Observers have reacted positively to the news that AstraZeneca’s former chief financial officer Jon Symonds will take over the same post at Swiss major Novartis.

Mr Symonds left AstraZeneca in July 2007 having been CFO for eight years. He had lost out to David Brennan for the post of chief executive at the firm when Sir Tom McKillop stepped down and joined Goldman Sachs, where he is managing director of investment banking.

He will join Novartis on September 1 and will take over the post of CFO from Raymond Breu who will retire on March 31, 2010, after 35 years of service. Novartis chief executive Daniel Vasella said Mr Symonds' “financial expertise, broad industry experience and deep knowledge of the healthcare industry make him especially suited to take on the responsibilities of CFO”.

Mr Symonds is highly regarded within the pharmaceutical industry and most recently as part of his role at Goldman Sachs, he proposed a new business model which will see financing move from funding companies towards targeted co-development of specific drugs. Announcing plans for a ‘research pool’ in December, he noted that large drugmakers were “trapped in their pipelines” by substantial commitments to costly Phase III trials, with only limited funds for earlier stage medicines. “There is a genuine shortage of capital,” he added.

During his time at AstraZeneca, Mr Symonds’ responsibilities encompassed areas such as M&A, strategy, business development and licensing. News of his appointment comes some six months after Novartis unveiled a number of senior management changes which included Joerg Reinhardt, head of vaccines and diagnostics, taking up the new role of chief operating officer.

Mr Reinhardt has been touted as a future successor to Dr Vasella, but the arrival of Mr Symonds could place him as a possible candidate. Investors seem pleased with Mr Symonds’ arrival and Novartis shares were up 4.2% to 44.68 Swiss francs at 11.40 UK time.