Fresh out of Eli Lilly, Christi Shaw surfaces as Daniel O'Day's new CEO at CAR-T pioneer Kite
Well, that didn’t take long.
We found out Thursday evening that Christi Shaw has given up her top post as the head of the Bio-Medicines group at Eli Lilly for the helm at CAR-T pioneer Kite. New Gilead CEO Daniel O’Day, a Roche veteran, had made finding a Kite CEO a top priority on his arrival at Gilead. And he went right for a headliner.
O’Day was clearly excited about the coup.
“We conducted an extensive search for a new leader at Kite and we believe that Christi’s unique set of skills will allow us to continue to build on our leadership position in cell therapy,” he said in a prepared statement. “Christi’s vast experience across complex therapeutic areas, and particularly in oncology, will serve Kite very well. She is clearly a leader who will bring teams and individuals together and I am confident she will build upon the entrepreneurial spirit at Kite as we seek to help more people with cancer around the world.”
Kite was the number two company — behind Novartis — to introduce personalized cell therapies to cancer patients. But it quickly leapfrogged to the front after establishing a more reliable manufacturing process — a key piece of the puzzle in terms of building that market.
More recently, though, the focus in R&D has turned to off-the-shelf versions of CAR-T, where the leaders like Arie Belldegrun have begun seeking out new therapies that don’t have to use adapted cells from patients.
Shaw brings a rare personal approach to drug development. A veteran pharma exec, she left a big job running Novartis’ US business to help care for her ailing sister. She talked about that a few months ago during our panel conversation on drug pricing and the relative value of new therapeutics, putting the issue in a human context.
If we want to take, like my sister, rare disease, multiple myeloma. Thank God we invested because she was on seven different medicines. She had a great quality of life for three out of four years, while she would’ve only gotten seven months before. Now, that may not mean a lot to everybody until it’s your own sister, until it’s your own patient, your own child, your mother.
That makes her a potent spokesperson for cell therapies at a time that segment of oncology is still finding its feet on the market.
Belldegrun, the CEO who guided Kite to its landmark success, offered a thumbs up from Europe.
“I had recently the pleasure to meet with Christi and discuss with her the unique opportunity to become the first CEO of a stand-alone company within Gilead. With Christi’s impressive track record and with her great leadership skills I have no doubt that she will excel in keeping Kite as the premiere force in the rapidly growing space of engineered cell therapy and in expanding its reach globally.”