AstraZeneca has unveiled major changes to its leadership team which will see the heads of R&D and commercial operations - Martin Mackay and Tony Zook - leave the Anglo-Swedish drugmaker.

New chief executive Pascal Soriot's senior executive team has been structured in a way that means the posts of president of R&D and global commercial have been eliminated, hence the departures of Messrs Mackay and Zook, both highly-regarded figures within the industry. The revamp will see the creation of  three senior R&D roles responsible for discovery and early stage development in small molecules (to be headed by Innovative Medicines head Mene Pangalos), discovery and early stage development in biologics (MedImmune chief Bahija Jallal) and late-stage development, to be led by Global Medicines Development boss Briggs Morrison.

As for commercial operations, there will be heads for North America (Paul Hudson), Europe (Ruud Dobber) and International (Mark Mallon). A role has also been created responsible for global portfolio and product strategy, "bridging between the R&D and sales organisation", a post which will be filled at a later date. 

Dr Soriot (pictured) said the new structure, "that draws heavily from the leadership talent within the company, enables us to bring an even sharper management focus to key pipeline assets, key brands and key markets, and helps us further accelerate decision-making," The move is being seen as the new CEO making his mark on AstraZeneca and removing two high-profile figures.

Dr Mackay arrived at AstraZeneca to much fanfare in May 2010 after stepping down as head of R&D at Pfizer, while Mr Zook was touted as a potential successor to David Brennan after the latter was ousted as CEO last year, before Dr Soriot was chosen.

AstraZeneca will present its full-year results on January 31, and Dr Soriot is expected to lay out his vision for the future for the firm which has suffered a series of late-stage setbacks of late and is facing patent expiries in the next few years to a couple of blockbusters, namely the antiulcerant Nexium (esomeprazole) and the cholesterol drug Crestor (rosuvastatin).

Roche picks academic to lead pharma research

Meantime, back on Dr Soriot's old stomping ground, Roche has hired academic John  Reed, chief executive of the Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute in La Jolla, California, as its new head of its pharmaceutical research and early development (pRED) unit.

Dr Reed, 54, will take up his post in April, having been at Sanford-Burnham for 21 years. Roche chief executive Severin Schwan said that "with his broad scientific and medical background, he is ideally positioned to drive Roche’s strategy of translating a better understanding of disease mechanisms into promising therapeutics".

Mike Burgess, currently interim head of pRED, has decided to leave Roche. The company noted that its Genentech Research and Early Development (gRED) organisation, based in South San Francisco, is not affected by the management change.