Exelixis, Inc. (Nasdaq: EXEL) today announced that Gisela M. Schwab, M.D., the company’s President, Product Development and Medical Affairs and Chief Medical Officer, passed away over the weekend. Dr. Schwab had been on a medical leave of absence since June 18, 2021.
Exelixis President and Chief Executive Officer Michael M. Morrissey, Ph.D., issued the following statement on behalf of the Exelixis team and the company’s Board of Directors:
“All of us at Exelixis are deeply, deeply saddened by Gisela’s passing. A brilliant oncologist turned clinical development professional, Gisela was a remarkable leader, mentor, and friend. She was beloved by her colleagues, who were inspired by her strategic thinking, tireless work ethic, and above all, her unwavering dedication to improving care and outcomes for patients with cancer.
Sadly, Gisela’s passing comes on the heels of another treasured colleague, Jon Berndt, our Senior Vice President of Sales, who passed away last Wednesday following a lengthy battle with cancer. Losing Gisela and Jon in the same week, both of whom were life sciences industry veterans, is a reminder of our fragility and that cancer knows no bounds. Like Gisela, Jon was a wonderful friend and colleague, and his passing is an enormous loss to all who knew him and to the Exelixis family.”
Dr. Morrissey continued: “It’s not a stretch to say that over the course of a career across leading academic research institutions and biopharmaceutical companies in the U.S. and Europe, Gisela’s work helped millions of patients with cancer. After medical and postdoctoral training, she joined Amgen and led a multifunctional team in the clinical development and worldwide registration of Neulasta®, which helped transform the experience of receiving chemotherapy or radiation for patients with cancer. In 1999, she joined Abgenix, ultimately becoming the company’s Chief Medical Officer, and played an integral role in the development and approval of Vectibix®, which at the time was the first entirely human antibody FDA-approved to treat colorectal cancer.
Gisela joined Exelixis in September 2006. We were incredibly fortunate to hire her, and even more fortunate to have her as our Chief Medical Officer for the past 15 years. As the leader of our Product Development and Medical Affairs organization, Gisela and her team helped usher in Exelixis’ transformation from a research and development-stage enterprise into a commercial biotechnology company. During her tenure, Gisela led her team to milestone after milestone, including the design of high-quality clinical programs and delivery of clinical data that resulted in the introduction of Exelixis medicines that benefit patients on a global basis.
Gisela was a joy to know and work with. She cared deeply about her colleagues and was generous with her time, knowledge, and leadership. Although she spoke softly, her words carried great weight. She had a wonderful sense of humor and was deeply admired and respected by all.
Gisela’s legacy will live on in the practice-changing therapies she brought to patients. She will also be remembered for her indelible impact on the wide group of talented clinical development, medical affairs, regulatory, and related professionals she collaborated with, managed, and mentored throughout her career. With the development of the talented teams and rigorous processes she spearheaded over the years, I have every confidence that our Product Development and Medical Affairs organization will continue to execute with a high degree of focus and urgency on our key clinical development priorities for cabozantinib, XL092, and the company’s earlier-stage pipeline. As discussed on our second quarter 2021 financial results call in August, we began a search process for our next Chief Medical Officer this summer and will provide an update when appropriate.
The team at Exelixis is close-knit, and our senior leadership team is particularly so. Having worked closely with Gisela for more than 15 years, I will miss her personally and professionally. We’ll make plans to honor Gisela in the coming weeks, but for now, my heart goes out to her family, especially her husband and her two treasured Golden Retrievers.”
Added Dr. Morrissey: “Jon joined Exelixis in September 2015 following two decades of commercial biopharmaceutical experience. His previous tenures included time at Gilead, where he built and led the company’s oncology sales team supporting Zydelig®, and at Genentech, where he spent 13 years in a variety of sales and sales operations roles supporting products including Rituxan®, Avastin®, Herceptin®, and Tarceva®. At Exelixis, he played a central role in building out our sales organization ahead of the initial CABOMETYX® launch in April 2016. Over the next six years, he led the sales team to a series of successes as CABOMETYX grew to become an oncology franchise. Our Commercial organization simply wouldn’t be what it is today without him.
Jon was generous in spirit, a friend to all, and his energy and passion were contagious. Driven by the need to do the right thing in every moment and to take care of his people, he raised funds for employees in need and always offered a supportive hand. A natural leader, coach, and mentor, Jon knew how to nurture talent and motivate a group of individuals to achieve a common goal. He did this at work and at home, where he coached his son and daughter’s sports teams to the admiration of players and parents alike.
During his nearly 30 years in the biopharmaceutical industry, Jon touched the lives of hundreds of colleagues and countless patients. He leaves a legacy of putting patients first, and his passing is another painful reminder of why we do what we do here at Exelixis. We will miss Jon greatly. Our sympathies are with his wife, children, and extended family.”
Founded in 1994, Exelixis, Inc. (Nasdaq: EXEL) is a commercially successful, oncology-focused biotechnology company that strives to accelerate the discovery, development and commercialization of new medicines for difficult-to-treat cancers. Following early work in model system genetics, we established a broad drug discovery and development platform that has served as the foundation for our continued efforts to bring new cancer therapies to patients in need. Our discovery efforts have resulted in four commercially available products, CABOMETYX® (cabozantinib), COMETRIQ® (cabozantinib), COTELLIC® (cobimetinib) and MINNEBRO® (esaxerenone), and we have entered into partnerships with leading pharmaceutical companies to bring these important medicines to patients worldwide. Supported by revenues from our marketed products and collaborations, we are committed to prudently reinvesting in our business to maximize the potential of our pipeline. We are supplementing our existing therapeutic assets with targeted business development activities and internal drug discovery – all to deliver the next generation of Exelixis medicines and help patients recover stronger and live longer. Exelixis is a member of the Standard & Poor’s (S&P) MidCap 400 index, which measures the performance of profitable mid-sized companies. In November 2020, the company was named to Fortune’s 100 Fastest-Growing Companies list for the first time, ranking 17th overall and the third-highest biopharmaceutical company. For more information about Exelixis, please visit www.exelixis.com, follow @ExelixisInc on Twitter or like Exelixis, Inc. on Facebook.
Exelixis, the Exelixis logo, CABOMETYX, COMETRIQ and COTELLIC are registered trademarks of Exelixis, Inc. MINNEBRO is a registered trademark of Daiichi Sankyo Company, Limited.
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