Gilead snags Lilly exec Shaw for Kite CEO position

Christi Shaw will join Kite Pharma from Eli Lilly. (Eli Lilly)

Back in May, new Gilead Sciences CEO Daniel O’Day said he’d be looking for a CEO for Gilead’s Kite unit. And he’s found his pick.

Thursday, the Big Biotech said it would bring on Eli Lilly executive Christi Shaw to run the cell therapy company, which Gilead snagged in 2017 for $12 billion. She’ll be tasked with turning around Yescarta, a struggling CAR-T treatment that Gilead needs to start kicking in bigger revenue contributions.

RELATED: Lilly Bio-Medicines chief Shaw steps aside, leaving key launches behind

Shaw has plenty of biopharma experience to lean on as she looks to right the ship. Until the end of August, she’ll continue in her current position as chief of Eli Lilly Bio-Medicines, where she’s overseeing the key Emgality migraine launch for the Indianapolis drugmaker. Before her stint with Lilly, she spent nearly six years at Novartis, serving as the Swiss pharma giant’s U.S. head and, before that, its North American oncology head.

And O’Day, for one, is confident she’s up for the job ahead. “We conducted an extensive search for a new leader at Kite and we believe that Christi’s unique set of skills will allow us to continue to build on our leadership position in cell therapy,” he said in a statement, adding that, “Christi’s vast experience across complex therapeutic areas, and particularly in oncology, will serve Kite very well.”

Shaw isn’t the first big hire O’Day has made since taking Gilead’s helm in March. In late May, he nabbed Johanna Mercier, who led the U.S., Germany, France and Japan for Bristol-Myers Squibb, to step in as Gilead’s commercial chief.

RELATED: New Gilead chief plots Kite CEO hire, pipeline M&A and organizational tweaks

On Gilead’s first-quarter conference call, O’Day—who himself was poached from another drugmaker, Roche, to begin leading the company this March—outlined the Kite CEO position he intended to create, telling investors the new hire would report to O’Day and operate Kite as its own business unit.

But as is typical when a new CEO steps in, O’Day has already lost a couple key cogs, too. Days into his tenure, Gilead lost oncology Executive Vice President Alessandro Riva to Glenmark Pharmaceuticals’ R&D spinoff, and in April, the company said longtime Chief Financial Officer Robin Washington would retire next March.