By Matthias Blamont

PARIS (Reuters) – Sanofi’s head of vaccines David Loew will quit to become chief executive of Ipsen from July 1, the two French drugmakers said on Friday.

The announcement comes at a critical time as Sanofi is working on two vaccine projects to protect against COVID-19, the illness caused by the new coronavirus.

Loew, who has been with Sanofi for almost seven years and in charge of the vaccines unit since 2016, will fill a management vacuum at Ipsen, which has been struggling to find a new CEO since the departure of David Meek at the end of last year.

His main task will be to boost Ipsen’s pipeline, including on the back of deals or acquisitions in the fields of oncology, rare diseases and neurosciences, as well as to deliver on financial results.

The company is looking to strengthen its portfolio to offset the long-term generic threat to its top-selling cancer treatment Somatuline.

Ipsen lowered its 2022 outlook in February to take into account setbacks in trials of bone disorders product palovarotene, inherited last year from the $1.3 billion acquisition of Canadian biotech company Clementia Pharmaceuticals.

In March, Ipsen said it was also suspending its 2020 guidance as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Sanofi said Loew would be replaced by Thomas Triomphe as head of vaccine unit Sanofi Pasteur. Like Loew, Triomphe will be sitting on Sanofi’s executive committee.

It made three other appointments at its executive committee, naming Julie Van Ongevalle head of consumer healthcare, Arnaud Robert chief digital officer and Natalie Bickford chief people officer.

The moves were expected as Sanofi hired a new CEO, Paul Hudson, in September last year and set out a new roadmap three months later.

“We need leaders who come to Sanofi with a fresh perspective as well as leaders who have grown up within the company,” Hudson said.

(Reporting by Matthias Blamont; Editing by Nick Tattersall)

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