $54.2 million. According to Hantson on a call with analysts, 40% of U.S. PNH patients have converted to the new drugs, and the goal is to reach 70% by 2020.
As for the company’s overall strategy, Hantson has made it clear that he’s moving the company’s development focus from ultrarare diseases to less rare diseases to broaden its patient base and shed some concerns about pricing.
And to diversify its portfolio beyond the Soliris/Ultomiris franchise, Alexion has made several deals lately. For instance, it bought up rare disease specialist Syntimmune and Wilson Therapeutics, formed an RNAi partnership with Dicerna, and tied up with Affibody AB to co-develop an early-phase candidate that targets the neonatal Fc receptor.
Meanwhile, rumors that Amgen was sizing up Alexion recently resurfaced, which got investors excited—but turns out, the Big Biotech is in fact paying $13.4 billion for Celgene's psoriasis drug Otezla, and Amgen looks like a mixed opportunity for Alexion employees by a 2018-to-2017 comparison anyway.
Amgen CEO Robert Bradway made $18.6 million in 2018, while the Big Biotech’s median-paid employee got $131,375. While Bradway's pay was nearly 10% more than the year before, its median-paid employee’s compensation instead dropped 1%.