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Fabrice Chouraqui: Managing Paradoxes


Fabrice Chouraqui, former president of Novartis Pharmaceuticals US, shares what he learned about the digital landscape of pharma during his tenure with the company.

It’s not easy to keep pace in the fast-changing digital world of pharma. But as president of Novartis Pharmaceuticals US, Fabrice Chouraqui harnessed the power of technology to successfully enhance business performance and patient outcomes. He is credited with enabling real-time insurance coverage in ophthalmology, leveraging decision support tools in cardiology, and developing systems that reduced diagnostic time from years to weeks through faster referrals to rheumatologists.

Though Chouraqui recently stepped down from his role at Novartis, he is eager to share what he learned about the digital landscape of pharma while with the company and offer his vision of leadership today.

Pharm Exec: How have you embraced digital technologies over the years to enhance business? 

Fabrice Chouraqui: The fast progress of data science and digital technologies are bringing immense new possibilities to the way we conduct our business. Artificial intelligence (AI) combined with the availability of ever larger data sets is transforming drug discovery and now allows a deeper understanding of human biology and the identification of new targets. Predictive analytics is making clinical development much more efficient, with increasingly sophisticated protocol design and trial monitoring operations. Digital technologies are also greatly improving diagnostic and clinical decisions. We have recently developed innovative clinical decision support tools that plug into electronic medical records (EMR), analyze patients’ records, and make suggestions to doctors on possible treatment adjustments according to the latest medical guidelines. I have also supported the development of AI-powered tools that increase access to care through real-time insurance verification. Driving practice-changing innovations like these make me believe that digital technologies can help solve real challenges facing patients today and improve on the efficiencies of our industry.

In pursuing these digital efforts, how has your specific leadership style made you successful?

In leading any effort, what is most important is recruiting the right talent for your team. You want people who are genuinely curious and who understand how to harness new technologies to drive value for the business and ultimately for the patients. You need individuals who think innovatively and do not overly rely on their past achievements for future success. To attract and retain this talent, you must foster an environment where individuals and teams can flourish, a collaborative and psychologically safe environment where they can challenge and be challenged, an environment where there is a willingness to experiment and make quick, yet rigorous, decisions to seize opportunities. You also need to be genuine about your purpose. For me and the people I choose to work with, our purpose is to change medical practice and make a difference for patients. It is this strong purpose that helps to unify the organization and engage stakeholders.

What are your thoughts on leadership in pharma and biotech today?

As business dynamics are becoming ever more complex, leadership today is about managing paradoxes. You must be a forward thinker and continuously challenge the status quo, while embedding strong day-to-day execution standards. You need to delegate appropriately while remaining strongly connected, internally and externally, to maintain a deep understanding of the evolution of the science and the intricacies of the business environment. You need to foster a highly collaborative environment while promoting a culture of strong individual accountability. You need to showcase confidence, but remain a humble listener and surround yourself with people who bring multiple perspectives and dare to challenge you. As a leader, your ability to strike the right balance between all these aspects will allow your organization to develop the necessary sophistication to remain at the forefront of its business environment.

What are some of the greatest ways pharma and biotech leaders can make a difference in the current climate?

Science has never progressed as fast as it is today, and technologies like gene therapies or gene editing have the potential to change the paradigm for patients and revolutionize medical practice. As biopharma leaders, we must understand the potential disruptions that these treatments will create to healthcare systems. It is important that we work with payers, policymakers, and providers to help find solutions to allow appropriate access to these breakthrough therapies. There is no easy solution, and it will require adjustments by all parties involved. As the opportunities to benefit patients grow, so do challenges, and it is our job to balance these in ways that benefit individuals and society as a whole.

Do you have plans to stay involved in pharma? If so, in what respect?

Absolutely. It’s an exciting time in the industry as the science is progressing fast and business models are becoming more sophisticated. I am committed to continuing to play an important role in transforming scientific innovation into breakthrough medicines for patients.

Fabrice Chouraqui

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