Emerging Pharma Leaders 2011 - Pharmaceutical Executive


Emerging Pharma Leaders 2011
Managing in the Era of Lean

Pharmaceutical Executive

David Redfern
Chief Strategy Officer, GlaxoSmithKline

At 44, David Redfern is already something of a pharma industry veteran. With 17 years' experience behind him, he now leads GlaxoSmithKline's M&A and corporate development activities, has responsibility for its global dermatology business, and is chairman of ViiV Healthcare—an HIV/AIDS joint venture with Pfizer that he was instrumental in establishing.

Redfern's upward trajectory since joining the industry has been impressive from the outset. Qualifying initially as a chartered accountant, he began his career at PricewaterhouseCoopers (formerly Coopers & Lybrand, as it was known then), working in Europe and Africa. Back in London, while on secondment at Glaxo (a Coopers client), he was bitten by the pharma bug; he took a permanent post with the drugmaker in 1994 and hasn't looked back.

Redfern's progress at GSK leapt forward significantly, however, with the appointment of Andrew Witty as CEO in November 2007. Quickly identifying Redfern as a strong ally—Redfern's lean Six Sigma thinking was in line with his own ideas for reshaping the way GSK operated—Witty appointed him chief strategy officer when he reformulated the management team in the months leading up to his arrival in early 2008.

He is proud of the "enormous progress" the company has made since it started to run its business a lot more tightly following Witty's arrival. "I think today people would agree that that vision was right—GSK is further down the track than most in transforming itself," he says. "A lot of companies are just going into their major patent expiries. We are largely through the major headwinds on that; we're in a slightly different place."

But he is quick to highlight that his involvement in turning GSK around—"if that's not too strong a phrase"—has been very much as part of a team, and, not least, down to the good fortune of having a boss he believes in. Pushed for pearls of wisdom on what it takes to be a successful leader, Redfern affirms: "I put a lot of emphasis on the ability to articulate a clear vision, to take people on the journey with you, to map out where you're going and make sure everyone knows why. The ability to communicate widely is really important."

For all his modesty, Redfern's career in pharma clearly remains a glittering one. Going forward, according to his GSK colleague, Claire Thomas (herself a Pharm Exec Emerging Pharma Leader of 2010), the role of chief financial officer is very much in his grasp, and beyond that, she suggests, a future CEO position is a distinct possibility.

Amar Sethi
Vice President, Science & Technology, Pacific Biomarkers

An academic background in clinical chemistry combined with a solid understanding of a key therapeutic segment—lipid control medications—set the foundation for Pacific Biomarkers vice president for science and technology Dr. Amar Sethi's career as a pathfinder in drug development. He cites his exposure to patients as a hospital physician in the cardiology field, which adds considerably to his ability to understand how progress from simple "proof of concept" to final market authorization will shape the experience of patients in responding to a new treatment—not to mention the willingness of payers to consider it as a real therapeutic advance.

Sethi speaks highly of personal connections and credits his career progression for it: "A good connection can mean that the right job finds you instead of you having to seek the right job," he says. "Many of the best jobs are not even advertised. Knowing people professionally, especially connections of my more experienced counterparts, helped move my career forward."

Sethi says his transition into pharma has occurred in an era of limits and shortages accentuated by recession and deep cuts in public spending on drugs and healthcare in general. "I've observed increasing M&A activity (large and small) with the supposed aim of creating stronger financial institutions and to reduce the risk of financial default. Portfolios have been increased to hopefully average any risk associated with drug failure. Young leaders today will need to work with more outside partners on functions that used to be conducted entirely in-house. Awareness of the external environment and the ability to sensitively assess the qualities of a potential partner are going to be key skills for the industry in the future."


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