Eli Lilly’s new chief digital and information officer – Diogo Rau – hails from Apple. The latest pharma to tap a consumer executive to head digital strategies, Lilly is swapping CDOs amid an accelerated shift to digital spurred by the pandemic.

Rau most recently headed information technology for Apple’s retail and online stores. He worked at Apple for 10 years, developing its online and retail store technology including the e-commerce platform, mobile point of sale, online store app and internal systems used by retail store employees.

Lilly’s move to hire a consumer veteran comes at a turning point in pharma’s digital adoption. Now more than a year into the pandemic, the initial scramble to shift to digital technologies across business units is beginning to settle in.

Lilly CEO David Ricks said Rau’s experience at Apple “will be invaluable to Lilly as we change how we discover, develop, manufacture and commercialize innovative new medicines.”

Lilly joins the ongoing pharma trend over the past four years hiring former consumer company digital leaders.

Sanofi hired its chief digital officer Arnaud Robert last year from Viking Cruises, where he held the same role.

GlaxoSmithKline was one of the first to hire from the consumer world when it recruited a former executive from Walmart.

Novartis hired its first chief digital officer in 2018 from a career in retail that included Amazon and EMI Music.

However, not all the consumer-to-pharma executive hires have stuck.

Merck & Co. tapped Jim Scholefield as chief information and digital officer in 2018, but the former Nike executive left last year to return to consumer digital at Marriott. Marc Speichert recently left GlaxoSmithKline, where he had served for four years as the chief digital officer for its consumer health business. He is now the chief commercial officer at Four Season Hotels and Resorts.

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