Here's a hit list for AstraZeneca's CEO search committee

Who's on AstraZeneca's ($AZN) list of replacements for CEO David Brennan? No one knows at this point, except a select few at the very top of the company. And it can't be much more than a wish list, given the fact that Brennan just announced his early retirement last week.

After all, some candidates won't want a place on that list. Even the world's best pharma leaders might quail at the prospect of taking on AstraZeneca right now. Too many fires, not enough fire extinguishers. Major shareholders are restive: They want a strategy change, but they're also worried that recent share buybacks and dividends might retire along with Brennan.

Meanwhile, the company's sales of existing drugs are expected to tank between now and 2020, at a rate surpassed only by Eli Lilly ($LLY). Already blockbuster drugs are losing exclusivity, including the atypical antipsychotic Seroquel, which dropped off patent last month. And AstraZeneca's pipeline of new products isn't exactly stuffed to bursting.

Helpfully, Matthew Herper at Forbes has rounded up a slate of potential candidates, from companies large and not so large, who might be able to manage the huge task of remaking AstraZeneca. Ideally, the new leader should be an outsider and a biotech veteran, Herper figures. Among his picks are former Genentech chief Art Levinson, who's now chairman at Apple ($APPL); Fred Hassan, the ex-Schering-Plough chief who's serving as chairman at Bausch & Lomb; and Jörg Reinhardt, ex of Novartis ($NVS) and now CEO at Bayer HealthCare.

That's on the big-company side. We'll let you check out the others who, as Herper points out, have succeeded at running small, innovative companies--and might be able to bring that habit of thought to a Big Pharma whose recent record on innovation is lacking.

- see the post at In the Pipeline
- get more from Forbes