Agios Pharmaceuticals is getting a new leader in August. Jackie Fouse, the Cambridge firm’s chief executive since 2019, will be replaced by Brian Goff, who was previously the chief commercial and global operations officer at Alexion Pharmaceuticals — a rare disease drug company in Boston that AstraZeneca acquired for $39 million in 2021.
Like many biotech firms over the past year, Agios’s stock has taken a hit, falling about 60 percent. The company spent more than $800 million on stock buybacks in the second half of last year, leaving it with $1.2 billion on hand at the end of March — slightly less than its market cap of $1.28 billion on Tuesday.
“Agios, like just about everybody in biotech, is caught up in a hailstorm right now,” Goff said in an interview Tuesday morning. “Having looked thoroughly under the hood of Agios, I do think the value potential is significantly under appreciated.”
Goff’s experience is a natural fit for Agios, which under Fouse’s leadership sold its cancer business to Servier Pharmaceuticals for $1.8 billion last year to focus on developing and commercializing drugs for rare genetic diseases. In February, US regulators approved Agios’s first rare disease drug, Pyrukynd.
Pyrukynd is a pill for a hereditary blood disorder called pyruvate kinase deficiency. The disease affects about 3,000 people in the United States, and the drug’s list price is nearly $335,000 annually. The company will disclose how well the drug is selling during its investor call in August.
Agios previously reported a net loss of nearly $95 million in the first quarter of the year, and the company doesn’t expect to become profitable until 2026, Fouse said, pending approval of Pyrukynd for additional blood diseases. Results from an advanced study of Pyrukynd in thalassemia, a condition related to sickle cell anemia, are expected in 2024, and pivotal results from a sickle cell disease study could come in 2025.
Goff said that Agios’s balance sheet — largely attributable to the sale of its cancer division — gives the company “a big opportunity to further diversify” its drug pipeline. He is “absolutely” looking to bring new programs into the company through partnerships, licensing, or acquisitions. But he wouldn’t disclose any details except that the firm would remain “focused on genetically-defined rare diseases.”
Agios employs about 390 people. It recently laid off about 40 workers in its early-stage research division as part of an effort to save $40 million to $50 million a year. “We dialed down the pure exploratory science work that’s probably not going to yield anything for 10, 12, or 15 years,” Fouse said.
The company will move forward with some preclinical programs that were well underway, including drugs for the rare metabolic diseases phenylketonuria, methylmalonic acidemia, and propionic acidemia.
Fouse will become chair of the board of directors, a position currently held by Dr. David Schenkein, who was the firm’s chief executive through its first decade. Schenkein will remain on the board. “My primary goal here is to help Brian and the team be successful,” Fouse said.