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GSK’s top scientist quits to help make billionaires live for ever: Hal Barron joins Jeff Bezos-backed anti-ageing start-up Altos Labs










The top scientist at pharma giant Glaxosmithkline has jumped ship to run a Silicon Valley start-up focused on anti-ageing technology.

In a setback for chief executive Emma Walmsley, veteran drug developer Hal Barron will step down as chief scientific officer in August.

He will become chief executive and co-chairman of Altos Labs, which is backed by billionaires including Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and is hiring scientists around the world to explore how to reverse the ageing process.

Veteran drug developer Hal Barron will step down as Glaxosmithkline's chief scientific officer in August to become chief executive and co-chairman of Altos Labs

Veteran drug developer Hal Barron will step down as Glaxosmithkline’s chief scientific officer in August to become chief executive and co-chairman of Altos Labs

Barron, 59, will remain on the board as a non-executive director for three years, supporting the firm’s research and development efforts.

Tony Wood, GSK’s senior vice-president of medical science and technology, will take over as chief scientific officer having joined the company from Pfizer in 2017.

Wood has worked on the launch of several key medicines including asthma treatment Nucala and HIV drug Cabenuva.

Altos, which has operations in Silicon Valley and San Diego in California, and Cambridge in the UK, is aiming to develop technology that can rejuvenate the body’s cells and extend lives.

Backers are said to include Bezos as well as Russian billionaire venture capitalist Yuri Milner. 

Aside from Barron, the firm has attracted other top talent including Nobel Prize-winning stem cell researcher Shinya Yamanaka, who sits on its scientific advisory board.

Barron said: ‘I am deeply honoured to have been offered this once in a lifetime opportunity to lead such a unique company with a transformative mission to reverse disease.’

Walmsley, 52, said the Altos opportunity was unique for Barron, and that GSK was ‘pleased’ that it will continue to benefit from his expertise at the board.

She added that Wood was ‘an outstanding scientist who is highly respected’ and that he was ‘perfectly placed’ to build on Barron’s progress.

Setback: The departure of Barron will be a heavy blow for boss Emma Walmsley (pictured)

Setback: The departure of Barron will be a heavy blow for boss Emma Walmsley (pictured)

Alistair Campbell, an analyst at broker Liberum, said the exit was ‘a surprise’ given Barron’s importance. But he added Wood was ‘very closely aligned’ with Barron so the transition was likely to be ‘seamless’ without any ‘serious strategic implications’.

The sentiment was shared by analysts at Bank of America, who said Wood was a ‘continuity candidate’ but did little to address their concerns over the ‘lack of progress’ in GSK’s drug pipeline.

The company’s shares, which were this week boosted by news of a £50billion bid from Unilever for its consumer healthcare arm, fell 2.1 per cent, or 348p, to 1666.4p.

Barron’s departure will be a heavy blow for Walmsley, who once joked that she spent more time choosing him as chief scientist than she did picking her husband.

She went to great lengths to accommodate the California-based scientist during his tenure, including opening a small office in Barron’s home of San Francisco when he agreed to join the company so he could stay there with his wife and two children.

Barron was even paid more than Walmsley in 2020, receiving a package of around £8.2million compared to her £7million, according to the latest annual report.

At the time, Barron’s hiring was seen as a major coup shortly after she took over running the group.

However, his exit is likely to increase concerns from shareholders who have questioned her lack of a scientific background.

It will also provide ammunition to activist investors Elliott Management and Bluebell Capital, who have been pushing for Walmsley to reapply for her own job while also criticising her strategy of splitting off the consumer healthcare business, which includes brands such as Sensodyne toothpaste and Panadol painkillers, into a separately listed company later this year.

The remaining part of the business will then turn its focus toward improving its pipeline of drugs and vaccines.

However, there are fears this strategy could be imperilled by Barron’s departure.

Billionaires in hunt for secret to eternal youth 

While young people dream of being rich, rich people dream of being young.

So some of the world’s wealthiest individuals are ploughing money into research.

A burgeoning industry in Silicon Valley is exploring how to halt ageing.

Investors in anti-ageing include Amazon’s Jeff Bezos (pictured with partner Lauren Sanchez), Google founder Larry Page and British tycoon Jim Mellon

Investors in anti-ageing include Amazon’s Jeff Bezos (pictured with partner Lauren Sanchez), Google founder Larry Page and British tycoon Jim Mellon

Investors include everyone from Amazon’s Jeff Bezos (pictured with partner Lauren Sanchez) and Russian billionaire Yuri Milner to Google founder Larry Page and British tycoon Jim Mellon.

Biological reprogramming was discovered in 2006 by Shinya Yamanaka, while a study in 2016 led by biochemist Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte showed it extended the lives of mice by six weeks – a significant increase on their normal lifespan. Both are now involved with Altos.

Others in the field include Unity Biotechnology, which has attracted billionaires including Bezos and Peter Thiel, the co-founder of Paypal. Calico Labs is backed by Google under Page. Mellon backs AgeX Therapeutics, a California firm.

While no anti-ageing tech has been tested on humans, market research group P&S Intelligence has estimated that the market could be worth £309bn by 2030.  

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Former Lloyds boss Horta-Osorio steps down as Credit Suisse chairman just nine months in after breaching Covid rules

  • Antonio Horta-Osorio has resigned with immediate effect 
  • An internal investigation found he broke lockdown and quarantine rules last year
  • He is being replaced by Credit Suisse board member Axel Lehmann
  • Horta-Osario’s former bank Lloyds is revealed to be planning share buyback 










International banking giant Credit Suisse has been thrown into disarray again after chairman Antonio Horta-Osorio resigned just nine months into the role following a breach of Covid lockdown rules. 

The former Lloyds chief executive, who was brought in to clean up Credit Suisse’s reputation after a string of scandals, is being replaced by board member Axel Lehmann.

Horta-Osorio’s sudden resignation comes as internal investigation last month found he broke Britain’s lockdown rules by attending the Wimbledon tennis finals in July.

Antonio Horta-Osorio has stepped down as chairman of Credit Suisse after just nine months

Antonio Horta-Osorio has stepped down as chairman of Credit Suisse after just nine months

He was also already found to have violated Switzerland’s restrictions by jetting to the Iberian Peninsula in December when he should have been isolating. 

‘I regret that a number of my personal actions have led to difficulties for the bank and compromised my ability to represent the bank internally and externally,’ Horta-Osorio said in a statement issued by the bank this morning.

‘I therefore believe that my resignation is in the interest of the bank and its stakeholders at this crucial time.’

The surprise move is likely to lead to questions over Credit Suisse’s strategy to clean up its act after its reputation was tarnished by its involvement with collapsed investment firm Archegos and insolvent specialist lender Greensill Capital.    

Credit Suisse said Lehmann, who takes over with immediate effect, was now going ‘to drive forward the strategic and cultural transformation of the bank’. 

Credit Suisse shares were down 2 per cent in early trading on Monday. 

Tennis fan: Credit Suisse boss Antonio Horta-Osorio (right) with Portuguese Davis Cup star Joao Lagos

Tennis fan: Credit Suisse boss Antonio Horta-Osorio (right) with Portuguese Davis Cup star Joao Lagos

Horta-Osorio, a keen tennis fan, who was a member at the prestigious Queen’s Club in London while at Lloyds, attended Wimbledon in July when Covid rules said he should have quarantined. 

That was the second example of the Portuguese banker, 57, breaking lockdown rules. On November 28, he entered Switzerland from the UK and should have isolated for ten days.

Just days later, he flew on a private jet to the Iberian Peninsula despite being informed by government officials that he would not get special exemptions. 

Horta-Osorio received a knighthood in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list in 2021 for his services to the financial sector, as well as his voluntary work for mental healthcare and culture.

He had headed up Santander’s UK arm before taking over at Lloyds in early 2011 the bank was on its knees after its £20.3billion taxpayer bail out at the height of the financial crisis following an ill-fated rescue of rival HBOS.

He bowed out from Lloyds in April with a £2.1billion first-quarter profits haul. 

Lloyds set to buy back shares 

Lloyds Banking Group is poised to buy back about £1billion of its shares from next month as it begins a sweeping new strategy under replacement boss Charlie Nunn, writes Emma Dunkley.

The announcement will come alongside the bank’s full-year results, the first to be revealed under Nunn who took over from Antonio Horta-Osorio last summer. 

Repurchase programmes buy back shares from the stock market to boost the value of the remaining shares, providing a lift to Lloyds investors. 

The bank revealed in October that it had more than £4billion in surplus capital. 

In a presentation seen by The Mail on Sunday, director of investor relations Edward Sands said: ‘We have a very strong capital position that is likely to lead the board into a conversation around surplus capital distributions over and above the ordinary dividend. 

The market is expecting a buyback of circa £1billion – so a reasonably meaningful buyback programme.’ 

> Read the full report on the potential Lloyds buyback

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Last of Persimmon fat cats steps down: Finance boss Mike Killoran – who trousered £60m in shares – quits after 26 years










The last of the three Persimmon fat cats to cash in from a £185million bonus scheme is leaving the housebuilder.

Mike Killoran, who was one of former chief executive Jeff Fairburn’s key lieutenants, has been at the company for 26 years.

But the 60-year-old will leave today having served as finance boss since 1999. Persimmon has poached Jason Windsor, who held the same role at Aviva, to replace him.

Mike Killoran, who was one of former chief executive Jeff Fairburn’s key lieutenants, has been at the company for 26 years

Mike Killoran, who was one of former chief executive Jeff Fairburn’s key lieutenants, has been at the company for 26 years

Killoran was one of three senior house builders at Persimmon to be handed tens of millions of pounds of shares in a controversial bonus scheme that cost Fairburn his job.

Killoran was handed £35million of shares in 2017 and £25million in 2018 while Fairburn received a total of £82million and Dave Jenkinson got £43million. 

Fairburn was forced out in 2018 amid a public outcry over the payments. He was replaced by Jenkinson, but he left last year and was succeeded by Dean Finch.

The departure of Killoran came as Persimmon reported bumper figures after cheap mortgage deals and the stamp duty holiday sent the property market into a frenzy during the pandemic.

Revenues rose 8 per cent to £3.6billion in 2021 as it completed the sale of 14,551 new homes, the company said in a trading update.

This was around 1,000 more than in 2020 – though it was below 2019 levels.

It was also boosted by rising property values as the average selling price of its homes rose from £230,500 in 2020 to £237,000 last year.

However, the company said increasing numbers of staff have been off work since Omicron hit, disrupting some moves.

It said: ‘The updated Government guidance has led to a pick-up in sickness-related absenteeism, with some customers also choosing to delay moving into their new home as they isolated.’

Home-buying inquiries ‘remained encouraging’, however, despite Government support schemes coming to an end.

The company’s order book stood at £1.62billion at the end of last year – below the £1.69billion of the year before but above the figure recorded in 2019.

Killoran navigated Persimmon through the pandemic, including lockdowns which initially rocked the construction industry.

He joined the company in 1996.

But bosses will hope his departure finally draws a line under a high-profile row about the bonus scheme set up in 2012.

The trading update followed the Government’s announcement on Monday that all leaseholders in high-rise blocks should not have to pay for remediation works on dangerous cladding.

This includes those in properties between 11 metres and 18 metres tall.

Persimmon insists it constructed only a ‘very small proportion’ of buildings affected by cladding problems.

Persimmon shares fell 0.5 per cent, or 13p, to 2608p.

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