Sector News

GSK snares ex-Novartis, AstraZeneca CFO Symonds as chairman: reports

July 15, 2019
Life sciences

GlaxoSmithKline has found a navigator to help guide the expected split-up between its consumer health and pharma businesses—and he boasts a series of major deals on his résumé.

Jonathan Symonds, who once served as chief financial officer at fellow Big Pharma companies Novartis and AstraZeneca, is poised to lead GSK as chairman, the Financial Times reported. Symonds will replace Philip Hampton, who in January said he would step down.

Unlike his predecessor, Symonds is well familiar with the life sciences industry, and his background in hefty deals is the very kind of experience GSK needs right now: It’s in the middle of creating a consumer health joint venture with Pfizer to prepare for a final spinoff.

Currently deputy group chairman of HSBC, Symonds served as Novartis’ CFO from 2009 to 2013. During that stint, he oversaw the Swiss drugmaker’s Alcon acquisition. Even earlier, he helped ICI separate its chemicals and pharmaceuticals businesses—a deal that gave birth to Zeneca, which then merged with Swedish drugmaker Astra to form the AstraZeneca we know today.

During his 10-year tenure as AZ’s finance overseer, he was responsible for overall strategic planning and business development right to the point of the company $15 billion acquisition of MedImmune. After losing out to David Brennan in the CEO race, Symonds jumped ship to investment banking shop Goldman Sachs in 2007 before moving to Novartis two years later.

One person familiar with the matter reportedly told the FT it was that combination of experience in life sciences and capital markets that made Symonds a perfect fit for GSK.

In addition to those Big Pharma gigs, Symonds is also the chairman of Proteus Digital Health, known for digital medicine technology that yielded the first-ever FDA-approved digital pill, Abilify MyCite, a high-tech version of Otsuka Pharmaceutical’s schizophrenia drug.

He is also the chairman of U.K.’s public-private partnership Genomics England, which runs a huge human genome project. He is also nonexecutive director at Rubius Therapeutics, a 2017 Fierce 15 winner that’s developing red-cell therapeutics against a wide range of diseases.

Symonds’ new title could be announced this week, or later, pending approval from the U.K. banking regulator, the news service reported. In a statement sent to FiercePharma, GSK said the appointment of a new chairman will be announced “in due course.”

If Symonds finally takes up the GSK chairman role, he will also have a familiar face working on the executive team. Iain Mackay, who joined GSK this year and formally took over as CFO in April, was group finance director at HSBC. Symonds served as an independent nonexecutive director at the banking group since April 2014 until being appointed as deputy chairman in 2018.

Together, they will help Glaxo CEO Emma Walmsley integrate Pfizer’s consumer health business into a giant with 2017 sales of $12.7 billion—leaping ahead of rivals Johnson & Johnson, Sanofi and Bayer in the process—and then work out its separation from the core pharma and vaccines business within three years.

By Angus Liu

Source: Fierce Pharma

comments closed

Related News

April 20, 2024

CureVac and MD Anderson Cancer Center partner to develop new cancer vaccines

Life sciences

CureVac and the University of Texas’s MD Anderson Cancer Center have announced a co-development and licensing agreement to develop novel messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA)-based cancer vaccines. The strategic collaboration will focus on the development of differentiated cancer vaccine candidates in selected haematological and solid tumour indications with high unmet medical needs.

April 20, 2024

FUJIFILM plans $1.2 billion investment in major US manufacturing facility

Life sciences

FUJIFILM Corporation is planning to invest $1.2 billion to expand the planned FUJIFILM Diosynth Biotechnologies manufacturing facility in Holly Springs, North Carolina, US. This news follows the organisation’s announcement of a $2 billion investment in the facility in March 2021. This additional financial boost totals the investment to over $3.2 billion, FUJIFILM confirmed.

April 20, 2024

Sanofi cuts staff in Belgium as early-stage research dwindles

Life sciences

Sanofi’s global restructuring and downsizing is now fully underway, with layoffs stretching to the company’s Belgian offices. Belgian newspaper De Tijd reports that 67 employees have been laid off at a site in Ghent and 32 jobs are on the chopping block at Sanofi’s Belgium HQ in Diegem.

How can we help you?

We're easy to reach