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New Actelion CEO feels adrenaline rush

Actelion biotech
Actelion takes on a new life as part of Johnson & Johnson Keystone

The newly appointed CEO of Swiss biotech Actelion says there are no plans to let go of any employees or to downsize as she takes the reigns on behalf of US behemoth Johnson & Johnson.

The American pharmaceutical multinational, which operates more than 250 companies and paid $30 billion to take over the relatively small Actelion, put Jane Griffiths of Britain in charge of running its newest Swiss acquisition.

Previously, Griffiths was responsible for Johnson & JohnsonExternal link’s pharmaceutical division in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, which has 14,000 of the J&J’s more than 125,000 employees in 60 countries. She has a doctorate in biochemistry and started working as a pharmacist at J&J in 1982. 

Asked whether she was nervous about the new job, Griffiths told Swiss newspaper NNZ am Sonntag that “a little adrenaline is good” for taking on these responsibilities.

“At Actelion, I will be responsible for development and research and building a global business,” she said. “It will be part of my role to help Actelion employees navigate in the new environment. I’ve been with J & J for many years, know a lot of people, know how the company works. At the same time, we will make every effort to preserve the biotech feeling.”

Growth, not downsizing

Founded in late 1997, Swiss-based ActelionExternal link has over 2,600 employees. Its shares are traded on the SIX Swiss Exchange. Idorsia, a pharmaceuticals research company, was then sput out from Actelion after J&J acquired it for $30 billion in cash in January.
Idorsia is headed by Actelion founder Jean-Paul Clozel, a French cardiologist who insisted on keeping control of his research labs and experimental medicines in the initial pipeline.

At Actelion, Griffiths suggested she hopes to hire on more employees.

“We have no plans to let any of them go. On the contrary, we want to increase our importance in Switzerland,” she said. “Because Actelion is working on its own therapeutic area, we will have our own, if not a completely independent organization. And a unit of this size needs internal, administrative support. We did not make this purchase to make savings, but to grow.”

One of the challenges she faces will be to fill the Actelion product pipeline. As one of Europe’s biggest biotechs, it is a leader in the field of pulmonary arterial hypertension. It also has treatments approved by health authorities for a number of specialist diseases.

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