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AstraZeneca picks Baselga to lead oncology R&D in growth plan

AstraZeneca picks Baselga to lead oncology R&D in growth plan
FILE PHOTO: The logo of the British pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca is seen at the company's China Commercial Innovation Centre (CCIC) in Wuxi, Jiangsu province, China, September 15, 2018. REUTERS/Adam Jourdan   -   Copyright  Adam Jourdan(Reuters)
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(Reuters) – AstraZeneca <AZN.L> said on Monday it had hired José Baselga to head research and development in oncology, an area where the British drugs firm is seeking to grow its business.

Baselga resigned as the chief medical officer of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in September 2018 after the New York Times and Pro Publica revealed that he had not disclosed millions of dollars in payments from healthcare firms.

A spokesman for AstraZeneca said that the validity of Baselga’s research was not under question.

Baselga, 59, who acknowledged a failure to disclose his links to companies in his medical journal articles and at professional meetings, also resigned from the board of Bristol-Myers Squibb <BMY.N> at the time.

“Those papers have been updated with the correct disclosure and he subsequently resigned from memorial Sloan Kettering. We think that has been dealt with. He corrected the papers and … this is the next phase in his career,” the spokesman said.

Baselga, who has helped develop cancer therapies for more than 30 years, also worked as the chief of the division of hematology/oncology at the Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center and has been a professor at Harvard Medical School.

AstraZeneca also said it would create therapy area-focused research and development units, responsible for discovery through to late-stage development, for biopharmaceuticals and oncology and create commercial units for the two areas.

“We are entering what we expect will be a period of sustained growth for years to come, which is why we have decided to more closely align our R&D and commercial operations,” AstraZeneca’s Chief Executive Pascal Soriot, said.

Demand for AstraZeneca’s new drugs — especially those for cancer — drove a return to sales growth in the third quarter and the drugmaker said in November it expects years of sustained improvement and rising profit margins.

Baselga was not immediately available for comment.

AstraZeneca shares were down 1.1 percent at 6,021 pence at 1344 GMT.

(Reporting by Noor Zainab Hussain in Bengaluru and additional reporting by Arathy S Nair; editing by Jason Neely and Alexander Smith)

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