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Tenacious drive to reach patients characterizes career.
From the very beginning of his 22-year tenure, Emerging Pharma Leader Gardner Gendron has been selfless and focused on serving patients. As a New England native who graduated from the University of New Hampshire with an accounting major and biology minor and in the top 10% of his class, he followed a bit of an unconventional, yet strategic, path to break into the industry and find his niche.
In addition to his academic accomplishments, Gendron’s collegiate experience as a Division I athlete on his school’s football team taught him grit and how to map this strategic path for a successful career.
“I started to go to medical conferences where doctors were presenting and would talk with each individual company at the event,” he says. “I’d call every night of the week to find out when there would be opportunities. Then, I’d judge on the strength of their product profile, the unmet medical need, and what they were actually doing to solve patients’ debilitating disease.”
When he first broke into the industry, Gendron spent the first eight years of his career in pharmaceutical sales, which helped lay the foundation for him with future leadership positions in commercialization. Now the US head of commercial for NS Pharma, a subsidiary of a century-old Japanese pharma company, Gendron’s responsibilities run the entire gamut of the US organization. He manages all field teams and supports a strong business development and allegiance program. Throughout his career, he has won multiple awards, both in sales and leadership.
Among the approximately 50 employees he oversees, some have followed him from company to company. “I’ve always felt it was extremely important to develop the soft skills to create cross-functional support and mentors,” he says. “Many of the people that I relied on early on in my career, I still rely on to this day…I’ve been blessed with having a really great culture that’s built on purpose.”
Gendron adds it’s important to hire the best people, and have a shared vision and set of goals to achieve success. At the same time, he understands as a leader it helps to illuminate the pathway to get there. He has a strong a moral compass to guide each business decision.
“There was a time in my career where I was asked to choose between agreeing to a document that was incorrectly deployed or losing my job, and I took the choice to lose my job,” he says. “It’s a bit of a tougher story to tell. But from a moral compass perspective, it’s something that defined me as a leader. It’s well known what I did, and it’s partially what has created that group of people that have worked for me at three or four other companies.”
Gendron prides himself on having strong ethics and morals, and says they are crucial qualities in an effective leader. When he joined NS Pharma in 2019, it was toward the end of a Phase II clinical trial for Viltepso® (viltolarsen), which included only 16 patients, 24 weeks in length, for the treatment of Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD), a progressive form of MD that occurs primarily in males.
“We quickly learned that there was an older boy with Duchenne muscular dystrophy in our trial doing extremely well,” he says. “Unfortunately, his younger brother with the same affliction of DMD was too young to make the cut off for our trial, and his disease was progressing as his older brother’s condition was doing quite well with this special medication.”
To address this situation ethically, Gendron approached the board of the company, which was not yet profitable, and asked for a significant amount to develop an early access program so that the younger brother was able to receive this breakthrough medication. Without hesitation, it was approved, and the patient enrolled in the early access program with his treatment fully covered. Today, both brothers are doing quite well. “For a company that’s not profitable to allocate that much of its resources to solve an ethical issue that many other companies would overlook is one of the proudest moments in my career,” says Gendron.
An athlete at heart, Gendron considers himself to be competitive. In his free time, he enjoys racing sailboats. That driving edge also pushes him in his career to do more for patients. “I’m really happy where I am,” he says. “It’s about [providing] boys with debilitating disease access to life-altering, life-enhancing, therapies. That’s all I’m passionate about these days—giving these boys therapies that are going to extend their life and make them happier and healthier.”
Miranda Schmalfuhs is Pharm Exec's Social Media Editor. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.