People, R&D

J&J woos Merck’s Mathai Mammen to helm of pharma R&D, Hait takes over on external innovation

J&J is executing a changeup in the leadership of its multibillion-dollar R&D group.

Mathai Mammen

The pharma giant, which recently signaled plans to expand its drug pipeline — which costs about $7 billion a year to operate (the total R&D budget was $9.1 billion last year)— recruited Merck SVP Mathai Mammen to take Bill Hait’s role as pharma R&D chief, according to a statement out Wednesday night.

Bill Hait

Hait, meanwhile, is switching to a new job as global head of external innovation, a role that encompasses a network of partnering teams that span the planet, absorbing dozens of new partnerships each year in one of the industry’s most ambitious outreach efforts.

J&J, with one of the world’s top 5 R&D ops, is planning to do this transfer in stages. Mammen, who joined Merck from Theravance in early 2016, is joining J&J later this month and then moving up to pharma R&D chief at the beginning of 2018.

Paul Stoffels

Mammen’s new role will have him reporting directly to J&J chief scientific officer Paul Stoffels.

Mammen will now be in charge of keeping an ambitious new promise by Joaquin Duato, J&J’s worldwide chairman for pharmaceuticals, to see J&J’s branded drug market maintain a clip of 5% annual growth through 2020 — even as public and private payers in the US press new challenges to what new and old drugs cost.

Under Hait, J&J’s R&D group put a major focus on oncology, with a slate of new drugs like Darzalex, apalutamide (ARN-509), Zejula (niraparib) and talacotuzumab for AML. Some of these were picked up in a series of billion-dollar deals backed by a quiet but persistent group of drug developers noted for some major wins in recent years.

Days ago Hait told reporters that the company expects 14 new meds to arrive on the market in next five years, with 50 line extensions on already approved therapies. And he included a full slate of potential blockbusters.

Stoffels, meanwhile, has been fielding teams of dealmakers in global offices inside London, Shanghai, Boston/Cambridge and the Bay Area, all interconnected with giant screen connections for intercontinental meetings. He’s created a 24/7 operation that not only scouts for major new programs it can license, but a host of partnerships where the plan is to wait patiently, play a support role and see what these up-and-comers can accomplish. Hait will now play a major role in overseeing that group as J&J continues to reach outside to find new ideas.

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