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Novartis splits pharma unit as Epstein exits

Restructure sees creation of standalone cancer arm Novartis Oncology

NovartisNovartis has split its pharma business in two, placing all its cancer assets into a separate unit, and announced the departure of pharma chief executive David Epstein.

The move reaffirms the Swiss pharma group's commitment to oncology in the wake of its $16bn purchase of cancer assets from GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) last year, and is due to come into effect from 1 July.

Novartis Oncology will be headed by Bruno Strigini - who already heads up the group's cancer operations - while Novartis Pharma will be led by Paul Hudson, currently executive vice president for North America at AstraZeneca.

Both will report to Novartis' CEO Joe Jimenez and have seats on the executive committee.

Meanwhile, the departure of Epstein ties in with speculation that he has been lined up to replace Sir Andrew Witty at the helm of GSK after the current CEO retires next year, although the Novartis statement says merely that he has decided to "explore new challenges from the US".

Novartis Pharma and Novartis Oncology will still form the basis of the group's innovative pharma division, which operates alongside generics business Sandoz and eyecare division Alcon.

Novartis said the restructuring would "help drive our growth and innovation strategy, with an increased focus and improved execution for both … units".

Novartis Oncology is the second-largest cancer business in the world, having been comprehensively built up by Epstein who headed Novartis' cancer operations before stepping up to the pharma CEO role in 2010.

Whilst at the forefront of targeted therapies such as kinase inhibitors, Novartis by its own admission was a little tardy in embracing the ongoing revolution in immuno-oncology, although it has been catching up with a string of licensing deals and a push into CAR-T cell therapies.

Meanwhile, Novartis Pharma will look for growth to new heart failure drug Entresto (sacubitril/valsartan) - currently off to a slow start despite Novartis' projections of $5bn in peak sales - as well as other new products such as Cosentyx (secukinumab) for psoriasis, ankylosing spondylitis and psoriatic arthritis.

Novartis' move comes shortly after Biogen took the decision to split its haemophilia unit from the remainder of its portfolio, once again with the aim of allowing each business to improve the efficiency of their operations.

Article by
Phil Taylor

18th May 2016

From: Sales

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