Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS) CEO Lamberto Andreotti will be succeeded in May by the company’s COO, Giovanni Caforio, M.D., the company said, as Andreotti moves on to become executive chairman—a role he will hold after his retirement on August 3.

As executive chairman Andreotti will succeed James M. Cornelius, his predecessor as CEO. Cornelius will retire from the BMS board after opting not to seek re-election as non-executive chairman. BMS also named Togo D. West, Jr., as the board’s new lead independent director.

Andreotti, 64, has served as CEO since 2010. As chief executive, Andreotti continued BMS’ “string of pearls” strategy, launched in 2007 during Cornelius’ CEO tenure. “String of Pearls” has entailed pursuing acquisitions of, and partnerships with, biopharmas whose drugs held promise for replenishing the pharma giant’s pipeline as older treatments fell off the proverbial patent cliff.

Among BMS drugs that lost exclusivity during his tenure was Plavix, which saw sales crater from a peak of about $7.1 billion in 2011, to $2.5 billion the following year after it lost patent protection, then cratering 90% in 2013 to $258 million. This year, the antipsychotic drug Abilify (aripiprazole), co-marketed with Otsuka Pharmaceutical, is set to see generic versions introduced to market in April.

Under Andreotti, BMS also focused on therapeutic areas that included cancer and hepatitis, and retreated from other areas—most notably diabetes, generating $3.3 billion plus the possibility of another $800 million by selling its diabetes business to AstraZeneca, its collaboration partner in the field, in February 2014.

On the oncology front, for example, the company enjoyed rising sales over the past couple of years for Yervoy (ipilimumab), introduced in 2011; and Sprycel (dasatinib), first launched in 2006. Last year, the company launched two cancer-drug partnerships with Five Prime Therapeutics—a Phase Ia/Ib combination regimen study to assess BMS’a Opdivo (nivolumab) with Five Prime’s FPA008; and a partnership to develop immunotherapies using Five Prime’s target protein discovery platform, a deal that could generate up to $350.5 million for the biotech.

On hepatitis, BMS scrambled to compete with Gilead Sciences, Johnson & Johnson, and other biopharma giants in bringing new treatments to market. In 2012, BMS was forced to write down $1.8 billion and halt development of a hepatitis C drug it acquired when it bought Inhibitex for $2.5 billion, following the death of a patient in a Phase II trial.

And in October, BMS withdrew its NDA for another hepatitis C candidate, asunaprevir, and dropped plans to pursue a hep C combo treatment marrying the NS3/4A protease inhibitor with another of its compounds, daclatasvir—but insisted it will continue to seek FDA approval of daclatasvir, a potent, pan-genotypic NS5A complex inhibitor.

Before becoming CEO, Andreotti was president and COO responsible for all of Bristol-Myers Squibb’s pharmaceutical operations worldwide. He was elected to the board in 2009.

Andreotti joined BMS in 1998 as vp and general manager, Italy and European oncology. He advanced in 2000 to president, Europe, and again in November 2002 to svp and president, International. Before joining the company, Lamberto held senior positions at pharma companies that include Pharmacia & Upjohn, Kabi Pharmacia, and Farmitalia Carlo Erba.

Dr. Caforio—who is fluent in five languages (French, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish, and English)—is a 15-year company veteran who oversees BMS’ worldwide commercial organization and two company-wide functions, enterprise services and global manufacturing & supply.

He joined the company in 2000 by succeeding Andreotti as vp and general manager, Italy. A year later, he assumed added responsibility for Greece and Israel, followed in 2003 by all of South East Europe. In 2004, he was named svp, European marketing and brand commercialization. Dr. Caforio became svp, U.S. Oncology in 2007; then svp, global commercialization, oncology and immunology, in 2010; and president, U.S., a year later. He was named chief commercial officer in 2013.

Before joining BMS, Dr. Caforio held a number of leadership positions at Abbott Laboratories over 12 years.

“From his start in a medical role to his experience as a general manager to his roles as chief commercial officer and chief operating officer, Giovanni has demonstrated a unique ability to work across the organization to bring innovative medicines to patients,” Andreotti said.

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