Leonard Bell, M.D., is retiring as CEO of Alexion Pharmaceuticals, the rare disease-focused biotech he launched as principal founder in 1992 and headed ever since—but will remain as chairman of the board, the company said today.
Alexion’s board has named its COO David L. Hallal to succeed Dr. Bell effective April 1. Hallal has been with Alexion since 2006, when he was hired to launch the biotech’s commercial operations, and has more than 25 years of biopharma industry experience.
At Alexion, Hallal joined Dr. Bell in launching its first commercial product Soliris® (eculizumab) in paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria (PNH) and later for atypical hemolytic uremic syndrome (aHUS); as well as initiating company operations in 50 countries, where the company has more than 2,200 employees.
Soliris—the first and only approved terminal complement inhibitor—was approved by the FDA and European regulators for PNH in 2007, and in aHUS four years later.
In 2014, Soliris saw its net product sales zoom 44% over 2013, to $2.234 billion, according to full-year results released by Alexion today. Excluding the impact of $88 million for reimbursement of prior year shipments, 2014 net product sales increased 38% to $2.146 billion, the company added.
Alexion is planning for both deepening its Soliris portfolio and expanding its product line. Last year, the company launched registration trials for Soliris in patients with the kidney transplant-related indication of Delayed Graft Function (DGF), and the neurology indications of Neuromyelitis Optica (NMO) and Myasthenia Gravis (MG). Alexion also initiated clinical development of the first two molecules from its next-generation Soliris portfolio, ALXN1210 and ALXN5500.
Also last year, Alexion filed regulatory submissions in the U.S., Europe and Japan for asfotase alfa as a potential treatment for patients with hypophosphatasia (HPP). Asfotase alfa received the FDA’s Breakthrough Therapy Designation for treating HPP in 2013.
The company also launched a long-term collaboration with Moderna Therapeutics toward discovery and development of messenger RNA (mRNA) Therapeutics™ for treating rare diseases. Alexion made a $25 million preferred equity investment into Moderna and agreed to pay Moderna $100 million upfront to purchase 10 product options for developing and commercializing treatments for rare diseases using Moderna’s mRNA platform.
“As Alexion serves more patients with Soliris around the world and advances the most robust pipeline in our history, the time is right for the Company, and me personally, for David to become CEO in line with our succession plan,” Dr. Bell said in a statement.
“David has demonstrated outstanding leadership over the past decade at Alexion, and has been instrumental in driving the performance and building the culture for which we are known. As we have been increasingly sharing responsibilities over the last several years, I am very pleased that David will now lead Alexion in its relentless focus on serving more patients with severe and rare disorders worldwide,” Dr. Bell added. “I look forward to continuing to guide the Board and advising the Company on strategic matters in my role as Chairman.”
Founded in 1992, Alexion became a publicly traded company four years later, trading on NASDAQ under the symbol ALXN. The company is set to move its global headquarters and research operations this year from Cheshire, CT, to New Haven, CT, where the company was founded.
Before founding Alexion, Dr. Bell was an attending physician at Yale-New Haven Hospital and assistant professor of medicine and pathology at the Yale University School of Medicine, where he also received his M.D. degree. He remains on the faculty of the Yale University School of Medicine as an adjunct assistant professor of medicine and pathology. Dr. Bell received his A.B. degree in Philosophy from Brown University.