It can be difficult to swallow banker-sized executive salaries in an earnest but yet-to-achieve small cap.

But there are as many moments when CEOs, managing directors, and executive chairmen and women earn their keep.

We uncovered the top 10 performing biotech small caps over the last 12 months and had a look at what the top dog is being paid.

Two come close to matching their annual earnings rise with that of the share price but none beat it.

Only Imugene (ASX:IMU) boss Leslie Chong comes close to seeing her salary bump in fiscal 2019 match the company’s share price bounce, and rounded out by a $201,655 cash bonus and $198,285 in share based payments — that’s options, in this case, in annual report-speak.

Chong presided over a levelling up for Imugene, where its gastric cancer vaccine HER-Vaxx handsomely passed a phase 1b clinical trial and began a phase 2 trial, and started talks with the US Federal Drug Administration (FDA) for a Pre-Investigational New Drug (IND) application for its Key-Vaxx immunotherapy cancer treatment.

On salary alone it looks like Matthew Liddelow was also on track to match Neuroscientific Biopharmaceuticals’ (ASX:NSB) share price rise — and with very little activity from the company.

But Neuroscientific listed in early 2018 and in fact, when factoring in a share payment Liddelow received in the fiscal 2018 year, his latest pay went backwards.

Then there are the bosses who didn’t get any extra bonuses for a year well done.

Roger Aston, who added acting CEO to his gig as chairman at doggy cancer cure hopeful PharmAust (ASX:PAA) in May 2018, didn’t get any extra. He’s still looking for a replacement CEO.

Paul Anderson, head of kangaroo tendon experimenter Orthocell (ASX:OCC) got a bonus and some share based payments but this was the exact same packages as he earned the year before.

Mark Diamond at Antisense Therapeutics (ASX:ANP) did not get a bonus, nor has he for seven years.

And Neuren Pharmaceuticals (ASX:NEU) head Dr Richard Treagus negotiated himself a nice salary bump, but not bonus.

Code Name Price Nov 26 $ 1 year % return CEO 2019 salary 1 year increase % 1 year increase with bonuses, share payments % Market Cap
PAA PHARMAUST LTD 0.11 2.0309 Roger Aston 260,000 0 0 33.22M
OCC ORTHOCELL LTD 0.56 1.6667 Paul Anderson 365000 0 0 86.74M
TLX TELIX PHARMACEUTICALS LTD 1.81 1.5857 Chris Behrenbruch 280,000 0.33 0.28 458.44M
IMU IMUGENE LTD 0.05 1.2609 Leslie chong 350000 0.1667 1.0579 187.97M
ANP ANTISENSE THERAPEUTICS LTD 0.09 1.0976 Mark Diamond 391,951 0.0709 0 36.31M
PYC PHYLOGICA LTD 0.06 1.0667 Rohan Hockings 395000 0.1756 0.4355 173.55M
GSS GENETIC SIGNATURES LTD 1.11 1.0556 John Melki 291,717 0.0512 0.0595 135.64M
KZA KAZIA THERAPEUTICS LTD 0.73 0.9467 James Garner 445,500 0.0482 0.1173 52.68M
NEU NEUREN PHARMACEUTICALS LTD 2.42 0.7794 Richard Treagus 536000 0.2823 0 249.67M
NSB NEUROSCIENTIFIC BIOPHARMACEU 0.27 0.5882 Matthew Liddelow 174,462 0.48 -0.22 21.16M