Status of AstraZeneca and Teva Leadership Remains Unclear

Pascal Soriot might leave the company he’s shaken up

Pascal Soriot may be a man on the move. An Israeli news outlet reported July 12 that he may be leaving the top post at AstraZeneca to head Teva Pharmaceuticals, which could use a steady hand in light of a recent sex scandal.

As the Wall Street Journal reports, the stock market has reacted strongly. “AstraZeneca has declined to comment on the report, calling it ‘speculation’—but it has stopped short of a denial, rattling investors,” the newspaper reports. “Shares in AstraZeneca were down 4.6% at £49.53 ($63.8) Thursday midmorning in London. Teva shares were up 5.7% at 116.40 shekels ($32.9).” Teva is based in Israel.

Soriot, who has held the top job at British-based AstraZeneca since 2012, helped fight off a takeover bid by U.S.-based Pfizer. Soriot has promised to go full throttle in research and development, hoping to get a lot of medications through the FDA approval process in the next 10 years.

This was supposed to be the year that would show whether Soriot’s plans would pan out. AstraZeneca is supposed to release the findings of a clinical trial for a drug called Mystic, which represents a big gamble that the company can corner the market on new class of cancer drugs.

The WSJ: “Given that timing, ‘the most positive interpretation would be that he thinks he has effected a major corporate transformation during five years at AstraZeneca,’ said UBS analyst Jack Scannell in a note to clients. A bearish interpretation could be that he has less confidence in the path that Astra has transformed itself to pursue.”

As for the sex scandal: Teva Pharmaceuticals alleges that one of its former top executives told her boyfriend, the CEO of rival Apotex, about what medicines Teva was manufacturing and which were close to being approved by the FDA, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports.

“Barinder Sandhu was Teva’s senior director of regulatory affairs for U.S. generics between 2014 and 2016 when, the lawsuit says, she used USB flash drives to download confidential files on her work-issued laptop —and synced a folder titled “My Drive” with about 900 documents to a cloud-based account—and sent them to Jeremy Desai at his email account at Toronto-based Apotex, Canada’s largest manufacturer of generic pharmaceuticals,” the Inquirer reports.

Teva filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court on July 7 alleging that what went on between Sandhu and Desai violates the Defend Trade Secrets and Computer Fraud and Abuse Acts. The named defendants are Sandu (who was fired in October), Desai, and Apotex. An Apotex spokesperson said the company wholly denies that it acted improperly.

Sources: Wall Street Journal; July 13, 2017; Philadelphia Inquirer; July 12, 2017.