Sage Therapeutics is embarking on a new chapter in its development following its $1.5 billion alliance with Biogen last month, and that challenge will now be met by a new CEO.
Jeff Jonas, M.D., is stepping down from the top job at Sage, to be replaced by industry veteran Barry Greene, who was president of Alnylam until September of this year and spent 17 years in the company’s top management. He joined Sage’s board in October.
The handover comes a year after negative phase 3 results with lead pipeline drug zuranolone (SAGE-217) for major depressive disorder hit the company hard, leaving its share price depressed throughout the first half of 2020 and leading to speculation it could be acquired.
Jonas has been CEO at Sage since 2013 and will be staying with the company in the new role of chief innovation officer as the alliance with Biogen plays out and as Sage prepares for the readout of three late-phase trials of zuranolone. He is also keeping his seat on the board.
Biogen is paying $875 million upfront and making a $650 million equity investment in Sage as part of that deal and is also on the hook for up to $1.6 billion in milestones tied to zuranolone and SAGE-324, a GABA-targeting drug in phase 2 for essential tremor with results due early next year.
According to Greene, Sage is taking on “one of the biggest challenges we face today with the urgent and escalating need for more options to transform the lives of millions of patients with debilitating brain health disorders.”
“I am impressed by the groundbreaking and relentless pursuit that Jeff has spearheaded, and one that the entire organization has embraced, to bring a new way of thinking about how we can treat brain health disorders differently,” he added.
Greene takes on the role with the luxury of plentiful resources, as Sage is sitting on more than $2 billion in cash even though its only commercial product—Zulresso (brexanolone) for post-partum depression—hasn’t taken off commercially, with sales running at only around $1.5 million per quarter.
Jonas said he was proud of the progress made during his time at the helm of Sage, taking it from a research organization to a fully integrated biopharmaceutical company with its first approved product.
“Our ability to attract Barry’s caliber of talent as our next CEO is a testament to these efforts and he’s committed to continuing to make progress on our journey to provide groundbreaking options for people with brain health disorders,” he added.
by Phil Taylor
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