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Meet the Emerging Pharma Leaders of 2013. These 15 trend setters represent the future of an industry that knows it must change: the question is how, and to what?
Meet the Emerging Pharma Leaders of 2013. These 15 trend setters represent the future of an industry that knows it must change: the question is how, and to what? Past successes in a small molecule world of big, undifferentiated mass markets combined with a complacent business culture, reinforced by long, leisurely product cycles, have spawned a new shackle called size. "Big Pharma" is not a pejorative to us, but it is for many others. What is clear is this year's winners can't depend on that easy surplus from earlier times to carry their careers forward.
Instead, as the industry shrinks to fit a more challenging competitive set, they must steer their own way through an obstacle course of opposites that we characterize as "growing to be small." Today, it's all about expanding the business while avoiding bloat, the traditional by-product of success: staying externally focused; eliminating internal barriers to faster decision-making; collaborating with others to defray risks; getting close to the customer, who often wears many hats; and creating dominant therapy positions in multiple niche markets that, when combined, produce equivalent blockbuster results, at lower fixed costs and less hassle.
The search for commercial models that make sense in this new world of work is reflected in the diversity of backgrounds of this 2013 class of leaders. They include line executives from generic medicines and vaccines, two adjacent business units which under turbulent market conditions have emerged as key sources of product and process innovation. Several of this year's winners have graduated to new roles that reflect the growing importance the "c suite" places on knowledge retention throughout the organization. Other recipients hold positions that reflect the need for active, institutionalized collaboration between the R&D and commercial product teams, at the earliest stage of the development cycle. And in a business where customer insight is still in short supply, we find more leaders are entering the industry with valuable outside exposure to the fickle affiliations of the retail trade.
As we profile these rising leaders who are still charting their journey to success, Pharm Exec decided to take a closer look at the organizational mindset that breeds top talent, posing the basic question: does company culture count? We spoke with Jenn Mann, vice president, human resources for the health analytics and software giant SAS, which since it's founding in 1976 as a supplier of agricultural data to North Carolina's land grant program, has emphasized a culture that challenges every employee to make a difference—starting with the customer.
The root of the SAS culture is what Mann refers to as the "SAS employment brand." "We begin with the awareness that human resources are the company's best and most costly resource, so we have to invest in it. Workplace recognition—which we do deliberately, in innumerable ways—is connected to revenue growth. We can measure it; it's not coincidental. All of the companies in our space are filling positions from the same talent pool, which explains why being branded as a strong employer gives us an edge." Finding that talent is particularly important as SAS grows into a global enterprise; approximately 50 percent of its 13,000 employees are now based outside the United States.
What skills are most needed among new industry leaders? Mann lists three: a solid grounding in technology and how it affects the overall customer experience; softer, relationship skills, like communicating effectively on complex topics that can be understood by different audiences; and focused, analytical thinking—the kind that drives innovation, which SAS defines simply as meeting the changing needs of customers before they are even aware of them.
Jeff George, Global Head, Sandoz
Alexander Hardy, Senior Vice President Commercial Affairs, Genentech
Michael Babich, President and CEO, Insys Therapeutics
Denis Chetverikov, General Manager Russia, Teva Pharmaceuticals
Francoise Berlioz-Seux, Vice President Drug Metabolism and Pharmacokinetics, Vertex Pharmaceuticals
Nima Farzan, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, PaxVax, Inc.
Anthony Caggiano, Vice President R&D, Accorda Therapeutics
Trey Benson, Executive Director Commercial Development, XenoPort
Christopher Ariyan, Senior Director/Team Leader U.S. Oncology Managed Markets, Pfizer
Kshama Roberts, Executive Director Global Public Sector Lead Woman's Health, Merck & Co.
Josh Schafer, Vice President, Global Oncology Strategy, Astellas Pharma, Inc.
Julie Schiffman, Vice President, Portfolio & Decision Analysis, Pfizer
Buket Grau, Senior Director of Program Leadership and Management, Biogen-Idec
Craig Flanagan, Associate Vice President of Business Excellence, Sanofi
Brandon Kotaniemi, Director of HIV Marketing, Gilead Sciences
In today's generics business, there is no sense of entitlement—profit margins are middling, product timing is defiantly of the moment, and every last inch of commercial turf is contested. For Sandoz' Global Head Jeff George, the appropriate response to all this market mayhem is to invest each of his waking moments with a sense of urgency. "The first asset required of a leader in the generics business today is: you've got to have drive." Precisely because the barriers to entry in generics are so low, he says, maintaining a competitive edge often depends on distinctive individual character traits like energy, passion, analytical clarity, and that sheer will to win.
Jeff George, Global Head, Sandoz
At age 39, George occupies a pivotal role in the industry, leading a high-profile business with nearly $9 billion in annual turnover and a workforce of approximately 26,000 people located in over 140 countries. Sandoz, a division of Novartis, ranks a close second to global leader Teva in annual sales of generics. The business has a large footprint. Sandoz manages an inventory of some 25,000 SKUs with an annual production volume of 49 billion tablets and injectables manufactured at 45 different sites in 17 countries; some of this activity is conducted in cooperation with external partners, of which there are more than 200. Six percent of the world's population—420 million people—was given a Sandoz medicine last year and the company is now closing in on serving 500 million patients.
The position he holds within Novartis is commensurate to the responsibility. George is the youngest member of the Novartis Group's Executive Committee and reports directly to Novartis CEO Joe Jimenez. George considers both Jimenez and incoming Novartis Chairman Joerg Reinhardt as key mentors, as Reinhardt was instrumental in recruiting George to Novartis in January 2007 to head the Western and Eastern European vaccines business. More recently, Jimenez and former Chairman and CEO Dan Vasella have been major influences, as George worked for Jimenez first at Novartis Pharma and then assumed the larger role at Sandoz.
Family background and a diversity of positions in his early career helped smooth George's transition to the "c suite." His father, Bill George, led the device manufacturer Medtronics for many years. George obtained a Harvard MBA and then took his first post as a consultant at McKinsey & Company, which led to assignments in the retail consumer business, ending up as head of strategy and business development for a division of Gap Inc., where he was instrumental in building the Banana Republic brand.
This retail background did more to prepare him for his current role in pharmaceuticals than might commonly be assumed. "My experience allowed me to see that a key sweet spot for the pharmaceutical industry lies at the nexus between healthcare and retail. Healthcare today is an increasingly consumer-driven business, one in which pharmaceuticals are required to demonstrate value to many stakeholders beyond the physician. Understanding retailing is helpful to make the case for medicines in an environment where patients and payers have real choices." George notes that he applies the lessons he learned from retail by constantly underscoring Sandoz' association with and commitment to quality. "I've made it clear to everyone that we live or die on this—it's central to our business mission and reputation."
Since assuming the top job at Sandoz in October 2008, George has pursued a strategy to grow and transform the generics business through innovation—in products, process, technologies, and people. "It may seem counter-intuitive, but the generics business today is where new ideas on how to create operational efficiencies, expand patient access and market cost-effective product solutions for payers are all coming together," George says. He notes that the generic business itself is consolidating to become more competitive in global markets. "In 2000, the top four generics companies together had only a 13 percent market share; today, it's approaching 30 percent. So you have to innovate to survive."
Under his leadership, Sandoz has built on its historic base in INN generics to establish an unrivaled position in complex, differentiated generics that carry a heavy dose of science, often developed in cooperation with the patented, R&D side of the Novartis business. These differentiated generics provide that coveted "blue ocean" space—where Sandoz can stand alone, ahead of the competition—by requiring more costly science and extra regulatory hurdles, or by being hard to manufacture.
Biosimilars, injectables, and specialty drugs like ophthalmics and dermatologics now account for roughly 45 percent of Sandoz's sales, up from 30 percent when George came on board in 2008. Sandoz has captured the number one global sales position in each of these categories, supplementing organic growth with a targeted acquisition strategy, where Sandoz has bought leading-edge companies in dermatology (Fougera, in 2012), injectable oncologics (EBEWE Pharma, in 2009), and respiratory care (Oriel Therapeutics, 2010).
Sandoz has notched a particularly strong performance in biosimilars. The company began prepping for a stake in this area way back in 1996 and was the first big industry player to introduce a biosimilar, launching its version of Pfizer's Genotropin in Europe in 2006. Partly because of that foresight, Sandoz over the last five years has quintupled sales in this segment to secure a 50 percent share of the regulated worldwide market.
Another element in George's innovation agenda is making Sandoz a leader in access to medicine among underserved populations in the developing world. "The cost benefit ratio from use of quality generics is second to none, and our price points bring the Sandoz product line in reach of 90 percent of the world's population." Specifically, he sees long-term commercial potential for the company in Africa, where Sandoz is testing out new, needs-relevant approaches to drug distribution and patient education. There is an element of altruism here that is unusual for a generic company, but George stresses that every access initiative pursued by Sandoz is designed ultimately to be profitable, in keeping with the parent company philosophy that only those programs that can pay their own way will remain sustainable in the face of economic downturns or management changes.
"I made three trips to Africa last year and will go again at least twice this year. All the factors for success are there, including a growing, youthful population; expanding investment and strong GDP performance; and huge unmet medical need, particularly for high quality, affordable drugs. I'm convinced governments, providers, and patients will remember who pioneered in investing in sub-Saharan Africa's health infrastructure—I want that company to be Novartis."
These and other achievements secured to date rest in large part on a deliberate, personal effort by George to change the Sandoz culture. "I decided culture should not be an unconscious artifact—something that is just there—but rather a tool for creating change, something that we had to make a deliberate effort to shape."
One of the first things George did was convene an internal team to decide what Sandoz wanted to be. That review led to the definition of three pillars to define a new Sandoz culture. These are: recognizing people as the company's single greatest asset, recruiting and retaining the best; ensuring high-performance behaviors, always acting with a sense of urgency to drive results for patients, shareholders, and fellow employees; and keeping a constant focus on the customer, through an outward-looking perspective receptive to new ideas. George leads by example, spending over half his time on the road, visiting 20 to 25 countries a year on average, meeting customers and other stakeholders.
Another hallmark is the range of new people George has brought into the organization, revitalizing what was once a more monolithic demographic. "There are nine different nationalities represented on my Sandoz leadership team. So I've seen firsthand the clear positive link between diversity and the capacity to innovate."
Buttressing all three pillars is a personal commitment by George to build a culture that celebrates success. "One of the things I look for in people I hire is the ability to recognize the contributions of others. Given all that companies today ask for and expect from their employees, it's critical that managers learn it doesn't take much energy to say 'thank you.'" George spends a good chunk of his time handing out colleague performance awards—in fact, it's done systematically, every business quarter. "The goodwill it brings has an enormous ripple effect on trust and morale, values that are critical to successful execution down the line."
Pharm Exec asked George what leadership skills and capabilities will be entry-level requirements for the next generation of industry leaders. The way he defines it, it's a mix—of mainstays that remain constant over time and the fresh, standout qualities that provide an edge as the commercial model adapts to disruptive market changes.
"What is constant is the ability to define a mission for the enterprise and then build a vision around it that everyone in the organization can understand. Central to this task is establishing a real sense of value differentiation—what makes us unique and will persuade our customers to choose us over the competition?" The second follows naturally. "It's about people. Developing talent and building a great team. I spend more time on people than anything else. "
George references Novartis's former chairman for one of the most essential new skills: cementing the link between big picture strategy and excellence in operational execution. "Dan Vasella called it the ability to 'zoom in and zoom out,' a combination of big-picture, conceptual thinking and analytical and operational depth you rarely find in one person. The norm is that leaders tend to be stronger in one than the other. Tomorrow's leaders must cultivate both."
The other new skill is what George refers to as simple learning agility, in its various forms—mental agility, results agility, change agility, and people agility. "It's also key to have an innate drive to succeed. I find this is the character type most suited to thriving in a climate of flux and uncertainty, where people have to work across different cultures or functions less familiar to them, and to cope with business conditions that range from growth to turnarounds to entrepreneurial startups." His final bit of advice: strive to be self-aware, always with an eye to making a positive impact on others (George notes he probably says 'thank you' 20 times a day); manage your energy by staying centered (George meditates every morning); try to listen first (something he has long worked on); and—most of all—be ready. "The pace of change in the industry is a constant; thinking and acting fast are a prerequisite for success."
Would Americans rather see their most talented graduate students go to work for Big Finance, or Big Pharma? Twenty-one years ago, Alexander Hardy, a Genentech SVP and head of the company's HER2 oncology franchise, was at the University of Michigan "doing my MBA and thinking that I was going to work in something like the World Bank." Instead, Eli Lilly unearthed his resume and convinced him to do an internship in Indianapolis. After a summer in the drug business, Hardy, an Englishman, was intrigued. On top of the usual business challenges, pharma dealt with "much longer time scales, a heavy element of social responsibility, ethical challenges, complex products, and a more sophisticated customer base than any other industry," says Hardy. "I thought, this is going to be a fascinating place to have a career."
Alexander Hardy, Senior Vice President, Commercial Affairs, Genentech
After graduation, Hardy joined SmithKline Beecham as the inaugural member of a new management development program. The program was designed to provide MBAs with hands-on business experience, and to stock the future leadership pipeline. Hardy began in finance, at the London office, but was soon offered a sales position in the states. "I cut my teeth in Newark," says Hardy. After New Jersey, it was back to the UK. Hardy recalls sitting in a leaky west London office building (a protected example of British architecture) off the elevated M4 motorway. "It was a gray, miserable October day in the UK, and the phone rang, and they said, 'We've got a position in Sacramento, California, to be the finance manager.'"
Hardy took a look at his office on the outskirts of London, where rain was trickling from the ceiling into buckets on his desk, and accepted the job on the spot. After a few years in Sacramento, he moved to SmithKline Beecham headquarters in Philadelphia to work first in managed care, and then in primary care marketing. But Hardy tired of the "reach and frequency" model that defined primary care sales, and he left SmithKline Beecham for PathoGenesis, a Seattle-based biotech and developer of Tobi, a cystic fibrosis treatment. As marketing manager, Hardy oversaw the launch and commercialization of Tobi, a memorable experience. (Chiron acquired PathoGenesis in 2000, and Novartis acquired Chiron six years later).
Now married, Hardy began looking for a route back to Europe. A SmithKline Beecham colleague, Argeris Karabelas, had become head of worldwide pharmaceuticals at Novartis. Karabelas was "very positive about me joining Novartis, and there was an opening in the UK on the management team," says Hardy. Back in the UK, Hardy managed business development and licensing, planning and pricing, and new product commercialization for the Novartis UK affiliate, before moving over to neuroscience—the largest business unit—where he led sales and marketing from a clinical position.
That job led to the achievement of Hardy's "medium-term career goal," which was to become a country manager. At age 34, Novartis handed responsibilities for Denmark and Iceland to Hardy. These countries weren't critical to the organization's bottom line—Lamisil, for toe fungus, was Novartis's largest product in Denmark at the time—but the businesses were foundering, and had lost market share after the Novartis merger. Hardy was given an opportunity to shake things up, and he started by importing consumer-oriented market research from the United States to Denmark. "We took the US creative, stripped out the branding, dubbed it into Danish, and went for it with a full media activity of TV, radio, and print, and it did extremely well," says Hardy. The strategy was then exported to other European markets. Boosted revenues from Lamisil allowed Novartis to reinvest in neuroscience products in Denmark, and Hardy was able to stem the very high employment turnover he'd inherited.
But Novartis couldn't seem to catch Roche. After a close look at Roche's portfolio, Hardy noticed the "products were all footnoted, 'licensed from Genentech.' I thought, what's this company Genentech? And a year later, I was here." Interestingly, Genentech had no name recognition in Europe, but based on its product offering, Hardy recognized it as a scientific leader.
Hardy maintains an active network of friends and former colleagues, two of which had joined Genentech. Hardy made inquiries, got an invitation to visit, and took a side trip out to Genentech during a family vacation in the United States. After meeting with Genentech for a day, Hardy saw how excited and fulfilled his former SmithKline Beecham and Novartis colleagues seemed, and phoned his wife to say, "if they want me, then I think we need to move across the world to be a part of this."
For the last eight years, Hardy has been at Genentech, working first on managed care and reimbursement. But he worried about being typecast, following the Roche acquisition. Hardy realized he needed to "make sure I'm very clear that my value proposition is more in general management on the commercial side, not only managed care." Incidentally, Roche decided to close down a facility in Nutley, New Jersey, and relocate jobs to San Francisco. Hardy says the lead person on Tamiflu decided not to relocate, and Hardy became VP, anti-infectives, just before the 2009 influenza pandemic struck.
After that, Hardy moved into oncology, where he had the chance to "launch two drugs in breast cancer"—Perjeta and Kadcyla—"which is what our industry is all about...that has been incredibly rewarding from a patient impact perspective." Hardy currently heads Genentech's 'IMPACT' business unit, to which several therapy areas report, including the company's growth franchise, the thrombolytic franchise, the transplant franchise, the Tamiflu franchise, and the hepatitis C franchise, in addition to the HER2 oncologics. New products in neuroscience, cardiometabolism, and infectious disease also report up to Hardy.
It's a big job, requiring strong management skills. Hardy likes to give people space and autonomy, to let them shape what they're doing. He puts a big emphasis on collaboration and teamwork. Colleagues have come to expect clear and transparent decision-making, and consistency, from Hardy. "I have a reputation as somebody who is good at listening and is willing to be open to people's point of view, and respectful of people's opinions," he says, adding that it's important to explain why decisions are made, to foster trust and strong relationships between individuals across the organization.
The benefit of collaboration and teamwork isn't only to drive efficiency, but also to generate new ideas. While working on the HER2 oncology drugs, Hardy's team realized that screening for the HER2 genetic mutation often led to false positive or negatives, and other process related issues. Given the specificity of breast cancer treatment, the stakes are very high for women at diagnosis. Frustrated by screening inaccuracies, Genentech launched a "pathology-focused team calling on the central reference laboratories and labs that do the vast majority of HER2 testing, to educate them from a process standpoint and to improve and facilitate communication between pathologists and oncologists," says Hardy. He didn't think of this idea himself, but someone on his team did. "We piloted it, saw that it was making a difference, and now the team is doubling in size," says Hardy. The program is now supporting BRAF and EGFR mutational testing, as well. "We've created an asset that will support the future portfolio of personalized medicines at Genentech."
Future leaders in the pharmaceutical industry will increasingly require a breadth of experience and perspective, "because the industry is only becoming more complex," says Hardy. The ability to understand and interact with multiple stakeholders, internally and externally, is critical; future leaders "need to be very adaptable and flexible, and good at leading their organizations through change," says Hardy. As for his own plans, Hardy says he wants "a chance to shape the future from a therapeutic and a business model standpoint," and to work toward "bringing personalized medicines into other therapeutic areas, where there's significant unmet need."
Michael Babich was four years into a career at a large bank when he began "running the money" for serial investor and entrepreneur Dr. John Kapoor in 2001. Kapoor's venture capital firm EJ Financial Enterprises was focusing investment in early-stage and start-up companies in healthcare; one was INSYS Pharma, a company developing and commercializing supportive care products. Babich found the work of INSYS inspiring; he took an MBA (majoring in Management and Entrepreneurship) at Northwestern University's Kellogg School and turned a professional corner. By 2007, he was INSYS's Chief Operating Officer.
Michael Babich, President and CEO, Insys Therapeutics
A life change accompanied the career change. Sick of the Chicago winters, he and Kapoor (who remains INSYS's Executive Chairman) decided to up sticks and relocate the company to Arizona. Since then Babich has risen to CEO of what is now INSYS Therapeutics, proving himself something of a whiz as a leader in the specialty pharma space, which, he points out, "is a lot more fun than finance ever was."
But it's not been all fun and games. INSYS faced considerable hurdles in the early years. Around 2009, says Babich, with the recession at its height, the company was still in the middle of clinical trials and needed another $30 million. At that point he was asking himself, "Why did we come here?" But Babich also found the hardships invigorating, and wouldn't swap the days of small-company struggling for the slow grind of Big Pharma. "The most exciting part was your back was against the wall every single day," he says. "We couldn't afford to fly under the radar, to screw it up. We had one product, one shot on goal."
Luckily, they scored, not least through Babich's skill at responding innovatively to mounting pressure. When, for example, clinical trials recruitment was lagging, he hired sales reps to jump-start enrollment. And he has been able to contain costs while simultaneously growing the company to its present size of over 130 employees and bring fundamental operations in-house. Effectively, he's implemented the much sought after "low-cost/high-profit" model. As a result, INSYS is now in a position to take a few more shots on goal.
In the last two years Babich has led the products Subsys, a sublingual fentanyl spray for breakthrough cancer pain, and Dronabinol, a second-line treatment for chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting, through approval and commercialization. The company has taken 20 percent market share from its main competitor, Teva, in just over 12 months, this year doing "just shy of $10 million in sales in the first quarter."
He may leave finance largely to the CFO these days, but Babich believes strongly in a cost structure that fits the model. "You can't go out and pay Big Pharma salaries across the board, even at the executive level," he says. Instead, INSYS employees are incentivized by stock options and bonuses, something that really helped during the "tough times."
For Babich, those tough times were the making of INSYS, and he likes all employees to acknowledge "the blood, sweat and tears that went into creating and building the company" from scratch. Some of INSYS's most successful recruits are those who originally worked for small companies that were bought out by big companies. "The most difficult part of my job is hiring," says Babich. "Finding the right person who understands that we are going to do things very differently from Big Pharma."
That's not to say his ambitions stop at 130 employees. Babich thinks INSYS could become "the premier supportive care company in the specialty pharma space." The company has been making acquisitions, and there's a second NDA filing coming up. He's also promising further investment in R&D. "We brought Subsys to the market from idea all the way through R&D," he says. "We now have about 20 PhDs at our corporate office working on new formulations of differentiated products, so we anticipate continued growth. Within the next couple of years, I see us being a company with about 400-500 employees."
The one thing you may be left asking is—the 300-plus days of sunshine per annum notwithstanding—why Arizona? Babich says the Grand Canyon State is growing fast, and being based there has never hindered INSYS. Indeed, it's been an advantage: "We're still a novelty here—the only commercial-stage pharmaceutical company in the Phoenix area—but that's great for us."
While he gears up to lead what should be a viable mid-size in the next few years, Babich clearly already enjoys being a big fish in a small pond.
For Denis Chetverikov, the seeds of professional advancement were sown in his native country's rise to prominence as a fertile landscape for Big Pharma investors. Graduating from medical school in 1995, Chetverikov discovered there were few opportunities for physicians in a healthcare system reeling from disinvestment and the collapse of the old Soviet infrastructure. But it was precisely that time when a new system was starting to take root, with an open market for medicines emerging to supplement state procurement and creating opportunities for anyone who could combine medical knowledge with an appreciation for Western-style marketing and promotion.
Denis Chetverikov, General Manager Russia, Teva Pharmaceuticals
Chetverikov promptly abandoned his plans to practice medicine and took a big risk around what at the time was an entirely new occupation for Russia: medical sales representative. A specialist in gynecology and obstetrics, he landed his first job detailing for Dutch-based Organon. "I was given a huge territory, the Volga River basin, where I was responsible for detailing our medicines to practitioners covering some 33 million patients," Denis told Pharm Exec. It was a frontier experience, with no fixed ground rules on how to manage for success. But that early baptism of fire taught Denis some key management capabilities which he continues to rely on today: constant learning; being open to new ideas; and filtering out the "noise of the moment" to think strategically, for the long-term.
After Organon, Denis moved to sales and marketing positions at Roche and Abbott, after which he took his first step into the fast-growing generics business by taking a leadership position at IVAX, as Russia country manager. He became Teva's local manager after the Israeli-based company acquired IVAX in January 2006. The transition was aided by strong mentor relationships forged at the time with Allan Oberman, Teva's EVP for the East Europe, Mid-East Africa (EMIA) region, who now leads the company's operations in the US; and Teva Board member Chaim Hurvitz.
Oberman underscored the importance of working to raise local standards of business practice in line with international norms. "His counsel made me aware that what we do in Russia—where compliance rules have historically been ambiguous—can have an impact on the company's global reputation. It requires us to be anticipatory and proactive, because, to cite just one example, the definition of 'health professional,' which is widely used in other countries to regulate ethical behavior in our industry, does not exist in Russia."
In his current role as Teva General Manager, Chetverikov's responsibilities extend beyond Russia to former Soviet republics like Kazakhstan—itself a target of growing interest for the Big Pharma multinationals. As his circle of responsibilities has widened, so he says have the opportunities. "I approach my job from the standpoint of not just doing more of what I do today, but to always look forward, looking at fresh opportunities for growth and then being first to exploit it."
Chetverikov has a phrase that, translated, articulates his team's commitment to fostering change: going full depth. "I describe Teva Russia as a developing company in a developing country. It follows that being successful means being prepared to ride the wave—everyone who works here has to be a change agent." The results speak for themselves: when he started as General Manager, Teva had annual sales of $24 million and less than 100 employees. Last year, the affiliate posted sales of $600 million, according to IMS data, with a head count of 800.
Chetverikov achieved this expansion by leveraging the company's global product portfolio to meet local disease priorities, forward-looking investments in product launch strategies, and acquisitions and partnerships based on mutual interests. A partnership struck with P&G's global consumer health business in 2010 has helped jumpstart Teva Russia's OTC medicines franchise, sales of which have outpaced all other local competitors during the last six consecutive quarters. "Building a solid business around OTC products is a real breakthrough for us," Chetverikov says.
Next up is building in more competitive advantage from the assets of the global organization. "Teva is a company that has historically differentiated itself through its high level of local responsiveness, which we execute through a decentralized management structure. Now, under our new CEO, Jeremy Levin, we are seeking to tie things together, applying the company's global scale and reach to secure a better competitive advantage for us here in Russia. Simply put, the efficiencies that we can obtain through our size are an asset waiting to be exploited. This is the company's new direction." In terms of his own future, Denis hopes to also plow that course, perhaps with a new assignment in management outside Russia.
Succeeding in this fast changing environment will require specific skills, from Chetverikov himself and others in the next generation of Teva management. Denis lists these as follows: the ability to execute projects where the pathway to a good result is often circuitous, not linear; superior behavioral traits, including influencing, collaboration, communication, and conflict resolution; and fostering a culture of trust throughout the organization, which is mainly leading by example. "A leader's brilliant idea will go nowhere if his or her colleagues won't cooperate. Trust is what motivates people to contribute with what is also best in them." Getting these capabilities right with the local talent is a task that Chetverikov puts top of the list—because the pharma business is ultimately a people business.
As a child in France, Francoise Berlioz-Seux—now vice president of Vertex Pharmaceuticals’ global drug metabolism and pharmacokinetics (DMPK) group—was fascinated to discover the chemical structures of molecules represented by lines and shapes on a prescription’s package insert. These symbolic drawings were “mesmerizing;” mysterious hieroglyphs to decode and decipher.
Francoise Berlioz-Seux, Vice President Drug Metabolism and Pharmacokinetics, Vertex Pharmaceuticals
Berlioz-Seux went to pharmacy school with no desire to become a pharmacist, but she knew she wanted to work with drugs and patients. In France, pharmacy school requires one year of training in a hospital, and allows students to spend half of that year working in a hospital beyond French borders. Berlioz-Seux chose to go to Burkina Faso, a West African country (formerly known by its French colonial name, Upper Volta), which was a humbling and life-altering experience. “It made me realize that you can have a lot of preconceived ideas about the world, and the world is different out there," says Berlioz-Seux. "You have to learn from others, and realize that sometimes you’re wrong."
Despite a devastating HIV epidemic, pharma was wholly absent from Burkina Faso. Berlioz-Seux often found herself sorting through old or expired pharmaceuticals sent from other countries, for treatments to give patients. She was 22 years old. "You want to change the world, you want to make an impact. For me, the only way to do this is to be part of the team that can make a drug." Upon returning from Africa and completing a residency in Paris, Berlioz-Seux remained in school for an additional year, earning a PhD in pharmacokinetics. Then she interviewed with Warner-Lambert, just as Pfizer was taking over. In 2001, Berlioz-Seux joined Pfizer and waded into drug discovery for the fi rst time.
But the job at Pfi zer was schizophrenic. Berlioz-Seux's assignment changed three times in four years, and Pfizer closed research facilities in Ann Arbor and elsewhere. The company's goals weren't clear, and Berlioz-Seux was fed up. "There was no more focus on science at Pfizer…it was as if they didn’t even care about making drugs." When a recruiter for Vertex called, in 2007, she took the leap.
Berlioz-Seux joined Vertex as a director, and in four years was promoted to vice president of the newly established DMPK group, whose reach extends from early discovery to post-marketing studies. She oversees a team of 86 spanning three countries, and repeatedly emphasizes the importance of teamwork and collaboration as critical components of success. Berlioz-Seux is a deft conversationalist, and she’s accessible in the office. (She answered the phone herself on a cold call about this profi le, an atypical phenomenon in pharma).
The key to enabling collaboration and constructive teamwork, says Berlioz-Seux, is to fi rst, "make sure that it's not about you…I don't have a large ego, and my goals are about patients and drugs." Second, "you need to be open and to listen to the team that you put together." It's equally important to "make sure that you have high quality standards and high scientific standards, because you can't compromise on the quality of the work you’re doing." It's also important to bring the right people into the room, and when possible, to know them. "I like to know people…that's why when I go to other sites, I'm very open about who I am, what I care about, and my values."
Berlioz-Seux keeps open offi ce hours, like a college professor, so that colleagues will know they can visit or call her in the office at specific times. "I have open offi ce hours for each site, the UK, San Diego, and Laval [Quebec]." Belioz- Seux says that once people feel comfortable communicating with one another, it energizes everyone. "If people know they can reach out to you and that you're willing to explain something to them again and again, it strengthens our collaboration," she says. This is particularly important in drug development, because "breaking silos [in development] is critical for the pharma industry."
Establishing a goal—the development of new drugs for patients—and executing on it successfully requires a good strategy, and help from everyone. Berlioz-Seux has always wanted to make drugs, and that means "working with research, working with clinical pharmacology, and being aware of what's going on in safety and in regulatory, because those are all moving parts," she says. "Having good connections across different departments is critical."
In an industry where progress is measured in cycles that can stretch for decades, Nima Farzan is that iconic first mover, with a background that shines for being swift, sharp, and distinctively of the moment. At 37, he has already hit the career trifecta, with stints in top-drawer consulting, senior line positions in Big Pharma, to his current role in growing a new California-based company—PaxVax—focused on the commercialization of vaccines to confront the global challenge of infectious disease.
Nima Farzan, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, PaxVax, Inc.
Buttressing this basic biography is the unsettling transition of his early years, when in 1979 his family was forced to flee their native Iran to the US. Education is the salve that drove his assimilation. Farzan graduated from Stanford University with honors in biology—while also serving as president of his senior class—and later adding an MBA degree from Harvard. He has worked to stay close to his roots, adopting with his wife Christine a baby girl, Ziba, from Iran just last year.
Farzan took his first job as a management consultant at Boston Consulting Group, where he benefited from the mentorship of partner Rob Williamson, an expert in financing and business development. "I was a biology major and knew nothing about business. I could not have made the transition from academics without him." Confirming the premise that a good mentor relationship works both ways, Farzan persuaded Williamson to join him when he was offered a job at a small start-up company in bioinformatics, Double Twist, where Williamson's operational expertise was sorely needed. "I imported my mentor into being the boss at my next job – the best form of insurance against failure."
The next stop, after winning the MBA, was as a product manager for Novartis, where he lucked out by being assigned to what became the company's top-selling product, the anti-hypertensive blockbuster Diovan. This led in turn to a second mentorship, with one of Novartis' top marketing executives, John Glasspoole, who gave Farzan a pivotal assignment in new product development for the diabetes and metabolic group. Farzan found himself, at 32, as a vice-president with responsibility for one of the company's key therapeutic growth franchises. "I was the first non-scientist to hold this role but more important it was a global assignment, which considerably extended my reach."
A year later, at 33, he switched course and accepted a promotion to vice-president of marketing for the US vaccines business. This was a "going for growth" challenge which Farzan accomplished by conceiving a new retail marketing strategy for Novartis that quadrupled sales in this channel, becoming the federal government's largest single contractor of H1N1 flu vaccine; and entering the pediatrics market with the successful launch of a new vaccine for meningococcal meningitis.
After eight years in the crowded corridors of Big Pharma, Farzan opted for an equally big change, accepting in September 2011 the position of chief operating officer at PaxVax, which has a unique "double bottom line" business mission to develop and commercialize vaccines against infectious diseases. The goal is to address the unmet patient need in the US and other mature markets, delivering strong financial returns to investors, while leveraging this strength to advance a social objective by expanding access to vaccines for neglected populations in low- and middle-income developing countries. The model also rests on a unique processing and manufacturing technology platform that enables cost- effective and rapid scale up of production outside the traditional confines of cold chain distribution, such as an oral coated pill. A vaccine for cholera is now in Phase III testing along with a vaccine for the H5N1 flu, in Phase II; two GMP-certified facilities have been built in preparation for commercial launch.
At PaxVax, Farzan leads a 40-person team with responsibility for marketing, product and process development, quality control, finance, licensing/business development, and regulatory affairs. "What attracted me to PaxVax is the opportunity to do what I could not do at Novartis, which is to manage hands-on the full spectrum of activities required to take a promising compound and push it forward all the way to market launch." Farzan rates PaxVax CEO Kenneth Kelley as his third career mentor, largely because Kelley can connect all the dots. "He's done the things you don't learn in Big Pharma, such as convincing skeptical investors and raising money."
Right now, Farzan has the critical task of shepherding the anti-cholera asset through regulatory review and eventual launch. "It's the final proof point that will seal PaxVax's transition from an early-stage R&D operation to a sustainable, independent business that is making a difference to global health, and that doesn't depend on the sponsorship of Big Pharma."
Farzan is already using what he contends is the one essential skill for any future manager: the capacity to adapt and relate to the expectations of increasingly diverse audiences. "What I've needed most in building this new company is to create messages and models that bridge those different worlds—of the investor, the regulator, the scientist, the marketer, the payer, and the patient. You have to be a continuous learner, flexible and open to change. In this business, it's a career buster to just take the position this is the way it's always been done." His best career advice? "Think deep, test well, persuade often, aim high—and always beyond your own comfort zone."
Halfway through undergrad, Anthony Caggiano, vice president of research and development at Acorda Therapeutics, was walking around the University of Virginia thinking that he needed to get a job. In a hallway, he noticed an announcement about a National Science Foundation summer research fellowship, which paid undergrads to do research in a lab. That experience indirectly led Caggiano to where he is today.
Anthony Caggiano, Vice President of Research and Development, Acorda Therapeutics
Caggiano liked the lab, and when it came time to graduate, he considered applying to graduate school in science, or maybe going to medical school. But then he found a program that offered both—a federally funded Medical Scientist Training Program at the University of Chicago. The program paid for medical school, and also offered a stipend for students to live on. Caggiano was accepted, picked up a PhD in neuroscience, and spent the last year of medical school going through radiology rotations.
But he didn't understand why every medical institution had it's own team of radiologists. "I looked around and thought it was silly that all of these people were reading films," says Caggiano. With a radiologist friend, Caggiano started a business—Remote Diagnostic Imaging—that assembled a staff of highly trained radiologists from top institutions to essentially freelance radiological services. "We were coordinating image distribution and reading services for hospitals that were in remote locations, or in cities that could not staff sufficient radiologists," says Caggiano. Excited by the business, and presented with a clear problem to solve, Caggiano decided not to attend Cornell, where he'd been accepted into a radiology residency.
Unfortunately, the company fizzled. "We never really got over the initial hump, to get fully going, and I knew I needed to find a job that paid and had benefits." Acorda Therapeutics was doing work in neurological injury, which was a match with Caggiano's PhD studies. Caggiano thought he could use his medical and scientific training at Acorda, and was "interested in the idea of being in a company, having tried to start one myself." He's been climbing the corporate ladder at Acorda ever since, from bench scientist to VP.
Persistence is a critical attribute for anyone working in R&D. Caggiano says he likes to "try and do things that haven't been done, and that seem to be difficult or impossible," which requires "a high tolerance for listening to a lot of people saying, 'This isn't going to work. That isn't going to work,'" he says. "And you have to be able to tolerate failure over and over and over again because, most of the time, things fail." But persistence is a double-edged sword, because "you have the responsibility to identify, as soon as you can, when things shouldn't be pursued so you don't waste money on them." But on the other hand, "if nobody champions a project, then it'll never go anywhere," says Caggiano.
Acorda licensed two growth factor drug candidates from CeNeS plc in 2002, as potential MS therapies, but then external research started to build around the Glial Growth Factor 2's (GGF2) heart protective capabilities (GGF2 has potential in neurological disease as well). Acorda was exclusively dedicated to neurological disorders at the time, so Caggiano conducted research outside of the company, in a lab with the correct models for assessing the drug in heart failure. The results were "very encouraging," and Caggiano went back and "made the case here at Acorda, 15 times over and over, that this is a massive opportunity." Enrollment has now begun for a second Phase I studies of GGF2, giving Acorda a potential to partner, or commercialize a cardiovascular product for the first time.
Caggiano stays busy with two young and athletic daughters—he coaches his youngest daughter's lacrosse team—and he's also into woodworking. Caggiano built his family's dining room furniture, but he says that's slowed down some with his kids and other responsibilities. Caggiano says his work-related stress levels are relatively low, because the company is "very supportive of our programs, from the earliest to the latest," and "everyone is driving toward the same goals." What keeps Caggiano up at night is the chance a drug toxicity might harm a patient. "At any point, we could identify toxicities that are intolerable, and all the money and time we've put in would be wasted." But even when things don't work out, "it really helps to let you sleep, knowing everyone's behind it, and that we're all trying to get to the same place."
Growing up in the progressive city of Austin, Texas, Trey Benson is no stranger to the culture of Silicon Valley where he currently works. "Both places have a more entrepreneurial, go-for-it mentality, which is a fresh break from the more formal and tradition-bound environment of the East and Midwest," Benson remarked, mulling over the history of his experiences in and around the pharmaceutical world.
Trey Benson, Executive Director Commercial Development, XenoPort
Benson's initial time in pharma began after his days as a biology and chemistry student at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill. After receiving his BS, he initially focused on the laboratory side at AAIPharma, a small contract development company based in the area. He soon returned to Austin to sharpen his entrepreneurial skills, getting his MBA at The Red McCombs School of Business at University of Texas and continuing on at Eli Lilly as a marketing associate. After four years at Lilly, much of it spent working on Prozac, and two and a half years at Abbott, Benson switched to something more risky and fast paced, joining XenoPort in 2005 as "essentially the first marketing hire they made."
Coming from such large companies, Benson had to quickly adapt to the "all-hats" approach that a small company like XenoPort applies to operations, strategy, and decision-making. "Most of my time here is entrepreneurial in nature," he said. "I figure out how to do as many things as possible, which often requires a lot of prioritization, because it is important that everyone pitch in to move things forward." Benson knows that while his previous experience at larger companies gave him the skills and expertise to help him do the work he does now at XenoPort, there is simply no room for the kind of Big Pharma thinking, where, he says, employees are incentivized to take the position that there are rules to be made and followed, with only one way to do things. This creates a bureaucratic mindset and a lack of the dynamism needed to keep a company moving forward. With 15 years of experience in marketing for pharma behind him, he points to how the broader market shift from one-size-fits-all to a more customer-centric approach has benefited those leaner, more nimble companies like XenoPort: "When you have big products, you keep spending. If they're not working, you just throw more money at it. With digital marketing, smaller companies are at less of a disadvantage in terms of resources. Here, it's about using less but finding more ways to be effective."
Nevertheless, Benson notes that resource constraints in a smaller company create more risk, and that quick decision-making is critical to solving problems before they expand to get out of hand. "If you aren't constantly moving and asking questions, or if you don't ask the right questions and look for answers quickly, you're just going to be waiting on failure as opposed to letting things fall and recover by focusing on the right things first." This, he added, requires as timely a read of the marketplace as possible, to where a company can time its response around the real needs of the customer.
Furthermore, Benson believes that in order to propel an organization to success, it must have a specific vision that translates well to an external audience that is increasingly diverse and has high expectations. "Too often companies focus on what they are doing and how they are doing it," he said. "There's never enough emphasis on language designed to lead and inspire. I constantly try and understand the 'why' in order to work with other partners and business opportunities so I can explain it to them." The model of pharma companies following business plans that plot a course for five to seven years ahead, is outdated, at least in his eyes. Three years is the better norm, and even that might be overly ambitious, given the turmoil in the customer base.
The same philosophy holds true for the most important business process of all, which is moving a new drug from development to commercialization. Benson is constantly scanning the market for partners, investors, and businesses looking to share the risk of research. "When I started, the average development time was 17 years to bring a product to market. With the first product I worked on at XenoPort, we cut that time in half. I'm not sure if we can work with R&D teams and investors to shorten the time even further, but it's something I work towards every day."
Benson is firm on one piece of wisdom he knows has sustained him in his transition from Austin to the Midwest and to Silicon Valley: don't be afraid to try and fail. "If you go for it and mess up, so be it. You can try again. If you're close enough, give it a shot. You've only got one life to live."
Christopher Ariyan has always had a thing for innovation. But, he says, real examples of it have been difficult to find. And he's hardly been lazy in his quest—his career has run the gamut of organizations within healthcare. Before pharma, he earned his stripes working for hospital systems (via Ernst & Young), a payer (Anthem/WellPoint), a consultancy (Deloitte), and an international non-profit (REMEDY, Inc.). But it wasn't until he joined Pfizer five years ago that Ariyan could say that he witnessed—and got involved in—real innovation for the first time.
Christopher Ariyan, Senior Director/Team Leader U.S. Oncology Managed Markets, Pfizer
"Consulting seemed innovative: you did strategy work, you learned about people's problems," he says. "But in many cases the strategic plans you came up with sat on the shelf. On the payer side, we would have innovation sessions, but it essentially boiled down to how to more efficiently process claims and provide good customer service."
Pfizer, he says—particularly its Oncology Business Unit, in which he has led the Managed Markets team for the past two and a half years—is different. He attributes true innovation to its scientists, "some of whom have spent 30 years, their whole professional lives, coming up with cancer drugs that have a meaningful impact on society." But it's the unit's business innovations where Ariyan has made his mark.
In just 15 months, Ariyan has assisted the oncology unit through three product launches, which, by his own admission, is "almost a miracle." He has brokered payer access and oncology product distribution agreements that, formally, have not been done before, according to his Pfizer colleague Brian C. Denton, and he's resolved a problem of patient access and assistance through a new technology collaboration. Ariyan "has built the Oncology Managed Markets team from scratch and established the value of the National Oncology Account Management Team for Pfizer," adds Denton. "The national rating scores for the team have continued to increase significantly each year; Pfizer oncology account management rating scores are now in the upper third of all biopharma companies." Innovation, says Lance Reno, another Pfizer colleague, is something that Ariyan does on a daily basis. "He's taken our business unit in paths never explored before".
Ariyan puts a lot of this success down to the way Pfizer works. With the company's newly rolled out "Own It" culture, staff have "the leeway to take more responsibility, more accountability, and, not least, take chances with a priority around speed to market," he says. "And it's okay to fail. But you learn from these mistakes, course correct, and go on to new heights."
For his part in "Own It," Ariyan is committed to leading by example. Lots of leaders pay lip service to that old chestnut, but Ariyan really rolls up his sleeves and gets down to it. "My team appreciates that I don't give out assignments that I don't do myself," he explains. "When I send out a business planning task, I've already taken a shot at one of the accounts, not just as a test but as an exercise with real-world data. I want to feel what it's like when I give these assignments out." He adds however that "Own It" doesn't mean "go it alone," especially at a company the size of Pfizer; he emphasizes that the collaboration with Managed Markets teammates in the other business units (Specialty Care, Primary Care, Established Products, etc.) is vital.
Ariyan's passion for what he does goes back to a friend and life-long mentor Sam Chauncey who was, at different points of his career, Secretary of Yale University, President of Gaylord Hospital, and Head of Yale's Health Management Program. "He opened my eyes to the business side of healthcare and the role it plays in helping people get access to critical care," he says. Ariyan's ongoing commitment to this cause spills into his home life. A lot of his family's time is spent participating in sporting events, and "very often they are in support of a non-profit cause, raising money for research for a medical condition, for example." These activities are even more special, he says, when Pfizer is an active sponsor of the event.
It is clear that—spurred on by his earlier career odyssey—Ariyan has found his "home" at Pfizer. And the feeling seems to be mutual. The company has enlisted him on the "Next Gen" leadership development program; ~two percent of the global senior director population get accepted for this. For Ariyan, however, his future plans remain all about playing a part in continuing to innovate, and bringing those cancer medicines to market as quickly as possible.
"I've always wanted to work in the healthcare field," says Kshama Roberts, Executive Director, Marketing, for the Women's Health franchise at Merck. "I have always been intrigued by what factors drive healthcare provider and consumer behavior, as it relates to choice in medicines and healthcare services. My father was a pharmacist, and I was puzzled why he would recommend one medicine over another, so my curiosity began at a pretty early age."
Kshama Roberts, Executive Director Global Public Sector Lead Woman’s Health, Merck & Co.
If her father's career was the first stepping stone to Roberts' own professional path, his sudden death from a heart attack when Roberts was just 14 years old was the next. "In my late teens, when I became aware of some of the studies being done on medications that showed how heart attacks could be reduced, it really nailed it for me that this was an area I wanted to get involved in," she recalls. "So I became focused on entering the healthcare field and set myself a challenge to secure roles that would help people around the world access and benefit from life-saving medicines. That experience was one of the key drivers in where I am today."
After working in a number of health categories including osteoporosis, diabetes, pain, and arthritis, Roberts' professional interests have shifted to women's health. Within Merck's Women's Health franchise, Roberts looks at ways to increase access to the medicines and services that Merck offers in these areas, overcoming affordability and accessibility barriers. And access to medications and healthcare for women is something that hits close to home for Roberts: "As a woman of Indian origin, born in Africa and raised in the UK, I am cognizant of so many women all around the world who don't have the voice and the choice to get an education, launch a career, or decide when and whether to have children. And for me, that's what women's health and family planning is all about; supporting the rights and the dreams of a woman to fulfill what she wants to do." As the mother of a six-year-old son and three-year-old daughter, Roberts sees the impact of her work on her children's future as well.
As Roberts reflects on her 19 years in pharma, she credits her most valuable professional lessons to Phyllis Stone, a mentor who she worked with at Merck. "She constantly reminded me that if we don't really believe in what we do here, why would we be motivated to leave our other interests and passions to come to work?" say Roberts. Taking that personal commitment and passing it on to your team members is one of the most essential roles of a leader, says Roberts. "I am passionate about what I do, and firmly advocate that as a leader it is critical if you believe in a mission, you must help the people around you become a part of it and show them how their perspective shapes and improves the mission. And before you know it, you have a cohesive team of inspired individuals bringing their very best to make the mission happen."
Appreciating the unique perspectives of her team members is also deeply rooted in Roberts' love for the diversity that comes from travel. Roberts was born, raised, and lived in three different continents. The wanderlust for different cultures took hold when Roberts and her husband took a six-month sabbatical in 2005 to backpack across South America and Asia. "I had gone straight from college to this career," she says, "and I thought it was a shame that we had never taken the time off to travel." Roberts says it's important to travel in a more "purist" sense. "We wanted to have a more authentic travel experience, and get a broader sense of a wide range of cultures and people from different countries. That's what I brought back to my work—wanting to be surrounded by a diverse group of individuals with different experiences and different attitudes. To become globally relevant, having that broader understanding is key." But just as important as understanding your team, she says, is self-awareness. "What's important is strong self-insight, knowing what you're great at, knowing what you're not so great at, and building a team that can deliver on your strengths and supplement your weaknesses."
Now that she's built that cross-functional team at Merck, Roberts has her sights set on answering some pretty lofty questions in the industry. "I'm committed to learning how the industry can partner to help drive sustainable access to medicines and services to populations that would otherwise not benefit from them. What does it take to effectively partner with all the stakeholders that have a vested interest in improving public health and operate with trust and the right degree of transparency to succeed? How do you navigate very diverse organizational cultures and objectives to bring those stakeholders together to work on a common public health mission? The path is not a straightforward one, but I think at Merck we're heading in the right direction."
At the risk of sounding like an advertorial for Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management, Josh Schafer is another of our Emerging Pharma Leaders to have turned to that venerable institution after an early career hiatus—only to emerge with more confidence in applying his science background to business use.
Josh Schafer, Vice President, Global Oncology Strategy, Astellas Pharma, Inc.
Schafer began his career (first at Accenture, then at Searle, before it was bought by Pfizer) in roles ranging from clinical development, to commercialization, to business development and licensing, winding up at bioinformatics start-up Cognia where, he says, "the highs were really high and the lows were really low." When the bottom fell out of that market, he moved back to Chicago and headed for the MBA at Kellogg. He'd already decided what interested him most was "translating scientific concepts into value for patients and shareholders." The consulting gave him some perspective on that process; the MBA strengthened it.
On completing the MBA, Schafer was hired by Takeda to help build the company's North American organization. The main focus of that was to push Takeda's type 2 diabetes drug Actos, but Schafer was asked to think beyond Actos. This he did, bringing in several products and launching them into new therapeutic areas for Takeda, including gastroenterology, renal care, and oncology; for the latter, he was central to Takeda's assessment and acquisition of oncology biotech Millennium Pharmaceuticals in 2008.
The focus on oncology proved fruitful; during his eight and a half years at the company, Schafer worked hard to establish Takeda as a "player" in the field. Such was his success, another Japanese company with its sights on oncology came calling, and Schafer decamped to Astellas four years ago. Since then, he has been doing for Astellas's oncology efforts—through late-stage in-licensing, advancement of the pipeline and acquisition (in this case OSI Pharmaceuticals)—what he did for Takeda.
Schafer remains passionate about oncology. "It's the intersection of science, business, public policy, and patient care," he says. He's also developed an expertise in marketing, an area where he originally thought his skills were "pretty rudimentary." As he became more immersed in the discipline, however, he realized that "there really is a science to marketing. Many of the analytical skills that scientists are trained in are applicable to it."
Indeed, Schafer believes that today it is more important than ever that a marketer is "conversant in the science (and vice versa)," especially as marketing is now involved in the discourse with the scientists at a much earlier stage. One of Schafer's great strengths, explains his former Takeda colleague and mentor Rich Daly, is bringing together these disciplines "to gain great depth in the science of an issue and to tackle the subsequent challenges."
Schafer has risen to the challenge Astellas set him. When he joined, the company declared its ambitions to become a global category leader (GCL) in oncology. It is now well on the way to achieving this. But Schafer says modestly that he will see himself as a success only if Astellas is considered "objectively as a GCL in oncology by providing life-changing medicines to patients living with cancer care."
That's a confident prediction, however. One skill that working for Takeda and Astellas has honed in Schafer is the ability to look ahead. He says Japanese companies differ from their Western counterparts by, among other things, "their time and planning horizons," which are much longer than you'd find in American or European companies. "Their planning process is much more rigorous and structured, much more stringent," he adds. "The things we say today need to hold true in five, 10 years."
We can take Josh Schafer on his word, then, that his vision for his (and Astellas's) future is likely to become a reality.
At the most basic level, good leaders are distinguished from bad ones by the decisions they make. Sometimes what seems like the right decision at the time turns out to be the wrong one, as more facts come in, or the situation changes. There's a degree of luck involved, but the most successful leaders make good decisions on a consistent basis. At Pfizer, where decision-making is saddled with the weight of billion dollar implications, Julie Schiffman, VP, Portfolio & Decision Analysis, and her group of 40 "decision scientists," are connecting the company's vast intellectual asset—its people—to provide the clearest possible assessment lens for Pfizer's deciders to peer through.
Julie Schiffman, VP, Portfolio & Decision Analysis, Pfizer
Like many other leaders in the pharma space, Schiffman was more or less channeled in the direction of industry; she didn't choose it based on a conscious interest in drugs. "Ironically, my father owned a pharmacy, so I grew up in a pharmacy my whole life...but I didn't intend to actually go into pharmaceuticals," says Schiffman.
After undergrad at Brown University, Schiffman landed at Cambridge Associates, doing investment consulting for non-profit, endowed institutions. She left to go to business school at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School, thinking she'd resume similar work upon graduating. Instead, Schiffman wound up with a summer associate position at Deloitte, which exposed her to a variety of businesses, notably Pfizer, where she worked with internal teams on new product development and commercial strategy. One of her clients at Pfizer was Laurie Olson, currently Pfizer's EVP, strategy, portfolio management and global commercial operations. Schiffman joined Pfizer 10 years ago this year, and Olson, aside from being Schiffman's current manager, "has been a great mentor as well," she says.
Schiffman initially left Deloitte to become a senior manager in the new product development group at Pfizer. After three years, she was promoted to director, a role focused on supporting the development of commercial strategies for products approaching Phase III in the clinic. Toward the end of 2008, Schiffman was promoted to team leader in Pfizer's Portfolio & Decision Analysis group, supporting emerging markets, established products, and specialty care. She was promoted to vice president of that group two and half years ago. In her current role, she reports to Olson, who reports to Ian Read, Pfizer's CEO.
Working at Deloitte was instructive for Schiffman; her current group is essentially an internal consultancy. Her group's task, says Schiffman, is to "enable objective investment decisions in support of near-, mid-, and long-term strategic goals." "Objective" is the operative word. Schiffman's group sits outside of Pfizer's business units, so that it can be "transparent about the risk, the cost, the timing, and the value of different opportunities," which helps Pfizer's deciders "make the most informed decision, whether it's about an asset, a therapeutic area, or about the portfolio."
Despite a general industry emphasis on quantitative risk assessment, Schiffman says "numbers are only half the story." Qualitative assessment, and the judgment of management, must also be considered. The core strength of Schiffman's group, she says, is its ability to "assemble a cross-functional team of experts across Pfizer to explore and provide input on several different development opportunities." Strong communication skills are key. "The thirst for information at Pfizer has increased significantly over the past couple of years," says Schiffman. "We've brought much greater transparency to the end-to-end portfolio, not only from an actual asset standpoint, but also from a budget standpoint."
Schiffman manages a group of 40, and her group is sometimes the bearer of bad news. That makes the job challenging, "particularly when a team may believe that its asset is a great opportunity, and should be moved forward." As a group manager, Schiffman says she tries not to "ask people to do things that I wouldn't be willing to do myself—I understand the pressure. I think you have to create a rewarding environment where people feel valued for the work they do for the benefit of Pfizer and for the individual teams."
Pfizer is putting a new system in place for the purposes of integrating information to deliver better analysis and insight. Schiffman says the "Holy Grail" of portfolio management is "being able to link your budget information with your milestone information and your value information in order to inform portfolio decisions." Delivering the right information to the right place at the right time is what keeps Schiffman up at night.
Her current work is "very intellectually challenging and stimulating, and there are always opportunities for continuous improvement," says Schiffman, adding that she's uncomfortable outlining her career development path and future goals for Pharm Exec readers. That says more about Pfizer than Schiffman, probably, but facilitating communication across an organization, and integrating individual opinions, quantitative data, and qualitative analysis into the process to deliver insight to decision-makers, is not likely to be a skill diminished by technology or big data anytime soon.
Buket Grau's career in the healthcare industry has led her to many unexpected places. Trained as a scientist, she got started working in commercial roles in consumer healthcare at Procter & Gamble, then moved on to financial services, and next was a strategic management consultant to pharmaceutical companies. From there, Grau moved on to global medical technology company Stryker Corporation assuming various commercial leadership positions. Most recently—just a couple of months ago—Grau began the next leg of her journey by accepting the role of Senior Director of Program Leadership and Management at Biogen Idec, working on the company's multiple sclerosis asset, Tysabri (natalizumab). In this role, Grau provides leadership within the cross-functional program team, drives a high-value program strategy to enable continued growth over the next 10 years and serves as the global business lead for multiple external partnerships. As to why working in the healthcare sector is important and fulfilling for Grau, she says, "I've been fascinated by the challenges the industry is facing—my mindset is: challenges are new possibilities for positive change. The healthcare industry is constantly going through various changes and challenges, and I would like to be part of that and have an impact."
Buket Grau, Senior Director of Program Leadership and Management, Biogen-Idec
Making a difference is something that's important to Grau outside her professional life as well. Volunteering and nonprofit work have always been a huge part of Grau's life, ever since high school. She's been an advisor to and an active participant in many global nonprofit organizations, and is currently heavily involved with the Healthcare Businesswomen's Association, a volunteer membership organization that focuses on building career development and leadership skills for professional women in the healthcare space. Grau was the 2012 HBA President and has been volunteering with the organization for the past nine years.
In the past 20 years of Grau's professional life, she has come to realize the importance of mentors. And while some professionals might count themselves lucky to have one or two great mentors throughout the course of their career, that's not enough for Grau. "All my life, I've always built a group of mentors," she explains. "I have mentors from HBA, mentors from my previous companies, and mentors from my family. I believe in leveraging different perspectives when making a decision and that people from different professional and cultural backgrounds can offer unique insights. It's akin to having a personal advisory board." The biggest skill she has picked up on from her personal panel of mentors, she says, is listening. "Listening is such an important skill that helps you uncover the real opportunities. Being actively engaged and understanding the evolving needs and interests of diverse stakeholders, especially our customers, is critical."
In addition to listening, another leadership skill Grau sees as crucial to the healthcare industry is risk-taking. "After actively listening and evaluating all the options, it's imperative to move forward in making decisions and taking actions, even with imperfect information or facing risks" she says. "Thinking strategically and critically is important, but then turning that into meaningful action that will have an impact is the ultimate goal—it's the realization of strategy in the concrete world." Great teamwork is another success imperative for Grau—a skill she learned to value during her years as a professional volleyball player several years ago. "Volleyball is a team sport—so we enjoy success if we see that it's a collective success."
Despite her team of mentors and the valuable life lessons she's learned along the way, Grau acknowledges that the healthcare sector is facing some very real challenges. For her, one of the biggest challenges is the idea of operating efficiently in a leaner organizational model and doing more with less. One way to face this, she believes, is through stronger collaboration efforts, both within companies and across stakeholders and even sectors. The ultimate goal of this collaboration, as Grau sees it, is to create and deliver value in the best interest of the patients. "And every single person has a role in that," she says. "It's not a challenge for the manufacturer, or the payer, or the regulator—it's an opportunity for all of us in the industry." Globalization and an increase in cultural diversity is also part of the solution, says Grau. "We're all aiming for continuous healthcare innovation, and innovative ideas can emerge from anywhere in the world, from any discipline or function or background. Diversity helps you to answer the critical questions in a more informed and more rigorous way. You have a much higher chance of success when you bring all these diverse perspectives into the equation and factor them into the decision making. I always trust that the best ideas will emerge, if all the ideas have a chance to be heard and to compete with and to cross-fertilize one another."
The pharmaceutical industry is changing. As the healthcare payer burden continues to shift toward the patient, pharma companies are making adjustments to become more patient-focused, with processes dedicated to framing the healthcare debate from the patient's point of view.
Craig Flanagan, Associate Vice President of Business Excellence, Sanofi
This shift in perspective cannot occur overnight—but Big Pharma is now devoting significant resources to help drive the culture shift from the top down. Enter Sanofi's Craig Flanagan, part of the new breed of corporate executives whose energy is devoted to facilitating the transition by seeding new capabilities throughout the company's workforce.
Flanagan has held a variety of positions during his 16-year career at Sanofi, working his way up from sales rep; to trainer; to sales manager; to marketing executive on the Plavix franchise team; to his current role as associate vice president of business excellence.
In this role, Flanagan heads up a team of 25 in-house training "change agents" whose mandate is to imbed new capabilities in the organization, covering three specific areas: team process, change management, and continuous improvement—all with the objective to improve leadership's ability to respond to external business challenges quickly and on point, aligning decisions across markets and functions.
To entrench Sanofi's strategic, patient-first philosophy, the team first needed to address a perceived lack of trust in Sanofi leadership, following three straight years of restructuring. Flanagan and his team did a baseline survey at the start of the internal campaign and the scores reflected what they had expected: employee engagement was dangerously low.
The change agents—district sales managers drawn from various departments throughout the United States—underwent four months of training focused on effective communication and coaching. The plan concentrated on a top-down approach, with the agents learning new skills, going back to their respective departments to demonstrate the abilities they acquired, and hopefully transferring the same skills to their direct reports.
The strategy worked. One year after the initial survey, the team conducted a second poll of employees and received very promising results: overall employee engagement had improved by 29 percent.
"We are extremely proud of those numbers," Flanagan says. "We weren't the sole reason for the improved statistics but we were certainly the catalyst. I think of the program as capability building, helping employees understand themselves and manage change in a better way. We made it okay for the employees to talk openly about the company."
Flanagan was a speech communication major at Penn State, and predictably puts effective communication and listening at the top of his list of effective management techniques. But he also relies on another less traditional trait: vulnerability.
"To me vulnerability is letting people understand that you have fears, anxiety, dreams, and that you don't always have the right answer," he says. "Being vulnerable is one of the biggest changes that I have made. It helps in creating that open two-way dialogue with people, and creates an atmosphere of trust. It helps to get the best out of people."
Another tenant of Flanagan's management style that he tries to impart on his change agents is the importance of being present. Flanagan preaches the importance of giving your full attention to a conversation and avoiding multi-tasking at all costs. When on the phone, employees are encouraged to turn their computer monitors off and put their smartphones out of reach, and devote themselves whole-heartedly to the task at hand.
The change agents' obligation is to keep the workforce focused not only on being present in the moment, but being ready for the future. This is a future that Flanagan believes will increasingly focus on patient solutions and dialogue—hence the need for effective coaching.
"I want to be in a position to influence the strategic direction of the organization," Flanagan says about his long-term career goals. "Over the past 18 months my position is increasingly a position dedicated to people. My job is to understand the breadth of the organization, and I enjoy the opportunity to develop inspirational leaders in our company."
At the tail end of Lewis and Clark's trail that tamed a wilderness, is the town of Astoria, Oregon where Brandon Kotaniemi grew up. Settled by émigrés from Finland and Scandinavia, Astoria's small town ambience marked the beginning of an equally long journey for him. Transcending that community while remaining true to his core has given this year's Emerging Leader from Gilead the adaptive skills to forge a career with broad geographical reach, exposure to many different parts of the business, and a personal commitment to diversity and inclusion that extends to a high-profile advocacy in the struggle for marriage equality.
Brandon Kotaniemi, Director of HIV Marketing, Gilead Sciences
Early on, at age 15, Kotaniemi was selected to be a Rotary Exchange Student studying for 12 months in Brazil. At University and beyond, Kotaniemi spent two years total studying and working in Mexico. His first professional job after graduating from the University of Oregon with a degree in International Studies and Spanish Literature was in Mexico City, where he worked as a marketing consultant. "Travelling and living in the developing world," he said, "gave me a unique perspective that still keeps me grounded in my daily decisions and in life."
Kotaniemi broke into pharma as a sales representative for AstraZeneca, where he learned the philosophy of "leaving things better than you found them." Without his experience detailing physicians, he recognizes he wouldn't have become a successful marketer in the industry. "I wouldn't have known how providers prefer to receive information, or how to incorporate their perspective into promotional campaigns," he said.
Over time, Kotaniemi has worked across a broad range of roles and has been a part of 18 new product or indication launches for major brands in several different disease states including Oncology, Immunology, Rheumatology, Cardiovascular, CNS, Respiratory, and HIV. While at AstraZeneca at age 25, he became an Oncology District sales manager, leading his Midwest crew through five launches in three years, from the bottom of the pile his first year to top sales team for the remaining two.
From there, Kotaniemi moved to Genentech in 2003 to work on the breakthrough oncologic Herceptin, leading adjuvant launch efforts for patient and professional promotions. Last year, he joined Gilead Sciences, where he now enjoys working with the HIV community, with specific responsibility for developing initiatives with key opinion leaders that support the franchise. "My team is working on initiatives to leverage newer technologies into our business model, such as virtual scientific advisory boards. There are many different issues including testing and linkage to care that are important considerations in serving this market." The reward, according to Kotaniemi, is having a window seat on the future of healthcare. "Nowhere is the pace of change in healthcare more evident than in the fight against HIV, where we have long had to learn how to work with providers, payers, and patients in a different way. I get to interact and work with people that truly have made an impact on the course of this global pandemic. Being part of this mission motivates me every day," he said. Kotaniemi is also moved by the strength of a friend with hemophilia, who, in the '80s was infected with Hepatitis C and HIV at a young age. With the help of advances in medicine, his friend has beaten HIV and continues to seek treatment for Hep C. "He is one of the main reasons I have stayed with the industry. When I have a bad day I think of him and I hope for the best for his future."
His passion extends beyond the realms of disease states and experiencing new cultures. Kotaniemi is an advocate for gay rights and marriage equality, having tied the knot with his partner of 13 years in California when it was legal in 2008. The pharmaceutical industry, in his eyes, is "more open than most" in accepting differences in sexual orientation. With 16 years in the business and much of that time spent managing others, Kotaniemi has learned to acknowledge the strength of the integrity that comes from being yourself—self awareness is key.
It is with this sense of humility that Kotaniemi offers his advice on how to make a difference in the business: "The three most important skills for tomorrow's pharma manager is to think strategically, execute within and beyond the strategy, and connect emotionally to those you work with. Learn from everyone around you, but always keep the perspective of the patient in the front of your mind. If you keep looking at things with that lens and learning from what other people have done, being open to feedback and adjusting as you go along, you'll do well."
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