Senior Director, Immunology, Centocor
"I never thought I'd end up in the pharmaceutical industry," says Philippe Szapary. "Like many of my peers in R&D, I was in
academic medicine. I was on the faculty at the University of Pennsylvania in internal medicine. I was taking care of patients,
teaching medical students and residents, and engaging in clinical research and epidemiology." Then, says Szapary, "One thing
led to another and I ended up in R&D using many of the skills I had developed in academia, now on a much broader scale, and
thus impacting a lot more lives and people."
Now that he's on the industry side of things, Szapary recognizes how much has changed over the years, and how his leadership
philosophy has had to change accordingly. "I've had to focus much more on the differences between must-haves and nice-to-haves,"
he says. "We have a lot of work on our plates, and we're really faced with the issue of prioritization.
"I find prioritizing one of the biggest challenges in industry," continues Szapary. "In medicine, they don't teach you that.
In the US healthcare system, every patient gets the maximum amount of care every time. So now, coming into this resource-strained
environment, you have real tradeoffs to consider. We have fewer and fewer dollars in the R&D budgets, and we want to develop
a certain amount of potential products. ... I think those who will be successful in the future are those who will be able
to prioritize and manage these types of issues."
Also important, says Szapary, is a cohesive team. "Building and maintaining high-functioning teams and recognizing them for
their effort is key to meeting our goals. You need to listen to team members and value their input and perspective while also
focusing on their career development. By not doing these things, you run the risk of losing cohesion and focus, and of diffusing
Optimism in the face of adversity can be the secret to success in pharma, says Szapary. "When I was first contemplating going
into medicine, physicians tried to discourage me from entering the field because it had changed so much. And if I had listened
to the naysayers then, I would not be where I am today. I think there are still lots of opportunities in the pharmaceutical
industry. It's a very rewarding industry on a lot of levels. You've just got to be willing to adapt."
EVP, Endocrinology, EMD Serono
Being responsible for all commercial operations in the US for EMD Serono's endocrinology therapeutic areas—HIV, growth deficiency,
and infertility—has taught David Stern two things: 1) That failure is the first step towards success; and 2) When the success
comes, it's truly worth the effort.
Despite the leaner mantra of the industry, Stern says, "This is a great time to be in pharma, because these changes present
opportunities. We can't sit back and do things the way we used to. We as leaders have to be willing to let people try new
things, make mistakes, and fail—because failure breeds innovation."
This may sound like a risky leadership strategy, especially when money is tight. But Stern has seen it work, from the perspective
of a leader and of a rookie just getting his feet wet. "When I was a fairly junior marketer, I made a mistake. I ended up
spending a significant amount of money—about a $1 million—on something that didn't work," he recalls. "And rather than yell
at me, my boss at the time said, 'We just made an investment in you. A million-dollar investment. What did you do wrong, why
did you make the decision you did, and what did you learn from it?'"
Once the success comes, says Stern, the rewards more than pay for the trial-and-error method that got you there. "One of our
products is an infertility drug. We help people become parents. And when you get the letters from them, when you see the pictures
of their successes, that just serves to energize me and my team."
The responsibility of emerging pharma leaders, says Stern, "is to change the public's perception of pharma and biotech companies.
And if we make decisions based on the needs of the patient and not the needs of Wall Street, I think our industry will do
a lot better."