GlaxoSmithKline confirms Patrick Vallance's departure, with Hal Barron named as new R&D head

GlaxoSmithKline announced Wednesday that president of R&D Patrick Vallance will leave the drugmaker to become the UK Government's chief scientific adviser, confirming recent rumours. The company added that Hal Barron, the current president of R&D at Alphabet's Calico unit, has been appointed chief scientific officer and president of R&D, effective January 1, 2018.

Prior to joining Calico in 2013, Barron was head of global product development and chief medical officer at Roche. Barron also worked as senior vice president of development and chief medical officer of Roche's Genentech division.

GlaxoSmithKline CEO Emma Walmsley commented "scientific innovation must be at the heart of [GlaxoSmithKline] and with the appointment of [Barron], we are bringing one of the world's foremost R&D leaders to the company." Walmsley said the appointment "underscores the absolute, unequivocal prioritisation I'm placing on improving our performance in our biggest business, which is pharma," adding "pharma R&D and the pipeline is at the heart of that."

Walmsley indicated that it would be left to Barron to decide where to invest once he joined the company, but she said that his experience in oncology and in speciality therapy areas was "highly exciting." Barron will be based in San Francisco, where GlaxoSmithKline plans to open a new office focused on business development for R&D.

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According to GlaxoSmithKline, Vallance, who will also take up the role of head of the UK Government's Office for Science, will leave the company at the end of March 2018. Vallance initially joined the UK firm as its head of drug discovery in 2006, being named R&D chief in 2012.

Vallance's departure comes after GlaxoSmithKline unveiled plans in July to eliminate more than 30 clinical and pre-clinical programmes and consider strategic options for its rare diseases unit. The drugmaker also named former executive vice president of AstraZeneca's European business Luke Miels as its president of global pharmaceuticals in January.

For related analysis, read ViewPoints: GlaxoSmithKline shows its pharma intentions.

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