David A. Ricks will succeed John C. Lechleiter, Ph.D., as president and CEO of Eli Lilly effective January 1, 2017, the pharma giant said today, tapping another veteran executive to build upon growth seen over the past year following 3 years of declining sales.

The announcement came a day after Lilly reported better-than-projected second-quarter results.

“As Lilly transitions from our recent challenging period of patent expirations to a new era of growth, it is the logical time for a transition in company leadership,” Dr. Lechleiter said in a statement. “Dave is well suited to help Lilly capitalize on the opportunities before it, as well as to confront the inevitable challenges that lie ahead. He will provide outstanding leadership for our company in the coming years.”

Ricks is now svp and president, Lilly Bio-Medicines, a position he has held since January 2012. Lilly Bio-Medicines encompasses the therapeutic areas of Alzheimer's disease, urology, immunology, musculoskeletal disease, and pain, as well as the company's global marketing function.

Ricks' successor as president of Lilly Bio-Medicines will be announced at a later date, Lilly said.

In addition to president and CEO, Ricks will also become Lilly’s chairman on May 31, when Dr. Lechleiter leaves the position and the company’s board. That transition will cap Dr. Lechleiter’s 38-year career at the company, which began when he joined Lilly in 1979 as a senior organic chemist in process research and development.

Dr. Lechleiter advanced during the mid-1980s to director of pharmaceutical product development for the Lilly Research Centre Limited in England. He later held roles in project management, regulatory affairs, product development, and pharma operations before being named president and COO in 2005, joining the company’s board of directors.

Dr. Lechleiter became CEO in April 2008, and chairman in January 2009. During his tenure, Lilly was forced to confront the patent cliff expiration of several top-selling drugs—including the antidepressant Cymbalta® (duloxetine hydrochloride), and the osteoporosis drug Evista® (raloxifene hydrochloride). In 2013, Lilly laid off about 1000 U.S. sales representatives in anticipation of revenue declines

Last year, however, the company reported much better news, namely six FDA approvals, and the launches of Cyramza (ramucirumab) for metastatic non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC); the once-weekly type 2 diabetes treatment Trulicity (dulaglutide); another type 2 diabetes treatment, Jardiance (empagliflozin); and Basaglar (insulin glargine injection), indicated for both adults and childen with type 1 diabetes and for adults with type 2 diabetes.

During the second quarter, those and other launches accounted for 10% pharmaceutical volume growth that drove a 9% increase in revenues over Q2 2015. Lilly finished Q2 with net income of $747.7 million, up 24% from the year-ago quarter, on revenue that grew to $5.4 billion.

Lilly said yesterday its R&D effort has the potential to launch 20 new products in the period from 2014–2023.

“Lilly is in the midst of one of the most productive periods of new product launches in our company's history, with new medicines making a substantial contribution to our revenue growth for the first half of the year,” Dr. Lechleiter said in a statement accompanying the Q2 results.

Ricks joined Lilly in 1996 as a business development associate, then held several management roles in U.S. marketing and sales before moving to Lilly Canada, where he served successively as director of pharmaceutical marketing, national sales director, and general manager. He was later named president and general manager of Lilly China before becoming president of Lilly USA in 2009.

“Lilly has the right strategy. We've built a strong pipeline and have a promising portfolio of recently approved new medicines. Navigating major patent expirations in recent years, we've sharpened our focus and improved our vigilance and agility,” Ricks continued. “Now, we must realize our growth potential in an increasingly challenging global marketplace.”

Previous articleNew Gene-Editing Tool Zeros in on Multiple Genes Simultaneously
Next articleCytokinetics-Astellas Partnership Raised to Another Level in $95M Deal