Emerging Pharma Leaders 2012

Jul 01, 2012

Meet 2012's Emerging Pharma Leaders. Can these 15 global trend setters set the mark on their unique time in history—by doing better with less, making scarcity a virtue, while tapping new opportunities from science and technology to build competitive scale, globally, and across functions and markets?

That's a tall order. And this year's Leaders are advancing to the "C-suite" during arguably the toughest times the industry has ever seen. Hurdles in the search for profits include the global debt crisis; a towering patent cliff, with over $50 billion in lost revenues this year alone; harder science and a more skeptical stance on drug approvals; and a continuing massive downsizing in sales forces as marketing trends digital. Yet each of these 15 men and women, scattered on three continents, have learned from challenges, overcome obstacles, built capable teams, retained their passion for the work they do—and stayed on course. Pharm Exec spoke with them to find out what characteristics, skills, and lessons they've valued most along their journey—and whether it's through good listening skills, impeccable teamwork, or strategic leadership, each seems to have found his or her own North Star.

As we look at these upcoming leaders who are still on their journey to success, Pharm Exec decided to have a conversation with one more leader—one who has reached his destination and stayed long enough to grow from a seedling into a solid Oak with deep roots. Jurek Gruhn is US President of the diabetes-focused drug and device company Novo Nordisk. Last month, the Danish-based company experienced its 40th consecutive quarter of double-digit growth. In April, it announced plans for a 15 percent expansion of its US workforce. Take a look at the staff downsizing, war of attrition M&As, R&D budget cuts, and dwindling pipelines of much of the industry and you can't help but ask, "What's their secret?"

For starters, says Gruhn, a long history (89 years to date) and a focused specialization in one therapeutic market are key factors in Novo's success. "Approximately 80 percent of our efforts go into diabetes, specifically into therapeutic proteins within diabetes. We know left, right, and center, the needs of patients with diabetes," he says. "I know patient centricity sounds like a cliché and everyone is talking about it, but I've been with this company for 16 years, and the patient has always been at the center of all our activities—we know how to satisfy their needs, regardless of where we do business."

It follows that the best way to understand the patient is to be involved in the care community. Says Gruhn, "volunteerism is a big focus for our employees, and something we definitely encourage. Our employees take part, in their own spare time—without any pressure from us—in many different activities associated with diabetes, such as camp programs and charity events. When you are this close to your customers, if tough times arise, then you know instinctively the reason you are with the company—you don't need to be told."

The group dynamic of the Novo team is also critical, Gruhn told Pharm Exec. That dynamic is built on a commitment to diversity and an equal opportunity for access and to be heard. "I direct a team of only 11 people. We have four different nationalities, three women, and an age range from the 30s to the 60s. We value diversity," he says. "And the team is able to speak up—that's one of the key capabilities of any emerging leader, in my mind. We talk. We argue. We discuss. If people are able to fight for their opinion, argue professionally, and then come to a common conclusion and implement it as one team, then that team is going to be successful." The point is clear: the hoary bromides of the famous poem Invictus—I am the master of my fate—is no match for the pure simplicity of mutual trust.

Jennifer Ringler

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