Amid C-suite shake-up, Gilead nabs Genentech exec as new CMO

After a series of major exits from its C-suite last year and this year including the exit of Chief Medical Officer Andrew Cheng last fall, Gilead now has a new CMO as it also rejigs its R&D reporting line.

After snapping up Kite Pharma and moving more deeply into oncology, it’s little surprise that it has once again raided cancer specialist Roche/Genentech for its new CMO: Merdad Parsey, M.D., Ph.D., assumes the role at the start of next month, coming from his stint as senior vice president of early clinical development in the Genentech Research and Early Development (aka gRED) group.

While cancer was a focus for Parsey, other areas included inflammation and Gilead's original focus, infectious diseases.

As part of the move, he will join the company’s senior leadership team and will report directly to Daniel O’Day, Gilead’s chairman and CEO and also a former Roche alum, having been its pharma chief.

But under a new structure, Gilead said William Lee, Ph.D., Gilead’s EVP of research, “will separately report to O’Day.”

Parsey also held the CEO role at 3-V Biosciences with previous stints at Sepracor, Regeneron and Merck, as well as at academic centers.

Just over a year ago, Andrew Cheng, M.D., Ph.D., left Gilead just six months after being appointed CMO. Cheng’s swift exit kept the revolving door spinning at the top of Gilead, which lost its CEO, CMO, CSO and executive chairman over a nine-month window.

John Martin, Ph.D., began the period of change by stepping down as executive chairman last March. The following month, Norbert Bischofberger, Ph.D., vacated the CSO chair. Then in July, John Milligan, Ph.D., furthered the turnover by revealing he will step down as CEO of Gilead at the end of the year after 28 years at the company.

In July of this year, and after nine years at Gilead and just over one year as CSO and R&D chief, John McHutchison, M.D., also said he was leaving the company. Robin Washington, the company’s longtime CFO, is also planning to retire next year.

“I am delighted to welcome Merdad, a seasoned and highly respected scientist, clinician and leader, to Gilead,” said O’Day. “Throughout his career, he has built a reputation as an outstanding leader among academic, industry and medical communities alike. I know Merdad’s exceptional skills and expertise will be of great benefit to Gilead as we focus on rapidly expanding our pipeline and clinical development portfolio through internal efforts and external partnerships.”

“I have had many opportunities over the course of my career to help shape clinical development strategies and programs, and I am profoundly excited to bring those experiences to Gilead, an organization I have long admired,” added Parsey.

“I am looking forward to working with the company’s talented teams to advance clinical development programs and build a robust pipeline that has the opportunity to change the trajectory of disease and transform the care of many more people in need around the world.”

Analysts at RBC Capital said in a note to clients: “This morning GILD announced the hiring of new CMO Dr. Merdad Parsey. We believe this is a logical fit, given his time spent at Roche/Genentech – where, recall, CEO Dan O’Day is from – and his experience in areas overlapping with GILD’s core and emerging areas of expertise (inflammation, oncology, infectious disease).

“Some of our recent feedback has been that the recent mgmt transitions have partially contributed to keeping investors on the sidelines, and we believe the solidification of leadership in this key management position should help further refine GILD's go-forward strategy and enable subsequent share appreciation.

“New CMO brings overlapping expertise and experience to GILD: The timing of the announcement is in line with our recent feedback from mgmt suggesting that this position was going to be announced imminently. Dr. Parsey was previously SVP of Early Clinical Development at Roche, overseeing programs across multiple therapeutic areas (inflammation, oncology, infectious disease) with high overlap with GILD's therapeutic focuses, further supporting his selection, in our view.

“Before his second stint at Genentech (first there from 2006-2010, focusing on pulmonology programs), Dr. Parsey served as CEO of 3-V Biosciences from 2010-2015, at which time the company was primarily focused on developing fatty acid synthase (FASN) inhibitors for the treatment of infectious disease (HCV) and cancer (now focused on cancer & NASH therapeutic development). Dr. Parsey has an MD and trained in pulmonology, as well as a PhD in immunology, highlighting his multi-faceted therapeutic focus. We continue to expect that stabilization of the mgmt team should serve as a positive for the company going forward.”