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Sam Pearce, SVP, Head of Europe and International at Jazz Pharmaceuticals, talks about joining the company during a transformative period and how she is working to foster a bold and collaborative culture to expand Jazz’s footprint in Europe and beyond.
PharmExec: What have been your key priorities since joining Jazz Pharmaceuticals?
Sam Pearce: I joined Jazz during a transformative period in 2020 as the company’s evolution to become an innovative global biopharmaceutical company was well and truly underway. As part of this ongoing transformation, my main responsibility is to nurture and grow Jazz’s Europe and International region, which encompasses all markets outside of North America. When I think about the fact that 95% of the world’s population lives within this region, it really hits home the responsibility we have to a significant population of people living with serious diseases — and the opportunity to unlock the true potential of Jazz’s medicines globally.
Today, we have three approved therapies in Europe across two business units, neurosciences and hematology/oncology, with a robust pipeline that spans pre-clinical to Phase 3 trials. Last year, Jazz launched Sunosi®, our treatment for residual excessive daytime sleepiness due to narcolepsy or obstructive sleep apnea, in Germany in a challenging environment with COVID-19 — a successful launch from which we’re building on learnings country by country in Europe. From here, I’m focused on laying the foundation to scale our business sustainably, including developing our capabilities, mindset, governance and footprint to be able to have a broader impact on patients’ lives.
Another focus since joining Jazz has been making sure that, in markets where we do not yet commercially operate, the right programs and partnerships are in place to make our medicines available through managed access programmed. Partnership and collaboration are core to our model, and to me, a critical piece of the jigsaw puzzle of good patient access is to identify high-quality, specialized and experienced partners to ensure as many patients as possible benefit from our innovations.
What motivated your move from Celgene to Jazz and what learnings did you bring to your current position?
I am attracted to companies that are committed to transformational change, where I am given the opportunity to build and develop an organization with a clear and compelling vision. This requires a strong focus on people and building the right teams to ensure strong cross-functional collaboration to achieve what’s best for patients.
I was motivated to join Jazz by the opportunity to help expand the business in Europe and beyond. In my career, I strive to bring treatments to market that will have the most impact, not simply to develop “me too” treatments. Jazz’s purpose to innovate to transform the lives of patients in the areas of most need aligns perfectly with my ambitions.
During my time at Celgene, the company grew exponentially. My team shared a compelling patient vision that underpinned our work and led to a significant acceleration in the availability of Celgene’s medicines. This clear focus is something that I have brought to my new role at Jazz where I hope to have a similar impact and enhance the growth and culture of the company.
How did the COVID-19 pandemic impact your role and what are the challenges and opportunities it provided?
Having joined Jazz in March 2020, I was only physically together with some of the team for a matter of days before offices closed. In some ways, having limited experience at Jazz pre-COVID was helpful. In every realm of our business, we needed to embrace the change, re-imagine engagement and optimize connection in this new situation.
This global pandemic and new ways of working have forced us to innovate, bringing new opportunities along with the challenges. Borders and boundaries have been broken down to open a whole new pool of potential hires. With recent roles which would usually be based in our Oxford commercial HQ, we have more flexibility to attract a broader pool of candidates, and hopefully a more diverse talent pool as well. We can be confident as a business that we can support long-term flexibility to make this possible. By surrounding ourselves with individuals that can contribute diverse experiences and perspectives, we can focus on a clear vision for the future and better drive positive outcomes for patients, and ultimately good results for Jazz.
You’ve talked about a macro-scale approach. Can explain what that means and how it benefits patients?
I feel passionately that the focus of a pharmaceutical company should be guided by where it can have the greatest impact on patients’ lives. I have carried this philosophy throughout my career — even in the early stages. After university, I was on the verge of attending medical school; however, I decided that by working for a pharmaceutical company, I would be contributing to changing lives on a more “macro” scale. My aim at Jazz is to continue to make more medicines available in more markets to reach people with limited or no options.
How have you aimed to foster a collaborative and supportive culture at Jazz?
I am a firm believer that you learn and develop most when you operate outside of your comfort zone — that’s where the magic happens. On a personal level, I enjoy new challenges and experiences, both personally and professionally — whether it’s setting up a skiing business in France fresh out of university, cycling across Malawi for charity, or embracing a new challenge leading international and emerging markets. I encourage an entrepreneurial and can-do mindset in my team and strive to create an environment where people have the space to think innovatively but also feel supported to take risks and venture into new territories.I believe that failure is an important part of the learning and development process; however, failure hurts less when there’s a cushion of a strong team to fall back on. By having a motivated team that feels secure to be bold, I believe we can achieve big things for patients.
What are your priorities at Jazz in 2021 and beyond?
This year, I am looking forward to building on the progress we have already made and continuing our pursuit of access for the many, not the few. My main priorities are to continue to support portfolio growth in key therapeutic areas, build on our operational efficiency, scale key capabilities and globalize.
The markets within the Europe and International region are complex and diverse — inclusive of the smallest, the largest, and the highest- and the lowest-income countries. This makes it all the more important to ensure diverse perspectives are reflected in our teams, and that we’re not taking a “one size fits all” approach to getting transformative medicines to those who need them. Our actions, conversations, behaviors and mindsets are the most powerful tools in creating environments where people feel welcome, accepted and empowered to unlock their full potential. We continue to strive to hire the best talent and rally our people around a clear vision for the future — this is how we’ll ensure we have the best team in the industry to continue to push boundaries and achieve more for patients this year.