Novartis loses top exec as oncology head Barrett departs
- Novartis' head of oncology Liz Barrett will step down from her role on Dec. 31 and take a job as CEO of an unidentified U.S.-based biotechnology company, Novartis announced in a Thursday statement.
- Barrett, who has held the post since February, said she decided "after much personal reflection" that she couldn't move her family to the Swiss drugmaker's Basel headquarters. Barrett had joined Novartis from Pfizer, where she led the U.S. pharma's cancer business.
- Susanne Schaffert, a Novartis veteran of more than 20 years, will take the top job in oncology and join the executive committee as of Jan. 1. She currently serves as president of the Novartis subsidiary Advanced Accelerator Applications (AAA).
Barrett's departure caps a year of change in Novartis' top ranks.
Vas Narasimhan took over from Joe Jimenez as CEO of the Swiss drugmaker the same day Barrett assumed her post as head of oncology. A month later, in March, the company announced it would split its operation group into two divisions — technical operations and business services — reshuffling the executive committee in the process.
Novartis also hired John Tsai from Amgen to lead global drug development.
On the other side of the ledger, top lawyer Felix Ehrat in May retired over questions about payments Novartis made to a company controlled by President Donald Trump's former personal lawyer Michael Cohen.
Barrett's hire from Pfizer, where she oversaw the success of drugs like Ibrance (palbociclib), was seen as a strong choice to lead Novartis' efforts in oncology — a key therapeutic area for the company.
Her replacement, Schaffert, previously led Novartis' cancer business in Europe and earlier this year was appointed president of AAA, which recently launched the radioligand therapy Lutathera (lutetium Lu 177 dotatate).
The Swiss drugmaker has focused its efforts on complex cancer therapies, including radiotherapeutics and CAR-T cell therapy.