Novartis names drugs chief as CEO to deliver return to growth

Joe Jimenez to retire in February after eight years at the helm

Vas Narasimhan:  he will take over as Novartis CEO  in 2018

Vas Narasimhan: he will take over as Novartis CEO in 2018


Novartis chief executive Joe Jimenez will step down on February 1st and hand over to drug development chief Vas Narasimhan to decide the fate of $50 billion (€41.9bn) in assets and make good on a pledge to return the Swiss company to sales growth.

Mr Jimenez, who will have been at the helm for eight years when he retires, has hived off animal health, vaccines and over-the-counter drugs businesses at Novartis to focus on generally more profitable prescription medicines, particularly in cancer.

However, sales have been hit as top-selling drugs such as blood cancer treatment Gleevec have lost patent protection, while eye business Alcon has lagged expectations and generics arm Sandoz has faced intense pressure on prices in the US.

Novartis got a boost last week when the US approved its $475,000-per-patient Kymriah treatment for young people with B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, one of a series of new drugs it expects to revive sales growth starting next year.

Mr Narasimhan (41) is among a new generation of youthful leaders at Novartis, including head researcher Jay Bradner at the Novartis Institutes For Biomedical Research.

Together they have sought to improve the company’s way of moving drugs from the laboratory into commercial products, something they acknowledge has not always worked efficiently.

Analysts said Mr Narasimhan’s skills as a Harvard-trained medical doctor and former McKinsey consultant may be the blend Novartis needs to balance research and business. – Reuters