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Novo hires AstraZeneca's Helfgott to lead hemophilia, growth hormone unit

Danish pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk A/S, which recently announced job cuts and a restructuring of its research operations, said Ludovic Helfgott will join the company from AstraZeneca PLC to take charge of its hemophilia and human growth hormone franchise.

Helfgott will take up the position April 3, 2019, as head of the Zurich-based company's Biopharm unit and a member of Novo Nordisk's executive management, which reports to CEO Lars Fruergaard Jørgensen.

A French national with an MBA from INSEAD, Helfgott joins Novo after a 13-year career at Cambridge, England-based AstraZeneca, where he was most recently global vice president of the Cardiovascular, Metabolism and Renal global franchise.

Novo's former CFO, Jesper Brandgaard, who is in charge of Biopharm and Legal Affairs, will retire after 20 years, Novo Nordisk said in a news release.

Novo, which has been making diabetes medicines for over 90 years, has been repositioning itself in the face of intensifying competition and pressure on pricing in the key U.S. diabetes market. With five potential new treatments for the disease in its pipeline, including a once-weekly insulin injection and a long-acting GLP-1 tablet, promising early stage data from rival Eli Lilly and Co.'s medicine knocked shares in the Danish group last week. They were further undermined by Roche Holding AG gaining full approval for its Hemlibra hemophilia medicine.

Still, Novo's recent R&D overhaul is expected to accelerate and diversify the diabetes specialists' pipeline, with four biotech-like business units focusing on new ways to treat disease and new technologies in areas like stem cell research and cardio-metabolic research. Novo also intends to open a new U.S.-based business development unit in order to identify and pursue external collaborations and find new therapeutic approaches.

"I am delighted to welcome Ludovic Helfgott to Novo Nordisk and my executive team. He brings with him extensive experience in the development and launch of treatments for people with chronic diseases. In his new role, he will be instrumental in driving the continued development of our Biopharm business," Jørgensen said in a statement. "I would also like to thank Jesper Brandgaard for his significant contributions to Novo Nordisk, both as our CFO for many years and most recently as head of Biopharm, where he has taken important steps towards bringing the business back on a growth track."