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Gilead continues its exec clear-out, licenses antivirals from Novartis

Long-standing R&D chief to depart

Gilead

Gilead announced another round of departures from its senior leadership team last week, understood to be part of new CEO Daniel O’Day’s complete overhaul in the top positions.

On Wednesday, it revealed that Gregg Alton, chief patient officer, and Katie Watson, its executive vice president of human resources are leaving the company.

Most significantly, John McHutchison, its head of research and development who oversaw the development of its blockbuster hepatitis C franchise, as well as hepatitis B treatments and the company’s expansion into oncology, is also departing.

The rapid cull of established leaders shows O'Day is taking a ruthless approach to renewing Gilead, which is under pressure from shareholders to reverse a decline brought about by a slump in its hepatitis C revenues.

Since taking over on 1 March, O’Day has also been busy with hirings, bringing in Johanna Mercier from BMS as the firm’s new commercial chief, replacing Laura Hamill, who has served less than a year in the post.

Another big recruitment this month was that of Christi Shaw, poached from Eli Lilly to take on a new CEO role and cell therapy division Kite.

In the meantime, efforts to bolster the R&D pipeline continue. On Friday, McHutchison was on hand to announce the in-licensing of three preclinical antiviral programmes from Novartis, including investigational agents to treat human rhinovirus, influenza and herpes viruses.

The deal see Gilead acquire exclusive global rights to develop and commercialize novel small molecules against three undisclosed targets.

Novartis will receive an upfront payment and is eligible to receive up to an extra $291 million in potential milestone payments if  development and commercial milestones are reached, as well as royalties on annual net sales.

The in-licensing shows Gilead building on its core competency of virology, and looking to target three mass market disease areas - but it is most definitely looking beyond this area for future growth.

The Novartis deal is dwarfed by another recent outlay – Gilead’s $5.1bn licensing deal with Galapagos, which extends their partnership to pipeline assets such as GLPG1690, a phase 3 candidate for idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), and GLPG1972, in phase 2b for osteoarthritis in the US.

Article by
Andrew McConaghie

22nd July 2019

From: Marketing

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