Leonard Schleifer

Len Schleifer's option award fell by nearly $10 million to $11.7 million last year as the company shifted compensation toward performance shares rather than options. (Regeneron)

Leonard Schleifer, Regeneron
2019 total pay
: $21.46 million
2019 total pay: $26.52 million
Percentage change: -19%

Regeneron CEO Leonard Schleifer has been one of biopharma's highest-paid helmsmen for years, riding the strength of blockbuster eye med Eylea. But growing challenges to its bestselling med and a rejigger of its partnership with French drugmaker Sanofi underscored Schleifer's big drop in pay in 2019.

Schleifer raked in $21.46 million in 2019 compensation, a 20% reduction from his $26.52 million the previous year, according to a proxy filing.

Regeneron shifted a big chunk of Schleifer's pay to stock awards from options, and his total equity compensation dropped along the way. The CEO's option award fell by nearly half—from $21.3 million to $11.7 million—but he made up for part of it with $4.98 million in stock awards, up from a total of zero in 2018.

Schleifer's base salary of $1.38 million was a slight bump from the previous year's total of $1.33 million, and his cash incentive pay of just over $3 million was a tick higher than last year's.

His additional compensation—including use of the company's jet, home security, insurance and 401(k) contributions—was cut more than half, though it still came in at more than $300,000.

RELATED: Can Regeneron weather Novartis' Eylea rival and Praluent new deal? No worries, says exec

Regeneron posted a big year with Eylea sales growing and immunology superstar Dupixent on the rise. But hard times could be on the horizon.

In October, Novartis scored a FDA nod for its wet age-related macular degeneration drug Beovu, challenging Eylea and Roche's Lucentis in the lucrative market. Despite early blockbuster potential and doctor enthusiasm, though, Beovu faced a major setback in March after the FDA updated the drug's safety profile to include risks of intraocular inflammation and retinal artery occlusion.

Novartis' drug still managed to rake in $35 million in the fourth quarter. That new safety warning could help Regeneron keep Eylea growing beyond the $7.54 billion it earned in 2019.

RELATED: Regeneron to lay off field staffers as it restructures Sanofi partnership

Meanwhile, Regeneron is facing a portfolio shift in the restructuring of its longstanding partnership with Sanofi. The novel coronavirus pandemic scaled back that plan, however, as one of the meds involved showed promise in treating COVID-19 patients.

Earlier this month, the partners opted to rework their agreement on PCSK9 med Praluent but chose not to rejig their Kevzara arrangement while the rheumatoid arthritis drug is in COVID-19 testing. The drugmakers had initially decided to divide up rights after the two drugs' underperformance stifled profits for both drugmakers.

In January, Regeneron said it would eliminate 15 field and supporting staff positions as part of the decoupling.

Regeneron will take over U.S. commercialization rights in the new Praluent deal and receive a royalty from Sanofi on sales abroad, effective April 1. Meanwhile, the centerpiece of the drugmakers' partnership––Dupixent and its $2.32 billion in sales in 2019––will remain a 50-50 split into the foreseeable future.

Leonard Schleifer