Roche says that the new head of its pharmaceuticals unit, replacing William Burns who retires at the end of the year, will be Pascal Soriot, chief executive of bought-out Genentech.

The appointment comes as the Swiss major unveiled its new corporate executive committee this morning. Mr Soriot, 50, will take on the role of chief operating officer for the pharma division while Mr Burns, 62, will be nominated as a member of Roche's board at its 2010 annual meeting.

Roche also announced that at the end of 2009, Juergen Schwiezer, 65 and head of diagnostics Division, plus Jonathan Knowles, 62, head of group research, will also be stepping down. Mr Schweizer will be replaced by Daniel O'Day, 45, who currently heads the molecular diagnostics business. Jean-Jacques Garaud, 54, currently head of pharma development, has been appointed to the enlarged executive committee and assumes responsibility for Roche Pharma Research and Early Development.

Dan Zabrowski, 50, head of pharma partnering, has also been appointed to the executive committee, while Ian Clark, currently head of global product strategy for pharma, will succeed Mr Soriot as chief executive of Genentech.

The appointment of Mr Soriot underlines the importance of Genentech in the combined company. He has been one of the principal players in overseeing the integration of the US biotechnology group into Roche.

Severin Schwan, Roche’s chief executive, said that following the conclusion of the Genentech integration, the group is pushing on with “a diversity of research approaches and through efficient global development and commercialisation”. He added that this “broadened and younger” executive committee “will continue to drive Roche’s long-term vision as the world’s leading biotech company.“