Cherry Wood is leaving the agency in October to set up her own ethical medical and healthcare public affairs agency.
Wood was hired in October 1997 to launch Athena, from her role as head of public affairs at drug company AstraZeneca.
Wood would not disclose the name of the new agency, which would be launched before Christmas. She does not have any launch clients or staff signed up.
'I have been at the agency since it started and have been instrumental in its growth,' said Wood. 'I felt that it was now time to do something different and to be able to develop something myself. I was just 29 when I was given the massive opportunity to start the agency. I now feel the need to move on.'
Wood is working her notice period and is not taking gardening leave.
Athena chairman Mike Lane will oversee the running of the agency, alongside consultant Tessa Hopkins and business unit directors Jennifer Wilson and Sharon Poole.
'Athena has always had a great team and we will be building on all our experience to ensure high standards are maintained,' said Lane. New plans for the agency are expected to be revealed in coming months.
Athena signed up Wilson last summer in a bid to boost its international reach (PRWeek, 22 August 2007).
She joined the agency from her role as international communications manager at pharma firm Roche after 11 years at the company.
Athena Medical PR is owned by LEC Communications, which is an Omnicom company. Its clients include Pfizer and Bayer Schering. It was taken on by Bayer Schering Pharma at the beginning of this year to handle the UK PR campaign for its forthcoming anti-coagulant drug (PRWeek, 31 January).
Rivaroxaban is due to launch this year following a regulatory filing to the European Medicines Agency at the end of October 2007.