Amgen R&D head Harper to leave for new pastures

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Amgen’s senior VP of translational sciences and oncology, David Reese, will take over as R&D head, effectively immediately. (Amgen)

Amgen’s head of R&D, Sean Harper, announced he is stepping down from the big biotech to pursue new opportunities in startups and early-stage companies.

Harper has led Amgen’s research work since taking over for Roger Perlmutter in 2012, inheriting a $3-billion-plus research budget, and helped guide the company to new product approvals in oncology, neuroscience, cardiovascular and kidney disease. He has spent the past 16 years at the company, joining as VP of development in 2002 from Merck Research Laboratories.

Amgen’s senior vice president of translational sciences and oncology, David Reese, will take over as executive VP of R&D, effective immediately, the company said in a statement. After joining Amgen in 2005, Reese has held roles in its development and medical sciences departments, and served as head of discovery research. Harper will stay on for a time to help with the transition.

In addition, the company’s executive VP of global commercial operations, Anthony Hooper, announced his retirement. Murdo Gordon, who recently left Bristol-Myers Squibb as commercial head, will take over in September.

“I would like to thank both Sean and Tony for the important contributions they have made to Amgen, each bringing their own vital experiences and skills,” said Amgen Chairman and CEO Robert Bradway. “They leave the company having established strong foundations within Research and Development and Global Commercial Operations for the future.”

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Analysts at Jefferies said in a note to clients: “More exec changes in the industry. Neutral impact to Amgen for Street perspective.” The firm says that Harper “was fairly well-regarded in the biotech community given advancement of numerous drugs (PCSK9, CGRP, Bone health) and recently well known for his bullishness on bi-specifics instead of CAR-T.”

In May, Amgen and Novartis ushered in a new class of migraine drugs with the FDA’s approval of Aimovig, a calcitonin gene-related peptide receptor with blockbuster hopes. That landmark could prove important as the company begins to see new biosimilar competition for its tentpole products, such as Neulasta.

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