Cepheid taps former Philips North America head Vitor Rocha as president

As it transitions away from COVID-19 tests, shifting its focus back toward a range of other molecular diagnostics, Cepheid is also making some changes to its corporate makeup.

For one, the Danaher-owned testmaker announced Tuesday that it has found a new president in Vitor Rocha, a longtime alum of medtech giants Philips and GE HealthCare. Though the company announced Rocha’s appointment just this week, he actually stepped into the role in February, according to his LinkedIn page.

Rocha is filling a gap left by Melissa Aquino, who left the president post last year. In taking over the role, Rocha will be tasked with overseeing the entire Cepheid business and will report to Joakim Weidemanis, executive VP of Danaher's diagnostics platform.

“I am honored to have the opportunity to lead a team with a legacy of innovating accurate and timely PCR testing to advance global public health,” he said in this week’s announcement. “Cepheid shares my passion for improving the overall experience for healthcare professionals and patients globally.”

Rocha’s medtech career dates back more than two decades. Beginning in 1999, he spent more than 11 years at GE HealthCare—well before its spinout into a standalone company this year—in a variety of roles that included managing operations across 32 countries.

From there, in 2010, he moved on to Philips. He served first as the senior vice president of the Dutch devicemaker’s Latin America business before spending almost four years as CEO of its global ultrasound division. His tenure at Philips culminated in a half-decade stint as CEO of Philips North America, leading the business in its largest market.

Along the way, Rocha also tacked on a side gig as a member of the board of medtech trade association AdvaMed, a role he held for five years between early 2018 and February of this year.

In a February LinkedIn post commemorating the end of his time at Philips, Rocha wrote, “It has been both an honor and a privilege to be part of the Philips transformation. Leading the particularly large Philips North American organization as CEO, accountable for almost 40% of the global results, into a health technology leader focused on the quadruple aim—it has been the challenge of my life to date.

“We had record years in orders, grew sales, built a strong bench through consistent leadership development … and made tangible progress in diversity, among other great achievements,” he continued, adding, “I truly believe in the Philips team and in the future of the business—I believe they will sail through the challenges and prevail, as they did for the past 130 years.”

Rocha’s appointment comes as Cepheid is undergoing a transformation of its own, thanks to the drop-off in demand for COVID testing. According to a series of notices filed in California within the last year—as required by the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act—the company is in the process of laying off more than 1,600 employees.

The first round of WARN notices was filed last August, with nearly 950 job cuts expected to take place in the California cities of Sunnyvale, Lodi and Newark by the end of October. Another round of layoffs is now set to occur through mid-June: That set of WARN notices was filed in April and affects 686 workers in Sunnyvale, Lodi, Newark, Fremont and Santa Clara.

In a first-quarter earnings call with investors at the end of April, Danaher Chief Financial Officer Matt McGrew discussed the capacity reductions currently underway at Cepheid.

“Once we moved into an endemic phase, we were going to need to bring some of the capacity that we have been running at Cepheid down,” he said. “What does that look like? It’s talking about closing and consolidating some of the plants that we have got. Some of those were, frankly, put up quickly in locations that were not ideal for the longer term because we were trying to meet the needs of a pandemic, so we are going to get after a couple of those sites. We are going to reduce some of the head count and then we are going to go after indirect and fixed overhead costs as well, reducing shifts, etc.”