Roche dispatches strategy executive Alexander Hardy to take Genentech helm

Genentech
Genentech's next CEO Alexander Hardy will start in the role on March 1. (Genentech)
Alexander Hardy

After Roche lost its top pharma executive Dan O’Day to Gilead Sciences, the cancer giant tapped Genentech head Bill Anderson for the post, leaving a gap at the top of its crucial unit. Now, Genentech has named Roche executive Alexander Hardy to be its next CEO.  

Hardy, who joined Genentech in 2005, now serves as head of global product Strategy for Roche Pharmaceuticals. Previously, he headed up Asia Pacific for Roche's pharma outfit. He’ll start as Genentech CEO on March 1.  

And he’ll bring broad experience to the role: During his previous stint at Genentech, he racked up experience leading patient access and commercial operations for therapeutic areas including HER2-positive cancer, flu and neuroscience, the company said. 

The exec shuffling follows the surprise departure of O'Day, who'd headed up Roche Pharmaceuticals as CEO and left to become Gilead Sciences CEO in December. On the same day, Roche said Anderson would take O’Day’s former position. 

Hardy “brings significant global expertise in the delivery of breakthrough medicines and a deep connection to the company culture," Anderson said Thursday in a release.

RELATED: Gilead, looking for cancer sales, swipes Roche pharma chief Daniel O'Day for CEO post 

“I look forward to seeing Genentech’s scientific excellence, employee experience and dedication to patients thrive under his leadership,” he added. 

Hardy and Anderson have tough jobs ahead. The Roche and Genentech management teams will have to deal with a costly patent cliff expected this year, as a trio of blockbuster cancer meds lose patent protections or face new biosimilar entrants.

On a conference call last year, Roche CEO Severin Schwan said the company expects to compete with Rituxan biosimilars in the U.S. in the first half of 2019, and with Herceptin and Avastin biosimilars in the second half of the year.

RELATED: Roche’s patent cliff just got steeper as FDA approves Celltrion’s Rituxan biosimilar Truxima 

In hiring O’Day as its next CEO, analysts saw Gilead’s move as a boon to its oncology business at a time when its hep C meds are sputtering. Jefferies analyst Michael Yee wrote that oncology “historically has not been [Gilead’s] strong suit, so the hiring of an executive from a major oncology company reflects in part [Gilead's] future direction.” 

After Gilead purchased Kite Pharma for nearly $12 billion back in 2017, CAR-T launch Yescarta has struggled commercially out of the gate. But it's early days, and Gilead has big hopes for the technology.

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