Blair Gibson, Merck

June 1, 2008

Pharmaceutical Executive

Volume 0, Issue 0

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Blair Gibson

ED, Portfolio Strategy and Strategic Planning, Global Human Health, Merck

MOST RECENT HIT: Global marketing of diabetes blockbuster Januvia

ROLE MODELS: William F. Buckley, Jr. ("strategic thinking, conservative, firm, a change agent")

Blair Gibson

Blair Gibson always wanted a career in pharma. He studied medicinal chemistry, and had his heart set on research until his mentor gave him a reality check. "He said, 'You'd be a disaster in the lab, but you have a very outgoing personality. Your route should be on the commercial side." Harsh—but good advice. Starting out in the field, Gibson gained a place on the team that brought first-in-class diabetes drug Januvia to market—widely viewed as one of the fastest, most successful launches in pharma history. His reward? A promotion in January to a newly created position that Gibson translates as optimizing Merck's promotional spend across all marketed and pipeline products, and all geographies. "Strategy around resource allocation and portfolio management is needed now more than ever," Gibson says. "And while the discipline is flying below the radar, when the work starts coming out in June or July, it will be a new process, a new framework, a new way of looking at our promotional spend"—estimated to be as high as $8 billion. That's a lot of chips to gamble with. For Gibson, it allows him to keep his eye on the big picture while giving his outgoing personality a chance to make a big impact.