Carl Icahn attempts to get nominees on Biogen board after blockbuster drug drags

Billionaire Carl Icahn is determined to get his way with Biogen Idec seeking to load the company's board with his nominees. A quarterly earnings report that was in line with expectations but that indicated softening sales of a major drug may also help his case.

Biogen, the world's largest maker of multiple sclerosis medicines, said it may miss a sales forecast for Tysabri, its fastest growing drug, after disclosing that a fifth patient developed a potentially fatal side effect.

Biogen, based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, learned last night a Tysabri patient has contracted progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy, a brain infection that killed one of four other patients the company already knew about, CEO James Mullen told analysts and investors on a conference call today.

Biogen's share of Tysabri sales in the fourth quarter increased 74 per cent to $156 million from a year earlier and the drug's total revenue was $218 million - ''well on its way to becoming a blockbuster,'' Mullen said today in a statement. After disclosing the new infection, the chief executive said on the conference call he wouldn't affirm a forecast of 100,000 MS patients taking Tysabri by the end of next year.

''We remain highly focused on achieving the 100,000-patient goal, but at this point it looks as if it might be quite difficult to reach that goal by that date,'' Mullen said.

Icahn, who owns six per cent of Biogen stock, failed last June in his attempt to place three nominees on the company's board. The 46th richest man in the world is trying again, with four nominees, while seeking to expand the membership to 13 from 12. In late 2007, Biogen announced it was looking for a bidder to buy the company. The search was prompted by Icahn, but ended without any definitive offers. (See: Biogen Idec up for sale after Icahn offer)

Separately, Biogen Idec reported $1.1 billion in revenue in the fourth quarter, up 20 per cent from the same period a year ago. Profit rose 3 per cent to $207 million. Much of the growth was driven by Tysabri. However, this growth may now stumble.