What’s in Store for 2024? Three CEOs Look Ahead and Look Back on “Close to the Edge”

From the approval of Alzheimer’s disease drug Leqembi to Carl Icahn’s battle over Illumina to the first CRISPR-edited therapy being approved, 2023 had more than its share of milestones shaping drug discovery, development, clinical trials, and commercialization.

To look back at the year that is ending, and look ahead to 2024, GEN invited CEOs of three companies to offer some valuable perspective on the biopharma industry’s strengths and challenges, and the strengths and challenges of their own companies.

  • Neil McFarlane, CEO of Zevra Therapeutics
  • Karen Zaderej, CEO of Axogen
  • Simon Arkell, CEO of Ryght

McFarlane assumed his current role as CEO of Zevra in October, the latest chapter in a career stretching over 25 years of global biopharma and life sciences experience.

Just a month ago Zevra propelled itself into the commercial phase by completing the acquisition of Acer Therapeutics for up to $91 million—$15 million plus $76 million in contingent value rights tied to milestones. Zevra is also moving toward resubmission of its new drug application (NDA) for Arimoclomol by year’s end, as a treatment for Niemann-Pick disease type C (NPC), an ultra-rare, genetic, progressive and fatal neurological disease.

Zaderej joined Axogen in 2006, and has served as president, CEO, and a board member since 2011. Seven years later, she became chairman of Axogen, a developer of products for peripheral nerve regeneration and repair. Axogen is headquartered in Alachua, FL, with a second corporate campus in Tampa, FL, a global distribution facility in Burleson, TX, and a tissue processing center in Dayton, OH.

2023 was a memorable year for Axogen. In August, it began processing Avance® Nerve Graft at its processing center in Dayton, intended to support the company’s long-term growth as well as a Biologics License Application (BLA) submission planned for the first half of 2024 to transition the product into a biologic.

A month later in September, Axogen launched Axoguard HA+ Nerve ProtectorTM (HA+), which combines a remodeling extracellular matrix base-layer for long-term protection with a short-term resorbable hyaluronate-alginate gel coating for enhanced nerve gliding and minimization of soft tissue attachments. In 2024, Axogen plans to launch another product, Avive+ Soft Tissue Matrix™ in Q1.

Arkell was an Olympic pole vaulter for the Australian national team who won several championship honors in Australia and in the U.S. before co-founding Ryght, the developer of a generative-AI data analytics platform for biopharmas.

Based in Laguna Beach, CA, the company officially launched in June as Synthetica Bio, and rebranded in November to reflect its focus on providing accurate and reliable insights for driving biopharma decision-making in clinical trial operations and commercial activities.