AstraZeneca research chief Mackay ousted in executive shakeup

Martin Mackay--image courtesy of AstraZeneca

The new CEO at AstraZeneca ($AZN) has put together his top executive crew responsible for turning around the laggard pharma giant. And there was no room on board for R&D chief Martin Mackay. A little more than two years since Mackay was poached from Pfizer ($PFE), Pascal Soriot is eliminating the position of president of R&D while also bidding goodbye to Tony Zook and the now-extinct job of EVP, global commercial.

Mackay's departure comes after a year of turmoil at AstraZeneca, which has been hammered by investors and analysts who have been upset with the company's inability to piece together the kind of pipeline needed to position the company for the future. After CEO David Brennan was sacked last year, Mackay had vowed to pick up the deal pace. But his efforts clearly didn't win him much affection with the new boss.

Now the global R&D operation will be divvied among three key players: Mene Pangalos, MedImmune's Bahija Jallal and Briggs Morrison. They will each be given one of three tasks: Head of discovery and early development of small molecules, running early-stage work on biologics (MedImmune's role), and late-stage development.

Pangalos has been an outspoken proponent of finding a more flexible, lower cost approach to drug research, championing the virtual strategy adopted for neurosciences work and shunning big investments in bricks and mortar in favor of a more open R&D environment. Jallal, meanwhile, has been pioneering new deals as well, recently inking a pact with a Chinese CRO aimed at shaving four to 6 years off the development time for one of her biologic programs. Morrison, meanwhile, is another survivor of the storm. He was brought in a year ago to head late-stage work after stints at Merck ($MRK) and Pfizer.

"This new senior executive team structure, that draws heavily from the leadership talent within the company, enables us to bring an even sharper management focus to key pipeline assets, key brands and key markets, and helps us further accelerate decision-making," said Soriot in a statement.     

- here's the press release

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