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Mission possible: AstraZeneca CEO Soriot rallies the troops, promising to fight on

“Together, we are poised to achieve something remarkable and that few thought possible. Nothing can break the momentum you have established, and certainly not rumors.”

Pascal Soriot chose those words to rally a badly rattled staff at AstraZeneca in a memo circulated earlier this week, according to a report from Reuters’ Ben Hirschler. Soriot followed up with a commitment to make an appearance at the European Society for Medical Oncology meeting in Madrid early September, if the global giant is ready to publish details of MYSTIC, the key combination study of durvalumab and tremelimumab that everyone is now waiting for.

Pascal Soriot

Soriot, though, clearly isn’t going to say publicly whether he was ever in advanced talks to run Teva, the troubled Israeli biopharma company that’s in bad need of some new credibility as it grapples with big issues on both its generics and branded side of the business. He maintained his silence as AstraZeneca’s market cap bled billions of dollars in value during a frenzy of speculation, then mostly quashed the story by telling people he was staying indefinitely, a report broken by Bloomberg. Staff followed up by confirming his plans for a July 27 presentation at AstraZeneca.

Soriot has staked his reputation on the claim that in the five years since taking over AstraZeneca, he’s laid the foundation for a long awaited turnaround. The MYSTIC study, with topline data due out any day now, has loomed as the single biggest catalyst of the year, almost a make or break moment — an extraordinary situation for a Big Pharma company.

While AstraZeneca’s pipeline has struggled to perform, there have been a string of major successes in oncology. If AstraZeneca’s combo strategy can be used to vault into a significant position in the fast-growing immuno-oncology world, Soriot would be well along the way to doing what “few thought possible.”


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