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Prognosis

Big Pharma’s First Female CEO Disrupts Glaxo From Within

Emma Walmsley has replaced 100 managers and is focused on cancer treatments.
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Illustration: Alexis Beauclair for Bloomberg Businessweek

When GlaxoSmithKline Plc bought cancer-treatment maker Tesaro for $5.1 billion last year, skeptics panned the deal, and the stock tumbled. On July 15 a key medicine acquired in the transaction yielded positive results, a small victory in Chief Executive Officer Emma Walmsley’s bid to overhaul the British drugmaker.

Seeking to catch rivals in the race to produce blockbuster drugs—and silence critics who see Glaxo as a lumbering giant—Big Pharma’s first female CEO is engineering a radical shake-up, taking a different path than Bristol-Myers Squibb, Takeda Pharmaceutical, and AbbVie, which are reinventing themselves with megadeals.