You made your mark at Millennium by building the business development function, which led ultimately to the assignment from
Takeda President and CEO Yasuchika Hasegawa to manage this function globally and to oversee the acquisition of Swiss-based
Nycomed. What learnings can you share from your many years on the front lines of pharma licensing and M&A?
Protopapas: Business development has been critical to the growth of Millennium and is also a high priority for Takeda as it seeks to
become more global, so throughout my career in both companies I have never been far from the center of decision-making. Prior
to the merger with Takeda, I led numerous discussions on partnerships, which were pivotal to Millennium's pipeline strategy.
This resulted in Takeda CEO Hasegawa asking me to run business development for the entire company, a position I accepted because
achieving the vision of globalization depended on a well executed acquisition strategy. Again, it was not without risks, as
I was aware of being the first non-Japanese executive to supervise this important activity. Since then, in addition to purchasing
Nycomed, we have acquired five other companies.
These acquisitions have literally changed the face of the company. While Takeda was clearly innovative, it lacked the global
commercial infrastructure necessary to bring these innovations forward to more patients. Plugging this gap became our priority
objective. Subsequently, we identified Nycomed as an acquisition target because it had strong commercial roots in Europe and
the emerging country markets, areas where Takeda was weak, without duplicating our strength in the US and Japan.
Nycomed proved to be a more complicated transaction than we had anticipated. It took six months of very intense negotiations
requiring extensive due diligence because Nycomed was a private equity operation. We had to move step by step to compile the
evidence to secure internal – and external – support for the transaction. I knew we had to build a story that allowed others
in both organizations to reach the same conclusion about going forward, on their own, especially in light of Takeda's consensus
based decision-making. This was different than the top down stance of simply saying "we're doing this, so get on board."
The inclusive approach strengthened my conviction that the acquisition would create two productive synergies. The first was
the cost and efficiency gains. These have been completed and the savings have far exceeded our expectations. The second is
"top line" enhancements from the expansion and redesign of commercial infrastructure, moving Takeda products through the Nycomed
distribution channels, and vice versa. This is still a work in progress, but as more new products come on stream, the value
of a bigger development, sales and manufacturing network is going to become apparent.
How has culture influenced the combination between Millennium and Takeda? Japanese companies are notoriously insular, which
some experts cite to explain why its pharma sector has failed to seize the market potential that exists beyond the domestic
Protopapas: Awareness of company culture is vital in making any combination a good fit. I think the addition of Millennium to the Takeda
family is proof that culture can be a dynamic, flexible and adaptive tool – one that actually makes it easier for large organizations
to cope with disruptive change. Takeda has a history that goes back 230 years, where it began selling Chinese herbal products,
followed by its move to Western-style medicines early in the 20th century. The point is that age is not a barrier to change,
especially when management has the confidence to rely on that strong culture to acknowledge the need for a different way forward.
Hasegawa is himself the symbol of a confident company culture, having been chosen by the Takeda family as the first outsider
to head the business. His mandate has been to refresh the corporate brand —and to make Takeda a young company once again.
Over the past five years, he has put the company on a clear path to global player status by acquiring Millennium and Nycomed;
realigning sales strategy in the US, dissolving the TAP venture; and recruiting and empowering dozens of non-Japanese executives
like me. The result is that diversity is now an ingrained part of Takeda's culture. In fact, Takeda is positioned to be led
by a French citizen and former GSK executive, Christophe Weber, who is our new COO as of April 1 and is expected to be named
President when Hasegawa relinquishes that position in June 2015.