Merck’s Mammen joins Johnson & Johnson to head R&D, freeing Hait to take up new external innovation position

J&J logo on building
J&J has persuaded Mammen to leave Merck to lead its R&D unit

Mathai Mammen, M.D., Ph.D., is leaving Merck after a little more than a year at the company to take up a position at Johnson & Johnson. The Theravance Biopharma co-founder is set to take over from William Hait, M.D., Ph.D., as global head of R&D, freeing Hait to start a new role overseeing J&J’s prolific partnering operation.

Mammen will join J&J later this month and transition into his new post over the rest of the year. The formal handover is due to take place on January 1. After that, Mammen will serve as global head of R&D at J&J’s Janssen drug development arm. And Hait will start in a newly created post that gives him oversight of the biotech incubators and network of global partnerships built up by Johnson & Johnson Innovation.

The reshuffle tasks Mammen with continuing Hait’s work to turn J&J into one of the more effective Big Pharma R&D shops. Mammen and the pipeline he oversees will need to keep up this level of performance if J&J is to hit its recently set targets for new approvals and sales growth.

Hait is leaving Mammen with a pipeline he recently called “one of the most robust and sustainable ... in the industry.” And in his new position he will continue to play a role in ensuring the pipeline is stocked with promising prospects. Hait’s new title of global head, J&J external innovation gives him responsibility for the company’s JJDC VC wing, JLABS startup incubators and the innovation centers it has set up in Boston, MA, Menlo Park, CA, London, United Kingdom and Shanghai, China.

These initiatives have enabled J&J to establish relationships with—and keep tabs on the progress of—a large number of young companies.

Appointing Hait to oversee the growing operation reiterates the unit’s importance to J&J. It is now 10 years since Hait left academia to join J&J. When Hait arrived at J&J to head up hematology and oncology R&D, the company was in the middle of consolidating the disparate teams working across its many units in those therapeutic areas. Hait oversaw that work and a period in which J&J established itself as a company to watch in oncology through drugs such as Darzalex.

Mammen’s exit deprives Merck of a SVP it only recently lured away from Theravance. Mammen left Theravance in March 2016 to take up a position at Merck that gave him a leading role in its research in key therapeutic areas, including cardiovascular and metabolic disease, immunology, oncology and immuno-oncology.