O’Day’s expansive task at Gilead

How incoming Gilead CEO O’Day could make the biotech’s move into new therapeutic areas a success

A fresh executive team and a track record of building deep portfolios could allow incoming Gilead Sciences Inc. chairman and CEO Daniel O’Day to do what his predecessors couldn’t: make Gilead a leader outside of virology.

The first read of his success may not come until 2021, after Gilead launches its first autoimmune drug.

On Dec. 10, Gilead announced that O’Day will replace John Martin as chairman and John Milligan as CEO, effective March 1, 2019. Chief Patient Officer Gregg Alton will serve as interim CEO from Jan. 1.

A 30-year veteran of Roche, O’Day has been CEO of Roche Pharmaceuticals since 2012, where he has overseen R&D and commercialization of products across the pharma’s core areas of cancer, neuroscience, infectious disease, immunology, ophthamology and respiratory disease. During the prior six years, he held leadership roles at Roche Molecular Diagnostics, first CEO from 2006-2010, then COO from 2010-2012.

Both stints will stand him in good stead to meet Gilead’s biggest challenge: recovering from flagging sales in HIV and HCV and making good on its 2017 $11.9 billion acquisition of Kite Pharma Inc. His best chance to offset the risk of that investment and infuse stability in the pipeline is to broaden the bellwether biotech’s success into other areas.

That will mean not only going into new therapeutic areas, but also using his experience in precision medicine and in different therapeutic modalities, as well as his learnings in data science and digital health to prepare Gilead to compete in the areas where oncology and other diseases are headed. At Roche, O’Day oversaw the acquisitions of Flatiron Health Inc. and Foundation Medicine Inc. and served on the boards of both companies.

“The big question for Gilead right now is it’s looking for direction in a new area of growth, whether that’s oncology, or a disease like NASH [non-alcoholic steatohepatitis],” said Brad Loncar, CEO of Loncar Investments, which is an investor in Gilead.

Previous attempts by Gilead to go beyond virology faltered, primarily because the company lacked either the necessary expertise or a deep enough pipeline to build franchises in areas such as cardiovascular or respiratory disease. For example, attempts to build out

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