Novartis says bye to Tsai as restructuring triggers the return of a familiar face

Novartis is ringing the changes. With a restructuring prompting Chief Medical Officer John Tsai, M.D., to decide to leave, the Swiss Big Pharma has rehired Shreeram Aradhye, M.D., to lead the global drug development team.

Basel-based Novartis broke the news in a release describing a new organizational structure. While many of the changes relate to the commercial side of the business, Novartis also described the creation of a Strategy & Growth function that will combine corporate strategy, R&D portfolio strategy and business development.

“This function will help drive the company’s growth strategy end-to-end and will look across internal and external opportunities to strengthen Novartis’s pipeline with medicines that are both transformational and can make significant contributions to growth,” the company said in a statement.

Novartis plans to appoint a chief strategy and growth officer, reporting directly to the CEO, to lead the new function. Lutz Hegemann, president, global health at Novartis, will lead the function on an interim basis while the company searches for a permanent appointment.

The restructuring has triggered the end of Tsai’s time at Novartis. As Novartis put it, “with the changes in organizational structure and operating model, John Tsai, M.D., has decided to pursue opportunities outside Novartis effective May 15th, 2022.” The departure puts an executive with experience of holding senior R&D positions at Bristol Myers Squibb, Amgen and Novartis on the job market.  

Aradhye will take over as president, global drug development and CMO the day after Tsai leaves the company. Novartis’ appointment of Aradhye reunites it with a company veteran. Aradhye joined Novartis back in 1999 and rose to the title of global head, medical affairs, Novartis Pharmaceuticals. In 2019, Aradhye left Novartis to take up the position of chief development officer at Axcella. 

The following year, Aradhye moved again to become CMO at Dicerna Pharmaceuticals. With Novo Nordisk buying Dicerna for $3.3 billion late in 2021, Aradhye left his post last month, freeing him up to go back to Novartis when Tsai leaves in May.