In another leadership change at Roche, Anderson departs as pharma CEO

Roche’s leadership shuffle, which began in July, continued on Monday with the departure of pharma sector CEO Bill Anderson.

Anderson, formerly the boss of Roche subsidiary Genentech, took over as pharma CEO in 2019. But this year, the sector’s fortunes declined with several clinical setbacks. Anderson is leaving at the end of this year to “pursue other opportunities,” the company said in a release.

Filling Anderson's role will be a key priority for Roche's incoming CEO Thomas Schinecker. Five months ago, Roche revealed that Schinecker would be elevated from chief of diagnostics to the CEO post, replacing Severin Schwan.

With the Anderson departure, Schinecker will assume the pharma CEO role until a successor is identified, the company said. That will happen by March of next year, when Schinecker is scheduled to take over for Schwan, who will move into the chairman role.

Schinecker’s star rose during the pandemic. Last year, Roche’s testing sales grew 29% to 17.8 billion Swiss francs ($19.4 billion), with COVID diagnostics accounting for roughly a quarter of the total.

The performance helped Roche recover from its decline in oncology, especially in the United States where biosimilars have dented sales for longtime blockbusters Rituxan, Avastin and Herceptin.

This year has brought a series of developmental disappointments for Roche in biopharma. A month ago, Roche’s Alzheimer’s antibody gantenerumab flopped in a pair of phase 3 trials. In May, Roche revealed a second phase 3 failure for lung cancer hopeful tiragolumab.

And just last week, Roche’s immuno-oncology star Tecentriq came up short in a lung cancer trial along with Exelixis and Ipsen’s Cabometyx, which was another in a series of disappointments for the combo.

Anderson joined Genentech in 2006 and became chief marketing officer for Roche’s pharma business in 2013. He returned to Genentech as its CEO in 2016 before moving into his current role three years later.

It's not immediately clear where Anderson's career will take him after Roche—but his path will surely be tracked by industry watchers. Before Biogen named former Sanofi chief Christopher Viehbacher as its new CEO, some investors floated Anderson's name as a potential replacement for Biogen's Michel Vounatsos.