Bristol-Myers bumps off chief scientist in another big shakeup, bringing in Celgene and Novartis execs
Just 2 years after Tom Lynch stepped from the board room to the top scientific position at Bristol-Myers Squibb, he’s out.
The pharma giant reported Wednesday morning that Lynch will leave his post as CSO in four months, moving Celgene R&D exec Rupert Vessey into the top research position after the big merger while recruiting Novartis oncology development head Samit Hirawat for chief medical officer with command of the development group.
Lynch himself was brought in to fix what was wrong at Bristol-Myers Squibb but instead was tagged with a series of setbacks after continuing a flawed research strategy on Opdivo that Wall Street lost faith in as the mega-blockbuster steadily lost ground to Keytruda.
The move does provide Bristol-Myers with a way of maintaining a focus on the lineup of research projects they’re buying with the Celgene acquisition. And in raiding Novartis, they’ll be gaining an executive from a winning team with a string of successes to its credit this year.
The high-level reorganization triggered by the merger also extends into the commercial arena.
While Chris Boerner will remain chief commercial officer, Nadim Ahmed has been named president of hematology who will also oversee the cell therapy unit. And Celgene CFO David Elkins is taking the top finance post at the merged company, replacing Charles Bancroft, who will retire next year after completing 35 years at the company.
One position that won’t be changing: The CEO role.
Giovanni Caforio has no intention of giving up that post as he sets about the challenging task of living up to the promises he made investors during the leap to the big buyout. Not all of the company’s biggest investors liked this deal, and they’re going to need some convincing that it was in their best interests.
Caforio had touted Lynch as a major new force, privately acknowledging that they needed to change R&D course as Merck began to gain ground in the critical PD-1 field — particularly in lung cancer. Merck though found a winning strategy in combining Keytruda with chemo, while Bristol-Myers attempted to push an approach using their CTLA-4 drug Yervoy as well as concentrating on high tumor mutational burdens in identifying the best patient population for their drug.
That largely failed — at least so far. The jury is still out on TMB, while Merck widens its lead in the field.
Hirawat, meanwhile, ran the successful Kisqali program as Novartis beefed up its oncology program.
Here’s the full lineup in the new structure at Bristol-Myers:
- Nadim Ahmed, President, Hematology
- Charles Bancroft, Executive Lead for Integration
- Paul Biondi, Head, Strategy and Business Development
- Chris Boerner, Ph.D., Executive Vice President & Chief Commercialization Officer
- Adam Dubow, Chief Compliance Officer
- Joseph Eid, M.D., Head, Global Medical Affairs
- John Elicker, Head, Corporate Affairs and Investor Relations
- David Elkins, Executive Vice President & Chief Financial Officer
- Samit Hirawat, M.D., Chief Medical Officer, Global Drug Development
- Severine Lacourt, Chief of Staff to the Chief Executive Officer
- Sandra Leung, Executive Vice President & General Counsel
- Ann Powell, Chief Human Resources Officer
- Lou Schmukler, President, Global Product Development & Supply
- Rupert Vessey, M.A., B.M., B.Ch., F.R.C.P., D.Phil., President, Research & Early Development
- Paul von Autenried, Chief Information Officer
Image: Tom Lynch at an Endpoints News event in Boston, June 2018 — Photo by Rob Tannenbaum, Endpoints News