Novartis entices UCSF director to senior position at NIBR

Shaun Coughlin will join NIBR's Cambridge campus in November.

The director of UCSF's Cardiovascular Research Institute (CRI)—Shaun Coughlin, M.D., Ph.D.—has joined the ranks of senior academics heading to drugmaker Novartis.

The MIT and Harvard-educated professor is joining Novartis, taking the role of global head of cardiovascular and metabolism at the Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research (NIBR), the network of R&D facilities in Europe, the U.S. and China that the company describes as its "innovation engine."

Coughlin will take up the position based at NIBR's Cambridge, Massachusetts, campus on Nov. 1. It's the latest in a series of appointments at Novartis that have put prominent academics in charge of R&D units at NIBR.

Former NIBR director Mark Fishman, M.D., who himself left the role of head of cardiology at Massachusetts General to head the organization for 13 years before stepping down in 2015, made hiring academic starts a feature of his tenure.

He recruited Stanford's Ricardo Dolmetsch, Ph.D., to lead NIBR's neuroscience activities in 2013, and two years later he brought in Dana-Farber Cancer Institute immunologist Glenn Dranoff, M.D., Ph.D., to head up its immuno-oncology efforts. That year he also recruited prominent Dana-Farber and Harvard scientist Jay Bradner, M.D., as his successor.

And the policy has continued since Bradner replaced Fishman. Last year, Novartis named Peter Hammerman, M.D., Ph.D., global head of oncology translational research and Jeff Engelman, M.D., Ph.D., as global head of oncology research, both of whom moved to the NIBR from Harvard.

Coughlin joins NIBR after more than 30 years at UCSF, serving as head of the CRI since 1997 and specializing in signaling mechanisms in cardiovascular biology and disease. He's no stranger to the pharma industry either, having held director-level positions at Gorilla Genomics, Millennium Pharmaceuticals and COR Therapeutics.

According to an Endpoints report, the dean of UCSF Medical School, Talmadge King, M.D., said Coughlin's research at UCSF "revealed a mechanism by which proteases regulate cellular behaviors including a key mechanism that controls blood platelet activation and clot formation. This work led to a new medical therapy for preventing heart attacks and strokes and has been honored by the American Heart Association's Basic Science Award in 2003 and its Research Achievement Award in 2014."