Savient Names Lilly’s John Johnson Chief Executive

Savient Pharmaceuticals Inc., the drug developer that failed to find a buyer last year, named John H. Johnson chief executive officer to help market its newly approved gout drug, Krystexxa.

Johnson, 52, will leave his post as head of Eli Lilly & Co.’s oncology division Jan. 28, the Indianapolis-based drugmaker said in a statement. He will start at Savient Jan. 31, the East Brunswick, New Jersey biotechnology company said separately today. Savient President Paul Hamelin, who had been leading the company, will leave after a transition period.

Johnson was CEO of ImClone Systems Inc. when the developer of cancer drugs was acquired by Lilly in November 2008 for $5.98 billion. Previously he headed Johnson & Johnson’s biopharmaceuticals unit. Savient, which won U.S. approval to sell Krystexxa in September, said in October that it failed to find a buyer, sending shares down the most in two years.

“With the depth of his industry experience, we believe John is the right person to help Savient bring Krystexxa to market,” Stephen O. Jaeger, chairman of Savient’s board, said in the statement.

Lilly said it will announce a successor in the next few weeks.

Savient increased 26 cents, or 2.6 percent, to $10.16 at 4 p.m. in Nasdaq Stock Market trading. The shares have fallen 21 percent in the last 12 months.

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