ARIAD Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (NASDAQ:ARIA) announced that its founder, Harvey J. Berger, M.D., has informed the Board of his decision to retire as chairman and chief executive officer (CEO) upon the appointment of his successor or December 31, 2015, whichever is earlier. The Board has begun a comprehensive search to identify Dr. Berger’s successor. Dr. Berger has also agreed to serve as a special advisor to the Board and the new CEO upon his retirement to facilitate a smooth transition.

Dr. Berger commented on his tenure as ARIAD’s CEO:

  • “I am proud to have worked with so many incredibly talented employees and together to have achieved so much for cancer patients in need of new treatment options where none exist,” saidHarvey J. Berger, M.D., chairman and chief executive officer of ARIAD. “With an established path to profitability and a well-defined set of critical corporate initiatives, ARIAD has a remarkable future. I had always anticipated retiring around age 65, which I will reach at the time of our upcoming annual meeting. My colleagues and I are all driven by our passion for helping cancer patients, and I hope ARIAD will always be recognized for this dedication.” Dr. Berger added, “ARIAD has been at the forefront of precision medicine initiatives in cancer, and I expect that the Company will continue to lead the way as new targeted therapies emerge from our drug-discovery platform – built on our computational and structural technologies.”

Dr. Berger founded ARIAD 23 years ago and has served as its chairman and chief executive officer since 1991. He has led the Company’s growth into an integrated global-oncology company serving patients worldwide. Under his leadership, ARIAD scientists have discovered five new drug candidates. ARIAD brought Iclusig® (ponatinib) – a novel BCR-ABL tyrosine kinase inhibitor (TKI) – to the market for use in the treatment of patients with refractory chronic myeloid leukemia and Philadelphia chromosome-positive acute lymphoblastic leukemia, now approved in the US, EU, Switzerland, Australia, Canada, and Israel. Since its approval, Iclusig has been launched through ARIAD’s commercial organization in the US and the 16 major markets of the EU and through its distributors in other regions. Dr. Berger has also overseen the broadened clinical development of Iclusig and the implementation of a 3-year strategic plan to achieve sustained profitability for ARIAD.

Brigatinib – a new ALK TKI with Breakthrough Designation from the FDA – is ARIAD’s next cancer medicine in development. It is being studied in the ALTA pivotal trial of patients with refractory ALK+ non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), which is on track to complete patient enrollment in the third quarter of this year, leading to anticipated NDA filing next year. Recently, ARIAD announced the discovery of AP32788 – its third internally discovered novel TKI – for use in the treatment of patients with NSCLC and a validated class of novel mutated targets; the Company plans to file an IND for AP32788 later this year.

Some of Dr. Berger’s colleagues, directors and leadership-team members offered the following comments:

  • “For nearly 25 years, Harvey has put his heart and soul into building a world-class biotechnology company,” said Wayne Wilson, lead independent director of the ARIAD Board. “We all appreciate his dedication to cancer patients and his focus on building sustainable value for our Company. He has attracted and led outstanding employees – from bench scientists to physicians to account managers in the field. He has never wavered in his commitment to being the best in every task that the Company undertook.” Mr. Wilson added, “The Board will conduct a thorough search to identify a successor who we expect will guide ARIAD into its next chapters of innovation and growth, building on the solid foundation put in place by Harvey and his leadership team.”
  • “My lasting memory of my first meeting with Harvey 25 years ago, when ARIAD was just a twinkle in his eye, is one that helps explain the direction of ARIAD over this period. Harvey was passionate about building a company where patients come first. He saw the promise of modern science to translate to life-saving medicines. And Harvey has delivered on this vision through his dedication and leadership,” said Stuart L. Schreiber, Ph.D., Founding Member of the Broad Institute ofHarvard and MIT, HHMI Investigator, and Morris Loeb Professor of Chemistry and Chemical Biology, Harvard University.
  • “As CEO of ARIAD, Harvey has been a committed supporter of The Max Foundation. Through the years, he has been open to listening to the patient’s perspective as well as to discussing solutions to help people facing cancer around the world,” said Pat Garcia-Gonzalez, President and Chief Executive Officer of The Max Foundation, a global health non-profit organization that believes that all people living with cancer have the right to access the best treatment and support. “He has especially demonstrated an awareness of the needs of people living with chronic myeloid leukemia and an understanding of the importance of developing global access strategies for innovative oncology drugs. I thank him for his service and look forward to continuing our collaborations with ARIAD.”
  • “Harvey founded and built ARIAD with the clear vision of applying scientific excellence and clinical scholarship to helping patients in need – a vision that has been unequivocally fulfilled,” statedTimothy P. Clackson, Ph.D., president of R&D and chief scientific officer of ARIAD. “Our employees and thousands of patients worldwide owe a great debt of gratitude to his exceptional dedication and perseverance. The ARIAD leadership team is committed to continuing this work and driving to further success.”
  • “As ARIAD’s founder, Harvey has guided the Company to a mission intensely focused on helping cancer patients, by discovering and developing new treatments to allow them to overcome their diseases. His passion as a physician has infused its existence. The many patients and families who have been helped by ARIAD’s medicines can be thankful for his dedication and insights,” said Frank G. Haluska, M.D., Ph.D., senior vice president, clinical R&D and chief medical officer of ARIAD.
  • “Harvey enthusiastically embraced the evolution of ARIAD into a global commercial company,” saidMarty J. Duvall, executive vice president and chief commercial officer of ARIAD. “His pride, satisfaction and commitment to deliver on the vision of transforming patient-lives motivates the commercial team each and every day.” (Original Source)

Shares of Ariad closed yesterday at $8.87 . ARIA has a 1-year high of $9.89 and a 1-year low of $4.90. The stock’s 50-day moving average is $8.63 and its 200-day moving average is $7.17.

On the ratings front, Ariad has been the subject of a number of recent research reports. In a report issued on April 20, BMO analyst Jim Birchenough reiterated a Buy rating on ARIA, with a price target of $14, which implies an upside of 57.8% from current levels. Separately, on February 23, H.C. Wainwright’s Reni Benjamin reiterated a Buy rating on the stock and has a price target of $10.

According to, which ranks over 7,500 financial analysts and bloggers to gauge the performance of their past recommendations, Jim Birchenough and Reni Benjamin have a total average return of 51.2% and 2.8% respectively. Birchenough has a success rate of 75.5% and is ranked #6 out of 3581 analysts, while Benjamin has a success rate of 36.2% and is ranked #1502.

In total, 2 research analysts have assigned a Hold rating and 2 research analysts have given a Buy rating to the stock. When considering if perhaps the stock is under or overvalued, the average price target is $8.87 which is 2.9% above where the stock closed yesterday.

ARIAD Pharmaceuticals Inc is an oncology company. The Company is engaged in transforming the lives of cancer patients with breakthrough medicines. It commercializes & develops products and product candidates including Iclusig, Brigatinib, and AP32788.