'Retired' Former Novartis AG R&D Cancer Head Returns for a New Gig at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute

Published: Nov 28, 2016

'Retired' Former Novartis R&D Cancer Head Returns for a New Gig at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute November 23, 2016
By Alex Keown, BioSpace.com Breaking News Staff

BOSTON – William Sellers, the former head of global oncology at Novartis , is returning to the world of academia. Sellers will resume a faculty position at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard Medical School, the Broad Institute announced.

Sellers served 11 years at Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research before stepping down from the company earlier this year.

Sellers will resume his position as a core institute member at the Broad Institute and a senior advisor to the president for experimental therapeutics at DFCI beginning Jan. 1. Upon returning, the institute said he will lead a research lab to extend the institute’s expertise in cancer genomics and translation. At Dana-Farber, Sellers will “provide advice and expertise on DFCI’s growing experimental therapeutics program.”

Sellers joined Novartis in 2005 as global head of oncology. While at the company, he was known for using “cutting-edge genetic and functional genomic approaches to drug discovery.” Under his leadership, the company’s oncology program grew. Sellers said in a statement that he was excited to return to the Broad Institute where he can mentor young scientists “who are the key to building upon the immense progress that has been made in treating cancer.”

Eric Lander, founding director of the Broad Institute, called Sellers one of the early pioneers “in the application of systematic genome analysis to cancer.”

“As a faculty member, his research will continue to help advance our understanding of the mechanisms of cancer and how best to target them for better diagnostics and treatment. His leadership will enrich our shared academic community and contribute to new discoveries that will ultimately benefit human health,” Lander said in a statement.

Trade publication Endpoints noted that Sellers’ return to academia after stepping down from Novartis, highlights the problems the pharma giant has had in retaining executives over the past year. The first six months of 2016 saw several top managers leave the company, including David Epstein, its global head of pharmaceuticals.

Recently Denmark-based Novartis shook things up by shuttering its five-year-old Cell and Gene Therapy Unit. Novartis’ decision to eliminate the Cell and Gene Therapy division is in line with the company’s integrated development model, which includes three focused, customer-facing divisions. The divisions will be Innovative Medicines (formerly the Novartis Pharmaceuticals division), which will include the Novartis Pharmaceuticals and Novartis Oncology business units; Sandoz, the generics and biosimilar division, which includes the Retail Generics, Anti-Infectives and Biopharmaceuticals franchises; and Alcon , the eye care devices division, which includes the Surgical and Vision Care franchises. The divisions will be supported by Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research, Global Drug Development and Novartis Operations, which includes Technical Operations and Novartis Business Services.

Novartis is looking to shore up its finances as it faces diminishing revenues from its cancer drug, Gleevec, which is facing increased generic competition here in the United States.

Back to news