After 3-plus years and multiple FDA approvals, Gilead's cell therapy head Christi Shaw leaving next month

When Christi Shaw joined Gilead Sciences's CAR-T outfit Kite Pharma back in 2019, the company had one approved cell therapy chipping in modestly toward overall growth. Now, after more than three years, Shaw is leaving a unit that's responsible for about $1.5 billion in annual revenues.

Gilead on Friday said Shaw will be leaving as Kite Pharma's CEO at the end of March. The company didn't give a reason for her departure, but the drugmaker said she'll work closely with Gilead CEO Daniel O'Day on the transition in the coming weeks. Gilead is also kicking off a Kite CEO search.

As the California-based drugmaker noted, Kite Pharma has seen quite a bit of change under Shaw's leadership. The company's cell therapies have so far reached around 13,000 patients worldwide, up from a few hundred when she joined.

Gilead made its cell therapy play back in August 2017, when the drugmaker picked up Kite Pharma for nearly $12 billion. Months later, the company's first cell therapy, Yescarta, won an FDA approval.

Shaw, for her part, entered the fray at Gilead in July 2019. That year, Gilead's cell therapy sales came in at around $450 million.

Since then, Kite has won an FDA approval for a second cell therapy, Tecartus, and scored a major label expansion for Yescarta in second-line large B-cell lymphoma.

Gilead's cell therapies are now approved in more than 20 countries worldwide. Last year, the pair of Kite Pharma drugs generated $1.46 billion combined.

Shaw joined Gilead from Eli Lilly. Before that, she headed U.S. operations for Novartis. It's not immediately clear whether she is retiring or plans to take another role within the biopharma industry.

"There is no good time to end a labor of love, but I feel I have accomplished what I came to do," Shaw said in a statement. "Kite is flourishing and ready to enter its next chapter."