AstraZeneca has selected a top manager from Roche and ex-head of Genentech, Pascal Soriot, to be its new chief executive.

Mr Soriot, a 53-year-old Frenchman who has been chief operating officer of Roche’s pharmaceuticals division since 2010, will take over on October 1 from Simon Lowth, AstraZeneca’s chief financial officer who was named interim chief executive after David Brennan left in May. Mr Lowth will resume his responsibilities as CFO.

In his current role, Mr Soriot is in charge of development, manufacturing, commercial operations and administration "for a pharmaceuticals business that recorded sales of $34 billion in 2011 and has approximately 44,000 employees worldwide". Prior to that, he was chief executive of Genentech where, notes AstraZeneca, "he was credited with leading the successful merger between the San Francisco-based biologics business and Roche".

Mr Soriot, who started work in the pharmaceutical industry in 1986 and has worked in senior management roles in the USA, Asia and Europe, said that "throughout my career I have had enormous respect for the people of AstraZeneca and what they have achieved". However, he noted that "no-one is blind to the challenges that confront the pharmaceutical sector and this company".

Nevertheless, Mr Soriot stated that "the underlying strengths of AstraZeneca in delivering on its strategy are clear…and I’m looking forward to playing my part in shaping that future".

Chairman Leif Johansson added that "this is a key appointment at an important time for AstraZeneca and we are certain that Pascal’s leadership qualities combined with his strategic thinking and relevant experience make him the right person to drive the company to success". He also praised "the excellent job" done by Mr Lowth as interim CEO.

EU approval for Zinforo

Meantime, AstraZeneca also announced that the European Commission has granted marketing authorisation to Zinforo (ceftaroline fosamil), a new intravenous cephalosporin antibiotic. It has been given the green light for the treatment of adults with complicated skin and soft tissue infections or community acquired pneumonia.

This makes Zinforo the only approved cephalosporin monotherapy in Europe with demonstrated clinical efficacy against methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). AstraZeneca R&D president Martin Mackay said the drug "will make a valuable contribution to addressing the significant unmet need for new antibiotics".

Zinforo was licensed in 2009 from Forest Laboratories and the latter launched the drug, as Teflaro, in the USA in March 2011.