Admirable Legacies

Pharmaceutical Executive, Pharmaceutical Executive-11-01-2021, Volume 41, Issue 11

Recognizing leadership in pharma.

As the year starts to close, some of the greatest minds in pharma, medicine, and R&D are moving on to the next phase of their lives, creating admirable legacies. With the sheer impact of and testament to their contributions, we are left to wonder what if they hadn’t been the CEO or the director, the person to wield the influence and leadership that was needed at the exact right time? Maybe we also look to ourselves and wonder, “What will be my legacy?”

Would I have loved to be a fly on the wall of Kenneth Frazier’s departure party as he left as CEO of Merck. While still championing the pharma’s interests as executive chairman, his contributions to pharma—and society—are well described in this article. Or Rod McKenzie, PhD, chief development officer and executive vice president of Pfizer, who I interviewed for our April issue. He leaves behind employees who have flourished under his leadership, and a CEO who gave him a heartfelt LinkedIn post to announce his retirement.

Then we have Francis S. Collins, MD, PhD, director of the NIH, who is leaving his post there after 12 years. Again, a long list of accomplishments, but if you don’t believe what you read, you can listen to what leading experts have to say about him in this recorded panel from the Milken Institute. For about the first 15 minutes, Esther Krofah, executive director, FasterCures and Center for Public Health, Milken Institute; Eric Topol, founder and director, Scripps Research Translational Institute; and Leana Wen, professor of health policy and management, Milken Institute School of Public Health, George Washington University, laud the esteemed professional. Collins will not be in full retirement, however; he will be leading his lab at the National Human Genome Research Institute, which is pursuing genomics, epigenomics, and single cell biology to understand the causes and means of prevention for Type II diabetes.

The final professional I’d like to showcase in this editorial is Janet Woodcock, MD, current acting FDA commissioner. While Woodcock’s future hasn’t been outlined, it is rumored that she is not in line to take over her current position full-time, so we don’t know where she is going. However, this article takes a deep dive into what Woodcock’s leadership at CDER means to advancing drug development, both from a regulatory and industry standpoint.

It is unfortunate, in my opinion, that her working toward positive change within CDER and working with manufacturers directly to advance their important work is seen as a negative by consumer groups and politicians. The article puts her squarely in the category of admirable legacies made by scientists, physicians, and executives through the years. It is in these positive legacies, much like science itself, where advances are built by those who preceded them. Which brings us back to the question, where would we have been without them?

Lisa Henderson is Pharm Exec’s Editor-in-Chief. She can be reached at lhenderson@mjhlifesciences.com.