AstraZeneca brings in José Baselga to lead new oncology R&D unit

AstraZeneca said Monday that José Baselga will join the company to head a newly-created R&D unit for oncology as the drugmaker looks to more closely align its research and commercial operations. The rejig will also see the creation of an R&D segment for biopharmaceuticals, with mirrored commercial units for the two research divisions.  

CEO Pascal Soriot remarked "we are entering what we expect will be a period of sustained growth for years to come," adding "this new structure will support growth and sharpen the focus on our main therapy areas, speeding up decisions and making us more productive in our mission to bring innovative medicines to patients."  

Baselga most recently served as physician-in-chief at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and professor of medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College. Prior to this, he was chief of the division of haematology/oncology and associate director at the Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center and professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.  

Baselga left Memorial Sloan Kettering last year following reports that he failed to disclose relationships with the industry in papers published in medical journals. While taking "full responsibility" Baselga remarked that "the American Association of Cancer Research subsequently concluded my failure to disclose was inadvertent." 

In the appointment, Soriot noted that AstraZeneca "made sure we did our homework and that we could feel comfortable, including our board and our chief compliance officer, that there was nothing here that was problematic," continuing "we are absolutely comfortable there is no serious issue there."  

The biopharmaceuticals R&D unit, which will cover cardiovascular, renal and metabolism, and respiratory, will be led by Mene Pangalos, who was previously responsible for AstraZeneca's innovative medicines and early development biotech segment. The company added that the commercial unit for biopharmaceuticals will be led by Ruud Dobber, who was most recently responsible for commercial operations in North America, while the oncology commercial unit will continue to be headed up by Dave Fredrickson.  

The news follows the departures of several executives in recent months. On January 4, Mark Mallon and Bahija Jallal were said to be leaving AstraZeneca to take executive positions at Ironwood Pharmaceuticals and Immunocore, respectively. Additionally, former AstraZeneca executive Ludovic Helfgott has been appointed executive vice president of Novo Nordisk's biopharma unit effective April 3. 

"It's clear that this reorganisation has been considered for some time," explained Soriot, adding "the departures gave us the opportunity to implement it now." Soriot noted that although other leadership positions will be impacted, most staff at the company will not be affected. 

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