Roche picks Sanford-Burnham chief to revive lagging research group

John C. Reed--image courtesy of Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute

In yet another top-level R&D reorganization in Big Pharma, Roche's executive team at Basel has once again turned to California for the talent it needs to reshape the pharma giant's multibillion-dollar drug research effort. Academic investigator John C. Reed, the top executive at the prestigious Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute in La Jolla, has been named as the new chief at Roche's Pharma Research & Early Development, better known as pRED.

Last year Roche ($RHHBY) decided to shutter its sprawling research facilities in Nutley, NJ, while leaving its U.S. drug development effort largely in the hands of Genentech (gRED), which has delivered a string of important new medicines for the pharma giant. This year, for example, Genentech is widely expected to gain an approval for the breakthrough cancer drug T-DM1. Now Reed will journey to Basel, where the separate research division's latest headline effort was the spectacular failure of the heart drug dalcetrapib. The outsider will be given the mandate to make the Swiss side of R&D look as productive as the crew at Genentech--no easy task.

The early reviews of the change-up were largely favorable for Roche.

"Appointing a new head of pRED from the outside is viewed as an excellent move in order to reposition this organizational unit within Roche," said Kepler Capital Markets analyst Martin Voegtli, according to a Reuters story. "Historical R&D productivity of pRED has been poor and we expect dynamics to pick up."

The latest round of musical chairs at Roche leaves interim R&D chief Mike Burgess out of the company. He took over after Jean-Jacques Garaud was shown the door. Dr. Kristiina Vuori, meanwhile, takes over as interim head of Sanford-Burnham.

- here's the press release
- read the Reuters story
- get the New York Times article

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