Oncology pipeline chief Alessandro Riva joins the exodus at Gilead, heading to helm a biotech spinoff 4 days after O’Day’s arrival as CEO

Alessandro Riva

Daniel O’Day’s third work day as the new CEO of Gilead was marked by the departure of one of the company’s top research scientists.

Alessandro Riva, who joined Gilead just a little more than 2 years ago, is leaving his post as executive vice president of oncology “to pursue another opportunity.”

Minutes later, we learned that Riva is shifting over to lead the new biotech spinoff from India’s Glenmark, which will be based in the US. Riva will be CEO of the subsidiary company, which will have its own board. Glenmark’s new biotech spinoff is heavily focused on oncology and T cells, with “five clinical and three preclinical assets in development, three clinical assets are currently in Phase 2b, and one asset is likely to enter Phase 2b in FY20.

Riva — a Novartis vet — was in charge of the oncology pipeline during a time that Gilead had been ramping up its R&D work on cancer in the wake of its $12 billion Kite buyout. The company has been beefing up its cell therapy tech, but has experienced plenty of challenges in getting one of the first customized CAR-Ts successfully established in the marketplace.

John McHutchison

CSO John McHutchison provided the shout out to Riva, saying he left the company in a good position to follow up in oncology.

Riva is the latest in a long line of departures for Gilead, with CEO John Milligan, Chairman John Martin out the exit, following the departure of R&D chief Norbert Bischofberger. Bischofberger’s replacement, Andrew Cheng, stepped up as chief medical officer at Gilead, then he left as well to run his own biotech.

Now the big question is what O’Day will do to restore confidence in Gilead, which relies on a stable set of HIV drug leaders as its hep C franchise dwindles and the future of CAR-T remains an open question mark. To his advantage, the company has rich resources to draw on, leaving the door open to a major M&A deal.

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Research Scientist - Immunology
Recursion Pharmaceuticals Salt Lake City, UT
Director of Operations
Atlas Venture Cambridge, MA

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