Vasella to leave Novartis in August

Veteran pharma executive Danial Vasella has unexpectedly announced his resignation as chair of the board of directors at Novartis after 17 years at the top of the company.

He will not seek re-election in February, paving the way for a new chair from 1 August. His successor will be Jörg Reinhardt, who is currently running the drug division at Bayer. Vice chair Ulrich Lehner will serve in the interim.

Vasella was chief executive from 1996 to 2010 and became chair in 1999. His resignation as chief executive in 2010 came after a string of attacks by militant animal rights activists aimed at him and his family. The incoming chair, Reinhardt, is a scientist by training, with a PhD in pharmaceutical sciences, who climbed the R&D ranks at Sandoz before the merger with Ciba-Geigy that created Novartis. He arrives at a challenging time for Novartis, which is struggling with the expiry of patents for many of its financially important drugs.

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