The record-high surge of initial public offerings (IPOs) in biopharma last year was especially good news for CEOs of many of those newly public companies.

Of the 68 biopharmas that, according to Evaluate, went public during 2018, three were led by CEOs whose combinations of salary, bonuses, non-equity incentive plan compensation, and especially stock awards and options, were high enough to make this updated A-List of top-paid CEOs in the industry, a list GEN has published off and on for seven years.

Not surprisingly, the CEO who led this year’s A-List leads the company that launched the largest biopharma IPO of 2018, and the largest offering of any biopharma listed on a U.S. exchange up until then. That CEO was one of three heads of companies that went public in 2018 who were highlighted in a report published August 20 by S&P Global Market Intelligence. The other two CEOs cited by S&P also made GEN’s list, ranking at No. 4 and No. 8.

The No. 8 CEO also merits attention because she is the only woman listed here; indeed, she led GEN’s recent A-List of The Top 10 Highest-Paid Women in Biopharma. Interestingly, she is not one of the two women CEOs in biopharma whose compensation was high enough to merit inclusion in previous years.

Martine Rothblatt, PhD, JD, chairman and CEO of United Therapeutics, ranked second on last year’s A-List, and second among top-paid women in biopharma, but this year finished at No. 25 with total 2018 compensation of $16,036,300, down nearly 57% from her 2017 compensation. Mylan CEO Heather Bresch, finished 2018 with total compensation of $13,332,368, down 4.6% from her compensation the previous year.

Another CEO on the list, whose total compensation earned him the No. 3 ranking, heads a company that went public on the Hong Kong Exchange, raising HK$7.08 billion ($903 million)—two years after it traded its first public shares on the NASDAQ Global Select Market.

Despite the presence of well-compensated IPO-leading CEOs, the total compensation awarded to the top 10 chief executives in 2018 amounted to $287.685 million; A comparison to a 2017 total was not available because one of the top 10 CEOs was employed that year by a private company and his salary was not disclosed.

Among the nine CEOs for whom year-over-year comparisons were available, four individual CEOs listed saw at least triple-digit increases in total compensation (one CEO won a quadruple-digit increase). Of the remainder, three received double-digit increases, one a single-digit increase, and one CEO actually saw a 6% decline.

The following is GEN’s ranking of top-paid biopharma CEOs by their total 2018 compensation as disclosed in company proxy statements. The list includes CEOs of drug developers and tool/tech companies. Each CEO is listed by name, title, company, 2018 and 2017 total compensation, and percent change between the two years. All non-U.S. currencies have been converted to U.S. dollars.

Of the companies whose CEOs made this year’s list, eight are chiefs of larger biotechs, one leads a heritage pharma giant (Merck & Co.), and the other heads a spinout of a heritage pharma (AbbVie, spun out in 2013 from Abbott Laboratories).


The Top 10 Biopharma CEOs Compensation



Total Compensation

% Change

10 Kenneth C. Frazier
Chairman, President, and CEO
Merck & Co. 2018: $20,934,504

2017: $17,643,087

9 Richard A. Gonzalez
Chairman and CEO
AbbVie 2018: $21,271,869

2017: $22,625,243

8 Alexandria Forbes, PhD
President and CEO
MeiraGTx Holdings 2018: $22,998,522

2017: $1,122,169

7 Nick Leschly
bluebird bio 2018: $23,962,220

2017: $8,762,290

6 John F. Milligan
President and CEO
Gilead Sciences 2018: $25,961,831

2017: $15,438,459

5 Leonard S. Schleifer, MD, PhD
Founder, President, and CEO
Regeneron Pharmaceuticals 2018: $26,520,555

2017: $26,508,058

4 Pablo J. Cagnoni, MD
Rubius Therapeutics 2018: $27,061,441

2017: N/A

3 John V. Oyler
Founder, CEO, and Chairman
BeiGene 2018: $27,895,819

2017: $10,291,525

2 Kåre Schultz
President and CEO
Teva Pharmaceutical Industries 2018: $32,469,875

2017: $17,027,741

1 Stéphane Bancel
Moderna Therapeutics 2018: $58,608,484

2017: $6,809,189


% change in green represents an increase and red represents a decrease

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