- Eli Lilly on Wednesday announced several shifts in its executive ranks, including naming Josh Bilenker, head of Loxo Oncology when it was acquired by Lilly for $8 billion earlier this year, its interim head of cancer research and early stage drug development.
- At the same time, an architect of that deal will be stepping down: Darren Carroll, head of business development, will retire at the end of August after 22 years at the pharma company, Lilly said.
- In Carroll's place, the Indianapolis-based drugmaker will hand his responsibilities to treasurer Phil Johnson and Heather Wasserman, senior director for external innovation.
As with other drugmakers, oncology has been newly in focus for Lilly, which sells Cyramza (ramucirumab) and Verzenio (abemaciclib).
Buying Loxo was the biggest investment in support of that, but the pharma also spent $1.6 billion to acquire Armo BioSciences last year.
Bilenker's interim elevation to head up oncology research and early phase development was prompted by Levi Garrway, currently in the role, leaving his job to pursue other opportunities. Bilenker's duties will come in addition to his job as CEO of Loxo, now a wholly owned subsidiary.
Garraway took the role two and a half years ago after work at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard Medical School. His appointment in 2017 was followed by several other high-profile hires by Lilly in oncology, including Kimberly Blackwell, Maura Dickler and Leena Gandhi.
Carroll, the veteran business development head, will leave after overseeing the Loxo acquisition, Lilly's largest ever, which brought with it three experimental cancer drugs.
Johnson will assume additional duties in M&A, while Wasserman is being promoted to vice president of corporate business development, overseeing transactions, technology and venture capital investments.
Lilly has eschewed large takeovers, favoring "bolt-on" deals like Loxo instead. "We don't believe large scale merger activity generates value for shareholders," company CEO Dave Ricks said on a second quarter earnings call.
Finally, Lilly also promoted Frank Cunningham, vice president of managed healthcare services, to senior vice president "in recognition of the critical role his organization plays in leading the company's interactions and negotiations with payer customers," according to a company statement.
Lilly's products are in some highly competitive spaces with fierce payer negotiations, including insulin and other diabetes medicines, immunology and migraine.