Michel Vounatsos

Biogen CEO Michel Vounatsos
Biogen CEO Michel Vounatsos steered the company through a series of surprises in 2019, earning more than $18 million in total pay. (Biogen)

Biogen, Michel Vounatsos 
2019 total pay:
$18.16 million
2018 total pay: $16.17 million
Percentage change: 12%

Biogen made some of the industry’s most dramatic headlines in 2019—starting with the March trial failures for Alzheimer’s disease candidate aducanumab, followed by the program’s resurrection in the fall. 

While the drugmaker now faces questions over a delay for the expected filing, the company’s progress last year—including a strong performance for spinal muscular atrophy med Spinraza—earned CEO Michel Vounatsos a 12% raise in total pay to $18.16 million. 

The company hiked Vounatsos’ incentive compensation, but it also raised his base salary by 9% to $1.39 million. His cash incentive pay jumped far more: it took a $546,000 leap to $3.88 million. Meanwhile, the CEO scored a $1 million-plus increase in stock awards—to $12.35 million—and his other compensation jumped by about $40,000. 

Biogen’s median compensation for employees in 2019 was $159,721, so its CEO-to-worker pay ratio was 114 to 1. 

Aside from its financial performance in 2019, Biogen also inked an R&D agreement with Skyhawk Therapeutics and bought out gene therapy outfit Nightstar Therapeutics. The company wrapped up an ophthalmology biosimilars deal with Samsung Bioepis on top of other business development moves. 

On the commercial side, its biosim business continues to post revenue growth, and Spinraza has continued on its strong path despite new competition from Novartis’ gene therapy Zolgensma, Biogen said in a proxy filing. The company also launched new oral multiple sclerosis drug Vumerity.

RELATED: Biogen resurrects aducanumab, arguing expanded data set supports FDA filing in Alzheimer's 

In 2020, as companies worldwide deal with the COVID-19 pandemic, Biogen and its employees have faced a particularly tough challenge after a late February management meeting. The company's Boston confab led to dozens of infections in Massachusetts and contributed to outbreaks elsewhere, and a CDC official in May said the meeting “played a notable role” early in the U.S. outbreak.

In response to the pandemic, Biogen has pledged a $10 million donation and is committing resources to the R&D effort. Recovered employees are also donating blood to help researchers learn more about the virus.

Michel Vounatsos