Has pharma outgrown the scientist CEO?

Is the era of the scientist-CEO over in Big Pharma? The Financial Times suggests it's so. And to hear the experts tell it, there's a reason for that.

Executives with lots of commercial and marketing experience have been winning most of the top management jobs at the world's biggest drugmakers. Just think of Joe Jimenez (photo), who took the CEO's job at Novartis earlier this year. He brings years of experience in consumer goods to the post--but he replaced a trained doctor, Daniel Vasella. Then there's Jeff Kindler (photo), Pfizer's chief; he jumped into pharma from McDonald's. The story's the same at many big drugmakers.

Sure, some companies still have scientist-CEOs; there's Eli Lilly's John Lechleiter (photo), for one, and as the FT points out, Gilead Sciences chief John Martin. The latter says that having scientists as senior-level execs has been essential for Gilead. But having expert knowledge of a company's R&D projects doesn't necessarily make a good executive.

Indeed, when it comes to the nitty-gritty of running a big drugmaker, at least one recruitment specialist says a manager who's more business-focused than science-focused is essential. Especially considering the way drugmakers are turning to diversification and dealmaking to both hedge their bets and fill their pipelines. "You want someone who is outward-looking, and focused on execution," Dana Krueger at recruiter Russell Reynolds Associates told the FT. What do you think?

- get the FT story

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