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Daniel Vasella
Daniel Vasella World Economic Forum 2013.jpg
Vasella at the World Economic Forum in Davos, 2013
Born Daniel Lucius Vasella
(1953-08-15) August 15, 1953 (age 64)
Fribourg, Switzerland
Residence Risch, Switzerland
Alma mater University of Bern (MD)
Harvard Business School (PMD)
Occupation Chairman Novartis AG
Spouse(s) Anne-Laurence
Children 3

Daniel Lucius Vasella, M.D. (born 15 August 1953) is a medical doctor, author, and executive who served as CEO and chairman of the Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis AG,[1] the world's fifth largest drug company.[2] Vasella is recognized for his humanitarian and philanthropic work, and his leadership and contributions to the pharmaceutical industry.[2]

Vasella is an honorary member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.[3] In 2004, Time magazine named him one of the world’s 100 most influential people, and he was chosen as the Most Influential European Business Leader of the Last 25 Years by the readers of the Financial Times.[2][4]

Early Life and Education[edit]

Vasella was born in Fribourg, Switzerland in 1953.[5] His father was a history professor at the local university, and his mother was a housewife. His desire to become a doctor began during his childhood, which was marked by several tragedies.[2][3] At eight years old, he contracted TB and meningitis and spent nearly a year in hospitals.[6] When Vasella was 13 years old, his father died from complications of surgery.[6]

Vasella obtained his M.D. in 1980 from the University of Bern in Switzerland.[5] He completed his residency at the University Hospital in Bern and the city hospital in Zurich, before returning to Bern as chief resident.[2][5] In 1988, he changed career paths, working in the United States as a pharmaceutical sales representative and in market research. In 1989, he completed the Program for Management Development at Harvard Business School.[2][5] Vasella was awarded an honorary doctorate for medicine by the University of Basel in 2002.[2][3]


Vasella held a number of medical positions in Switzerland before being hired in 1988 by Sandoz Pharmaceutical Corporation, the former U.S. subsidiary of Swiss pharamaceutical company, Sandoz. He remained there until 1992, when he was promoted to CEO of parent company, Sandoz Pharma Ltd., and named a member of the Group Executive Committee.[2][7]

Vasella helped to orchestrate the 1996 merger between Sandoz and Ciba-Geigy, another Swiss pharmaceutical company.[2] The two companies combined to form Novartis AG. Vasella was appointed CEO of the combined entity and a member of the Board of Directors. In 1999, he was named Chairman of the Board of Directors.[2]

In January 2010, Vasella decided to step down as CEO. He was replaced by his hand-picked successor, Joseph Jimenez, the Division Head of Novartis Pharmaceuticals at the time.

In January 2013, Novartis announced that Vasella would be retiring as Chairman of the Board of Directors in February 2013.[8] Vasella was named an honorary chairman, to be succeeded by Jörg Reinhard in August 2013.[9]

Vasella is a member of the Board of Directors of PepsiCo, Inc. and the American Express Company.[3] He is also a member of the International Advisory Board of the Peres Center for Peace in Israel, the International Business Leaders Advisory Council for the Mayor of Shanghai, and a board member of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.[3] As of May 2013, Vasella was working with the global management consulting firm McKinsey & Company as a coach for CEOs, and as a private coach and advisor to executives.[10]


Vasella authored Magic Cancer Bullet: How a Tiny Orange Pill May Rewrite Medical History (2003), a book about the discovery and development of the breakthrough cancer drug Gleevec.[11] The book was co-written with Robert Slater.

Personal life[edit]

Vasella met Anne-Laurence Moret, the niece of former Sandoz CFO, CEO, and chairman Marc Moret, in 1973, and they were married in 1978.[12] Vasella and his wife have two grown sons and a daughter. His older brother, Andrea Vasella, was a professor at the ETH Zurich.[12] Vasella is a patron of the arts and enjoys skiing and spending time outdoors.[13]

Awards and Recognition[edit]

Vasella has received numerous awards for his humanitarian efforts, corporate philanthropy work, and his leadership in the Pharmaceutical industry. They include:

  • Harvard Alumnus Award[14] 2003
  • Most Influential European Business Leader of the Last 25 Years by the readers of Financial Times[2] 2004
  • Time magazine: One of the Top 100 Most Influential Personalities[15] 2004
  • The Cancer Research Institute’s Oliver R. Grace Award (for Distinguished Service in Advancing Cancer Research) 2004
  • University of Marburg’s Karl Winnacker Preis[16] 2007
  • Elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences 2008
  • GILD Award for Leadership: Warren Bennis Award for Excellence in Leadership 2010

External links[edit]


  1. ^ The Pharmaceutical Horizon Beckons, The New York Times, 13 August 2005
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Madslien, Jorn. "Profile: Novartis chief Daniel Vasella". BBC News. Retrieved 15 May 2013. 
  3. ^ a b c d e "American Express Company Elects Dr. Daniel Vasella to Board of Directors". American Express. Retrieved 15 May 2013. 
  4. ^ The 2004 Time 100 : Daniel Vasella, Time
  5. ^ a b c d 2003 Alumni Achievement Award for D. Vasella
  6. ^ a b "An interview with Daniel Vasella". McKinsey & Company. Retrieved 15 May 2013. 
  7. ^ "Curriculum Vitae: Dr. Daniel Vasella". WebCite. Retrieved 15 May 2013. 
  8. ^ Businessweek: "Vasella Quitting Wins Cheers From Novartis’s Investors"
  9. ^ Pharmaceutical Market Europe: "Bayer’s Jörg Reinhardt to replace Daniel Vasella as Novartis chair"
  10. ^ "Builder of Novartis Is Stepping Down". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 15 May 2013. 
  11. ^ Vasella Slater, Daniel Robert. "Magic Cancer Bullet: How a Tiny Orange Pill May Rewrite Medical History". Amazon. Retrieved 15 May 2013. 
  12. ^ a b "Blick für die Frau". Die Weltwoche. Retrieved 15 May 2013. 
  13. ^ "Daniel Vasella". Bloomberg Businessweek. Retrieved 15 May 2013. 
  14. ^ "Alumni Achievement Awards: Daniel L. Vasella, M.D". Harvard Business School. Retrieved 15 May 2013. 
  15. ^ The 2004 Time 100 : Daniel Vasella, Time
  16. ^ "Verleihung des Karl-Winnacker-Preises 2007 an Dr. Daniel Vasella". Philipps-Universität, Marburg. Retrieved 15 May 2013. 

Category:1953 births Category:Living people Category:Businesspeople in the pharmaceutical industry Category:Harvard Business School alumni Category:People from Fribourg Category:Swiss chief executives Category:Swiss physicians Category:University of Bern alumni