Lonza's next CEO to be pharma or biotech vet, chairman says

Lonza headquarters
Lonza invested about $810 million in expansion projects last year as its focuses on its sales-leading pharma and biotechnology operations. (Lonza)

Lonza’s search for a new CEO could take longer than the last leader served in that role. The Swiss CDMO says it intends to name a new leader this year to replace Marc Funk, who resigned from the top position after only about nine months. 

Chairman Albert Baehny says Lonza intends to name someone with at least two decades of pharma or biotech experience as the company continues to build those businesses and prepares to turn its struggling chemicals unit into a standalone operation. 

RELATED: Lonza to carve out Specialty Ingredients unit, cut 130 jobs in restructuring push

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Baehny has a shortlist of six potential replacements, all veterans of “pharma or biotech” and all from outside the company, he said in a meeting with media members following the release of earnings Tuesday, Reuters reports. He said final interviews will start soon. 

“One of the criteria should be 20 years-plus of pharma experience, ideally. And pharma can be extended to bioprocesses, to bioproducts, but in this area,” Baehny said, according to the news service. .

Lonza’s lead independent director Christoph Mäder, who took over in November after Funk left, will serve until a replacement is named, the Basel, Switzerland-based company said in an earnings release in which it reported a 2019 net profit of CHF 646 million ($666.5 million), up nearly 15%. Its pharma and biotech divisions reported sales up 11%, while its chemicals business, which sells to industries like oil and auto, was off 3.2%. 

RELATED: Lonza expanding ADC production as pharma business thrives 

While the new CEO will have the pressing task of advising on whether Lonza should keep, sell or spin off the chemicals business, other projects, like investments in drug manufacturing, will proceed in the meantime, the company said. In 2019, it invested about $810 million in expansion projects that included its large site in Visp, Switzerland, and its cell and gene therapy operations around Basel. 

Funk led Lonza’s pharma and biotech operations before being named CEO in March 2019. He announced his resignation in November without any explanation. Under Funk, the company beefed up its gene therapy capabilities to serve that growing field of business as well as its capabilities in bioconjugation.  

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