Senior Vice President, Corporate Development, Acceleron Pharmaceuticals
When Steve Ertel graduated from Duke University with a degree in biomedical engineering, he was one of only a handful of graduates
in his major that decided to forgo medical or graduate school. Instead, he was ready to take his education and training to
The first job Ertel landed out of college was with a venture capital firm, which represented a combination of interests—finance
and business, applied to biology and medicine—and supplied him with a firsthand look at how investors fund biotech startups,
and what they look for. A couple of years later, Ertel went to work at Vivus, a biopharma focused at the time on erectile
dysfunction drugs. "When I was hired [at Vivus], I was employee number 17," says Ertel. Working for a small company means
wearing lots of hats, and gaining the kind of broad experience that is crucial in making good decisions, he says. At a smaller
company, individuals can "play a different role in affecting the strategic outcome of a company," since company SOPs aren't
yet written in stone, and new ideas are readily pursued. At small companies, "you can feel your contributions and see them
over time, and they have a really lasting directional impact on where your company is going. I find that very rewarding,"
Today, Ertel is senior vice president, corporate development for Acceleron Pharma, a relatively small biotherapeutics company.
"I've worked my way back now, after a number of years at top-tier biotechs, to try to take all of the experience and learnings
from those larger companies, and apply them to earlier stage biotech companies," he says.
In defining his management style, Ertel emphasizes the importance of a broad understanding of the issues at play, prior to
forming an opinion. "Once you have an understanding of all the issues, you can focus on one or two key issues that ultimately
drive the decision. Like most everything in biotech and drug development, the complexity and multifactorial nature of the
issues can sometimes be confounding. If you can pair down the complexity to one or two issues, then you have a scope of the
challenge you face that's manageable," says Ertel.
CEO, Sunovion Pharmaceuticals
In the short time that elapsed from receiving Mark Iwicki's Emerging Pharma Leader nomination to speaking with the man himself,
he had been promoted from COO of Sunovion Pharmaceuticals (Marlborough, Mass.) to the company's CEO (effective late June).
The speed with which this career hike took place is in keeping with Iwicki's progress at Sunovion (formerly Sepracor). Joining
the CNS and respiratory treatment company as executive vice president and chief commercial officer in 2007, he quickly revamped
its commercial model and masterminded a move to single-territory ownership. The success of this strategy caught the attention
of Dainippon Sumitomo Pharma (DSP), a Japanese company seeking to expand its presence in the US. DSP acquired Sepracor in
October 2009 and Iwicki became its president and chief operating officer in early 2010. By late 2010, he was successfully
leading the integration of the two companies.
His recent rise may have been meteoric, but Iwicki is no flash in the pan. At 45, he has 22 years' industry experience, starting
out as a rep with Merck Sharp & Dohme in 1989. From there he went on to the fledgling Astra Merck—where he helped to establish
the health economics department and also worked alongside future AstraZeneca CEO David Brennan—and then to Novartis, where
he led the cardiovascular business unit.
"Being a sales rep was probably the greatest starting place," Iwicki says. "You learn so much about customer contact and what
our business is really all about. And the early roles I had at management level really helped me get a broad perspective of
the industry and how an organization works."
Indeed, Iwicki credits the variety of his early experiences with shaping his current management style, which colleagues say
is open, warm, encouraging, and personal. "I'm a real walk-around kind of manager," he explains. "Each morning you can find
me on the different floors talking to people, sometimes just listening, sometimes rolling up my sleeves to work on a problem
with them. I want the workplace to be a learning environment, very open, very collaborative."
Being prepared to learn continuously is the most important attribute for a leader, Iwicki believes. "It's easy to get complacent
as you become more senior, thinking that you've seen it all and know it all. It's important to have an open mind, to realize
that the real power of any organization comes from a group of people."
Fostering a sense of inclusiveness and encouragement is important to Iwicki outside the office too. Helping and inspiring
children, for example, is high on his personal agenda. A father of four, he currently helps to coach his children's soccer
and hockey teams, as well as serves as the assistant coach of three more youth teams. "I feel like I need to give back to
the community," he says. "I see if I can lend a hand, if I can be a role model for the community in one way or another."
He adds: "It may sound a little bit corny, but I love making a difference. I love this industry; it's one of the few industries
where you can do good—good for patients, good for doctors, good for society, and for yourself and for your family."
Vice President, External Medical Communications, Pfizer
With three advanced degrees under his belt, Dr. Stuart Sowder, PharmD., JD, MBA, credits "mother necessity" as a major role
in his drive for obtaining the tool set that he needed to succeed. After spending eight years working in healthcare (retail
and hospital pharmacy) and obtaining his law degree, Sowder, who is vice president, external medical communications at Pfizer,
decided that entering the pharmaceutical industry provided many exciting options for a lifelong career.
For the past five years, he has been leading Pfizer's external medical communications team, which includes functions that
work with healthcare providers and patients every day. As part of his defining role, Sowder manages global medical information
and publications to Pfizer's transparency efforts such as clinical trial disclosure and transparency in grants.
These days, he notes that pharma is focused on "doing more with less" to keep pace with the complex nature of industry's work.
Responsibility is being pushed further down in the organization. And leaders must take notice: "I think that today, more than
ever, we must have a highly empowered organization to be successful," says Sowder. "We must have talented people within that
organization, who are accountable for delivering results in their respective areas with little practical oversight and guidance.
Leaders must trust that people in their organization have the capacity and integrity to deliver results appropriately."