Shire CFO Poulton departs for Indigo, agriculture startup


Making a Move

Shire CFO Poulton departs for Indigo, agriculture startup

The announced departure of Jeff Poulton as chief financial officer of Shire plc, a biopharma company, quickly on the heels of the exit of former R&D chief Phil Vickers caused some talk on Wall street and decreased Shire’s shares. Poulton and various financial analysts are calling the move an attempt at garnering a better professional opportunity, while Ireland-based Shire revealed a plan to consolidate its U.S. operations down to two main sites — Cambridge and Lexington — in Massachusetts.

According to Fierce Pharma (August 22), Poulton told Barron’s that the move is about nothing more than seeking a change. Timing is “never good with these kinds of things,” but there’s “no smoking gun here,” he said. Before Poulton leaves, he will help the company’s management to find his replacement and finish a strategic review of its neuroscience business, which it may spin off. 

At the end of the year, Poulton will join Indigo Ag, Inc., a startup company that “harnesses nature to help farmers sustainably feed the planet,” as the company's chief financial officer. According to Indigo, Poulton “will manage the company's financial operations and support its growth aspirations, bringing with him extensive experience in finance, investor relations and strategy.”

As Poulton said, "Indigo has an extraordinary opportunity to empower both farmers and consumers, transforming the agriculture industry. As the company continues to innovate and scale, I am eager to support its financial and strategic capabilities, contributing to the success of this purpose-driven team."

According to Evercore ISI’s Joshua Schimmer, Shire’s valuation is still attractive. He believes “that upcoming catalysts will include executing on the company's growing biologic franchise and cutting spending while the pipeline delivers next year and beyond.” He described immunology and hereditary angioedema, among others, as potential areas for growth.

Shire employs more than 3,000 people in Massachusetts and does not “expect any significant reduction in overall headcount.” The company pointed out that some R&D staff members will be moved to Massachusetts from Europe, and Shire is anticipating many new hires in the coming years. At the end of the consolidation, Shire’s rare disease research and U.S. commercial operations will be based in Kendall Square, Cambridge, at a site that had been operated by Sanofi Genzyme and was leased last year, along with an adjacent site. Altogether, Shire will operate from a 550,000-square-foot campus. Lexington — the company's current U.S. headquarters — will house the manufacturing of biologic drugs and the development and production of delivery systems, including digitally connected devices.

A Boston Globe article called Shire the state’s second-largest biopharma employer, but the company's CEO Flemming Ornskov said it has "a bit of a fragmented structure" there with staff "spread out in many locations" including units at Alewife, Milford, Burlington and North Reading. Shire acquired both Dyax and Baxalta last year, creating an increased pipeline of products to market and advancing a broader R&D base with around 40 drugs in clinical development.


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