GSK hires ex-Wal-Mart executive to transform tech operations

LONDON (Reuters) - GlaxoSmithKline has appointed former Wal-Mart Stores executive Karenann Terrell to the new senior position of chief digital and technology officer as the drugmaker looks to harness smart tech systems across the group.

FILE PHOTO: The GlaxoSmithKline building is pictured in Hounslow, west London June 18, 2013. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor/File Photo

The move reflects a desire by Chief Executive Emma Walmsley, who took over in April, to apply digital platforms in everything from clinical trials to customer interactions. It comes a day before GSK reports quarterly results.

Major drugmakers are grappling with the impact of technology on their businesses, as digital apps offer patients new ways to monitor their health and online communications with prescribers and consumers become routine.

For Walmsley, Terrell is another important appointment following the hiring of former AstraZeneca Luke Miels, who will also join in September.

Both will be key lieutenants as the GSK CEO strives to improve the competitive profile of the company’s operations, which range from vaccines and prescription drugs to toothpaste.

Terrell, who left Wal-Mart as chief information officer in February, will join GSK on Sept. 4 and will be a member of the senior corporate executive team in her new role, GSK said.

Prior to working at Wal-Mart, Terrell was at U.S. healthcare group Baxter International and before that at Daimler Chrysler.

“The impact of technology on the healthcare industry is accelerating and requires us to rethink our approach,” Walmsley said in a statement.

“As a member of the executive team, Karenann will have the scope to think radically about how we can exploit the latest opportunities and ultimately improve our business performance.”

Walmsley, who previously headed GSK’s consumer health unit after 17 years at L’Oreal, is known for her focus on benchmarking business performance and has already flagged her intention to improve returns at GSK.

Her top priority is expected to be overhauling pharmaceutical research, where the British company has lagged behind rivals in terms of generating multibillion-dollar blockbusters in recent years.

Walmsley will outline her vision for GSK alongside second-quarter results on Wednesday, when she is likely to detail plans to streamline the drug R&D pipeline and ensure research is more closely aligned to commercial opportunities.

GSK’s results are set to benefit once again from a weak pound, after last year’s Brexit vote, as well as strong demand for HIV medicines and the failure so far of generic firms to win approval for U.S. copies of its inhaled lung drug Advair.

Reporting by Ben Hirschler; editing by Martinne Geller and Jason Neely