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AZ’s Sean Bohen to exit after business overhaul; report

Recent departures raises concern among analysts

AstraZeneca’s chief medical officer Sean Bohen is the latest senior executive to depart the company, heading for the exit after less than four years in the role.

Bohen’s departure – first reported by Bloomberg yesterday – will follow AZ’s transition to a new organisational structure which was announced last week by CEO Pascal Soriot and will see the company restructured around two divisions – cancer and biopharmaceuticals including cardiovascular, diabetes and respiratory drugs.

AZ hasn’t put out a formal statement on the news, but a spokesman confirmed to PMLive that Bohen “has decided to leave AZ [but] will remain with the company during a transitional period to support implementation of the new structure and as CMO until a successor is announced”.

Sean Bohen

Sean Bohen, chief medical officer, AZ

Bohen joined AZ in 2015, coming from Roche’s Genentech unit where he was senior vice president of early development, and he is the fourth senior executive to depart in recent weeks.

Chief commercial officer Mark Mallon has taken on the CEO role at US biotech Ironwood Pharmaceuticals, while Medimmune research head Bahija Jallal agreed to take the helm of UK biotech company Immunocore, and Ludovic Helfgott – AZ’s head of cardiovascular and metabolic diseases – is set to join Novo Nordisk as executive vice president of its biopharma unit.

Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Sam Fazeli said the departures are “unsettling” at a time when AZ needs to focus on “a breakneck pace of growth.” The company is currently enjoying a return to sales growth thanks largely to new cancer drugs Imfinzi, Tagrisso and Lynparza.

Last week’s business reshuffle also saw Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center physician José Baselga brought in to head the company’s cancer R&D unit – a somewhat controversial choice given he resigned from MSKCC for failing to disclose financial ties to pharma companies – while former head of AZ’s early development unit Mene Pangalos is taking the lead on biopharmaceuticals R&D.

Soriot was himself the subject of departure speculation in 2017 when he was linked to a possible move to Israeli drugmaker Teva, at a time when the company was struggling with patent expires and some high-profile clinical failures, although he persistently denied any plans to move.

Pascal Soriot

Pascal Soriot, CEO, AZ

In the end Teva poached Lundbeck CEO Kåre Schultz to fill its top job, but the rumours keep resurfacing with The Times suggesting last November that AZ had started a search for a new CEO.

Soriot insisted again last week that he was not leaving, suggesting that he would have done so prior to announcing the business reorganisation if that was his plan.

Shares in AZ were down a little under 1.5% this morning.

Article by
Phil Taylor

14th January 2019

From: Sales

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