Novartis Steals New Oncology Head From Pfizer


Novartis has found its new chief of oncology. The company hired Elizabeth Barrett, Pfizer's head of oncology, to replace Bruno Strigini, the chief executive officer of Novartis Oncology, who retired at the end of 2017.

Barrett will assume her new role with Novartis on Feb. 1. In a statement, Barrett said she was honored to join Novartis, which she called a “recognized pioneer” in the field of oncology. Barrett said her role will be to contribute to transformative advancements in the company’s oncology pipeline and to “serve in a highly impactful leadership role to this end.” Barrett will be based in Switzerland.

Strigini, who joined Novartis in 2014, announced his intention to retire from the company and industry in December due to personal reasons. He left following the company’s significant September achievement of becoming the first company to gain U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval of gene therapy cancer treatment Kymriah. Novartis’ CAR-T treatment for certain pediatric and young adult patients with a form of acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) is a first-of-its-kind in the United States. It is the first therapy based on gene transfer approved by the FDA.

Novartis is confident that Barrett will be able to guide the company’s oncology future. At Pfizer, Barret has held several leadership roles on both the pharmaceutical side as well as in the company’s consumer sector. For the past three years, she led Pfizer’s oncology business. In addition to her roles at Pfizer, which included a stint as president of the company’s European division, Barrett held a C-suite role at Cephalon and helmed Johnson & Johnson's oncology franchise for 13 years.

Barrett assumes her role at Novartis the same day Vasant (Vas) Narasimhan takes over as chief executive officer.

“Liz is a highly accomplished and recognized oncology and people leader with an impressive record of building successful business organizations in the US, Europe and globally. She has been instrumental in creating new commercial models, driving innovation in close partnership with research and development and leveraging business development opportunities. Her long-time commercial pharma industry experience, marketing skills and perspectives make Liz a great fit to further develop our oncology business,” Narasimhan said in a statement.

In addition to Barrett, Novartis also announced that Robert Kowalski, head of global regulatory affairs, will become interim leader of the Drug Development Organization on Feb. 1. Novartis said a permanent head of global drug development will be named later.

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