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Chiron Replaces Head of Flu Vaccine Unit

His departure comes after problems at the firm's British factory caused a shortage of shots in the U.S.

February 24, 2005|Denise Gellene | Times Staff Writer

Chiron Corp. on Wednesday replaced the head of its flu vaccine business months after the company was forced to destroy millions of flu shots that had been slated for the U.S.

The resignation of John Lambert came amid a high-level shuffle that Chiron said would strengthen the company.

Eric Schmidt, a biotechnology industry analyst with S.G. Cowan & Co., said he expected no other executive changes at Chiron. The company is under investigation by the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission for matters related to last year's flu vaccine shortage.

"Lambert is taking the fall," Schmidt said. "No one is blameless

Daniel Soland, 46, was named president of Chiron Vaccines, replacing Lambert. Soland was president and chief executive of Epigenesis Pharmaceuticals, a small company based in Cranbury, N.J. Before that, Soland worked with Chiron CEO Howard Pien at GlaxoSmithKline, making him the latest alumnus of the company to follow Pien to Emeryville, Calif.-based Chiron.

Jack Goldstein, 57, was named Chiron's president and chief operating officer, posts he assumed on an interim basis last year. Gene Walther, 50, was named president of Chiron's blood testing business, Goldstein's former job. Walther had been a vice president in the blood testing business, overseeing commercial operations in the Americas.

Chiron said Lambert was involved in choosing his successor and that the management changes were unrelated to Chiron's efforts to reopen its flu vaccine factory in Liverpool. British health authorities suspended Chiron's license to operate the plant in October after inspectors found bacterial contamination and sloppy manufacturing practices. The suspension reduced the anticipated U.S. flu vaccine supply by half.

Chiron has assigned a team of 70 employees and outside consultants to its Liverpool factory, where they are supervising changes in manufacturing, training and other areas. Because it takes four to five months to produce flu shots, Chiron must receive regulatory permission to begin production by early spring in order to deliver vaccine for the coming flu season.

Chiron's shares closed at $34.42, up 84 cents, on Nasdaq.

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