Q&A: Christian Wieszner, CSL Behring UK

In October, Christian Wieszner was appointed General Manager, CSL Behring UK, having previously served as the company’s Senior Director and General Manager, Emerging Europe.

Wieszner started his career with Pfizer in oncology. Before joining CSL, he worked at the Novartis Group, where he held commercial leadership positions in specialty and primary care across territories including central and eastern Europe, and served as General Manager Southern Africa at Alcon, a Novartis division.

Here, Wieszner tells Pharm Exec about the priorities of his new role and his vision for CSL Behring in the UK.

Pharm Exec: Tell us about your new role as UK General Manager CSL Behring — what are the core elements of the job?

Christian Wieszner: Everything we do at CSL Behring is inspired and guided by our Promise to Patients. My role as GM is to ensure that we fulfil our promise. That means building, leading and supporting a strong UK team that can make a positive impact on patients’ lives now and into the future. I set the direction for the organization and ensure we are aligned and inclusive.

What is your background and how did you come to CSL Behring?

I’ve worked for of all my career in commercial roles in pharma, biotech and medtech, in different businesses. They have taken me into a variety of sectors, including ophthalmology, vaccines, immunology and oncology — and across the world from Germany and Austria to South Africa. As a youngster, I was curious and interested in science. I saw members of my family being treated for cancer and developed a desire to improve access to medicines for patients suffering from rare diseases. While at university, I secured a pharma internship, which led me into the industry, and I later studied for a master’s in business administration.

Can you give us a general overview of what CSL Behring does – what are the fields of interest?

CSL Behring is a global leader in plasma protein biotherapies. We research, develop, manufacture and market biotherapies, which are used to treat serious and rare conditions. These conditions include coagulation (bleeding) disorders, such as hemophilia and von Willebrand disease, and immune deficiencies. Biotherapies are also used in the rapid reversal of the effects of warfarin and to prevent hemolytic disease of the fetus and newborn (HDFN). Users of our therapies rely on them to help improve their quality of life.

Why are you passionate about what the company does? What inspires you about the company, and how can you make the voice of CSL Behring heard?

There is no better reason to get up in the morning than knowing that the work we do will have an impact on patients suffering from life-threatening diseases, and their families. It is so fulfilling to ensure that patients have access to our therapies. We have a great story to tell and everyone in the team has a part to play in sharing it.

What opportunities do you see for CSL Behring in the UK? How do you approach the issues of access and the disparity issues across the country?

We are fortunate to have regional business managers and regional medical affairs managers based across England, Wales and Scotland who know their regions intimately and understand local issues. We have great opportunities in the UK to strengthen our leading position with our established portfolio and engage stakeholders around some exciting new innovation to come. We’ll look to partner and collaborate with stakeholders to leverage our deep expertise in the interest of UK patients.

What are the challenges you are facing in the UK?

This is obviously a challenging time across the globe and the UK has some unique challenges too. We are managing issues around access, cost pressure, and a fast-changing environment. The particular challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic are also still with us.

What is your approach to solving them?

Our company values are core to how we make decisions and solve problems. So, my approach to challenges will be guided by those five values of patient focus, innovation, integrity, collaboration and superior performance.

How do you partner with patients and patient organizations?

We are proud of our close relationships with patient groups and have a dedicated policy and patient advocacy manager. We recently developed a campaign with the Haemophilia Society called Why Sit It Out?, which is aimed at encouraging boys with hemophilia to stay active and try new sports and activities. We are delighted that it recently won a Communique award.

How do you approach CSR in the affiliate?

The company globally is emphasizing the importance of Corporate Social Responsibility. We are keenly aware of our impact on the environment and always seek to minimize it. We’re also developing plans to enable us to “put something” back into our local communities.

What future do you see for CSL Behring in the UK and what, ultimately, are you hoping to achieve?

I want to build on our long-established position as a reliable partner for our stakeholders, customers and patients. We are a science-based company, committed to providing innovative therapies and I am sure we have the solid foundations in the UK for progress and further growth.