People, Workforce

Eli Lilly R&D chief Jan Lundberg heads for the exit as CEO assembles a new team at the top

A day after the FDA approved abemaciclib, new Eli Lilly CEO Dave Ricks has tapped several new chiefs for the pharma giant’s executive committee. And the change-out includes the departure of R&D chief Jan Lundberg as Ricks promotes Dan Skovronsky as the new head of science and technology and president of Lilly Research Labs.

Lundberg has been a central figure at Lilly over the last 8 years, a crucial period that saw out the end of John Lechleiter’s career at the top and the beginning of a stream of new drug approvals that are central to its longterm success. It hasn’t always been pretty, but the R&D group has kept its eyes on changing standards of care in cancer, diabetes and other diseases that have seen some big developments in the recent past.

Dan Skovronsky

The question now is whether Lundberg — who also led discovery research at AstraZeneca before making the leap to Lilly — will actually go ahead and retire or simply jump to a new job after a decent interval, a path followed by a growing number of senior execs who have found new careers in the comforting arms of a booming VC community.

Skovronsky — most recently the development chief at Lilly — joined the company back in 2010, when Lechleiter bought out Avid Radiopharmaceuticals in order to get its hands on a brain-imaging technology that could highlight beta-amyloid in the brain. Lilly has spent years and a fortune pursuing new ways to alter the trajectory of Alzheimer’s, with nothing to show for it so far.

The company has had much better success with cancer, as it demonstrated yesterday with the approval of abemaciclib, a CDK 4/6 drug which will now go head to head with two major league rivals already on the market. Lilly says the drug will be sold as Verzenio.

Eli Lilly has made a shifting set of promises on the R&D front, without actually delivering right on schedule. One of the latest updates on that score included a promise of 20 new drugs approvals in a decade run stretching from 2014 to 2023. Ricks also has been changing up the pipeline focus somewhat, while cutting into the staff in a move to reduce costs by eliminating 8.5% of its employee roster.

There are several other new senior exec announcements today, including:

— The promotion of Josh Smiley to senior vice president and chief financial officer.

— Myles O’Neill is taking over the lead role in manufacturing.

— Aarti Shah, SVP and chief of information tech, is being bumped up a level to EVP.


The Eli Lilly and Co corporate headquarters is pictured April 26, 2017, in Indianapolis. AP Photo


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