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EVP, CCO, Head, Strategic Development, Vertex
MENTOR: David Brennan, former boss at Astra Merck, told him: "Find what's interesting and challenging and make a difference in the company."
LAUNCH STREAK: A record nine drugs in 18 months at Novartis
The rollout of Astra Merck came a full year earlier than planned. "We asked, 'How will we do this?'" remembers Kurt Graves. "Because it literally was a white sheet of paper." The only instructions from Merck CEO Roy Vagelos? "Go build America's 21st century pharma company."
Since those days, Graves hasn't stopped building—although the definition of a US pharma has evolved. At Astra Merck, he used blockbuster marketing to grow the flagship drug Prilosec, moving the company's sales from $150 million to $4 billion. As marketing chief of Novartis, he focused more on strategy. "Novartis was growing 4 percent—and 3.9 percent of it was price," says Graves. "Within a year, we completely changed the portfolio strategy, and repositioned and launched a lot of brands." From 2000–2004, Novartis was one of the fastest growing pharmas, with a 20 percent compound annual growth rate.
When Graves joined Vertex in July 2007, the model had yet again changed—and he was handed another blank slate on which to build a new model for a promising hep C drug. Graves seems up for the challenge: "To me, it's important to be part of a company that redefines what the industry will look like. We don't have a commercial model we have to fundamentally change. The beauty is that we get to build from scratch."