Emerging Pharma Leaders 2010 - Pharmaceutical Executive


Emerging Pharma Leaders 2010

Pharmaceutical Executive

Senior Director, Business Development, Millennium, the Takeda Oncology Company

We've seen tremendous changes in the last decade across the entire spectrum of the pharmaceutical industry. In clinical development, we've seen significant efforts in centralized resource planning and outsourcing of non-core functions. On the commercial side, we've seen health outcomes gaining importance and reimbursement playing a pivotal role in market planning. These changes are driven by many factors, but the most important among them is the drive for increased productivity and demand for quality from payers and customers. This convergence has brought business development activities to the forefront of long range planning. We can no longer afford to rely solely on the ingenuity of our scientists. We must proactively monitor and acquire external assets to enhance our pipelines.

As the industry becomes increasingly globalized, new challenges emerge, while conflicts and confusions arise. But I don't think this represents an accurate picture of pharma today. What I see are proactive efforts to adapt to the changing environment, and to continue to deliver value.

We live in a defining moment in the healthcare and pharmaceutical industry—it is the best of times and the worst of times. The current economic environment is forcing the industry to adapt and change for the better. This provides unique challenges and opportunities. I strongly believe that innovation is the foundation that will take us to the next golden age of pharma. As scientists unlock the power of human genome and medicines become more personalized, only those who continue to innovate will survive and thrive. I hope that I will have played a role in being part of these positive changes.

President and CEO, Acucela

Ryo Kubota has kept his eye on the prize—curing blindness—ever since he was a kid whose injuries to his retina caused floaters and required laser surgery.

The path to this goal started when Kubota, a native of Japan and eye-surgeon-cum-researcher, discovered the gene that causes glaucoma, the second leading cause of blindness worldwide. But after the devastating realization that a cure would take many, many years, Kubota left Japan for the University of Washington Institute for Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine. There, he discovered a way to test small molecules for possible activity against the wayward gene. Running with that technology, he started up Acucela in 2002.

Governing Acucela presented a learning curve for Kubota, between having to attract funds and micromanage in the lab. But he soon found his footing, employing what he calls a collaborative approach to management. Most major decisions are now delegated to his team of department heads, who must come to a consensus. "I will come in only when they cannot come to an agreement—I'm pretty hands-off at this point," he says.

Kubota believes that trust is essential to leadership, and that the burden is on the leader to discover "a tailored way of communicating with each person to create a strong bond so that they will embrace your vision and follow your lead." And it should come as no surprise that this successful scientist-entrepreneur encourages his staff to experiment, take risks, even make mistakes. "My message is, If you're not making some mistakes, then you're not stretching yourself enough," he says.

And after only eight years, the biotech has solved its money worries. Otsuka Pharma has inked a deal with Acucela to bankroll development costs. "We don't have to raise any more money till commercialization," he says. "The only reason we are interested in going public is to expand our pipeline." It currently has five compounds for various serious retinal pathologies.

Kubota's ten-year plan isn't limited to treating blindness. A true believer in the concept that strength lies in diversity, he wants to apply his faith in collaboration to global problems. "Throughout my career, I have seen that there is a way for everyone to live in prosperity by means of collaboration, despite very different backgrounds. I would like to expand that beyond the pharmaceutical business so that the world can live together in a more cohesive way," he says.


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