Ousted: rule-breaking Lundbeck CEO and Novartis scientist get the boot

By Fiona Barry

- Last updated on GMT

Lundbeck is now searching for a new leader. (Picture: Flickr/Dan Peluska)
Lundbeck is now searching for a new leader. (Picture: Flickr/Dan Peluska)
Two pharma giants are today looking for new employees after pushing out the CEO of Lundbeck and a Novartis researcher for rule-breaking.

Lundbeck boss Ulf Wiinberg resigned yesterday from Denmark’s second largest pharma company after admitting he received a personal gift of shares from biotech Stratified Medical Ltd – shortly before Lundbeck made a 19m Danish Krone ($3.2m) investment in Stratified Medical. The firm is private and so the value of the 55 shares is unknown, Lundbeck’s Chairman said.

The Board of Directors said it considered the transaction an “aggravating circumstance​” and “a serious breach​” of Lundbeck’s Code of Conduct.

Wiinberg will receive a DKK 19m severance payment, Bloomberg reported. Until Lundbeck finds a replacement Chief Executive, Håkan Björklund will serve as Chairman of the Board with extended operational responsibilities, acting as day-to-day leader of the company.

Wiinberg said he was “sincerely sorry​” for his “unintentional​” actions, and said he had been first to inform the Chairman of the transgression. Björklund acknowledged the public apology but added “this does not change the fact that Lundbeck has a clear and unmistakable Code of Conduct for all employees. We cannot operate with degrees of compliance with our Code of Conduct and the Board of Directors therefore concurs with Ulf Wiinberg's decision to resign.​"

Wiinberg was previously President of European operations for 13 years.

Lundbeck, which makes anti-depressant Lexapro, saw sales of approximately DKK 15.3 bn in 2013 ($2.7 bn).

Funding ban for Novartis researcher

Novartis fired a scientist who was discovered to have cheated on six research papers.

Igor Dzhura, who until yesterday worked for Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research in Cambridge, committed the fraud while he was a Senior Research Associate in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Vanderbilt University.

The scientist provided falsified data during research financed by the Public Health Service (PHS), including funds from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the National Cancer Institute (NCI).

A report from the Office of Research Integrity (ORI) within the Department of Health and Human Services found Dzhura’s errors included:

  • falsifying cytosolic calcium buffering experiments;
  • falsely claiming a difference in sodium calcium exchange activity between Very Long Chain Acid Dehydrogenase Deficient (VLCAD) mice versus wild type mice;
  • submitting data in a manuscript to Nature Cell Biology he said was based on his memory as he claimed the original data had been lost;
  • fabricating a research record of patch-clamp data, including duplicating files to make it appear experiments were conducted when they were not.

As a result of the discovery, Dzhura agreed to a ban on federal funding for three years. Seven of his publications will be retracted or corrected:

  • Nature Cell Biology 2:173-177, 2000,
  • J. Physiol. 535(3):679-687, 2001,
  • Circulation 106:1288-1293, 2002,
  • J. Physiol. 545(2):399-406, 2002,
  • J. Physiol. 550(3):731-738, 2003,
  • FASEB J. 19:1573-1585, 2005,
  • Molecular Cell 23:641-650, 2006.

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