Emerging Pharma Leaders 2010 - Pharmaceutical Executive


Emerging Pharma Leaders 2010

Pharmaceutical Executive

Senior Vice President, COO, Nektar

Large pharmaceutical companies have traditionally been dependant on internal R&D to fill their pipelines. Inward-looking culture and the NIH (not-invented-here) syndrome in the large pharma companies is stymieing innovation, as reflected in weak pipelines when compared with the total investment in R&D. Many of these large companies are coming to the realization that they need to radically change their outlook on R&D to get a better bang for their R&D buck, and that inward-looking culture is slowly giving way to a more transparent attitude.

The leadership team at Nektar weathered a number of challenges in the early days. Our biggest challenge was when the company's most meaningful product—an inhaled form of insulin—was pulled from the market by our pharma partner. We faced this challenge head-on and initiated a major shift in strategy away from out-licensing our technology to developing our own clinical pipeline. In addition, we got out of the inhalation drug arena, where the opportunities were limited. Instead, we focused on developing drugs using the company's validated polymer conjugation technology, which offers more possibilities across multiple drug classes of both large and small molecules.

The result is that we now have several highly promising mid- to late-stage candidates in oncology and pain, both significant and growing markets with serious unmet medical needs. We've built an exciting and innovative biopharmaceutical company. We have gone from a market cap of about $300 million in 2008 to about $1.2 billion in the past two years. A remarkable turnaround.

CEO, Lundbeck US

Sean Nolan was chief operating officer at Ovation Pharmaceuticals when the company was acquired last March by Danish big pharma Lundbeck for a sensational all-cash $900 million. He led the integration over the past year, and succeeded in retaining Ovation's staff—minus founder Jeff Aronin, whose departure found Nolan in the CEO seat of newly formed Lundbeck US.

Long before the Lundbeck deal, Nolan made his pharma debut as a sales rep at Abbott. Nolan made quick work of Abbott's sales and marketing ladder, making it to manager in various therapeutic areas before moving on to little Ovation. Given his background in sales, Nolan's focus is on results, not process. But he cares about developing a culture of what he calls "assertive debate," in which all ideas are fair game for challenging—starting with his own. "If the CEO allows people to challenge him, and they see that, ultimately, everyone gets it—they're being asked to propose what they think is the best thing for the business, as opposed to just doing what they're told to do," he says.

Nolan believes leadership is an inherent trait and transcends time—you either have it or you don't. But it isn't enough to just manage by divine right. "Leading, to me, is always by example," Nolan says. "You model the qualities you want to transmit. So it's very important that people see that you have honesty, integrity, a hard work ethic, a positive attitude—especially in times of duress. It's easy to be a good leader in good times." Nolan recalls one particular litmus test, when FDA told him that there would be a six-month delay on its review of Sabril. "The entire company could have gotten depressed because so many plans hinged on the approval date," he says. "But the attitude I took was: We're going to use this as an opportunity to work through all the data again, rehearse additional mock advisory panels, and make sure that by the time we get to the advisory committee, we're even better than what we are today." Sabril won two approvals last fall, with unanimous votes.

And now, with healthcare reform and other major legislation, "understanding the impact of what's happening in Washington from a regulatory and policy perspective is going to be essential." Because the industry is so dynamic, a leader's necessary competencies are always evolving. "You have to be able to digest, analyze, and act on very complex, very fast flowing information."


blog comments powered by Disqus

Source: Pharmaceutical Executive,
Click here