Pharm Exec's 2013 Emerging Pharma Leaders - Pharmaceutical Executive

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Pharm Exec's 2013 Emerging Pharma Leaders

Pharmaceutical Executive


Ask the Best of Yourself—First


Christopher Ariyan, Senior Director/Team Leader U.S. Oncology Managed Markets, Pfizer
Christopher Ariyan has always had a thing for innovation. But, he says, real examples of it have been difficult to find. And he's hardly been lazy in his quest—his career has run the gamut of organizations within healthcare. Before pharma, he earned his stripes working for hospital systems (via Ernst & Young), a payer (Anthem/WellPoint), a consultancy (Deloitte), and an international non-profit (REMEDY, Inc.). But it wasn't until he joined Pfizer five years ago that Ariyan could say that he witnessed—and got involved in—real innovation for the first time.

"Consulting seemed innovative: you did strategy work, you learned about people's problems," he says. "But in many cases the strategic plans you came up with sat on the shelf. On the payer side, we would have innovation sessions, but it essentially boiled down to how to more efficiently process claims and provide good customer service."

Pfizer, he says—particularly its Oncology Business Unit, in which he has led the Managed Markets team for the past two and a half years—is different. He attributes true innovation to its scientists, "some of whom have spent 30 years, their whole professional lives, coming up with cancer drugs that have a meaningful impact on society." But it's the unit's business innovations where Ariyan has made his mark.

In just 15 months, Ariyan has assisted the oncology unit through three product launches, which, by his own admission, is "almost a miracle." He has brokered payer access and oncology product distribution agreements that, formally, have not been done before, according to his Pfizer colleague Brian C. Denton, and he's resolved a problem of patient access and assistance through a new technology collaboration. Ariyan "has built the Oncology Managed Markets team from scratch and established the value of the National Oncology Account Management Team for Pfizer," adds Denton. "The national rating scores for the team have continued to increase significantly each year; Pfizer oncology account management rating scores are now in the upper third of all biopharma companies." Innovation, says Lance Reno, another Pfizer colleague, is something that Ariyan does on a daily basis. "He's taken our business unit in paths never explored before".

Ariyan puts a lot of this success down to the way Pfizer works. With the company's newly rolled out "Own It" culture, staff have "the leeway to take more responsibility, more accountability, and, not least, take chances with a priority around speed to market," he says. "And it's okay to fail. But you learn from these mistakes, course correct, and go on to new heights."

For his part in "Own It," Ariyan is committed to leading by example. Lots of leaders pay lip service to that old chestnut, but Ariyan really rolls up his sleeves and gets down to it. "My team appreciates that I don't give out assignments that I don't do myself," he explains. "When I send out a business planning task, I've already taken a shot at one of the accounts, not just as a test but as an exercise with real-world data. I want to feel what it's like when I give these assignments out." He adds however that "Own It" doesn't mean "go it alone," especially at a company the size of Pfizer; he emphasizes that the collaboration with Managed Markets teammates in the other business units (Specialty Care, Primary Care, Established Products, etc.) is vital.

Ariyan's passion for what he does goes back to a friend and life-long mentor Sam Chauncey who was, at different points of his career, Secretary of Yale University, President of Gaylord Hospital, and Head of Yale's Health Management Program. "He opened my eyes to the business side of healthcare and the role it plays in helping people get access to critical care," he says. Ariyan's ongoing commitment to this cause spills into his home life. A lot of his family's time is spent participating in sporting events, and "very often they are in support of a non-profit cause, raising money for research for a medical condition, for example." These activities are even more special, he says, when Pfizer is an active sponsor of the event.

It is clear that—spurred on by his earlier career odyssey—Ariyan has found his "home" at Pfizer. And the feeling seems to be mutual. The company has enlisted him on the "Next Gen" leadership development program; ~two percent of the global senior director population get accepted for this. For Ariyan, however, his future plans remain all about playing a part in continuing to innovate, and bringing those cancer medicines to market as quickly as possible.

—Julian Upton


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