AstraZeneca’s senior managers are abandoning ship

25/06/2015 - 2 minutes

In just a couple of weeks, AstraZeneca has seen two of its chiefs leave their position to run two smaller biotechs. James Ward-Lilley made his exist from Astra to become CEO of Vectura, just a few days after Briggs Morrison abruptly left to also become CEO of Syndax.

The rich also cry, said the telenovela and this is how the UK-based giant must feel right now. The company, which disposes of one of the largest R&D budgets on the industry, had to say goodbye to a few of its most appreciated employees. Ironically, both managers have signed each contract with much smaller biotechs.

Briggs Morrison, AstraZeneca‘s former Chief Medical Officer, left the British firm earlier this month to join Syndax. Morrison will become CEO of this cancer drug developer headquartered in Massachusetts. James Ward-Lilley is also moving to his new job as CEO of Vectura, a lung drug specialist. The newly acknowledged CEO was Head of the Respiratory and Inflammatory medicines department, which makes him a great singing up for the respiratory company.

It might be “pure coincidence”, as a spokesperson from the company stated, but timing is not playing in Astra’s favor. The company has suffered quite a few setbacks lately despite the brave face it showed when admitting them. In April, Astra successfully avoided a public crisis after the FDA expressed its concerns about its treatment for type 2 diabetes. In May, Amgen dumped their collaborative project on psoriasis due to suicidal-related suspicions, although both companies stated that there was no evidence that suggested any association between their drug candidate and suicidal ideation.

This month, Astra faces the departure of its two senior executives, both to vital importance for the company. The UK-based giant has been betting on respiratory diseases, one of its six growth businesses with oncology, diabetes, heart attack, emergent markets and Japan. AstraZeneca will have to manage now without its key managers, but I’m guessing, the firm will cope with any disaster, as always.

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