Dendreon CEO Johnson Resigns as Provenge Overtaken by Rivals

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.

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