AZ cancer head Mahjoubi departs to helm Innate Pharma

AstraZeneca has been relying on oncology to help it stage a turnaround. But now, it’ll have to continue down that path without its head of the unit.

Oncology SVP Mondher Mahjoubi is leaving to start a CEO stint at France’s Innate Pharma, Innate said in a statement Monday. He'll be replaced by Jamie Freedman, currently the SVP of clinical development at AZ's MedImmune, an AZ spokeswoman told FiercePharma.

"Jamie takes up his new role at an exciting time for AstraZeneca’s Oncology franchise and brings tremendous expertise and leadership qualities that will help to take the portfolio to the next stage," she said in a statement.

Mahjoubi, who served as SVP of global product strategy in oncology at cancer king Genentech before joining AZ, has been helping shape the British drugmaker’s cancer efforts since 2013. Over the past few years the company has made the field a pillar of its growth platform, striking a bevy of pipeline deals and bringing key new products Tagrisso and Lynparza to market.

While those meds have so far chipped in their fair share, AZ has a key test ahead with immuno-oncology up-and-comer durvalumab, which is looking to join future rivals Keytruda from Merck, Opdivo from Bristol-Myers Squibb and Tecentriq from Roche in the checkpoint inhibitor ranks. U.S. regulators granted the prospect priority review status earlier this month in bladder cancer, an area where the Roche contender will be ready and waiting if AZ does snag a green light by the FDA's second-quarter 2017 decision date.

Meanwhile, AstraZeneca will need to keep firing on all cylinders if it wants to hit its lofty sales ambitions. In 2014, CEO Pascal Soriot outlined a $45 billion revenue goal for 2023 that even he says the company would be "lucky" to hit.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to include information from an AstraZeneca spokeswoman.