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Novartis names Narasimhan CEO to replace Jimenez next year

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Novartis AG appointed Vasant Narasimhan, the company's global head of drug development, to take over from Joseph Jimenez as chief executive officer early next year.

[TOKYO] Novartis AG appointed Vasant Narasimhan, the company's global head of drug development, to take over from Joseph Jimenez as chief executive officer early next year.

Mr Narasimhan, who is also the chief medical officer of the drugmaker, will take over the reins from Feb 1, Novartis said in a statement on Monday.

Mr Jimenez, 57, who will retire at the end of January, said his family is ready to return to Silicon Valley after spending 10 years in Switzerland.

"Both from a professional and a personal perspective, this is the right moment to hand the leadership reins of the company to Vas," Mr Jimenez said in the statement.

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"Our strong pipeline and the strategic moves we have taken to focus the company have put Novartis on the a strong path for the future."

Novartis is turning to newer medicines such as heart drug Entresto, psoriasis treatment Cosentyx and Kisqali for breast cancer to help counter a decline in sales of its best-selling cancer product Gleevec, which is losing the ground to cheaper copycat drugs.

The company is also trying to turn around its struggling eye care unit Alcon and it's reviewing options including a spinoff or initial public offering for the division.

Mr Jimenez in July reiterated his confidence in returning the Swiss drugmaker to growth next year.

The drugmaker posted a smaller decline in second-quarter earnings than analysts had projected as newer medicines helped offset the eroding sales of its biggest drug.

Mr Narasimhan, born in 1976, prior to his current role served as head of development for Novartis Pharmaceuticals.

Before joining Novartis in 2005, he worked at McKinsey & Co.

He received his medical degree from Harvard Medical School in the US and obtained a master's degree in public policy from Harvard's John F Kennedy School of Government.

He holds a bachelor's degree in biological sciences from the University of Chicago.

"The Board of Directors is confident that Vas is the right choice to lead Novartis on our expected next growth phase, driving innovation and further strengthening our competitive position," Joerg Reinhardt, chairman of the Novartis board, said.

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