Daniel Lucius Vasella, M.D. (born 15 August 1953) is a medical doctor, author, and executive who served as CEO and chairman of the Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis AG, the world’s fifth largest drug company. During his tenure the Novartis shares declined 10%, below the industry.
In November 2014, Vasella was elected as a member of the Board of Directors at XBiotech, Inc., a Biopharmaceutical Company located in Austin, TX that focuses on the discovery and commercialization of a next generation of therapeutic antibodies which harness a human’s natural immunity to fight disease. Vasella is an honorary member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In 2004, Time magazine named him one of the world’s 100 most influential people, and he was chosen as the Most Influential European Business Leader of the Last 25 Years by the readers of the Financial Times. He is a former member of the Steering Committee of the Bilderberg Group.
Vasella held a number of medical positions in Switzerland before being hired in 1988 by Sandoz Pharmaceutical Corporation, the former U.S. subsidiary of Swiss pharmaceutical company, Sandoz. He remained there until 1992, when he was promoted to CEO of parent company, Sandoz Pharma Ltd., and named a member of the Group Executive Committee.
Vasella helped to orchestrate the 1996 merger between Sandoz and Ciba-Geigy, another Swiss pharmaceutical company. The two companies combined to form Novartis AG. Vasella was appointed CEO of the combined entity and a member of the Board of Directors. In 1999, he was named Chairman of the Board of Directors.
In January 2010, Vasella decided to step down as CEO. He was replaced by his hand-picked successor, Joseph Jimenez, the Division Head of Novartis Pharmaceuticals at the time.
In January 2013, Novartis announced that Vasella would be retiring as Chairman of the Board of Directors in February 2013. Vasella was named an honorary chairman, to be succeeded by Jörg Reinhard in August 2013. According to the Ethos foundation Vasella earned from 2002 until 2012 312 Mio CHF from Novartis, and for the years before they estimated it to 60 Mio CHF, a total of 421 Mio CHF in 2013. That he should get 72 Mio CHF for a noncompetition clause at the end made him a public figure during the campaign for the Swiss referendum “against rip-off salaries”.
Vasella authored Magic Cancer Bullet: How a Tiny Orange Pill May Rewrite Medical History (2003), a book about the discovery and development of the breakthrough cancer drug Gleevec. The book was co-written with Robert Slater.
Vasella met Anne-Laurence Moret, the niece of former Sandoz CFO, CEO, and chairman Marc Moret, in 1973, and they were married in 1978. Vasella and his wife have two grown sons and a daughter. His older brother, Andrea Vasella, was a professor at the ETH Zurich. Vasella is a patron of the arts and enjoys skiing and spending time outdoors.
Awards and recognition:
Vasella has received numerous awards for his humanitarian efforts, corporate philanthropy work, and his leadership in the Pharmaceutical industry. They include:
2003: Harvard Alumnus Award:
2004: Most Influential European Business Leader of the Last 25 Years by the readers of Financial Times
2004: Time magazine: One of the Top 100 Most Influential Personalities
2004: The Cancer Research Institute’s Oliver R. Grace Award (for Distinguished Service in Advancing Cancer Research)
University of Marburg’s Karl Winnacker Preis 2007
Elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences 2008
GILD Award for Leadership: Warren Bennis Award for Excellence in Leadership 2010