Jean-Pierre Garnier, who recently stepped down as chief executive of GlaxoSmithKline, is going back home to take up a similar post at France’s Pierre Fabre.

Announcing the decision, Pierre Fabre, who founded the firm in 1961, said that the Castres-based group “is fortunate to have a man with so much experience in the global pharmaceuticals arena” such as Dr Garnier. The latter, who was born in Le Mans and left GSK in May, will “enable us to successfully sustain the considerable R&D efforts the company has been making over the past few years and amplify its growth".

The announcement came as Mr Fabre announced that he has asked the Pierre Fabre Foundation’s board of directors to accept the donation of 100% of the equity of Pierre Fabre Participation, a holding company with a 60% share in the group. He said that the transfer of the stake is designed to “secure the long-term independence” of the company, which posted turnover of 1.68 billion euros last year.

Mr Fabre added that he intends to transform the group, which has a 10,000-strong workforce, into a company run by a supervisory committee, chaired by him, with Dr Garnier heading the management board. The former GSK chief has yet to comment on his new role at the firm where half of its sales come from cosmetics and its best-selling drug is the semi-synthetic vinca alkaloid Navelbine (vinorelbine).

At present, Pierre Fabre devotes 25% of its annual turnover to R&D in five therapeutic fields – oncology (a “priority sector” says the firm, with 50% of the research budget), the central nervous system, cardiology, internal medicine/urology and dermatology. In June it presented positive data from Phase III trials of Javlor (vinflunine) in the second-line treatment of metastatic bladder cancer which demonstrated that the drug is the only one to have shown a 50% improvement in survival in patients compared with best supportive care.

The rights to vinflunine were returned to Pierre Fabre by Bristol-Myers Squibb last November but France’s second-largest independent drugmaker (after Servier) is confident about securing fresh partners in the USA and Japan. Javlor, another vinca alkaloid, has been submitted for registration with the European Medicines Agency.