Eli Lilly has promoted John Lechleiter, its executive vice president of pharmaceutical operations, to president and chief operating officer. He also has been made a member of the board of directors.
As such, Lechleiter will handle much of the company's daily operations.
"This new leadership structure, which provides a balance of both strategic and operational focus, is right for this time of rapid change," Lilly Chief Executive Sidney Taurel said in a statement.
Indeed, the timing could be right for Lechleiter, who earned his Ph.D. in organic chemistry from Harvard and joined Lilly in 1979 as a senior research chemist, to effect positive changes in at least one of the firm's big franchises.
U.S. sales of schizophrenia drug Zyprexa (olanzapine) decreased 21 percent in the second quarter, to $549.3 million, due to competition from other drugs. But Zyprexa fared well in a new study appearing in the New England Journal of Medicine, which showed olanzapine was slightly better than other atypical antipsychotic drugs and one generic, although it also was associated with significant weight gain.
Lechleiter has held various roles in pharmaceutical product development, project management and regulatory affairs at the Indianapolis drug maker. He assumed the role of executive vice president of pharmaceutical operations in 2004 and then took on responsibility for U.S. operations that same year.
In addition, Lechleiter's new post could make him a likely candidate to succeed Taurel as CEO, noted Forbes.com. Taurel spent three years as president and chief operating officer, and eight as a board member, before becoming Lilly chief executive in 1999.