Kevin Young, CBE, who oversaw the launch of eight drugs during a decade with Gilead Sciences, surprised analysts and other observers by retiring from his position as evp, commercial operations effective February 4.
The most recent of the launches was the chronic hepatitis C treatment Sovaldi™ (sofosbuvir), which won FDA approval on December 6 for use in combination with ribavirin (genotypes 2 and 3) and with ribavirin and peg-interferon alfa (genotypes 1 or 4). Gilead inherited development of the compound when it acquired Pharmasset in 2012 for $11.2 billion.
Despite its steep price—$84,000 for a 12-week treatment course—Sovaldi is projected to reach blockbuster status since the nucleotide polymerase inhibitor is a once-daily drug that doesn't require patients that take the drug to take injections of interferon. Bank of America Merrill Lynch has projected sales of $4.3 billion in 2014, while other firms expect annual sales to reach $7 billion in several years.
“The timing of the departure is somewhat of a surprise to us, given the recent approval/launch of Sovaldi in Hep C, in what is likely to be a treatment-paradigm-shifting launch over the next several years. That said, our sense is that the team working on the Sovaldi commercialization has largely been intact for 2+ years, which should help smooth the initial stages of launch,” JP Morgan analyst Geoff Meacham said in a note to investors reported by The Street.
The article also noted that Young sold $17 million in Gilead shares between August and the company’s announcement of his retirement last night. Young was one of five senior Gilead executives who sold nearly $220 million in company stock during the period.
Other launches overseen by Young include Truvada, the fixed-dose, single-pill combination of HIV drugs Viread and Emtriva that catapulted Gilead into the ranks of biotech giants, with $2.3 billion in sales during the first three quarters of 2013, and Atripla, the first HIV treatment whose regimen consists of taking a single tablet. Atripla, co-developed by Gilead and Bristol-Myers Squibb, racked up more than $2.7 billion in sales for Gilead during January-September 2013. It has become the top-selling HIV treatment in the United States and the European Union.
During Young’s tenure at Gilead's commercial helm, annual sales grew from $1.24 billion in 2004 to about $11 billion last year. Young also oversaw an expansion of Gilead's operations in North America, Europe, and Asia, with the company establishing new affiliate offices in Poland, Russia, South Korea, and Japan.
"Over the past nine years, he has greatly expanded and strengthened our commercial organization, preparing the company to introduce products in new therapeutic areas and ensuring a consistent and clear focus on the needs of patients around the world,” Gilead CEO John Martin said in a statement.
Young joined Gilead from Amgen, where during a 12-year career he held positions in Europe and the UnitedStates, most recently as head of the U.S. inflammation business unit leading the re-launch of Enbrel, following Amgen’s acquisition of Immunex.
Before Amgen, Young worked at ICI Pharmaceuticals, which spun out its biopharma operations into Zeneca Group (now AstraZeneca) in 1993.
In recognition of his industry service, Young in 2011 was appointed Commander of the British Empire (CBE), one of the United Kingdom’s highest civilian honors.