Buyout deal looming, Novo Nordisk raids AstraZeneca for a new chief to run its struggling biopharma business

Ludovic Helfgott

Fresh off the heels of an R&D reorganization announced last month, Danish drugmaker Novo Nordisk has appointed AstraZeneca’s Ludovic Helfgott as executive vice president of its fledgling biopharma business.

Jesper Brandgaard

Helfgott is set to replace company veteran and former Novo CFO Jesper Brandgaard in April next year, who is retiring following a twenty-year stint with the Danish company best known for its raft of diabetes treatments.

The French national Helfgott, who served most recently as global VP of AstraZeneca’s cardiovascular, metabolism and renal business and has worked for the UK-based drugmaker since 2005, will report to Novo CEO Lars Fruergaard Jørgensen.

Lars Fruergaard Jørgensen

He will likely be tasked with reinvigorating Novo’s struggling biopharmaceutical business, targeting haemophilia, human growth and serious chronic disorders, after the company was outbid by French drug giant Sanofi in January to buy Belgian biotech Ablynx that is developing a keenly watched rare blood disorder drug. Novo has since said it is on the prowl for assets to stimulate its smaller blood products franchise.

In an interview with Reuters on Monday, Jørgensen predicted the company could consummate an acquisition within its biopharma unit this year.

In recent months, Novo has slashed hundreds of jobs globally and set up 4 new research units in Indianapolis, the UK and its home base in Copenhagen, Denmark, as part of a global R&D restructure. In addition, the company is also ramping up its investment in artificial intelligence and machine learning, an exciting new space for biopharmaceutical companies on the hunt to harness the power of emerging technologies.

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