Glaxo pharma chief Hussain joins sea of departing execs, with AZ's Miels to step in

GSK logo building
Glaxo pharma president Abbas Hussain is one of multiple top company execs who will leave the company this year.

The leadership changes just keep on coming at GlaxoSmithKline. The latest? Global pharma president Abbas Hussain is out, and AstraZeneca vet Luke Miels is in.

Hussain has decided to leave the company and will make his exit later this year, GSK said Thursday without specifying a date. When he does, Miels, currently EVP of AstraZeneca’s European business, will step in.

The move will mark the end of eight-plus years at GSK for Hussain, whom the company credits with building the world’s No. 1 pharma business by volume and implementing its new, quota-free sales model across 100 countries.

Hussain is hardly the only long-tenured GSK exec headed for the door. Since CEO Andrew Witty announced last year that he would be turning over the reins this March, both vaccines chairman Moncef Slaoui and ViiV head Dominique Limet have decided to bid the company farewell.

“Succession processes are challenging for everyone involved and, unfortunately, it is rare that all of those involved stay with the company,” Witty said in a statement.

GSK, though, is hoping for big things from Miels, who launched cancer-fighter Tagrisso and jump-started growth of key heart med Brilinta at AstraZeneca. Glaxo will need his commercial smarts to keep the ball rolling on its own new launches, which have slowly but surely grown enough to start filling the gap left by waning giant Advair—especially with incoming CEO Emma Walmsley, whose own background lies in consumer health, at the helm.

“We are now entering a critical period of commercialization for our new pharmaceutical products and, over the next two to three years, we have important data to come on our early-stage pipeline,” Walmsley said in a statement. “Luke will bring a strong new voice to the decisions and choices we will have to make.”

And as the British pharma giant’s chief strategy officer, David Redfern, figures, those decisions will be many. Walmsley is “taking the time during the transition to really understand the business, and obviously she’s spending most of her time on the pharma side, … particularly R&D,” he told FiercePharma in an interview during the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference.

But “we have a lot of science” outside of the company’s anchor respiratory and HIV businesses—including cardiovascular and gene therapy programs, he noted—“so what choices we make and when over the next few years is a big question.”