Roche appoints U.S. academic to revitalise research unit

ZURICH Tue Jan 15, 2013 2:51am EST

ZURICH Jan 15 (Reuters) - Swiss drugmaker Roche has hired a leading American academic to revive its legacy research operations which have struggled to shake off a string of high-profile and costly failures.

The Basel-based drugmaker said on Tuesday John C. Reed, 54, Chief Executive at Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute in California, would take over as head of Roche's Pharma Research and Early Development -- known as pRED -- on April 2.

Mike Burgess, who has led the unit on a temporary basis since Roche revamped its research operations last June, will leave the company.

"We are delighted to welcome John Reed to Roche, who has led one of the world's top laboratory-based medical research institutes," said Roche Chief Executive Severin Schwan.

"With his broad scientific and medical background he is ideally positioned to drive Roche's strategy of translating a better understanding of disease mechanisms into promising therapeutics."

Roche's pRED unit has languished in the shadow of Genentech's Research and Early Development (gRED) operations - the main driver of the company's pipeline whose labs cooked up Roche's four top-selling medicines in 2011.

The drugmaker decided to keep the two research operations separate after its 2009 takeover of the Californian biotech company to preserve Genentech's culture.

In the meantime, pRED has been hit by several problems. Last year Roche halted clinical trials of experimental heart drug dalcetrapib, one of pRED's most promising drug candidates.

The failure contributed to Roche's decision to close its 80-year-old Nutley, New Jersey research facility and replace Jean-Jacques Garaud, then head of pRED.

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