Second top AstraZeneca exec heads for the exits
- Effective October 1, AstraZeneca's James Ward-Lilley will replace Chris Blackwell as CEO of Vectura.
- Currently, Ward-Lilley is head of respiratory and inflammatory medicines.
- Vectura specializes in pulmonary drugs.
Although an AstraZeneca (AZ) spokesperson has chalked up the second departure in a month of a top exec as coincidence, it is a blow to the company nonetheless. AZ has identified respiratory medicine as one of its key growth areas, in addition to oncology, diabetes, emerging markets, the Japanese Market and its heart drug Brilinta.
Ward-Lilley's announced departure comes less than a month after news broke that Briggs Morrison, former Chief Medical Officer of AZ was slated to leave to become CEO of a privately owned oncology speciality drug company. All of this is occuring in the context of AZ's CEO's goal of achieving target revenues of $45 billion in sales by 2023, after aggressively fighting off a $118 billion takeover effort by Pfizer last year.
As for its respiratory franchise, AZ has an established blockbuster in Symbicort for asthma and chronic lung disease, as well as assets acquired when it bought Pearl Therapeutics in 2013 and Almirall's lung drug business in 2014.