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Bristol-Myers Squibb Names New R&D Head

Pharmaceuticals: Firm is third to change R&D directors in recent months

by Michael McCoy
April 10, 2013 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 91, ISSUE 15

Bristol-Myers Squibb has named a new chief scientific officer. The appointment is the third replacement of a big pharma company research head since the beginning of the year—and probably the most amicable one.

Francis Cuss will become BMS’s chief scientific officer on July 1, after the departure of Elliott Sigal, 61, who has been with the firm since 1997. Cuss, 58, joined the company in 2003 and has served in several scientific leadership roles.

The change of guard at BMS follows the departure of R&D heads at AstraZeneca and Merck & Co. in January and April, respectively. Although CEOs rarely speak ill in public about departing executives, it was clear that AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot was dissatisfied with Martin Mackay, his R&D chief. Mackay left the job immediately and was not replaced.

Merck CEO Kenneth C. Frazier was also reportedly not happy with his R&D head, Peter S. Kim. Still, when the firm announced Kim’s departure in early March, it said he would stay on for another month to work with his replacement, former Merck and Amgen executive Roger M. Perlmutter, to ensure a smooth transition.

Sigal will remain in his post for a respectable three months. And in a conference call with stock analysts to discuss the change, BMS executives, including Sigal, took pains to portray the succession as a planned management shift. CEO Lamberto Andreotti said Sigal approached him several months earlier about retiring. According to Andreotti, the two agreed that the December 2012 approval of the blood thinner Eliquis was a good transition point. “We’re capping a very strong run,” Sigal said.

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