Genentech (RHHBY)'s R&D Chief To Retire; Small Molecule Head Takes Over Top Spot

December 12, 2014

By Mark Terry, BioSpace.com Breaking News Staff

Swiss-based Roche announced today that the head of its research operations at Genentech, Richard Schellar, will retire on Dec. 31. Schellar will be replaced by Michael Varney, who currently runs Genentech's small molecule drug discovery unit.

In the same announcement, Roche nominated two new members to its Board of Directors. They are former Wyeth CEO Bernard Poussot, who was previously rumored to be up for the top spot at Paris-based Sanofi and Richard Lifton, a professor of genetics and medicine at Yale University.

"I am delighted that we are able to propose two outstanding individuals to be elected as new members of the board," said Roche chair Christoph Franz in a statement, "who will bring significant experience from their careers in the pharmaceutical industry and in biomedical research, respectively."

In addition to stepping up to fill Schellar's spot, Varney will become a member of Roche's Enlarged Corporate Executive Committee.

"I thank Richard Schellar for his outstanding contributions to the Roche Group," said Roche chief executive Severin Schwin in a statement. "Genentech developed a number of important medicines under his leadership. Richard also contributed significantly to the successful integration of Genentech into the Roche Group. It is my pleasure that with Mike Varney we could name a successor from within the gRED organization. Mike brings a proven track record in the discovery and development of new medicines as well as considerable experience in leading research organizations."
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Schellar joined Genentech in 2001 as senior vice president, Research and was named executive VP of Research in September 2003. Five years later, in 2008, he was appointed chief scientific officer.

After Roche acquired Genentech in 2009, Schellar became executive vice president of research and early development. He was a member of Genentech's Executive Committee and a member of the Enlarged Executive Committee of Roche.

Michael Varney started at Genentech in June of 2005 as vice president, Small Molecule Drug Discovery. He also managed the Research budget and was Cc-chair of the Early Stage Portfolio Committee that manages the gRED Development portfolio.

There have been a number of recent high-profile departures from Genentech. In September, Art Levinson, formerly a Genentech chief executive resigned from Roche's board to avoid any conflict as he took on the role as chief executive of Google's Calico. Roche's former CMO Hal Barron also joined Calico.

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