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AstraZeneca restructures R&D, appoints Baselga head of oncology as execs depart

AstraZeneca PLC is restructuring its research and development and commercial operations into two distinct units for oncology and biopharmaceuticals and has appointed new executives for those departments amid a broader leadership shuffle.

Jose Baselga — formerly of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York — has been appointed to head up the fast-growing oncology business, while Mene Pangalos will run the biopharmaceuticals side.

Pangalos has been in charge of Cambridge, U.K.-based AstraZeneca's early-stage research, known as the Innovative Medicines and Early Development Biotech Unit, for the past nine years.

Baselga resigned from Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in September 2018 after an investigation by The New York Times found that he had failed to disclose income from pharmaceutical companies when publishing major research journals. Joining AstraZeneca marks Baselga's first venture outside academia; he was previously professor of medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College, associate director of the Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center and professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.

AstraZeneca has experienced a shakeup in its senior management in the first week of 2019 after Bahija Jallal, who ran the Medimmune division in Gaithersburg, Md., left the company Jan. 4 to head up U.K. biotech Immunocore Ltd. Executive Mark Mallon will also leave AstraZeneca to take over as CEO of Ironwood Pharmaceuticals Inc., according to The Wall Street Journal.

The next couple of years are crucial for the U.K.'s second-largest drug company, as increasing demand for its cancer treatments form the cornerstone of its pledge to attain $45 billion in sales by 2023, driven by the growing importance of the Chinese market and a raft of new medicines including Fasenra, Imfinzi, Lynparza and Tagrisso.

"We are entering what we expect will be a period of sustained growth for years to come, which is why we have decided to more closely align our R&D and commercial operations," said CEO Pascal Soriot. "This new structure will support growth and sharpen the focus on our main therapy areas, speeding up decisions and making us more productive in our mission to bring innovative medicines to patients."

Dave Fredrickson will remain the commercial head of oncology and Ruud Dobber, formerly commercial lead for the U.S., will become commercial head for biopharmaceuticals, comprising therapeutic areas including cardiovascular, renal and metabolism, and respiratory.