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Updated: May 27, 2021

In every issue, we look back over the previous 3 months and highlight the top M&As and appointments in the pharmaceutical industry. The happenings of the last 3 months will be sure to set the bar high for the rest of 2019.

The $74 billion deal

The largest biopharma acquisition in history was announced at the beginning of 2019, when Bristol-Myers Squibb said it would buy Celgene for $74 billion, a deal that will combine two of the world’s largest cancer drug businesses. The combined company has the potential to become the fourth largest pharma company in the US, with a portfolio of nine drugs that each have a global market value of >$1 billion. “We are impressed by what Celgene has accomplished for patients, and we look forward to welcoming Celgene employees to Bristol-Myers Squibb”, says Giovanni Caforio, Chairman and CEO, BMS.

GSK boosts oncology pipeline

Towards the end of 2018, GSK announced that it would be buying TESARO for $5.1 billion, an acquisition that is set to strengthen the company’s position in the oncology market. The acquisition came on the same day that GSK sold its Horlicks nutrition business to Unilever, exemplifying CEO Emma Walmsley’s ambition to restructure major GSK business units. The acquisition of TESARO gives GSK control over Zejula, a marketed product for ovarian cancer. “This is an example of us executing on what we said we were going to do… to bring growth, pipeline, commercial capability, and near-term catalysts”, Walmsley states.

Eli Lilly buys Loxo Oncology

The $8 billion takeover of Loxo Oncology by Eli Lilly is the company’s biggest deal to date and represents the second major healthcare deal of 2019. The acquisition signals Eli Lilly’s move into genetics-based treatment, with Loxo’s medicines targeting gene mutations within the cancer tumours. “Using tailored medicines to target key tumour dependencies offers an increasingly robust approach to cancer treatment”, comments Daniel Skovronsky, SVP and Chief Scientific Officer, Eli Lilly.

A new head of Novartis Oncology

Susanne Schaffert was appointed to CEO of Novartis Oncology at the start of the new year from her former position as president of Novartis’ nuclear medicine company, Advanced Accelerator Applications. Novartis CEO, Vas Narasimhan, describes Schaffert as someone who has an unwavering commitment to her patients and a deep expertise in the field of oncology. Schaffert voices how she is humbled to have been given this opportunity: “There is still much work to be done to help people with cancer live longer and better lives, and I am excited to reimagine medicine together with my colleagues at Novartis.”

Ironwood names Mark Mallon as future CEO

Mark Mallon is joining the great migration of pharma executives into biotech fields, set to become CEO and a director of Ironwood, a gastrointestinal healthcare company. Mallon, the current EVP of AstraZeneca’s global product and portfolio strategy will be brought in to boost the sales of the company’s already approved drugs, bringing with him 24 years of industry experience and expertise, including the time he spent building up AstraZeneca’s GI franchise. Mallon’s success at AstraZeneca is one Ironwood will be looking to replicate.

Immunocore appoints Bahija Jallal

Bahija Jallal recently announced her move to join one of Britain’s largest biotech companies to serve as CEO. Jallal moves from AstraZeneca’s global biologics R&D arm, MedImmune, where she worked for over 10 years, including 6 years as president. In her time at MedImmune, Jallal advanced the company’s pipeline, expanding from 40 to >130 molecules in R&D targeting various diseases, and in 2017 she was appointed HBA Woman of the Year for her visionary leadership, sharp intellect, and empowering presence. “I am looking forward to helping the company and its talented employees bring innovative T cell receptor-based medicines to patients”, comments Jallal.

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