NVAX Stock – The top 10 highest paid biopharma R&D executives in 2020
If you (like us) thought George Yancopoulous, M.D., Ph.D., would top this list, well, that would have been a pretty safe bet. What none of us predicted was just how big his lead would be.
With a pay package routinely exceeding $20 million, the Regeneron R&D chief has out-earned his peers for years, but Yancopoulos’ 2020 pay put him in a different league. He raked in $134.3 million, a whopping 550% bump over his compensation the previous year, and a nearly equal to the 2020 paycheck of Regeneron CEO Leonard Schleifer at $135.4 million.
The fight against COVID-19 played a role in those raises—as well as the raises of several other executives on this list. Regeneron and Eli Lilly both scored emergency nods for COVID-19 antibodies in 2020, while Gilead’s remdesivir nabbed both an emergency OK and full approval. On the vaccine side, Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer, along with partner BioNTech, got emergency authorization for their shots. J&J’s Paul Stoffels, M.D., Lilly’s Daniel Skovronsky, M.D., Ph.D., and Pfizer’s Mikael Dolsten, M.D., Ph.D., all got raises in 2020 and stayed on this list another year, though in slightly shuffled positions.
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Other companies have jumped into the COVID-19 arena with less success. AbbVie tried and failed to repurpose its HIV drug Kaletra as a COVID-19 treatment, while GlaxoSmithKline and Merck stumbled in their efforts to develop a vaccine and therapeutic, respectively. Bristol Myers Squibb didn’t come into the picture until February 2021, when it licensed two antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 from Rockefeller University.
Nonetheless, all four have R&D chiefs on this list: AbbVie’s Michael Severino, M.D., held steady in fourth place, while Merck’s Roger Perlmutter, M.D., Ph.D., slipped a couple of places to No. 7. Bristol Myers’ head of research and early development, Rupert Vessey takes the place of its former CSO Thomas Lynch, M.D., albeit a few spots lower at No. 9. And GSK’s Hal Barron, M.D., returns to the top 10 with nearly double the pay he made in 2019.
This year’s wild card was Novavax Chief Scientific Officer Gregory Glenn, M.D., who catapulted into the No. 2 position with a $24.92 million paycheck, unseating J&J’s Stoffels, who has long played second fiddle to Regeneron’s Yancopoulos. Glenn’s pay jumped 1229% from $1.88 million in 2019, even though Novavax has yet to bring any product to market, including its COVID-19 vaccine.
Some familiar faces are missing from these rankings, such as Novartis’ Jay Bradner and Amgen’s David Reese, both of whom have been on previous versions of this list. Seagen’s Roger Dansey, who was No. 8 in 2019, and Vertex’s David Altshuler narrowly missed the list, too.
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Of course, we are also missing the numbers for executives from the likes of Sanofi and AstraZeneca, thanks to different compensation reporting requirements in Europe.
Check out our roundup of 2020’s best-compensated scientists below. If you need a refresher on 2019, consult last year’s highest-paid list. And as always, feel free to send us your thoughts. — Amirah Al Idrus (email)