Sanofi names ex-Roche cancer guru Dietmar Berger as development lead


Roche alumnus Dietmar Berger has joined Sanofi as head of development following a short stint in biotech.

In his new role Berger will oversee the company’s clinical portfolio across all therapeutic areas to help bring new medicines to patients.

Last year Berger became one of several Big Pharma names to make the jump to biotech, taking a role as global head of research and development at T-cell immunotherapy biotech Atara Biotherapeutics.

He held this position for a relatively short time, having started in May 2018 and resigning last week when Atara got a new CEO in the form of Pascal Touchon, formerly of Novartis.

Prior to joining Atara, Berger was senior vice president and global head, product development, clinical science hematology and oncology at Roche/Genentech – and before that was vice president of global clinical development for the company’s HER2 breast cancer franchise.

Berger leant his expertise to filings of some of Roche’s most important new drugs – such as the cancer immunotherapy Tecentriq and the potential blockbuster in haemophilia, Hemlibra.

But it seemed that Roche’s decision not to develop any T-cell therapies of its own –  choosing instead to combine Tecentriq (atezolizumab) with cell therapies from Kite/Gilead under a deal announced in 2016 – eventually led Berger to be tempted away to a more specialist company focusing on this promising area.

The new job will see him reunited with John Reed, formerly head of the Pharma Research and Early Development (pRED) unit at Roche and now Sanofi’s global head of R&D.

Previously Berger led oncology clinical development at Bayer and held positions of increasing responsibility at Amgen.

He has also led research groups focusing on preclinical drug development, tumor models, angiogenesis, and immunotherapy as head of the Clinical Research Center at the University Medical Hospital, Freiburg, Germany, and at The Scripps Research Institute, La Jolla, California. He received the Cancer Award of the German Cancer Society for his research on angiogenesis and earned his M.D. and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Freiburg.