Astellas head of corporate affairs Jeff Winton has departed the company for a role at Boston-based drugmaker Alkermes.
Alkermes, which focuses on treatments for central nervous system diseases like schizophrenia and addiction treatments, is bringing on Winton to build out the company’s public affairs capabilities and increase awareness of the company and its medicines, Winton said. His title will be SVP of public affairs, and he will serve on Alkermes’ executive team.
"It’s an opportunity to do exactly what I’ve been doing at Astellas for the past five years," Winton said. "There are a lot of parallels [to Alkermes and] where Astellas was five years ago. I never thought I’d have the chance to build another capability like that."
Alkermes’ therapeutic focus also drew him to the company. Its addiction drug puts the company in the middle of the opioid crisis. He has also seen family members struggle with mental illness, which made him passionate about mental health.
"I’ve seen firsthand what mental illness can do to a person, to a family, to a community," Winton said. "This was the opportunity to hopefully advance some of their science and some of the thinking about this growing epidemic in this country."
Winton joined Astellas in 2013 as SVP and chief communications officer. He was tasked with building the Japanese pharma company’s U.S. brand and comms team. Winton was promoted in 2015 to lead the newly created corporate affairs division and oversaw all communications alongside policy, government affairs, advocacy, CSR, and more.
With his exit on Friday, Astellas shook up its corporate affairs structure. Instead of one person at the head of both communications and government affairs, the two functions have been separated.
Moyra Knight took over some of Winton’s previous responsibilities alongside her current departments and was promoted to VP of corporate communications. She is overseeing the team for product comms, corporate comms, corporate citizenship, medical and development communications, corporate events, and executive comms, she said.
The government affairs part of Winton’s role was moved over to Joseph Devaney, VP of government affairs and policy, and Astellas Americas president Percival Barretto-Ko, Knight said.
"[Winton] set up a fantastic organization and my hope is to be able to continue the great momentum that he built," Knight said. "That is where I've set my sights because we've already got a solid structure."
Prior to Astellas, Winton was head of global communications at Eli Lilly for three years. Earlier in his career, he worked in communications at Roche and pharma companies that were later acquired by Pfizer and Merck, including Schering-Plough and Pharmacia.
Alkermes was established in 2011 after the merger of Alkermes Inc, and Elan Drug Technologies. The company has two drugs approved in the U.S., Aristada for schizophrenia and Vivitrol for alcohol and opioid addiction, along with pipeline drugs for depression, schizophrenia, multiple sclerosis, and immuno-oncology.