By Noor Zainab Hussain and Arathy S Nair

(Reuters) – AstraZeneca said on Monday it had hired José Baselga to head research and development in oncology, an area where the British pharmaceuticals firm is seeking to grow its business.

The 59-year-old Spaniard resigned as chief medical officer of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in September after the New York Times and Pro Publica revealed that he had not disclosed millions of dollars in payments from healthcare firms.

Baselga told Reuters he accepted he had “failed to make the appropriate disclosures” in a number of articles and had corrected them, while a spokesman said the validity of his research was not under question and AstraZeneca viewed the episode as over.

Baselga, who last year acknowledged a failure to disclose his links to companies in his medical journal articles and at professional meetings, also resigned from the board of Bristol-Myers Squibb at the time.

“The American Association of Cancer Research subsequently concluded my failure to disclose was inadvertent,” Baselga, who has developed cancer therapies for more than 30 years, said.

“I had never hidden my reportable income for pharma since it is all available on the CMS/Open Payment web page, just like any other physician,” he told Reuters in an email.


Baselga, who also worked as chief of hematology/oncology at the Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center and has been a professor at Harvard Medical School, said his position at AstraZeneca was newly created and brought discovery through to late-stage development chain into one unit.

“It will make the process more agile and accelerate our work to bring transformative medicines to patients,” he said.

AstraZeneca also said it would create therapy area-focused research and development units, responsible for discovery through to late-stage development, for biopharmaceuticals and oncology and create commercial units for the two areas.

“We are entering what we expect will be a period of sustained growth for years to come, which is why we have decided to more closely align our R&D and commercial operations,” AstraZeneca’s Chief Executive Pascal Soriot, said.

Demand for AstraZeneca’s new drugs — especially those for cancer — drove a return to sales growth in the third quarter and the drugmaker said in November it expects years of sustained improvement and rising profit margins.

AstraZeneca shares were down 1.3 percent at 6,008 pence at 1458 GMT.

(Reporting by Noor Zainab Hussain in Bengaluru and additional reporting by Arathy S Nair; editing by Jason Neely and Alexander Smith)