Novo Nordisk selects AstraZeneca executive Ludovic Helfgott to head biopharma unit

Novo Nordisk on Monday said that it appointed Ludovic Helfgott, the current head of cardiovascular and metabolic diseases at AstraZeneca, as executive vice president of its biopharma unit effective April 3, 2019. Helfgott will replace Jesper Brandgaard, who has decided to retire from his position as executive vice president of biopharma and legal affairs.

Novo Nordisk CEO Lars Fruergaard Jørgensen noted that Helfgott "brings with him extensive experience in the development and launch of treatments for people with chronic diseases." The company indicated that Brandgaard will remain in his role until Helfgott assumes the responsibility of the biopharma business, which comprises the haemophilia and human growth hormone franchises. Jørgensen sajd "I would also like to thank...Brandgaard for his significant contributions to Novo Nordisk, both as our [chief financial officer] for many years and most recently as head of biopharms, where he has taken important steps towards bringing the business back on a growth track."

Meanwhile, Jørgensen separately revealed that Novo Nordisk could complete an acquisition by the end of the year, but declined to provide specifics. "It is not always easy to predict when a transaction goes through, but we are in enough ongoing discussions that it might be possible this year if all goes well," Jørgensen stated. 

The CEO also remarked that "it will take some years to get back to organic growth, so we are looking at accelerating this by buying up." Jørgensen, who revealed that the company had been "very close" to a deal that fell through, cautioned "we are not desperate, we are disciplined."  

The news comes after Novo Nordisk lost in its bid to purchase Ablynx to Sanofi after Ablynx determined that the Danish drugmaker's offer undervalued the company. Novo Nordisk later reached a deal to purchase Ziylo for potentially more than $800 million.  

Last month, Novo Nordisk announced plans to overhaul its R&D organisation, resulting in the loss of 400 jobs in Denmark and China. The drugmaker also announced a decision to reduce its US workforce by approximately 250 positions in response to pricing and competitive pressures. 

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