NOVARTIS has announced the surprise departure of CEO Joseph Jimenez after eight years at the helm of Europe’s largest pharmaceutical company, handing over the challenge of selling underperforming assets and developing new medicines to a Harvard-trained doctor.
Vasant Narasimhan, 41, chief medical officer and global head of drug development at the Switzerland-based company, will succeed Jimenez from February 2018. Jimenez is handing over the reins at a crucial juncture, with the pharmaceutical company yet to decide on the future of its ailing Alcon eyecare business or its stake in crosstown rival Roche. He reshaped Novartis through complex transactions worth more than $30-billion in 2015. Last week, the company secured US regulatory clearance for a $475 000 breakthrough oncology therapy, a triumph for both Jimenez and Narasimhan. Narasimhan’s expertise in clinical development and medicine make him well suited to run Novartis, especially during the review of Alcon’s operations. He is highly regarded as chief medical officer and has had increasing exposure to investors over the past few quarters and company events