Dendreon CEO Johnson Resigns as Provenge Overtaken by Rivals

Jun 09, 2014 5:30 pm ET

June 9 (Bloomberg) -- Dendreon Corp.’s Chief Executive Officer John H. Johnson plans to resign this summer for personal reasons, as sales of the company’s prostate-cancer drug Provenge stagnate.

Johnson resigned as chairman of the board effective June 3, and was replaced by Douglas G. Watson, previously the independent director. The New Brunswick, New Jersey-based drugmaker is looking for a successor to Johnson, who plans to depart on August 15, the company said in a statement today.

Provenge, the company’s only product, is a personalized medicine that trains the body’s immune system to attack cancer cells. While analysts once expected it to generate $4.3 billion annually by 2020, the forecast is now $319 million. Dendreon was seeking a buyer last year, Bloomberg reported, even as it cut jobs and Provenge sales slid 13 percent to $283.7 million.

Johnson “has driven important strategic initiatives to help reposition the company, including launching a new commercial strategy, gaining marketing authorization in the European Union, increasing manufacturing efficiencies, significantly lowering costs, and advancing our clinical pipeline,” Watson said in a statement.

Johnson came to Dendreon in February 2012 from Savient Pharmaceuticals Inc., with a mandate to boost sales of the $93,000 therapy. He also served as CEO of ImClone Systems Inc. from August 2007 to November 2009, during which time the company was sold to Indianapolis-based Eli Lilly & Co.

Dendreon rose 1.9 percent to $2.15 at 4:47 p.m. in New York trading. The shares have fallen 45 percent in the past 12 months.