After waiting for a new leader for over a year as it was led by interim CEO Rachel King, the biotech advocacy group Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO) has chosen rare disease champion and biotech founder John Crowley as the organization’s new CEO with Crowley’s Washington connections in mind. According to BIO, Crowley, who has been a member of the board for over a decade, was a clear choice not only because of his strong relationships within the industry, but also in Washington, D.C., where many of his existing advocacy efforts for BIO take place.
My increased responsibilities and role at BIO, against the backdrop of the policy, world, and environment that we’re dealing with, naturally led to me moving into the CEO role at BIO
Advocating for Biotech
The new CEO said the time was right to take on the role, especially in light of the current policy environment. “My increased responsibilities and role at BIO, against the backdrop of the policy, world, and environment that we’re dealing with, naturally led to me moving into the CEO role at BIO,” he commented in a release.
Crowley has been selected at a time when the industry continues to gear itself up for the impact of the Biden administration’s Inflation Reduction Act, legislation that set new parameters for the industry and enables the government to negotiate certain drug prices.
As a Washington fixture often representing the interests of BIO, Crowley recently spoke at the hearing “How the IRA’s Price Setting Scheme Means Fewer Cures for Patients,” arguing against the inadvertent effects of the IRA, the United States’ most significant drug pricing reform in decades.
“We need to break down barriers, encourage massive private capital flows to fund biotech entrepreneurs [and] incentivize our largest biopharmaceuticals companies to invest in rare disease programs,” Crowley testified. “We are instead now facing a massive headwind brought about by an ill-conceived drug control pricing law with consequences—some intended, some unintended—that are instead curtailing funding, further closing avenues of research and, tragically, taking away hope for many who are most in need,” he said, referring to the IRA.
BIO, along with the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), the group that represents innovative pharma, has been fighting against the IRA since its inception. Claiming that smaller biotech companies will see an impact on their partnership and investment possibilities, interim CEO King said at this year’ BIO conference: “If the incentives change and the risk equation balances in a different way, we just won’t be able to raise money.”
BIO has also been vocal about the IRA discouraging development of small-molecule drugs. “We’ve had seed-stage companies where the discussion in the boardroom is, ‘You have this innovation as a small molecule. Could you make it a more complex biologic, because that’s the only way that you’re going to get funded.’ That’s really a kind of distorted,” said Tess Cameron of RA Capital Management at the BIO conference panel discussion “The Inflation Reduction Act – A Market-Driven Event Impacting the Development of New Treatments.”
Apart from his Capitol Hill connections, Crowley does have an impressive background. Having begun his career at Bristol-Myers Squibb, he left big pharma to co-found Novazyme Pharmaceuticals, after two of his children were diagnosed with a rare genetic neuromuscular disorder called Pompe disease. The company was later acquired by Genzyme where Crowley was senior vice president and in charge of the company’s global Pompe programme.
After Genzyme, Crowley became the founding president and CEO of obesity-focused Orexigen Therapeutics in 2003 and then moved on to join the rare disease biotech Amicus Therapeutics, where he eventually became CEO in 2005.
Crowley is tailor-made for the CEO role, according to BIO, because of his very personal stake in the biotech industry which culminated in the FDA approval earlier this year of Amicus’ two-component therapy, Pombiliti (cipaglucosidase alfa-atga) + Opfolda (miglustat) for Pompe disease.
Photo credit: BIO