People News: Novartis, Afferent Pharmaceuticals and Axon

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Novartis said that current CEO and chairman Daniel Vasella will hand over the chief-executive role to Joe Jimenez, who currently heads the company's pharmaceuticals division, effective February 1. Vasella will continue in his role as chairman of the board, concentrating on strategic priorities. The change, announced in the Swiss firm's year-end earnings statement, completes a succession plan which began in 2008. Other changes to take effect next month: David Epstein, currently head of the oncology business, will replace Jimenez as head of pharmaceuticals, and Jon Symonds will take over as CFO from Raymund Breu, who will retire on March 31, having reached the mandatory retirement age.

Afferent Pharmaceuticals hired Bruce McCarthy, MD, as CEO. He had been an industry consultant, serving as head of development and chief medical officer for several start-up companies. Dr. McCarthy's previous roles include a succession of senior positions at Pfizer, including VP, neuroscience development. Before Pfizer he worked for Abbott Laboratories. Afferent's lead neuroscience compound, AF-219, is in clinical testing.

Healthcare consulting firm Axon hired Mario Nacinovich as managing director of Axon US. He is based in New York and will report to Ralph Sutton, Axon's managing partner based in London. Axon is the international healthcare operation of National Public Relations. Prior to joining the firm, Nacinovich was VP of strategic planning and business development at medical-education firm QD Healthcare Group. His previous roles included chief growth officer for Caudex Medical and co-CEO and co-founder of Fission Communications and VP of strategic planning, director of business development and VP of ophthalmology for Ventiv Health.
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