Novartis Oncology chief Hoppenot leaps to the CEO job at partner Incyte

Novartis ($NVS) is saying goodbye to the man who steered its cancer business. Hervé Hoppenot, president of Novartis Oncology, has jumped ship for the CEO job at Incyte ($INCY), one of the Swiss drugmaker's longtime development partners.

Since Hoppenot took the helm at Novartis Oncology in 2010, the unit has rolled out two brand new drugs: Jakavi, a myelofibrosis treatment developed with Incyte, and Signifor, a therapy for Cushing's disease. Existing drugs, such as Afinitor, gained new indications and approvals in new markets. The unit accounted for $11 billion in sales worldwide, at least according to Hoppenot's new employer.

"Hervé has led the oncology business since 2010 and we thank him for his dedication and commitment to bringing breakthrough treatments to patients," Novartis said in a statement. "We wish him all the best for his future success."

Hoppenot's team helped make Afinitor into one of Novartis' leading success stories. From its initial 2009 approval, Afinitor grew like a snowball rolling downhill, topping $1 billion in 2012. First approved in kidney cancer, the drug moved into new indications in pancreatic cancer, rare childhood brain tumors, and more. Last year, the drug won approval in breast cancer, which analysts figure could be worth another $1.5 billion in peak sales. One of FiercePharma's 15 drug launch superstars, Afinitor (everolimus) racked up $934 million in sales during the first 9 months of 2013.

Meanwhile, the company has rolled out two new meds for rare diseases. Approved in November 2011, Jakavi (ruxolitinib) grew to $116 million in sales for the first 9 months of 2013. Signifor won the FDA nod in December 2012; the company hasn't yet itemized its sales.

Strangely enough, it was Incyte that offered the most detail about Hoppenot's contributions at Novartis. As head of Novartis Oncology, he oversaw 8,000 employees in 50 countries, handling everything from translational medicine all the way up through commercialization. He joined Novartis in 2003 as EVP and head of global marketing.

In taking on his new post, Hoppenot cited his experience with Incyte on Jakavi. "I have worked in close collaboration with Incyte for many years on ruxolitinib and have been very impressed with the entire team that drove the discovery, development and commercialization of this first and only FDA-approved JAK1/JAK2 inhibitor," he said in an Incyte statement.

- see the release from Novartis
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Special Report: Top 15 Drug Launch Superstars - Afinitor