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Life sciences industry mourns death of Jos Baselga, head of cancer R&D at AstraZenecas

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AstraZenecas Executive Vice President, Oncology R&D, Jos Baselga, MD, Ph.D., 61, has passed away.

According to local reports from his native Spain, Baselga died of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, an incredibly rare and fatal disease that causes brain damage that quickly worsens over time.

A little over two years ago, Baselga joined AstraZeneca to lead its oncology R&D unit which, before COVID, was its main focus and future engine of growth.

He helped shape the Daiichi Sankyo collaboration focused on its antibody-cancer drug conjugate med Enhertu (trastuzumab deruxtecan), which subsequently gained FDA approval. He arrived at UK Big Pharma in early 2019 after his role as Chief Medical Officer at Memorial Sloan-Kettering and a stint as President of the American Association for Cancer Research, and was recruited to help shake up the business research biz.

RELATED: ASCO: Baselga from AstraZeneca on personalizing treatments and walking to cure cancer

We are deeply saddened by the news of the passing of Jos Baselga, member of our management team, says Pascal Soriot, Head of AZ.

Jos has championed our transformative collaborations with Daiichi Sankyo regarding the clinical development of Enhertu (trastuzumab deruxtecan) and datopotamab deruxtecan, two drugs that have shown great potential for cancer patients. He led a team to accelerate other exciting new sciences in antibody-drug conjugates, cell therapy, epigenetics, as well as new cancer treatments.

Jos has built a world-class oncology research and development team that he will miss dearly, along with all of his colleagues across our company. Jos was more than a colleague for me. He was a friend and someone I respected and cherished enormously. I will greatly miss having him by my side and I will continue to be inspired by his work and vision.

The condolences of big names in the life sciences were not lacking. The AACR issued a statement saying that: We offer our sincere condolences to his family, colleagues and friends, while his colleague from AZ Mene Pangalos, who led the other side of the R&D of the company, tweeted that he was shocked and devastated by today’s news. Joss passing. He was a brilliant oncologist, a fantastic drug developer and a great, inspiring and empowering colleague. We have lost a special and irreplaceable person today.

Jay Bradner, president of the Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research (NIBR), added that he was devastated by the death of Jose Baselga. A champion of cancer research, a passion for people and life, a shining light far too soon, he said. Rest in peace José, your joy and tireless ambition to do more for cancer patients will be missed.

Baselga is survived by his wife Silvia and their four children.

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