Gilead steals new commercial chief from Amgen to tackle big sales challenges

Gilead has some big commercial challenges looming, and it’s tapped the leader who will spearhead them.

The big biotech appointed longtime Amgen veteran Laura Hamill to its top commercial post, it said Tuesday. The move comes after an “extensive search” that began when James Meyers announced in February that he would retire.

To take the Gilead post, Hamill will leave behind her position as Amgen SVP of U.S. business operations, a job she’s held since early 2016. Before that, she spent 16-plus years climbing the Amgen ladder, taking on projects that included launching anti-inflammatory blockbuster Enbrel.

RELATED: Gilead loses its head of commercial operations as it takes on daunting sales challenges

“We believe that Laura brings to Gilead the kind of operational rigor and organizational experience that will help us as we seek to build on our position of strength in existing therapeutic areas and introduce products in new ones,” CEO John Milligan said in a statement, adding that Hamill has “repeatedly demonstrated an ability to transform infrastructure and capabilities to drive innovation and business performance.”

Gilead will call on Hamill to help usher in a new era for the company, whose newly acquired Kite unit in October won an FDA approval for CAR-T lymphoma treatment Yescarta. Billing issues have already kept patients from the drug, and they've dinged sales forecasts accordingly. And earlier this week, England’s cost watchdogs turned Yescarta away, citing a high price tag.

And while Hamill's team drives forward into oncology, Gilead’s other units will need plenty of help, too. Its hepatitis C franchise, which has been ailing for years, is set for sales well below analysts’ previous estimates, and the company will have to pull out a major launch for new HIV player Biktary if it wants to keep pace with archrival GlaxoSmithKline’s new launches.

RELATED: Bristol-Myers Squibb hands chief commercial post to ex-U.S. head Christopher Boerner

Hamill joins Gilead's senior leadership team just as its top two honchos make their exits—and after a variety of other executives have left. Last month, the company said Milligan and chairman and former CEO John Martin would step down, with Milligan departing at the end of the year and Martin leaving once the company identifies its next skipper.

Meanwhile, Gilead wasn’t the only drugmaker this week to name a new commercial head. Bristol-Myers said it would promote Christopher Boerner, who's been running the company's international marketing, to replace Murdo Gordon. Gordon earlier this month went to Amgen to succeed its own commercial leader, Tony Hooper.