Restless R&D Executives Jump Ship to Rival Pharmas
There has been a tonne of activity from R&D execs lately. When things get uneasy for them, their choice is to either jump into young biotechs or sail out into the new world of venture capitalism.
This time around though it seems most are opting to stay within pharma reports FierceBiotech. In the past few weeks, we have seen some huge moves from Sanofi, AstraZeneca, Roche, Gilead, Novartis, Amgen, and GlaxoSmithKline, with even a few coming out of the FDA and into the “dark side.” Why? Well, many hope that these new faces and new ideas will bring a shakeup to old R&D practices.
Let’s kick things off with AstraZeneca and its biologics arms MedImmune, which have seen the most movement, only today (24 April) revealing that Lisa Anson, head of the British pharma trade group the ABPI and formerly AZ’s U.K. president, has become the new CEO of struggling British cancer and fibrosis biotech Redx.
This was hot on the heels of a big move for the FDA’s Badrul Chowdhury, who recently made critical marks against Eli Lilly and Incyte’s long-delayed baricitinib, who is now SVP for research and development at MedImmune, and head of its innovative medicine early development unit, which is focused on respiratory, inflammatory and autoimmune diseases. This caps off a 21-year stint at the U.S. regulator.
Turning our attention to Southern France, it has been revealed to us that Sanofi’s longtime R&D lead Elias Zerhouni, M.D., will retire from the Big Pharma in June, having already been at the company for nine years. In the same week. Sanofi also saw the departure of Philip Just Larsen, M.S., Ph.D., its former diabetes research chief and CSO for its Frankfurt hub, who went over to Germany’s Grünenthal as its new CSO.
Last week, GlaxoSmithKline took a stab at Roche’s R&D alumni cupboard, when it hired Kevin Sin, formerly at Roche’s major biologics arm Genentech, where he was VP and global head of oncology business development. GSK hopes that in a similar role, Sin can help spur on its pipeline play as the British Big Pharma’s R&D metamorphosis continues.
This, however, comes five months after another former Roche and Calico vet Hal Barron became the new CSO and research chief at GSK, in a coup for CEO Emma Walmsley. At the same time, there was no room at the inn for six-year research chief Patrick Vallance, who became a U.K. government science adviser.
Despite some gains, GSK did lose David Rubenstein, M.D., who had been working at the dermatology subsidiary Stiefel, during which time he held the title of VP of dermatology, discovery and preclinical development. He moved on to become skin disease specialist Dermavant Sciences’ new CSO, part of the “Vant” family of Roivant companies.
All in the same week, Novartis’ new CEO Vas Narasimhan, persuaded John Tsai, M.D., to fill the vacant CMO role at the Swiss major. Tsai comes from Amgen, where he was CMO for less than a year, with his career stretching back 18 years across the likes of Pfizer and Bristol-Meyers Squibb.
Finally, Kite Pharma’s former CMO David Chang revealed that he would become CEO of Allogene Therapeutics, which started life three weeks ago with a massive $300 million series A round and 17 off-the-shelf CAR-T assets licensed from Pfizer. Parent company Gilead also lost its clinical director of cancer research, Henry Adewoye, M.D., who moved over to Compugen, where he will serve as CMO. In addition, Gilead also sees its long-serving Norbert Bischofberger step down from his post of EVP of R&D and CSO, as the big biotech promotes John McHutchison, M.D., to the top job.
We expect the next two weeks to be filled with many more moves, so don’t be shocked if you see a variety of R&D execs jumping ship.