A Window on the Industry: The Emerging Pharma Leaders 2014

Aug 01, 2014


William Looney
PHARM EXEC'S 2014 ROSTER OF EMERGING LEADERS—our eighth, comprising an honor class of nearly 200 recipients to date—is more than just a way to recognize young executives who've made a difference in their organizations. Each list also serves as a window on work in an industry that, perhaps more than any other, relies on human capital as the coinage of success. Because our nominees are selected on the basis of a track record in directing teams, we can identify current trend lines around leadership behaviors: in a distracted world, fixing clear goals, with messages that motivate; keeping people on point and accountable for results; taking on reasonable risks while accommodating failure; and avoiding those process regimens that plague large institutions through a commitment to diversity—in culture, ideas, and talent.

The following is a capsule summary of insights about our changing industry gleaned from the 15 emerging leader profiles compiled by the Pharm Exec editorial staff:

New competitors in the pharma space. This year's list features two young CEOs from Russia and Portugal whose companies are venturing beyond their protected domestic base to test big-time opportunities in the US, Europe, and Japan. Antonio Portela, CEO of Portugal's Bial, capped years of effort in securing an FDA marketing license in November 2013 for the epileptic drug Aptiom—the first new medicine developed in Portugal for sale in the US. R-Pharm CEO Aleksey Repik is transforming Russia's second-largest domestic drug company into a global player linked to a network of partnerships with the cream of big Pharma, all while making his company top of the league within Russia as the sole local producer able to meet global standards for GMP. Both companies are family owned, a familiar model for successful businesses in the emerging market countries, and one that insulates them from the short-term investor pressures associated with being publicly held. Interestingly, many of today's big Pharma players started out the same way—give or take a century.

Globalization of the talent pipeline. Job assignments and career growth are tracking to a much more global trajectory, with many of our leaders remarking how they have benefited from postings outside their cultural comfort zones. Europeans are obtaining high-profile assignments managing US businesses, while one of our American leaders became a change agent in transforming his company's approach to market analytics in Japan. Overall, the immigrant experience continues to enrich the managerial talent pool in the US. Legislators in Washington, take note.

Supply chain manufacturing—from pumpkin to the gilded coach. As three of our leaders can attest, operations management is no longer a technical backwater but a front line strategic capability that has the undivided attention of the "c-suite." There will be no profits from tomorrow's individually targeted biologics if process technologies fail to keep pace with the complexities of reproducing them in a scalable, cost-efficient manner, for safe use by patients worldwide.

Numbers don't tell the full story. While big data has been touted as the solution to the industry's evidentiary challenges, there is a growing awareness that numbers alone do not create the interpretive knowledge required to guide decisions. A prized asset for managers these days is the ability to draw insights, establish context, and simplify the complex, which means that data is best applied as a tool toward that larger end, where the necessary judgments must be made by people relying on learned experience and—yes—intuition. It follows that none of our leaders wish to be known as "quants," but emphasize those softer people skills that allow managers to adapt and stay ahead of the curve imposed by today's unruly markets. As one leader says, "always start with the end in mind." And data can only take you part of the way.

Science is shaping career choices. As the recording of the human genome allows more precise targeting of drugs to address specific conditions, all diseases are becoming rare diseases, with dozens of specialty biologics to treat them now emerging from industry labs. For our leaders in commercial development, the best therapeutic opportunities are now found in this space. This is despite the fact they all cut their management teeth on traditional small-molecule products for chronic, big population conditions applied in primary care settings with a high level of generic penetration. The transition to specialty drugs imposes a significant learning curve on all marketers, and this generation of leaders is first to experience it.

Silo thinking—the albatross that still wanders. Organizational structure, office politics, culture barriers, and the inbreeding created by functionalized expertise remains the key obstacle to turning strategy into results. The will to change has to be matched with real incentives, says our group.








William Looney, Editor-in-Chief
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