AstraZeneca names Galbraith as Baselga successor in cancer R&D

AstraZeneca has appointed Susan Galbraith, Ph.D., as the successor to the late José Baselga. Galbraith is taking up the post of executive vice president, oncology research and development after spending 11 years working on cancer therapies at AstraZeneca.

The passing of Baselga in March forced AstraZeneca to search for a new person to head up its cancer R&D department. Rather than bring in an outsider, AstraZeneca has promoted from within and put a long-term employee in the position. The decision sets AstraZeneca up to change leader while sticking to the same strategy.

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“[Galbraith] is also an exceptional leader who, together with her high-performing team, will continue to rapidly advance our exciting oncology pipeline and execute the strategy that Susan helped to devise with José Baselga,” AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot said in a statement.

The appointment puts an oncologist who had a hand in some of AstraZeneca's recent successes in charge of cancer R&D. Galbraith, who was recognized as one of the Fiercest Women in Life Sciences in 2018, was involved in the development of PARP inhibitor Lynparza and tyrosine kinase inhibitor Tagrisso, blockbuster drugs that have established oncology as the standout unit at AstraZeneca. 

Galbraith joined AstraZeneca in 2010 after a nine-year spell at Bristol Myers Squibb, where she had a hand in the in-licensing of Yervoy and the early development of Opdivo. Before entering the industry, Galbraith trained as a clinical oncologist and completed a Ph.D. involving translational work on a vascular-targeting molecule, which led to her appointment by Bristol Myers.

The new role puts Galbraith in charge of an oncology pipeline stacked with multiple shots on goal. AstraZeneca is putting AKT inhibitor capivasertib through several phase 3 trials in breast and prostate cancers while running a pivotal study of antibody drug conjugate datopotamab deruxtecan. A clutch of combination trials involving Lynparza and checkpoint inhibitor Imfinzi are also on the go.