ImClone Systems’ search for a new chief executive is over and John Johnson is to take over the reins of the biotechnology firm starting at the end of August.

The new boss has more than two decades of management experience in the industry and most recently as group chairman of Johnson & Johnson’s worldwide biopharmaceuticals unit. He fills a post that has been vacant since October 2006, when billionaire investor Carl Icahn took control of the board and ousted a number directors and interim chief executive Joseph Fischer. Since then, ImClone has been run by an executive committee led by director Alexander Denner.

Mr Icahn, now chairman of ImClone, had accused the previous management of failing to make the most of the firm’s only marketed drug – the cancer drug Erbitux (cetuximab) – and he said that "we look forward to working with [Mr Johnson] to take the company to the next level”. For his part, the new man said he is looking forward “to continuing the company's newly-instilled culture of decisiveness, execution and accountability,” noting that “we will aggressively pursue initiatives to maximise our Erbitux franchise and further advance our pipeline product candidates”.

US sales of the drug, which is indicated for colon and head-and-neck cancer, fell 6% in the second quarter but the firm and partner Bristol-Myers Squibb have just expanded their alliance to explore further development and commercial opportunities in North America for Erbitux which will see investment in the drug increase by “up to several hundred million dollars”.

Mr Johnson will be hoping for considerably better fortune than his predecessors in the ImClone hotseat. Samuel Waksal, the firm’s first CEO, is currently behind bars serving seven years for insider trading and he was succeeded by his brother Harlan, who resigned in 2003. His successor was Daniel Lynch, who resigned “by mutual agreement” in November 2005.

Meantime, Biogen Idec has appointed a new chief financial officer, Paul Clancy, who has been promoted from the post of senior vice president of finance at the firm. He will replace Peter Kellogg, who is leaving to become CFO at Merck & Co.