AstraZeneca’s Chief Medical Officer to Depart After Three Years

Briggs Morrison, who heads late-stage research and development for AstraZeneca Plc, is leaving after three years at the U.K.’s second-biggest drugmaker.

Morrison is departing for “other opportunities” later this month, said Ayesha Bharmal, an AstraZeneca spokeswoman. She declined to say where he is going.

Morrison, who joined the company from Pfizer Inc. in 2012, is credited with stabilizing AstraZeneca’s research operations. On his watch, the drugmaker received approval to sell Lynparza, a medicine for ovarian cancer, and secured breakthrough therapy designation from the U.S. Food & Drug Administration for a number of other drugs.

At the same time, AstraZeneca is facing patent expirations and has said revenue will slump this year and next before returning to growth in 2017 when new drugs propel earnings.

Morrison was one of three executives overseeing the AstraZeneca pipeline, alongside Mene Pangalos, responsible for early stage small-molecule development, and Bahija Jallal, who runs MedImmune, the company’s biotech arm.

“When you have a large organization, particularly one where R&D decisions are made by a triumvirate, losing an individual cog may not be that significant,” said Nicholas Turner, an analyst at Mirabaud Securities.

An American, Morrison received a medical degree at the University of Connecticut and also previously worked at Merck & Co. As executive vice president for global medicines development at Astra, Morrison was part of Chief Executive Officer Pascal Soriot’s senior executive team. Soriot will oversee the late-stage pipeline on an interim basis, Bharmal said.