Emerging Pharma Leaders 2011 - Pharmaceutical Executive


Emerging Pharma Leaders 2011
Managing in the Era of Lean

Pharmaceutical Executive

Jennifer Leeds
Executive Director, Head of Antibacterial Discovery Infectious Diseases Area, Novartis

"I always really loved biology. But what probably got me most interested in microbiology was my mom working in a doctor's office. I would just come in and watch the urologists do all this testing, looking at pathogens. That was my first exposure to bacteria. I just really enjoy it."

Half a lifetime later, Jennifer Leeds, executive director and head of antibacterial discovery, has put that passion to great use over eight-and-a-half years at Novartis. Her current responsibilities place her in the lead of the entire antibacterial discovery group—the team responsible for everything from target identification, to validations, screenings, lead discoveries, all the way up through writing INDs.

"I think of myself as a 'gatherer,' so I don't claim to be the smartest person in every field. I just like to bring people together." Working for Big Pharma, she says, has its advantages, because you have many resources available. "What's been successful for me at Novartis," Leeds says about her leadership style, "is maintaining good relationships, treating people professionally, never taking all the credit yourself, and being very transparent."

What is it about transparency that is so important when being tasked with leading a diverse team of individuals? "I'd rather have someone be very clear about what they know, what they don't know, and how much they know about how to go about getting the information they don't have. I like to see how people think critically about a project. And lastly, I want to know of someone's ability to work with others. They need to be very team-oriented."

But leadership traits must be honed through years of experience; one doesn't simply acquire them, and one certainly never stops trying to develop those skills. According to Leeds: "I'm looking for mentors to make sure I'm able to do my job successfully. Being a mentor as well as having mentors is equally important. I don't think people necessarily see how valuable that is unless they're in it—being on both sides. But everybody can learn, everyone's got different experiences, and everyone's got something that they can contribute to someone else. Part of the path [of leadership] is being willing to be the mentor and finding the mentors you need yourself."

Craig Lipset
Head of Clinical Innovation, Pfizer

As head of clinical innovation for Pfizer Worldwide Research & Development, Craig Lipset runs a tight ship. He works with senior scientists to define the future for clinical trials and ensure that the company's R&D initiatives are connected and can leverage one another. As a large and decentralized organization, Pfizer runs the risk of having too many projects linked to process and tactics, while ignoring a long-term vision that can influence the commercial rate of return. According to Lipset, "We are seeking to share and institutionalize our work and the learnings. At the same time, we are working at a local and a corporate level to ensure we have a culture that supports and encourages innovation rather than more bureaucracy."

Lipset admits he has seen no shortage of organizational changes in the pharmaceutical industry; today, the R&D function at Pfizer is based on the premise that there are "no sacred cows." He disagrees with those who believe the industry is complacent, noting to Pharm Exec that there is a "sense of urgency as never before" and a basic consensus in the "C-suite" that the old ways of doing business must change. "Those that are unwilling or unable to adapt to this need for change may want to explore opportunities elsewhere," he says. "Now is the time for innovation."

Moreover, in his newly created position, he has observed a renewed appreciation for the role of the patient as a participant in clinical research. "I believe this is an extension of the new role of the patient as an engaged participant in managing their overall health and wellness," says Lipset. "This is a time to stay focused on our company's vision to improve health and well-being around the world."


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