Posted by: Audrey Erbes | April 15, 2009

“So Here Goes”–Genentech Under Roche Management

Will the company go up or down? Thats the question that employees, investors, by standers, admirers and well wishers of Genentech, the phenomenonly successful biotech as an independent company, are asking.

Those familiar with Roche takeouts with whom I’ve spoken have spectrum of expectations from bad to okay.  Among investors the question has been whether or not CEO Levinson will stay or not.  The reports so far see the top Genentech executives–  Chairman and CEO Art Levinson and product development chief Susan Desmond-Hellmann –will leave day-to-day operation but maintain advisory functions.  Other key managers, David Ebersman, executive vice president and chief financial officer, and Steve Juelsgaard, executive vice president and chief compliance officer, will also be leaving Genentech.

Yours truly believes the  most profound impact will come from whether or not the traditional Roche senior  pharmaceutical management can adapt themselves to the Genentech culture and nurture its continuation. Or will they unintentionally destroy it through “business at Roche as usual” practices? I’m not personally familiar with the qualities of Pascal Soriot, currently responsible for commercial operations for Roche’s pharma division who wil become the CEO of Genentech.  He will report to Roche Group CEO Severin Schwan who came out of the diagnostics division of Roche and has a reputation of being aggressive and, perhaps, not as likely to be sensitive to the Genentech cultural differences.  Prior to Soriot taking the reins,  William M. Burns, CEO of Roche Pharmaceuticals, who served on Genentech Board prio to the merger, will lead Genentech.  See San Francisco Business Times story for further details at

David Mott, former CEO of MedImmune which was acquired by Astra Zeneca, recently recalled a conversation with former Roche Chairman Franz Humer in 2007 when David compared the planned independent structure of MedImmune under AZ with that of Genentech under Roche.  “He (Humer) laughed at me and he said, ‘it will never work because if we owned all of Genentech we would kill it’,” Mott said Humer told him at the time. We wouldn’t be able to resist tinkering and playing with it…”, he said.  See details in Reuters report at

We wish the Genentech community success in maintaining their dynamic engine of discovery, development and marketing as well as reputation as a wonderful place to work  under the new management.  We’re rooting for you!


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