December 12, 2014 / 7:05 AM / 3 years ago

Roche says head of Genentech research unit to retire

The logo of Swiss pharmaceutical company Roche is seen outside the Shanghai Roche Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd. headquarters in Shanghai May 22, 2014.Aly Song

ZURICH (Reuters) - Roche ROG.VX said the head of research operations at its subsidiary Genentech would retire at the end of the year, the latest in a string of executives to leave the Californian biotech unit.

The Swiss firm said on Friday Richard Scheller, 61, had decided to retire as head of Genentech Research and Early Development -- known as gRED -- on Dec. 31.

Michael D. Varney, who currently leads the company's small molecule drug discovery unit, will take over as head of gRED and become a member of the enlarged corporate executive committee.

Scheller is the latest high-profile departure from Genentech, seen as the main driver of the company's drugs pipeline having produced Roche's three top-selling medicines since 2011 as well as new breast cancer drugs Perjeta and Kadcyla.

Roche paid $47 billion in 2009 to buy out the remaining stake in Genentech, considered by many as one of the most successful biotechnology companies in history.

In September, former Genentech CEO Art Levinson resigned from Roche's board to avoid any conflict of interest due to his role as chief executive of Google's (GOOGL.O) Calico.

Hal Barron, Roche's former chief medical officer, also joined Calico last year.

Roche also said all current members of its board of directors would stand for re-election at its annual general meeting in March.

The board has decided to nominate former Wyeth CEO Bernard Poussot and Richard P. Lifton, professor of genetics and medicine at Yale University, as new members.

Reporting by Caroline Copley; Editing by Mark Potter

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