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Pfizer oncology head Liz Barrett jumps ship to Novartis as Bruno Strigini steps aside

Liz Barrett

Novartis $NVS has found a successor to outgoing oncology chief Bruno Strigini — at Pfizer. Liz Barrett, current global president of oncology at Pfizer, has been tapped to run the show at Novartis.

Bruno Strigini

Barrett has big shoes to fill. The Swiss drugmaker has taken up a large presence in cancer since hiring Strigini — who’s says he’s retiring from the industry altogether — from a senior Merck position in the summer of 2014. Particularly memorable are its role in spearheading the first CAR-T to hit the market and the integration of GSK’s oncology portfolio.

But Barrett’s CV suggests she’s well equipped for the task. A J&J veteran, Barrett has been with Pfizer $PFE since 2009. During the last three years when she was global president of oncology, the pharma giant has managed to accomplish some breakthroughs in that field — first launching breast cancer therapy Ibrance into blockbuster territory, then making its way into the PD-1/L1 race with Merck KGaA-partnered Bavencio. A few months ago Pfizer won an accelerated OK for its CD22-targeted cancer drug Besponsa (inotuzumab), for which analysts are predicting peak sales of $2 billion.

Andy Schmeltz

According to a Pfizer spokesperson, Andy Schmeltz will succeed Barrett in running Pfizer’s global cancer drug unit. Schmeltz is currently SVP, patient & health impact, with previous experience leading the North America oncology business during his 15-year tenure at the company. In that post, he oversaw the launches of Xalkori, Inlyta and Bosulif.

“Oncology remains a priority growth area for Pfizer supported by robust product portfolio and development pipeline,” the spokesperson told Endpoints. “We thank Liz for her contributions during her tenure at Pfizer.”

The appointment will bring Barrett, who’s currently based in New York City, to Basel, Switzerland. She’s no stranger to Europe, as she had a short stint in the UK as Pfizer’s president in the continent.

Vasant Narasimhan

She will start on February 1, the same day Vas Narasimhan, Novartis’ global head of drug development, is officially elevated as CEO.

“[Liz] has been instrumental in creating new commercial models, driving innovation in close partnership with research and development and leveraging business development opportunities,” Narasimhan said. “Her long-time commercial pharma industry experience, marketing skills and perspectives make Liz a great fit to further develop our oncology business.”


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