Lilly’s chief digital officer Aarti Shah announces retirement

Eli Lilly’s chief information and digital officer (CIDO) Aarti Shah is leaving the company next year after 27 years at the company.

Shah is retiring from a role that only became part of the drugmaker’s executive committee in 2017, reflecting the relatively late acknowledgement of the strategic value of information technology in the pharma industry. A search is now underway for her successor.

She has been CIDO at Lilly since 2016, charged with leading the “digital transformation” of the company and merging a diverse portfolio spanning IT, information security, digital health, and data analytics.

Shah’s appointment came at the beginning of a proliferation of senior pharma data specialists becoming elevated to the C-suite, and being able to influence company-wide strategy and make IT more central to corporate decision-making.

Even now, having a CIDO or chief digital officer on the board isn’t ubiquitous among big pharma companies, despite the encroachment of big tech firms like Amazon, Google and Apple into the healthcare space.

Lilly is one of a select but growing group of pharma companies – along with Pfizer, Bayer, GlaxoSmithKline, Novartis, Merck & Co, Sanofi and others – who have made CIDO/CDO appointments in the last few years.

Companies are looking to thread digital capabilities throughout their operations, from drug discovery to production and delivery to patients, in order to boost productivity and make processes more efficient.

At the same time, the industry is looking to develop digital medicines that improve patient outcomes.

Shah has been at Lilly since 1994, joining the company as a senior statistician, rising to become vice president for biometrics in 2009. That was followed by a stint in 2013 as global brand development leader in Lilly’s biomedicines business unit – leading up to the approval of Taltz (ixekizumab) for psoriasis – before making the step up to CIDO three years later.

“Aarti has been an invaluable member of our executive committee,” said Lilly’s chairman and CEO David Ricks.

“Her deep experience in drug development enabled her to connect our information technology organisation to all aspects of our business from drug discovery and development, to manufacturing, to our commercial capabilities,” he added.

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