Pharma’s CEO Hotlist for 2010

16th March 2010 (Last Updated March 16th, 2010 18:30)

Game, confident and cunning, Paul French unveils the top industry CEOs to watch out for in 2010.

Pharma’s CEO Hotlist for 2010

Chris Viehbacher, Sanofi Aventis

Big year because: When the 50-year-old German Canadian left GlaxoSmithKline to take the reins at Sanofi Aventis in December 2008, it represented a sea change for the habitually French-run company. A stirring set of 2009 results will have made the world's fourth largest pharmaceutical company by prescription sales confident that it made the right decision, but can Viehbacher continue his impressive start to the job?

He says: "I think external growth is always going to be a part of our business. This isn't just something you do when your pipeline's not strong enough, and I think we have demonstrated that we can do it and I think you can expect us to be continuing through 2010 at pretty much the same pace as we did in 2009."

Industry says: "An advocate of inorganic growth, Chris Viehbacher's Sanofi Aventis was involved in over 30 collaborative deals in 2009," says Global Insight's Aparna Krishnan. "With $15bn earmarked for alliances, mergers and acquisitions this year, 2010 is expected to be a busy year for the company."

"It is important for companies to improve strengths such as strategic planning, high productivity and efficiency."

Joe Jimenez, Novartis

Big year because: After two years running Novartis's drugs unit, the 50-year-old American steps into the top job and is tasked with integrating Alcon Inc, the eye care company Novartis recently bought for $38.5bn, and cutting costs as patent protection for the Diovan hypertension pill and Gleevac cancer medicine will run out in the US in 2012.

He says: Although he's made no public comment since taking the top job, Jimenez did say in 2008: "We're not going to complain, we're going to change. Long-term prospects are incredibly positive if you can find a way around short-term negatives, such as regulatory challenges, tougher pricing, shifting customer base and generic competition. My objective is to position Novartis to win."

Industry says: "It's a sign of what Novartis will be going through in terms of the integration of Alcon, cost controls and patent expiries," says Bank Vontobel's Andrew Weiss. "You need cost-conscious management for that and that's why they've chosen Jimenez."

Yasuchika Hasegawa, Takeda Pharma

Big year because: In 2006, Takeda launched a medium-term plan to turn itself into a world-class pharmaceutical company. Now entering the final year of that timeframe, all eyes will be on president and CEO Yasuchika Hasegawa. The company has streamlined its R&D process and bought other companies, the question now is can it take the final step and become a global power?

He says: "Intensifying competition in the global arena has made it increasingly important for us to improve our strengths such as strategic planning, high productivity and efficiency. As we put our efforts into discovering a continuous series of new drugs from in-house R&D and increasing our penetration of overseas markets, we aim to make a leap toward becoming a global pharmaceutical company."

Industry says: "Following its high-profile takeover of Millennium, Takeda has grown stronger in the oncology field in addition to its long-existing diabetes area," says Krishnan. "The company is set to make significant moves into generics and emerging markets this year with potential M&As on the agenda."

Thomas Watkins, Human Genome Sciences

Big year because: Despite the FDA delaying approval on the company's new anthrax drug ABthrax, this could be the year Human Genome Sciences (HGSI) becomes an industry big hitter.

"Many smaller companies will aim to make the leap toward becoming a global pharmaceutical company."

Benlysta (lupus) and Zalbin (hepatitis C) have the potential to be blockbuster drugs and partnerships with Glaxo and Novartis lend an air of gravitas. The only question is: will HGS grow as a company or will Watkins lead them into a buyout?

He says: "By the end of 2010 it's very possible that Human Genome Sciences will have two approved drugs – Benlysta and Zalbin –each having enormous potential. We have a marketing-planning group now. As we move along this timeline for the build-out of the company organisation, we do expect to have our own sales resources for Benlysta and Zalbin."

Industry says: "Benlysta could be the first true disease-modifying therapy for lupus patients – a blockbuster opportunity," says Joseph Schwartz, an analyst at Leerink Swann. "In a year, both of HGSI's lead programmes should be approved, making the company a prime candidate for take out or large cap status."

Shlomo Yanai, Teva Pharma

Big year because: In January 2010, Teva unveiled plans to double its 2009 top and bottom lines by 2015, with sales hitting $31bn and net profit reaching $6.8bn. A third of the projected growth is expected to come from M&As, meaning a busy year for 60-year-old CEO Yanai.

He says: "In the years to come Teva will seek to extend its global leadership and deliver profitable growth, doubling revenues by 2015 and reaching net income margins of 22%. Our core business, generics, will continue to drive growth. At the same time, we will continue to expand our branded business, further leveraging the diversity of our balanced business model."

Industry says: "After the purchase of Barr Pharma in July 2008, 2009 was unusually quiet on the big ticket acquisition front for the world's largest generics firm," says Krishnan. "However, 2010 could potentially see Teva acquire Ratiopharm as it is one of the last bidders to still show interest."