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These forward-thinking leaders are inspiring their teams to achieve far-reaching goals and strategically positioning their companies for success as they navigate complex industry challenges.
Igniting change by…
Addressing barriers between patients and their medicines
Company: Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corp.
Education: Harvard Business School, Advanced Management Program (AMP 196), Harvard Business School; Postgraduate Degree, Health Economics, Universtitat Pompeu Fabra; Postgraduate Certificate in Leadership Capability, Glasgow Caledonian University; Master’s in Business Administration, ESADE Business School; Postgraduate Degree in Pharmaceutical Marketing, Universitat Pompeu Fabra; B.A. in Chemical Sciences and M.A. in Chemical Engineering, Instituto Químico de Sarriá – Universidat Ramon Llull
Associations: Board Member, Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO)
Victor Bultó chose to pursue a career in the pharmaceutical industry because of his passion for science and the opportunity to improve and extend the lives of millions of people. And his family helps him keep this passion front and center.
“When I think about my professional goals and the legacy I want to lead, I think about my grandmother who was a true inspiration to me,” Victor says. “At 96 years old, she was finally diagnosed and properly treated for a chronic condition she suffered for most of her life. At 100 years old, she was clear of symptoms and said she never felt better. Sadly, she is no longer with us, but her story will always be at the center of my purpose.”
As president of Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corp., one of Victor’s goals is to close the gap between patients and their medicines. “I constantly think about how we at Novartis can contribute to a healthcare ecosystem that helps more patients access the medicines they need faster,” he says. “In doing so, we can generate the resources needed to fund the discovery and launches of new medicines, impacting not only patients today but many generations to come.”
To make sure Novartis’ medicines successfully bring value to patients and make an impact on society, Victor says the company must address the inherent complexities of the U.S. healthcare system and remove barriers so that the appropriate patients and healthcare practitioners can easily access its medicines. “It’s no longer enough to have a great product; a superior customer experience is what will unlock new pathways for impact and growth,” he says.
He cites his team’s 2017 effort to accelerate the growth of the immunology treatment Cosentyx across three indications. The product’s benefits and safety profile were backed by a wealth of strong clinical evidence, but Victor says this important attribute was only part of the equation for success. “What enabled breakthrough growth was our customer-centric focus on addressing nonclinical barriers,” he says. “By making it simpler for patients and HCPs to access Cosentyx, more eligible patients benefited from this innovative therapy. As a result, we shifted from being a small player in the space to becoming a leader.”
Victor uses the term “unbossed” to describe the culture he is building. “I want employees to feel empowered and accountable to leverage their strengths and deliver on their purpose,” he says. “Unbossed doesn’t mean no oversight or management — it means giving employees clarity and accountability to make decisions, take ownership, and achieve their priorities. So often those who are best qualified to make a decision are left seeking the approval of others who aren’t even close to the work, which diminishes confidence, growth, and a feeling of value.”
Colleagues say Victor has created an anything-is-possible attitude and an environment that fosters the process of learning. He set up a fearless, observe-to-act paradigm and instituted “fail-fast awards” and a “look-forward office” to create a culture of innovation and experimentation. “My leadership style focuses heavily on empowering people,” he continues. “I strive to inspire through supporting people and collaborating on a bold vision that recognizes possibilities beyond the expected. Giving people the necessary tools to succeed and the recognition they deserve gives them autonomy to better deliver for our customers and patients. Autonomy and self-discovery are tenets for innovation.”
Victor is an empathetic leader who has personalized his style of leadership to the needs of his team. “I’ve been very vocal about leading with empathy,” he says. “In these extraordinary times, everyone’s situation has been impacted. Empathy goes a long way in creating a caring and positive environment.”
Victor notes that hiring for diversity and inclusion remains a key priority for Novartis. “Companies that better understand the importance of D&I build diverse teams and ensure that different functions mingle formally and informally in a deliberate attempt to create innovation, out-of-the-box thinking, and ultimately greater impact,” he says. “Concrete analytical problems can be solved by the right expert, but complex problems require a much broader approach. The answers to most of our complex challenges lie at the intersection between different areas of knowledge and expertise with profound interdependencies. High-performing cross-functional teams are therefore critical for success in the new world. My go-to best practices are aligned with the tenets of our culture, and are designed to unleash the power of our people.” (PV)
Embrace change. Empower people. Transform lives.
Blazing new trails to…
change how we think about healthcare
Alisha A. Alaimo
Title: President, Biogen U.S. Organization
Education: B.S., Biology, Emory University
Associations: Board member, The Biogen Foundation; executive sponsor of the Women’s Innovation Network; Women in Bio
Giving Back: The Biogen Foundation
This is Alisha Alaimo’s second appearance on the PharmaVOICE 100 list. In 2017, she was recognized among her other inspiring attributes, as a mentor when she worked at Novartis. Today, she is being celebrated by new colleagues at Biogen, which she joined three years ago. In October 2019, she was named president of Biogen’s U.S. organization, and in that short time, she has had a dramatic effect on the company and its culture.
In her three years at Biogen, Alisha significantly increased the number of women in the U.S. organization. When she arrived, men made up nearly 60% of the associate director-level and above roles. In 2020, those same roles are nearly 50% male and 50% female. She is a champion for women and people of color, often and openly sharing challenges she’s faced as a female leader and strategies for leveraging mentors and sponsors. She created new development programs including Women on the Rise and PROPEL to accelerate the readiness of midlevel women and people of color into senior roles and create opportunities to give them visibility among senior leaders.
“Supporting the next generation of leaders is about strengthening our diversity and inclusion, which I’ve found to be more of an art than a science,” she says. “When I joined Biogen, one of my primary goals was to create programs to accelerate midlevel women and underrepresented professionals into senior roles, and to bring awareness to common barriers and help develop leadership skills. Critically, these programs provide opportunities for these professionals to gain visibility among senior leadership, which is essential to accelerating their careers.”
Alisha also had the mandate to help the organization navigate two rapidly evolving markets that Biogen helped pioneer: multiple sclerosis (MS) and spinal muscular atrophy (SMA). The therapeutic markets matured, growing from one treatment option to many. Alisha needed to shift the organization’s way of thinking to meet patients where they are. She turned the team’s focus to creating the best possible patient experience and, equally as important, to seeking out underserved patient populations and ensuring their voices reached the ears of healthcare professionals. She galvanized every function within the organization to think differently and move with urgency and, crucially, she regularly communicated the reasoning behind such a seismic change in the organization. The team showed up with agility and compassion like never before.
For Biogen’s dedicated patient services team, Alisha ensured they adopted the leading customer experience principles not just in healthcare, but across industries. The organization made significant digital advancements, for example, launching texting capability that allowed patients to engage with Biogen more easily and in their preferred way. For underserved and underrepresented patients with MS, Biogen launched its first Spanish-language patient education programs, including educational forums with Hispanic medical experts. The team also created a new educational program for payers to better understand underserved MS patient populations.
Alisha is also leading Biogen in further exploring how digital technologies can help with immense unmet need including for Alzheimer’s disease. With more than 5 million Americans living with Alzheimer’s today, more than 60% of cases of dementia go undetected. To help people worried about memory or brain health find their way to helpful resources and a path forward, Biogen provided financial and in-kind support for BrainGuide by UsAgainstAlzheimer’s, which runs on Amazon Web Services (AWS) technology.
Alisha’s dual approach to innovation — reimagining what’s possible while encouraging iterative progress — led her to conceive and launch Rise Labs, an internal incubator and accelerator of employee-led ideas. Within a year, the program generated more than 100 pilots from people at all levels of the organization.
To Alisha, making sure her team believes they can achieve against any odds includes creating a culture so strong, it’s more like a movement. Her vision is an environment where people feel they can thrive and be their authentic selves.
“A powerful and infectious environment that expects excellence and rewards creative approaches is naturally inspiring,” she says. “By cultivating this experience, I have seen my teams not only exceed performance goals but expand their focus to the significance and impact of their work — they believe they can make a greater impact on a larger scale, for patients, families, and communities.”
Alisha wants to be remembered as a leader who wasn’t afraid to take on some of the most complex challenges in the pharmaceutical industry and who led teams to overcome difficult odds.
She also wants to make her mark for finding creative solutions — for applying art and science — to challenges like achieving gender parity, launching a first-to-market therapy, or improving health equity for underserved and underrepresented patients.
“I believe transformative work happens when we meet tough issues head on, while staying grounded in how our work drives meaningful change for patients, physicians, communities, and healthcare globally,” she says.
Alisha stands apart because she drives teams to achieve excellence while leading with humanity. She puts people first and inspires them to accomplish more than they thought possible, all for the purpose of service to patients and healthcare providers. (PV)
Talent and hunger over experience — Be Rocky
Blazing new trails to…
keep people first
Samuel Agresta, M.D.
Title: Chief Medical Officer
Company: Foghorn Therapeutics
Associations: ASCO, ASH
Always put patients first. That is the mantra that Samuel Agresta, M.D., lives by. Whether working in a clinic, hospital, university, or biotech/pharmaceutical company setting, he is uncompromising with his patient-first philosophy.
Dr. Agresta is a motivated, scientifically driven, and results-oriented physician-scientist with innovative clinical development and global strategic medical management skills. Trained as a medical oncologist with more than 13 years of international pharmaceutical experience, he has extensive expertise in global drug development, from IND to Phase III design and execution, approval, medical and regulatory affairs, and strategic planning in oncology, infectious diseases, and imaging diagnostics.
As medical director at Genentech, he oversaw the clinical development of T-DM1, Kadcyla, an antibody-drug-conjugate designed and approved for HER2 overexpressing cancers.
While serving as head of clinical development for Agios Therapeutic, Dr. Agresta oversaw research into cancer metabolism, and inborn errors of metabolism/rare genetics diseases in multiple large and ultra-rare cancer and non-cancer indications.
Among his many areas of responsibility, he was accountable for the AG-221 (enasidenib) and AG-120 (ivosidenib) program from IND through approval.
Ivosidenib, now approved under the brand name Tibsovo, is marketed by Servier Pharmaceuticals to treat acute myeloid leukemia, and enasidenib is marketed as Idhifa by Bristol Myers Squibb, also for the treatment of acute myeloid leukemia.
“The consecutive approvals of AG-120 and AG-221 were two of the most challenging assignments of my career,” Dr. Agresta says. “The approvals of these, as well as that of T-DM1, are also among some of my biggest career highlights.”
Currently, as chief medical officer of Foghorn Therapeutics, he is guiding the company’s core scientific approach, which is centered on the chromatin regulatory system that opens and closes the right sections of DNA at the right time. Breakdowns in the chromatin regulatory system lead to a wide range of diseases, including cancer, impacting millions of people.
Using its gene traffic control proprietary platform, the company is rapidly advancing more than 10 programs across a wide range of cancers and aims to explore treatments for other diseases. The company currently has two programs in Phase I clinical trials.
Dr. Agresta’s approach to caring for others does not end with direct clinical care for patients nor with patients in clinical trials his care extends to his professional colleagues as well.
He encourages, guides, mentors, and coaches his colleagues to both achieve the team’s objectives as well as to help individual members achieve their own professional goals. He inspires his colleagues to work toward success by sharing stories of patients who are waiting.
“My main goal and priority is to lead and coach people,” he says. “I enjoy mentoring and passing my knowledge down so others can help patients.”
Being a passionate leader with a sincere interest in listening, learning, and guiding has allowed Dr. Agresta’s sphere of influence to span well beyond his clinical development groups and permeate through many organizations.
He quickly establishes rapport, garners trust and is a sought-after confidant and role model. He elevates diverse opinions and brings individual voices to the leadership table, generating reflective discussion and influencing positive impact on organizational culture. Dr. Agresta’s trust in his team, combined with his servant-leadership approach to drive critical work forward, has resulted in the creation of exceptional, multidisciplinary clinical development teams that have the potential to achieve results with profound industry and patient impact.
He values talent and hunger over experience. At one company, an approach he took to encourage colleagues was to implement a prizefighter-of-the-month recognition for colleagues, bestowing a faux-silk Rocky Balboa-style boxing robe on those who had worked extra hard or who had accomplished a seemingly “unaccomplishable” task.
He cares deeply about the people who work with him. As an example, a colleague, who was a highly valued member of his team who was working on an important drug development project, burned out after 12 months of giving their all to the project. When Dr. Agresta learned of this experience, he was shocked and deeply saddened. He did whatever possible to help support and encourage this colleague, including enabling them to take the necessary time off and providing additional resources. He considers its his responsibility to keep his team safe.
Dr. Agresta says if you sleep well at night you’re doing okay and if it’s not right for patients, it’s probably not the right decision. (PV)
Helping others succeed
Blazing new trails to…
drive clinical trial transformation
Title: Senior VP and Chief Digital Officer RDS Technologies
Education: M.S., EECS, Northwestern University
Personal Awards: PharmaVOICE 100 — 2010
Associations: Association of Clinical Research Organizations (ACRO), Decentralized Trials & Research Alliance (DTRA), Drug Information Association (DIA)
Giving back: Akanksha Education Fund, NJ LEEP, Mercy Home for Boys and Girls, American Cancer Society, Mayo Clinic, MSKCC, Vivekananda Vidyapith, Lotus Petal Foundation
Hobbies: Playing the Indian drum, music, movie buff
Driving digital transformation is Srivatsan’s focus and vision. Like other superstars, his one name moniker is easily identified throughout the industry as his calling card as an innovator and change agent. With more than 30 years of experience in growing businesses in the digital, data, AI, analytics, IT, and operations management areas across several industry verticals, Srivatsan’s goal has been to deliver on the promise and full potential of digital transformation to the marketplace.
“Digital transformation is not about technology but the human adoption of technology,” he says. “It is about changing the mindset of people. When implementing digital transformation in operations we face several challenges in realizing the benefits. We have to work hard on change management initiatives to ensure that ‘human + digital’ work together to deliver the business outcomes desired.”
That human element is key to Srivatsan’s long-term career success as he cares deeply about the people he works with, and he always looks to find ways to enhance their performance and open new opportunities for advancement.
He is noted as being a transformational leader, who creates a common vision and goal for his teams. “I inspire others by providing a vision for the future,” he says. “I strive to align them to the vision and make people feel valued and appreciated as they drive themselves to execute the vision. I build trust with all stakeholders by being authentic and transparent in my actions.”
Keys to Srivatsan’s leadership style are an openness to recruiting people with complementary and diverse skill sets, supporting them by removing obstacles in their way, and, most importantly, cheering for their success. “I focus on clear communication, goal-setting, and employee motivation,” he says. “To drive growth, you need to hire the right people and provide an environment for them to flourish. It is the team that leads to success not the individual. Vision without execution results in failed projects.”
As senior VP and chief digital officer RDS technologies at IQVIA, Srivatsan is orchestrating what the company has coined “Connected Intelligence” to discover previously unseen insights, drive smarter decisions, and unleash new opportunities. Over the years, Srivatsan has learned that to drive business impact, it is not about technology but the way people adopt technology.
“Culture eats strategy for lunch,” he says. “To successfully execute, one needs to understand the culture of the organization and adapt the execution approaches to align with the culture.”
He is all about the “we” rather than “I” when it comes to growing an organization and he looks for team members who have a learning and growth mindset. “It is not what they know but how they have applied the knowledge,” Srivatsan says. “In forming a team, I always look for members with complementary skill sets to create a high-performing team.”
During COVID, to keep his teams at peak performance, Srivatsan says it was important to understand the perspectives of all his team members. “Each of them was facing different types of challenges,” he says. “Employing empathy, listening skills, understanding, and appreciation kept the teams motivated and inspired. To be successful, a leader needs a great team. And a good leader is one who is empathetic to their teams and motivates teams to achieve their goals.”
Srivatsan is a dedicated mentor and enjoys celebrating the successes of his mentees as well as having the opportunity to learn from those important relationships. “Each mentee is different; it is great to look at life from another person’s perspective,” he says. “The key part of developing the next generation of aspiring leaders is to teach them to have a growth mindset.”
Srivatsan says as the industry is constantly changing and evolving, one also needs to be innovative. Over the years, he has driven several innovations to market in terms of products, services, and solutions across healthcare and life sciences. For example, during his 14-year tenure at Cognizant Technology Solutions as a venture partner, he identified, incubated, and grew innovative and transformational solutions and was the architect of Cognizant’s next-generation digital healthcare platform.
Throughout his successful career, Srivatsan has kept his eye on the prize on improving the patient condition through a digital transformation and changing the status quo. In 2020, Srivatsan was once again able to flex his innovation muscles as part of the team that helped accelerate all aspects of the clinical trial process to get COVID-19 vaccines to market faster. “By implementing several digital technologies we enabled sites, sponsors, and patients to collaborate better, including DCTs to accelerate clinical trial transformation,” he says. “As leaders, we always need to look at how we can effectively drive change.” (PV)
A rising tide lifts all boats
Title: Global CEO
Company: Ogilvy Health
Personal Awards: 2020 MM&M Hall of Femme; 2021 PR Week Hall of Femme honoree
Company Awards: Effies, MM&M, PR Sabres and PRWeek Silver Anvils
Associations: Founder of Ogilvy’s Women’s Leadership Professional Network
Kate Cronin is a respected leader, innovative strategic partner, and trusted mentor, often called “the best in the business” by colleagues. Having worked with some of the top healthcare organizations across therapeutic areas on challenges both big and small, she has brought a unique depth of knowledge and experience to her 16 years at Ogilvy. Promoted to global CEO a year ago, Kate oversees the core capabilities within Ogilvy Health including brand strategy, advertising, PR and influence, medical education, HCP promotion, market access, and patient/consumer engagement.
One of Kate’s first challenges at Ogilvy was to integrate the many functions of the health business under one umbrella. For many years the health business was divided up across different units, until Kate led the integration of PR, social, consulting, and health to create a business unit that could serve clients across the health continuum — from life sciences to healthy living.
In her early years, Kate was known for her creativity in bringing consumer-led communications to prescription medicines. When she joined Ogilvy, she brought a burst of energy, creativity, and trusted counsel that led to double-digit growth, making Ogilvy PR a hot shop for clients and talent. And in her current role, she brings the best of all aspects of communications to help clients drive growth, with her team leading the most creative advertising and digital marketing in the animal health sector. Kate exemplifies the leadership, performance, and work ethic qualities that are the hallmarks of Ogilvy’s success.
She approaches every client with enthusiasm and creativity, pushing herself and her teams to think bigger, better, and differently to stay ahead of the curve and to best serve clients.
“I motivate others to achieve the impossible by helping them to picture the future,” she says. “I bring it to life using high energy, clear communications, and emotion.”
Highly strategic and intellectually curious, Kate has a clear vision of the future of healthcare and the company that she leads. She targets a goal for her team and her clients and won’t rest until it is achieved. Tenacious and determined, colleagues nicknamed her The General.
Yet, Kate remains approachable and accessible to everyone around her, often sending a text after a client presentation or sharing a laugh over a cocktail. She goes out of her way to have meaningful connections with both her teams and clients. She cultivates a “we are in this together” mentality that translates throughout the organization.
A veteran in the health communications space, she focuses on empathy in leading her teams, which is how she successfully led them through COVID. “I listened to them and tried to reassure and support where I could,” she says. “I also focused on instilling confidence in the team that we knew how to manage the business during this time of crisis. Regular communications and transparency helped effectively to manage my teams.”
During the lockdown, Kate hosted regular town halls to share the state of the business and initiated employee events to have some fun. For example, there was a competition for the best Zoom background and employees hosted cooking shows to engage with each other.
She strives to mentor and advocate for other women leaders and help them promote their own personal brand. “When I give a small piece of advice and the person uses it and it brings them success, that can be incredibly rewarding,” she says. “I once shared a tip on public speaking and presentations with a mentee. She told me later that her presentation went very well because of it. Watching mentees’ careers flourish and seeing them grow into stellar leaders is the biggest reward.”
Kate sets an exemplary standard for thriving and leading in the crazy 24/7 agency pace, while raising a family, maintaining life balance, and having a sense of humor. Her teams are as fiercely loyal to her as she is to them, because she lives by the ideal that a rising tide should lift all boats, and she acknowledges her successes are also her teams’ successes.
Colleagues who have had the pleasure to work with Kate for many years say she leads by example and they know it is okay to try something new. The one piece of advice she freely provides is: “get uncomfortable.”
Kate started her career studying the rat brain at a Cornell lab but soon realized she would rather work with people. So, she “got uncomfortable” and tried PR. With a track record of bringing the best and smartest resources together through tailor-made teams that span advertising, brand strategy, PR, technology, and consulting for some of Ogilvy’s biggest health clients — Bristol Myers Squibb Oncology, Boehringer Ingelheim, and Merck — we’d say Kate might be getting comfortable now.
Editor’s Note: At press time, Kate was named Moderna Therapeutics’ chief brand officer. We wish her well on this next leg of her journey.(PV)
Leveraging science to blaze new trails
Blazing new trails to…
discover and develop transformational treatments for cancer and other serious diseases
Dr. Norbert Bischofberger
Title: President and CEO
Company: Kronos Bio Inc.
Education: Ph.D., Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule
Personal Awards: Elected a Fellow of The American Association for Advancement of Science in 2018
Community Awards: Austrian Expat of the Year, 2014
Associations: American Association for the Advancement of Science, American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases, American Chemical Society, American Society for Microbiology, Infectious Disease Society of America and the International Society for Antiviral Research
Giving Back: Food banks and environmental causes
Norbert Bischofberger, Ph.D., has dedicated his career to advancing the development of life-changing medicines.
During his 28-year tenure at Gilead Sciences, he presided over the development and approval of more than 25 medicines for a range of serious conditions, which led to the transformation of treatments for diseases such as HIV, viral hepatitis, and lymphoma. He also led the team that invented Tamiflu (oseltamivir) and helped develop Veklury (remdesivir), which became the first new drug to receive Emergency Use Authorization from the FDA as a COVID-19 treatment in May 2020.
“Additionally, I was part of the core management team that grew Gilead from a company with fewer than 50 employees and no revenue, to one with 10,000 employees and $25 billion in revenue,” he says.
His desire to further push the boundaries of scientific innovation led Dr. Bischofberger to launch Kronos Bio, which is dedicated to transforming the lives of those affected by cancer. In 2020, the company moved from a research-stage organization to a clinical-stage company. In the midst of the pandemic, Kronos Bio went public and its IPO was one of the most successful in the biotech sector in 2020, with a $1.5 billion valuation — and all this was achieved without getting on a plane.
Through his career, Dr. Bischofberger has always made decisions based on data and following the science.
“I have found that if you go where the science leads you and make decisions based on sound science, this will generally lead to success,” he says. “Additionally, I have dedicated my career to developing medicines with the goal of improving the lives of patients, who drive my work and need to be kept top of mind.”
Dr. Bischofberger is not only a great leader and scientist, he is also a great teacher. For example, when the COVID-19 pandemic was first surfacing last year, he took the time to share with the Kronos Bio team everything he knew about the virus, including drawing pictures for those without scientific backgrounds, to ensure everyone was as informed as possible.
As president and CEO, Dr. Bischofberger’s leadership style is equal parts vision and action; he never shies away from making bold decisions and leading his teams by example with great purpose, empathy, and an infectious spirit.
He inspires others by encouraging them to be their authentic selves. “Everyone brings something to the table, and we should celebrate and embrace peoples’ skills and unique experiences to inform our work and decision-making,” Dr. Bischofberger says.
When building teams, he looks for honesty, integrity, and a passion for helping patients.
“Open communication and trust are important to me and, further, are absolutely critical for any team to be successful, so I look for people who are able to speak up and who, by way of their actions, encourage others to do the same,” he says. “I also work to establish trust with each member of my team. I trust them to do the jobs they were hired to do, and I recognize they are putting a lot of trust in me as the CEO of our company, which is a responsibility I take seriously.”
When the pandemic hit, the Kronos Bio team needed to quickly adopt new technologies that would enable communication and help colleagues stay connected to build camaraderie, keep them engaged, and ensure members of the team were aligned with the strategy and kept updated on developments.
Dr. Bischofberger says great mentors have been critical to helping him get where he is today, and he is dedicated to fostering the next generation of leaders. He likes to share a piece of advice he received along the way: “don’t follow the money or the title.”
“I believe the best part of being a mentor is contributing to a person’s personal and professional growth and helping them achieve their goals,” Dr. Bischofberger says. (PV)
Sparking innovation by…
Driving change and evolution and advocating for innovators
Title: Founder and CEO
Company: Real Chemistry
Education: B.S., Communications, S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University
Personal Awards: PharmaVOICE 100 honoree, 2021, 2018; PM360 ELITE COVID Hero Award, 2021; PRWeek Purpose Awards Most Purposeful Agency Pro, 2020; PRovoke Innovator of the Year, 2020; PRWeek’s Power List, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2019, 2020, 2021; MM+M/PRWeek Top 50 Health Influencer, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020; PRovoke Outstanding Individual Achievement Award, 2018; PM360 ELITE Entrepreneur, 2018; one of the 500 Most Influential People in the Global PR Industry by PRWeek, 2015, 2017; PRovoke Top 25 Innovator in Communications, 2014
Community Awards: Inducted into the Hall of Fame at the Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University, honored as one of its 50Forward most accomplished graduates of the last 50 years
Associations: Member, board of directors, LAGRANT Foundation; member, board of trustees, Cancer Research Institute; trustee for The Commons Project Foundation; advisory board member of the Newhouse School; advisory board member of the Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association; member of the Seminar and Arthur W. Page Society
Giving Back: The Commons Project Foundation, Cancer Research Institute, LAGRANT Foundation, W2O Center for Social Commerce
Hobbies: Fly fishing, skiing, coaching, golfing, hiking, travel, real estate, Bravo programming (Real Housewives!), cars and trucks, old movies, and all things Golden State Warriors and San Francisco Giants
Twitter handle: @JimGWeiss
Jim Weiss, founder and CEO of Real Chemistry, says the past 14-plus months of the pandemic were uncharted waters for everyone. “As a leader, this meant doubling down on people, customers, and patients to uphold our vision of making the world a healthier place for all,” he says.
Real Chemistry acquired nine companies during the pandemic, bolstering its ability to deliver tech-enabled, data-driven solutions that empower patients to take control of their health. “This meant not simply integrating new approaches, but 1,000 staff and new leadership and founders/owners into the organization at a time when we were all operating from the Zoom box,” Jim says.
“I was inspired by Operation Warp Speed in that it showed us all that ingenuity, innovation, and determination could solve a global pandemic, and that our value proposition is steeped in the same tireless and ruthless pursuit of improved outcomes and health equity for all,” he adds. “It’s not easy, but if it was easy, it wouldn’t be worth doing.”
Managing and growing a company that has delivered 19 consecutive years of double-digit growth has been a career highlight for Jim. Real Chemistry has evolved from a one-person consultancy to a global healthcare innovation company with 2,000 people that partners with 29 of the top 30 pharmaceutical companies. Also, the company took the bold step to rebrand after 20 years operating as W2O.
For Jim, leading Real Chemistry during COVID meant he had to adapt his leadership style to be more flexible for the agency’s people, from working parents balancing online learning for their kids to young professionals who had returned home to their parents.
“Continued flexibility and empathy for our people and the diversity of their circumstances are lessons I will take with me post-pandemic,” Jim says. “I’ve also become a better listener because of the Zoom box. And on a personal level, I made a commitment to focus more on exercise and a good diet, resulting in a 40-pound weight loss. Not only do I feel good, I am thinking better and acting with confidence.”
Colleagues praise Jim’s constant encouragement and forward-thinking vision of how the industry is evolving. He pushes people to step out of their comfort zone, learn new things, and take on new challenges.
Jim believes mentoring is an imperative for every leader, and it’s a true passion area for him.
“On any given day, I mentor colleagues, clients, employees, and friends,” he says. “The best part of every relationship is the two-way dialogue, because inevitably, I take something away from the conversation, too.”
Jim says he likes to build teams of people with diverse thoughts and experiences who share his mentality that’s about doing what’s promised with the power of perseverance — no excuses or caveats. “I have a #MakeItHappen mantra,” he adds. “I like to disrupt the status quo and try new things, even if it means failing before you get it right.”
Jim prefers straight, direct, honest talk and one-to-one interaction, supporting coaching, and fostering a culture of entrepreneurship and learning at Real Chemistry.
“I’m a big believer in inspiring and empowering people to integrate, collaborate, and connect the dots to get the best out of each other,” he says. “This results in them doing things they wouldn’t do on their own to produce extraordinary outcomes.” (PV)
Take care of your work, take care of each other, take care of yourselves
Igniting change by…
empowering everyone to contribute to the greatest extent of their talents
James Kyle Bryan, M.D.
Title: Chief Medical Officer
Company: IQVIA Biotech
Education: B.S., Biochemistry, Louisiana State University; M.D., LSU Health Science Center in New Orleans; fellowship in hematology and oncology, University of Washington Medical Center
Giving Back: A passionate advocate for adoption and supporting children and families in the foster care system
We work in an endlessly fascinating world of science, but if we lose sight of the patient or lose the ability to share the feelings of those most directly impacted by disease, then none of our accomplishments will amount to very much. It’s this view that drives James Kyle Bryan, M.D., to support the advancement of new therapies for the prevention and cure for all types of cancer. As chief medical officer of IQVIA Biotech, Kyle is focused on helping smaller biotech companies bring lifesaving treatments to patients.
Focused on drug discovery and development in the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries for more than 25 years, Kyle offers a unique perspective on navigating medical and safety challenges and needs within clinical trials. He has worked in biotechnology companies as well as for clinical research organizations. He is board-certified in hematology and medical oncology and remains actively engaged in clinical care as a clinical faculty member at the University of Washington Medical Center. This work allows him to better understand the current needs and wants of patients, which he factors into how he leads his teams.
“It’s imperative that we all recognize that the patient is the essence of the entire complex, multifaceted world of clinical research,” he says. “Every point of data in our studies represents a tiny piece of a life that is counting on people like us to make a difference. If we make this work about ourselves instead of about others, then we’ll never be truly successful.”
To inspire his teams, Kyle encourages people to think about possibilities for themselves and their careers, and also for those who work with them.
“I strive to let my teams know that I am focused on their development and how I can help them become their best and most authentic selves, regardless of role,” he says.
He leads by example, not asking anyone to do anything he isn’t willing to do himself or to work harder than he is willing to work.
“However, the most important thing is to speak to people and treat them the way that I want to be treated by my leaders,” he says. “I find that people will respond better if you give them your expectations without aggression and, if they fall short, help them see how they can do better the next time.”
Kyle says he navigated the challenge of work-from-home orders by turning on his camera for every meeting. He drew on the tradition of his native South, where people connect with others by inviting them to come into one’s home. “I didn’t worry about being camera-ready, or how tidy my desk appeared, or whether my kids passed through in the background,” he says.
“Sharing these little snippets of my real life did more than all the slide presentations and produced videos could have accomplished. It allowed my team to know that I understood what they were going through, and I was with them, trying to take care of my whole life, just like they were.”
To motivate teams through the pandemic, he says it was important to relate the magnitude of the impact to the business in a shared language so every employee could grasp what the organization was up against and feel like they were part of the solution.
“People can deal with a lot if they know they’re being told the whole story,” he says. “However, as an oncologist, I also know that people in a tough situation need something positive upon which to focus. Transparency without optimism is rarely a good leadership strategy. I try to dispel uncertainty with information delivered in a very digestible way, and to give others a place to take their questions. The rippling effects of the pandemic on everyone in the company gave us a unifying mission and brought us to a place of shared sacrifice.”
With the advantage of hindsight, Kyle says he wishes he had learned earlier in his career that mistakes can make the best opportunities and that it is not a weakness to admit you don’t have the answer right away. “I wish that I had realized sooner that I was holding myself back because fear of making an error prevented my speaking up,” he says. (PV)
Make empathy a business strength
Igniting change by…
building a business that people enjoy being a part of and whose products help society
Title: CEO, Health Care
Company: LexisNexis Risk Solutions
Education: B.A., University of Minnesota
Company Awards: Multiple awards to Circle of Excellence (top sales achievers; 2018 RELX Business Leadership Program (in conjunction with Columbia University and Babson College); 2021 RELX Executive Leadership Program (in conjunction with Harvard Business School)
Associations: Forbes Business Development Council member; Board of Directors at eHi; Eclipsz Healthcare Industry Advisory Board
Twitter handle: @LexisHealthCare
When the current outbreak became a pandemic, Josh Schoeller created a COVID-19 Rapid Prototype Task Force to generate new insights to help LexisNexis Risk Solutions’ customers respond to the crisis.
The response team launched the COVID-19 Data Resource Center in collaboration with Johns Hopkins University Center for Systems Science and Engineering, the American Hospital Association, and the CDC to help identify which communities were at most risk for poorer health outcomes, and which communities were in most need of critical care resources to help combat COVID-19.
Josh leads the healthcare organization of LexisNexis Risk Solutions based on a principle of building a business that people enjoy being a part of and whose products help society, while making sure the business has high growth and is sustainable, profitable, and ethical.
“My goals align with increasing each of these metrics,” he says. “If I can help our team achieve each of these, it will translate into success for our business, customers, healthcare system, and employees.”
That objective of keeping people engaged, motivated, and productive was challenged during the switch to work from home during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Our first concern was our employees’ welfare and focusing on that made a huge difference,” Josh says. “We didn’t have a playbook or contingency plan for that, but we leaned into the effort, remained close to and transparent with our employees, and it paid off. Now that we are preparing to transition back to the office, I think we will face similar challenges in reverse, but I’m confident in our resilience to overcome these challenges just as we have over the past year.”
People are Josh’s top priority, and he says the business is only as good as the people it hires and retains. “I am most proud to have the highest employee opinion survey scores that highlight the engagement and satisfaction of our healthcare employees,” he says. “In addition, we have increased our customer net promoter score by 20 points over the past 18 months. I believe these are correlated. Happy employees translate to happy customers.”
Throughout his career, Josh has sought to lead with knowledge and compassion.
“Healthcare is complex and to make an impact you first have to understand how it works,” he says. “I’ve spent most of my career working in and studying many aspects of our healthcare system. It’s that experience that helps me build trust and relationships with our customers and partners.”
He maintains that business is about interactions with colleagues, customers, and partners. “We choose every day how we want to drive those interactions,” he says. “Having empathy and compassion in those interactions makes a big difference. I’ve worked for organizations where this trait was seen as a weakness and decided a long time ago that I would take a different approach without sacrificing quality or success.”
Josh inspires others to emulate his transparent and empathetic approach, and he encourages others to express their opinions and be heard, emboldening colleagues to take risks and fostering an environment of constant innovation.
He is committed to inclusion and diversity, both internally and with partners, and is also actively engaged in the company’s Ignite and Accelerate program that is focused on the development and advancement of women into executive roles across the organization.
He has built a strong culture by instituting a Cultural Champions program at all of LexisNexis’ offices focusing on career development, employee resource groups, social connections, charity events, and the company’s CARES program to give back to the communities that the company serves. The program also focuses on collecting employee feedback on how to improve LexisNexis’ culture, solutions, and overall sense of community. He believes strongly that culture drives inclusion and innovation and works collaboratively with his leadership team to share this mindset across the organization.
A sought-after mentor, Josh advises the next generation of leaders inside and outside of LexisNexis Risk Solutions. (PV)
Anything can be accomplished with the right team
Igniting change by…
involving everyone in the “what we can do”
Last year, Jim appeared for the first time on the PharmaVOICE 100 list, and his successful and inspiring navigation through the COVID-19 pandemic earned him a spot on the list again this year. Despite the challenges of 2020, Eversana was able to continue to expand its offerings through the development of advanced data and analytics services, future D&A platform and product development, as well as acquisitions and joint ventures, such as the purchase of Alkemy Partners, a full-service field learning and development company committed to solving market access, sales, and clinical engagement through training, content creation, and digital solutions.
“This marks a critical step as we reimagine the commercialization of much-needed therapies,” Jim says.
Managing through COVID required strong leadership and foresight. While preserving the core value of the business, Jim was able to find ways to collaborate and bring COVID solutions to market. Internally, he made sure to communicate in a transparent and authentic way with all employees and increased the frequency of touching base with staff. In the switch to virtual meetings, the company added games and socializing to the agendas.
“We try to keep our video meetings light,” he says. “We often have contests, games, and other things to socialize. We often sent things to team members’ homes for them to take part in. We also did several major hybrid meetings — half in person, with precautions; and half virtual to keep some level of humanity.”
Even while in crisis mode, Jim strives to be a servant leader. He believes in finding the right talent and helping develop the next generation of leaders.
He is always looking ahead, keeping his eyes on the prize, and bringing team members along to help accomplish both short- and long-term goals. “I worry about how to win for the next decade, and then pull others in to help me win in the next year, quarter, and month,” he says.
In mid-March 2021, Jim had the opportunity to interview NASA Engineer Adam Steltzner, the captain of the Mars Rover, during the company’s annual leadership summit. Nearly 200 team members across the globe were connected to the virtual meeting. The two men discussed how to inspire groundbreaking innovation, how to push teams to new heights, and how to think about making the impossible possible. This is notable because Jim brings the same type of thinking to his teams.
“I motivate almost entirely by carrot,” he says. “Painting a vivid picture of how great it will feel for us to tackle some big ambitious goal five or 10 years out — not how changing will feel quite terrible. I involve others widely in creation of the strategy to get there, then I get out of everyone’s way as they execute.”
When it comes to staffing, Jim has a “no jerks” policy and selects team members based on their work ethic and positive intent. Jim puts more weight on teamwork and working well with others than being “the smartest” employee.
“IQ is way overweighted, EQ is too often underrated,” he says.
Jim leads by creating a compelling vision that everyone aligns to; ensuring a strong culture of shared values that are followed without exception; and creating a safe place for a leadership team to debate choices, make decisions, and align on actions. He says if values are aligned, things can be accomplished much faster.
“I believe anything can be accomplished with the right team pursuing an aligned mission with a leader who looks to service his empowered team rather than the other way around,” he says.
One of the concerns that keeps him up at night, however, is finding and developing the best talent available. Talent is the weakest link for a company’s growth; without talent, everything else is difficult to achieve.
Jim’s vision to create a healthier world for all began in 2016, when the acquisition of specialized expertise and capabilities to ensure market access and reimbursement for biopharmaceuticals became the first building blocks of what was to become an end-to-end commercial platform.
He has since led the expansion of solutions by identifying best-in-class niche providers, breaking down traditional industry service silos, and leveraging the power found in data and technology to enhance patient engagement and improve adherence. In just three years the company has grown from 100 people and $40 million in revenue to now more than 3,000 people globally and more than $500 million in revenue.
“I’m most proud of my current role building and leading Eversana,” he says. “It’s the first truly integrated, complete, customer-centric commercialization platform in the industry.”
Jim has a personal motivation to improve the state of healthcare. His daughter has been diagnosed with new daily persistent headache, a rare condition that exhibits as a severe, unrelenting migraine that never goes away.
Because of this, Jim has made it his mission to help improve the life-sciences industry, for his daughter and for millions of others around the world too. (PV)
Igniting change by…
applying innovative strategies for the benefit of others
Athena Countouriotis, M.D.
Title: President and CEO
Company: Turning Point Therapeutics Inc.
Education: B.S., University of California, Los Angeles; M.D., Tufts University School of Medicine
Associations: Board member, Passage Bio; board member, Iovance Biotherapeutics
Athena Countouriotis, M.D., president and CEO of Turning Point Therapeutics, first realized her interest in developing medicines for children suffering from cancer during her medical training within pediatric oncology.
“My biggest career highlight to date was nearly 20 years ago, when I was treating a 6-month-old baby with congenital acute lymphocytic leukemia with a transplant from a matched sibling donor who was 3 years old,” Dr. Countouriotis recalls, adding proudly that the baby is now nearly 20 years old.
“Training within pediatric oncology, you really see a difference between drugs that are being developed for adults versus those that are being developed for children, and I really wanted to change this,” she says. “I didn’t believe that I’d have that opportunity staying within academics. So, I looked at other career opportunities.”
She worked in clinical development at both larger pharmaceutical companies such as Pfizer and Bristol Myers Squibb and smaller biotech firms like Ambit Biosciences, before joining Turning Point in 2018.
Under Dr. Countouriotis’ supervision, Turning Point’s research group has produced four clinical-stage products with unique and differentiated profiles for patients with lung cancer. Its lead drug, repotrectinib, has received a breakthrough designation and fast- track status from the FDA.
In addition, she has led her team to exceed expectations and milestones for the activation of global Phase II trials despite the restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic. “2020 was an incredible year of leadership growth, where I had to consistently learn how to adapt to many new ideas of keeping colleagues engaged, ensuring our team kept a level of work/life balance, and also being amenable to flexible working environments,” Dr. Countouriotis says.
One of the ways in which Dr. Countouriotis sought to keep her team members inspired and motivated during the pandemic and subsequent work-from-home environment was by maintaining touch points and social events online until the staff could gather in person in small groups.
Dr. Countouriotis is determined to continue to pursue Turning Point’s vision and build a company she is truly proud of, and where every team member is equally proud of their accomplishments and shared vision. “It’s important to me personally to remain thoughtful, as I became a doctor to assist others with challenging decisions,” she says. “I hope those around me find me as thoughtful of their best interests and those of their family.”
Dr. Countouriotis is direct and leads by example, showing her determination and focus to achieve Turning Point’s goals. “I tend to do more delegating than doing, but I always keep a close eye on key objectives,” she says. “I believe more minds are better than one.”
She seeks to inspire others by taking risks and being able to clearly own decisions, whether they were good or bad. She also strives to listen more than she speaks, saying this was some of the best professional advice she’s ever received.
Colleagues say she sets the tone for company culture at the top. They note that Turning Point’s values are clearly defined by respect for each other, transparency, a personal connection to each other, and the belief in the company’s purpose of innovation on behalf of people living with cancer and their families.
Dr. Countouriotis makes every effort to reinforce that bond between company members. “I can’t begin to tell you how many times I’ve had half the company over to my house for a barbecue,” she says. “I enjoy being around the people within this company on so many levels.
We work very hard together toward the common goal of bringing medicines to patients. And we all have the same commitment to our families as well as our careers. It’s very infrequent that I don’t know most of the folks within the company as well as their extended families and/or their children because we spend a lot of time together.”
Dr. Countouriotis says she looks for team members who are honest and open to challenges. She has also recruited senior-level executives with deep experience and remarkable skills. Particularly important has been her unmistakable institutionalization of best practices of diversity and inclusion at every level.
Over the years, Dr. Countouriotis has balanced work with her role as a competitive cyclist. She has raced in many professional events over the years on road bikes, gravel bikes, and mountain bikes and takes the most pride in always trying to compete at the highest level with girls who were half her age. (PV)
If you believe in what you do, you will succeed
Igniting change by…
Embracing global partnerships
Stanley C. Erck
Title: President and CEO
Company: Novavax Inc.
Education: Undergraduate degree, University of Illinois; MBA, University of Chicago Booth School of Business
Personal Awards: Maryland Technology Council’s 2020 Life Sciences CEO of the Year
Giving Back: Children of Fallen Patriots, the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, and English in Action
As president and CEO of Novavax, Stanley Erck is in the midst of his biggest career highlight — the development of a COVID-19 vaccine.
He has transformed the company from a development-stage biotechnology company to a vaccine developer on the world stage with a global footprint, employing more than 900 people and with a COVID-19 vaccine candidate, NVX-CoV2373, a recombinant nanoparticle protein-based COVID-19 vaccine, through Phase III clinical testing.
Stan’s longstanding partnerships and relationships with other global leaders in the vaccine space helped to secure the funding necessary to advance the company’s COVID-19 vaccine candidate. In 2020 alone, Novavax raised more than $2 billion in funding from its partners, including the U.S. government (formerly Operation Warp Speed), the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. His team has finalized agreements with governments around the world to supply hundreds of millions of doses of the Novavax vaccine when approved. These efforts established Novavax as a top COVID-19 vaccine manufacturer, enabling the company to be the first to generate clinical data demonstrating clinical efficacy against the original strain of the COVID-19 virus and two predominant variant strains.
“Novavax met the challenge of racing an invisible enemy and transforming itself from a small biotech company into an organization poised to deliver a COVID-19 vaccine around the globe,” Stan says. “We had to invent a solution, secure adequate funding, increase our head count 10-fold, and create a global manufacturing network that will reliably produce an extremely complex product — all amid the backdrop of a global pandemic. Everyone’s motivation for accomplishing this herculean task has been intrinsic.
“I am so proud to lead a group of people who have demonstrated incredible resilience, tenacity, and dedication, particularly over the last year and a half,” he adds. “They are prioritizing the health of people worldwide with an overwhelming commitment to advancing what we believe will be a best-in-class COVID-19 vaccine that will dramatically reduce the burden of the pandemic.”
Beyond the success with the vaccine, Stan has also helped to build a financially strong company, taking it from having $80 million in cash at the start of 2020 to $800 million by the end of the year.
Equally, he has been committed to creating an engaged global employee base and making Novavax a sought-after employer. He empowers employees through well-established, open lines of communication and collaboration.
“At Novavax, everyone is very passionate about what they do,” he says. “Empowering employees to work on projects of great significance is often all of the inspiration they need to be successful.”
The commander and chief looks for good communication skills and high levels of enthusiasm when building a team, and he is heavily invested in developing the careers of employees.
Stan is committed to the well-being of employees. For example, in 2019 when the company had to lay employees off due to an unsuccessful clinical trial, he helped secure a deal to ensure that nearly all of these employees had a new place of work. As the company continues to grow in 2021, a number of these employees have rejoined the company and are helping it retain its unique culture.
Other than the challenge of addressing the pandemic, Stan says working to develop an AIDS drug in the 1990s was the most challenging time of his career. “We simply didn’t know enough about virology back in those days to effectively solve the issue,” he says.
“The AIDS epidemic put an entire industry to work to better understand viruses that weren’t understood before that time, which has directly helped our understanding of the coronavirus today,” he says. “It is gratifying to see how things are coming full circle.”
Persistence and optimism are key to succeeding in the biopharmaceutical industry, Stan says, noting that every failed experiment teaches you something that will ultimately get you closer to the end goal. “It takes a great deal of persistence and optimism to succeed,” he says. “Without a healthy dose of both, I would not still be at it 40 years later.” (PV)
Delivering beyond expectations
Sparking innovation by…
going beyond what is to see what could be
Title/company: President, Purohit Navigation
Title/company: CEO/Founder, Purohit Ventures
Education: B.A., English/Psychology, minor Marketing, NYU; MBA, Columbia University
Giving Back: AWASH, Sierre Leone Women’s Charity
If Anshal’s last name sounds familiar it might be because her mother Ahnal Purohit is a PharmaVOICE Red Jacket honoree. Or it might be because Purohit Navigation has become synonymous with navigating new territory — often doing what’s never been done before — in healthcare communications and strategy, racking up more than 150 awards in support of 200-plus brands in 60 therapeutic areas and the launch or relaunch of more than 100 products along the way.
Anshal’s pedigree as a world-class marketer and innovator is certainly forged in her DNA, and she is building upon this legacy to take Purohit Navigation, and the company she founded, Purohit Ventures, in 2019, to new heights. “My mother always supported my determined nature, and she has encouraged me to keep striving no matter the obstacles,” Anshal says. “In working with her, I’ve learned that perseverance is critical, and that it is important to allow for losses along the way. The small milestones are a means to an end and being flexible to change one’s approach if those don’t pan out, sometimes multiple times, is critical to success. I used to view the small losses as failures, but now just realize that reaching big goals is very much a game of trial and error, particularly when navigating uncharted territory. I don’t think I fully appreciated it at the time, but in retrospect, joining my mother in this business is the career highlight that stands out the most. It set in motion significant growth in me as a leader, in our firm with our joint perspectives, and in enabling me to actualize my own vision for the future. I’m so thankful to have had the opportunity and platform.”
Purohit Navigation has no intent on resting on its considerable laurels under Anshal’s leadership. For 35 years, Purohit Navigation, which bills itself as covering the entire healthcare ecosystem, has provided strategic guidance, creative direction, and commercial support to help brands — from discovery to portfolio management — reach their fullest potential.
Colleagues and clients alike are inspired by Anshal’s out-of-the-box thinking and ability to connect different concepts into one cohesive strategy. “My vision is to go beyond traditional agency work in what we deliver; to help identify and achieve goals beyond those even defined by our clients,” she says. “I want to inspire our people to think beyond as well, and to deliver in every instance.”
Anshal has been instrumental in providing market contextualization and opportunity assessment over the past few years, so much so that her innate understanding of the landscape led her to launch a spinoff company: Purohit Ventures. Purohit Ventures is a unique, behavior-based investment firm that offers a distinct approach to portfolio strategy and its novel investment model supports early-stage healthcare startups to make their mark. Another unusual aspect of Purohit Ventures is that, unlike other venture firms, it boasts an all-female executive team.
“A key part of who I am as a person and leader is that I am constantly striving to do better,” she says. “I believe there is always room for improvement, and always a way to make one’s vision a reality, regardless of any obstacles that may present themselves.
“I want to keep growing and learning and I want to make our firm the best it can be, which is a constantly moving target,” Anshal continues. “I want to look back on my career, and on our company, and feel that we really did something special, that we made a difference, and that we pushed thinking and delivery to a new level. Much of my decision-making stems from these goals.”
As a leader, she is fair and approachable, exhibiting a passion for the industry and the business. “I demand effort — not perfection — I want people on my team who will try, every day, to be their very best, and it is this effort that I feel should be rewarded,” she says. “My goal is to lead in the best way possible, not based on tradition or history, but based on what is needed by our team and business. I feel that there is always more to learn, and areas in which to grow, and an openness to that is critical to staying ahead of the curve. A key input in succeeding is our staff — my goal is always to bring out the best qualities in our people, and empower them to do what they do best, including advise me on what ‘next’ looks like.”
Anshal is committed to leading by example and demonstrating the values she believes in every day to her teams and colleagues. “I have a commitment to hard work and delivering beyond expectations,” she says. “I bring this passion to my work and in doing so, hope to help others see the satisfaction and value of doing the same. This ongoing commitment to doing better than our best each day is what I hope I inspire in those around me. Having a team that is self-motivated to drive toward excellence means that we can focus on the important things — big ideas and great work.”
Anshal is a dedicated mentor and works to widen the path for the next generation of leaders. “I love working with people to find what they love about our industry,” she says. “I hope to serve as a mentor to all of my direct reports and I always strive to listen and deliver feedback with diplomacy, conviction, sincerity, and respect. Growth comes when there is trust and positivity in a relationship, and when we can find unity in our vision while honoring what differentiates each member of the team.” (PV)
Making the impossible possible
Sparking innovation by…
fighting against cancer
Company: Be The Match/National Marrow Donor Program
Education: B.S., Accounting, University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire; MBA, Capella University
Personal Awards: The Power List – Advanced Medicine, Medicine Maker, 2021; Top Women in Finance, Finance & Commerce, 2017; CFO of the Year, Minneapolis St. Paul Business Journal, 2016; Top Women in Business, Minneapolis St. Paul Business Journal, 2016; 40 Under 40, Minneapolis St. Paul Business Journal, 2007
Company Awards: Top Large Company Places to Work, Minneapolis St. Paul Business Journal, 2021
Community Awards: Hometown Hero Award, Tiffany & Co., 2020
Associations: Minnesota Women’s Economic Roundtable; Women’s Corporate Boards; National Corporate Association Boards; Women’s Healthcare Leadership Trust; Women Business Leaders of the U.S. Health Care Industry Foundation (WBL); Minneapolis St. Paul Business Journal Women’s Leadership Council
Amy Ronneberg’s biggest career highlight has also been her biggest challenge. She stepped into the CEO role at National Marrow Donor Program/Be The Match a few weeks before the pandemic and its associated travel bans slammed into the organization.
“Be The Match facilitates bone marrow and stem cell transplants internationally, so when the travel ban went into effect in March 2020, we were suddenly faced with an insurmountable task,” Amy recalls. “How do we move product in the United States without commercial flights, and how do we move product internationally to and from the U.S. when there is a travel ban?
“The impact was life or death at that point,” she continues. “I am so proud of the team as they completely looked outside the box and found ways to move product with limited flights.
Employees stepped up to be couriers, and we negotiated the only blanket waiver from the CDC and Homeland Security to move product in and out of the country.”
Despite the restrictions imposed by the pandemic, Amy was able to lead Be The Match remotely to the best year in its history. “We have four key metrics: lives, equality, thrive, and service,” she says. “We crushed every one of these goals in 2020.”
Amy is relentless in her approach to fighting cancer. “There are so many barriers that we face daily in this space and even more for patients,” she says. “Therefore, to ensure that we give patients and their families hope for another tomorrow we need to be relentless. We coined ‘Making the Impossible Possible’ as our motto during the past year. We never took no for an answer. Every single decision we make has to have the patient in mind. Egos or personal advancement can’t play a role in decisions. Pet projects can’t take priority. Every dollar we spend, every employee we have has to have the patient in mind. When all 1,300 of us are doing that we are unstoppable. We have focused our efforts on ensuring we are all aligned so we can be empowered to make decisions always with the patient in mind.”
Amy says that in the past year, Be The Match was able to facilitate 6,660 lives, its largest number of lives impacted in any given year. The organization also increased its service metric by 43%, even though donors were more reluctant than ever to enter a medical facility.
Be The Match also has been focused on increasing the number of transplants to patients in underserved populations for the past several years, and in 2020 it experienced a 15% increase in those populations, with nearly 100 additional patients receiving a transplant during this difficult year. “We all took on the personal role of making the impossible possible,” she says. “I am so proud of not only the results the organization was able to obtain but that in less than a year we went from our lowest engagement results to the highest in the history of the organization.”
These achievements occurred as Be The Match, like many organizations, was forced into a remote work environment. “Our personal lives were turned upside-down with kids learning from home, among other issues,” Amy says. She adds that because Be The Match has headquarters in Minneapolis, its employees had to deal with the fallout from the death of George Floyd. The civil unrest that followed led to Internet outages and safety issues, which made working from home that much more difficult. “We were all facing new personal and professional challenges, and my approach was to show some vulnerability by being 100% authentic,” Amy says. “I put a weekly video together where I discussed key business activities as well as my personal challenges.
“I introduced my children and shared some of the real struggles that I was having with being a ‘teacher’ while my kids were distance learning,” she continues. “The organization really took to these videos, and the feedback was phenomenal to have a leader who was willing to share and make my own struggles okay. Feedback showed that they felt more motivated than ever to give 110%, since I understood what they were going through. It was like receiving ‘permission’ to take an hour off to help kids and then work later at night.”
Amy’s ultimate goal is to make a difference in people’s lives through their own healthcare journey, a mission that has been driven by her own experience as a breast cancer survivor. She joined Be The Match in 2013 while fighting the disease, and colleagues say her buoyant attitude never faltered. She continued to not just look forward and get her work done, but also found ways to leverage her experience as a patient to help improve the organization and enable others to conquer their diagnoses. (PV)
Without a doubt
Igniting change by…
empowering teams and embracing change
James (Jim) Robinson
Title: President and CEO
Company: Urovant Sciences
Personal Awards: Who’s Who in Chicago Business 2017
Jim Robinson became the new president and CEO of Urovant in March 2020, just as the COVID-19 pandemic was reaching a crescendo and Urovant — along with the rest of the country — went into lock-down. Not the perfect scenario for success, but Jim achieved it anyway. Like so many others, his new company had never had to function virtually before, but the team’s resilience and Jim’s leadership created a win-win situation that led to an on-time launch of Gemtesa (vibegron) for the treatment of overactive bladder.
“We built a best-in-class team; we achieved the on-time FDA approval of Gemtesa; and we managed to scale-up manufacturing to meet our launch projections — all during the COVID-19 pandemic,” he says. “It was simply unprecedented.”
Urovant’s Irvine, Calif., headquarters remained closed for 15 months. Imagine trying to build a company and a culture virtually when two-thirds of the employees had never met each other. Jim had to orchestrate virtual communication that would build relationships. Leading up to the launch, the workforce grew exponentially: from a team of 60 employees in March 2020 to a total of 300 after onboarding a national sales team. Despite the challenges, the company received FDA approval on time and launched in April 2021.
Jim’s experience in the urology and overactive bladder markets make him ideally suited for taking the helm of the clinical-stage biopharma company, which is focused on developing and commercializing innovative therapies for urologic conditions. “I am blessed to have had many career opportunities of which I am deeply proud, but none have been more satisfying than the recent commercial launch of Gemtesa,” he says. It should be noted that Jim has been recognized as a PharmaVOICE 100 honoree in 2015 and 2016.
Jim’s leadership style encourages collaboration, engagement, and communication to inspire his staff and he was able to keep his team strong and nimble, as well as engaged, collaborative, and resilient in the face of turbulent change. Jim says former Schering-Plough CEO Fred Hassan (2009 PharmaVOICE 100 honoree) instilled in him that it’s critical to reward people for effective collaboration, where everyone feels a shared sense of accountability for achieving results. “Fred taught me the importance of building a corporate culture of engagement, collaboration, and open-mindedness, which guides my philosophy of leadership to this day,” he says. “Fred knew that A talent attracts A talent to an organization, and people can thrive in the face of significant challenges when they are engaged, share accountability, and are driven by a will to innovate. When you build a company there are three things that matter. It is the people, first and foremost; it is the process you put in place to enable success; and it is what you do to support the product that you are developing and launching.”
Colleagues attest to Jim’s ability to inspire and motivate others, saying his leadership skills create a singular motivation to exceed expectations, which is driven in large part by his sense of obligation to employees in creating a sustainable and strong company dedicated to the opportunity of best serving patients and their families. Perhaps the truest testament of his leadership skill is that colleagues, some of whom have followed him across the country, are so loyal they will follow him to other companies to continue working with him, and some have retained a relationship with him across as many as five separate companies. Colleagues follow him to new roles, both because of his leadership style and because of his abiding commitment to investing in the communications and public affairs function. Simply put, people remain loyal to him because he is loyal to them.
Ultimately, Jim’s goal in life and in work is to make a difference in the lives of people he cares about — to be the kind of father, husband, sibling, and friend who is there for those who need him; and to help inspire and develop a new generation of leadership. Professionally, he hopes to leave this world a better place for the patients, caregivers, and providers whose lives he has touched through his work.
Jim is a strong supporter of mentorship and sponsorship, finding them to be among the most gratifying aspects of his professional career. He gets to give back from his own positive mentoring relationships, and mentoring also affords the opportunity to learn, as well.
Diversity, equity, and inclusion are fundamental tenets that speak to the core of the company as well as Jim personally. “Our world and our country are undergoing fundamental transformation, with strong movements forcing us to re-examine our ideals,” he says. “I believe that one ideal that does not and should not change is a belief in the brotherhood and sisterhood of humanity.” (PV)
Be the change you want to see
Igniting change by…
embracing adversity to raise the game
Company: Incedo Inc.
Education: MBA, India Institute of Management (IIM), Lucknow; Engineering (B.Tech), India Institute of Technology (IIT), Delhi
Personal Awards: Twice elected to the Nasscom Executive Council, which is the senior-most forum for the Indian IT industry; chairperson of the Nasscom Regional Council (NRC) in Haryana; founder and chairperson for the Nasscom Council for Global Capabilities Centers
Community Awards: Recognition for Green Gurgaon, India
Giving Back: Hindu University of America, Plaksha University
Hobbies: Sports, squash, running, meditation
Twitter handle: @seth_nitin
Throughout his career, Nitin Seth has taken existing businesses and organizations and then transformed them into something completely different.
He transformed the McKinsey Knowledge Center (McKC) from a remote back-office resource into a global leader and best practices innovation hub for proprietary knowledge. He took Fidelity India from a support function center to leading the global network. Then he moved Flipkart, a large Indian e-commerce business, from a company that was hurtling downward to pivoting upward and competing successfully with Amazon.
When he joined Flipkart in early 2016, it had gone through multiple leadership changes and was losing $70 million a month.
“As the new chief people officer, I had to quickly take charge, assess, and drive tough actions under constant media spotlight,” he says. “Very quickly we drove down costs by more than 20% and then strategically reinvested in increasing our competitive capabilities against Amazon to lay the foundation for taking back market leadership. We also rebuilt the leadership and organization structure to support the growth. The stabilization and foundation led to a large investment by Softbank and eventual acquisition of controlling interest of Flipkart by Walmart — a thrilling turnaround in a very short period of time.”
At Incedo, he has led the company to become a digital transformation specialist for the life-sciences industry. Nitin believes that nontraditional entrants entering the life-sciences industry, many of which are digital-native companies, are driving transformation for the industry and offering new ways to innovate.
Nitin is focused on building a world-class business at the intersection of business and technology, one that enables individuals to realize their potential.
For Nitin, inspiration starts with the mission and actions that make a significant positive difference in the world and that are enduring. “Once I’m inspired, I inspire others,” he says. “I believe you can’t achieve great things just by showing up, you have to go to the next level and have ownership and passion.”
He leads with a sense of energy, purpose, and openness. “I like to see things very clearly, get to the crux of the issues, and articulate my views directly and honestly even if they are not always pleasant,” he says, adding that while he has a big-picture focus, he also likes to connect that vision to execution and delivering tangible solutions.
Nitin learned early on that relationship-building is the foundation of trust — in life and at work.
During COVID, Nitin helped to keep the team focused by quickly making the necessary changes, particularly remote working, and by deferring all bonuses to keep people working while clients worked out their business plans. He has also focused on one-on-one engagements with employees, held group meetings, and developed other measures to address the social interaction and energy gap.
A long-term mentor, Nitin supports team members within his organization and beyond, including formally mentoring cohorts of students at Plaksha University, which he co-founded. Plaksha University is one of India’s largest collective private higher education efforts. The private, industry-supported, non-profit university is building a new model of technology education and research from the ground up.
Beyond his professional achievements, Nitin was recognized for leading sustainable city activities by collaborating with state government and local city administrations on infrastructure improvements in Gurgaon, India.
“I lead key initiatives such as promoting active commuting, which promotes the use of public transport, cycling, and walking to reduce congestion and the environmental impact of cars,” he says. “I also led partnerships with both government and industry bodies to expedite development of footpaths, cycle paths, and safe crossing points to encourage walking and cycling to improve road safety.”
He has been an active participant in the Art of Living for more than a decade. Art of Living is a volunteer-based, humanitarian, and educational non-governmental organization (NGO) recognized by the UN. “The Art of Living Foundation has centers in more than 156 countries and offers mental health, stress-elimination, and self-development programs based on breathing techniques, meditation, and yoga,” he says. (PV)
Igniting change by…
working virtually in new ways
Title: Chief Commercial Officer
Company: Kantar Health/Cerner
Education: B.A., Indiana University
Company Awards: Former leader in Kantar Mentorship Program
Associations: Special Olympics mentor
Giving Back: Various charities
Hobbies: Live music, reading, running, playing tennis
Jade Cusick has a visionary drive and unwavering commitment to people and meaningful relationships, both internally with colleagues and externally with clients. As chief commercial officer, Jade manages Kantar Health’s client partnership and business development teams globally, along with global marketing and the client impact and creative team whose mission is to delight clients with deliverables and differentiate what is offered by bringing extraordinarily creative ways to communicate that offer in pitches and proposals.
He is proud of his role in helping to lead Kantar Health’s organizational transformation into a global company with the client at the center. “Creating this new global ecosystem over the last three years has resulted in double-digit growth and we’re continuing that same trajectory despite COVID,” he says. “During that same time period, our client satisfaction scores have increased by 22% because of the performance of our subject matter experts and the delivery team.”
Achieving this success, he says, required overcoming legacy and siloed ways of working. This meant time, some patience, polite persistence, and, most particularly, good internal storytelling to paint a vision for new ways of working and how these changes would fuel growth, he says. “Creating a global ecosystem allows us to work in an interdependent, symbiotic way with one another, regardless of where people are based geographically,” Jade says. “While this organizational design was originally conceived to improve customer experience, we have also been able to create more opportunities for our people. Leveraging a few early wins with a couple of key clients helped to win over skeptics.”
As innovation in life sciences continued to transform, Kantar Health’s customer strategy also required modifications. Jade was committed to building a sales and marketing team that could support a broad customer base. Jade says having a more extended client list mitigates risk for the business, but also helps to capitalize on all manufacturers with promising pipelines. “I’m incredibly proud of the team of people who have been successfully executing this strategy, despite the incredible challenges placed in front of us by the pandemic,” he says.
This growth occurred while also preparing Kantar Health to be sold to Cerner. The deal closed April 1, 2021.
Jade approaches everything he does with a sense of wonder and passion, which is why he isn’t deterred when faced by the unprecedented times in the past few years. “If you’re going to do something well, learn to find something to love about the process, and passionately pursue the best outcome you can, and be persistent about it when you hit a snag,” he says.
Over-worrying about factors out of one’s control is a waste of energy, he believes; rather, one should focus on what can be controlled and do those things well.
He is equally focused on developing, nurturing, and cherishing client relationships as he is on identifying, nurturing, and amplifying talent.
“Manage your people like you would manage your clients — with great empathy, understanding and a desire for them to be successful,” Jade says. Leading and motivating requires empathy and the ability to deeply understand someone’s motivations, fears, and desires to feel respected and appreciated.
“We strive to capture hearts and minds, which results in teams that remain loyal to one another,” he says.
With an authentic, approachable leadership style, Jade says he has been lucky to have done many of the jobs and functions on the life-sciences consulting side of the business, so he has been in the trenches, and people know that.
“I’ve built a collaborative culture among the business development teams,” he says. “I want competitive people, but not against their colleagues. We’re always better together than apart, and if we help each other and pay it forward, it will come back to us in spades.”
He looks for team members with a sense of curiosity and those who are determined to succeed with, and through, the help of others.
During the height of the pandemic, Jade helped his team manage the challenges by listening to their experiences and sharing his own vulnerabilities.
“Perhaps paradoxically, our level of intimacy with clients grew as we got a glimpse into their own personal lives working from home,” Jade says. “The experience has reshaped our thinking around how we connect with clients and build longstanding partnerships.”
At the end of the day, his colleagues say Jade is all about people. “Culture eats strategy for breakfast, lunch and dinner … every day,” he says. “Without great people working together and rowing in the same direction, you won’t win. I’ve been so fortunate to work with so many amazing individuals who share that same vision.” (PV)
The relentless pursuit of excellence in everything we do
Blazing new trails to…
drive change, take a stand, and be
clear about commitments, especially within diversity and inclusion
N. Anthony (Tony) Coles, M.D.
Title: CEO and Chairperson of the Board of Directors
Company: Cerevel Therapeutics
Education: Bachelor’s degree, Johns Hopkins University; M.D., Duke University; M.A., Public Health, Harvard University; cardiology and internal medicine training, Massachusetts General Hospital; research fellow, Harvard Medical School
Associations: Co-chair, Black Economic Alliance; Council for the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C.; the Board of Trustees of The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York; the Board of Directors of the Council on Foreign Relations; Harvard Medical School Board of Fellows; Board of Trustees for Johns Hopkins; American Academy of Arts and Sciences; Board of Directors, Cerevel Therapeutics, Yumanity Therapeutics, Regeneron Pharmaceuticals
Twitter handle: @TonyColesMD
A renowned leader in the life-sciences industry, Tony Coles, M.D., chairperson and CEO at Cerevel Therapeutics, inspires colleagues, partners, and acquaintances alike with his approach to leadership, passion for social justice and racial equity, and unwavering determination to improve the lives of all patients.
Colleagues note Dr. Coles is a dedicated servant leader who sets a positive example in building teams that are truly diverse.
“One of the concepts that has influenced almost everything I’ve done in the last decade of my life is the notion of what I call servant leadership, which is the idea that I am here to serve and work for others to enable everyone to realize their potential and achieve our collective and their personal goals,” Dr. Coles says. “In the spirit of servant leadership, the more you serve your constituencies, whether they be employees, stakeholders, or in our unique instance as an industry, patients and their families, the more rewarding the experience will be.”
Before assuming the role of CEO of Cerevel in September 2019, Dr. Coles was the co-founder and CEO of Yumanity Therapeutics, while also acting as chairperson of Cerevel’s board of directors since December 2018.
Cerevel Therapeutics is developing a world-class culture in support of its aspiration to become the premier neuroscience company. Colleagues say Dr. Coles is front and center in leading the charge to that commitment. He has ensured the employee base is talented, engaged, and focused on changing what is possible in neuroscience. He directs the teams to push boundaries, develop solutions, and transform lives.
Under Dr. Coles’ leadership, Cerevel is tackling some of the most vexing neuroscience diseases, including Parkinson’s disease, epilepsy, anxiety, schizophrenia, dementia-related apathy, and substance use disorder. The company is using a differentiated approach that combines expertise in neurocircuitry with a focus on receptor selectivity, and the pipeline is comprised of multiple preclinical and clinical-stage therapeutic candidates.
Dr. Coles has been a leading voice in discussing issues around racial justice in various forums, highlighting the role that the industry must play in addressing injustice and increasing diversity in research efforts. Through multiple platforms, he has spoken openly on the challenges he has faced, what the industry needs to do moving forward, the importance of diversity in genetic research, the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on underrepresented populations, and why George Floyd’s murder felt different than previous injustices.
“As a business leader and mentor, I have an opportunity to drive change, take a stand, and be clear about commitments, especially within diversity and inclusion,” he says. “I am dedicated to taking that first step, being deliberate in my intentions, and giving power to the people in seats who had to fight to get there.”
In addition to leading discussions focused on diversity, equity, and inclusion, Dr. Coles actively pursues efforts to support the Black community. As a founder and the current co-chairperson of the Board at the Black Economic Alliance, he guides the organization to work with leaders in the private, public, and nonprofit sectors to produce, research, and analyze data to diagnose obstacles to Black economic mobility. The organization prescribes practical solutions to create better access to good paying jobs, livable wages, and wealth creation for the Black community. Dr. Coles also supports other causes, as his philanthropic efforts run deep.
“One of the things I am most proud of is the formation of the Center for Black Entrepreneurship (CBE) in partnership with Spelman and Morehouse colleges,” he says. “This initiative is designed to close the racial wealth gap by increasing access to capital for young entrepreneurs who want to start businesses of their own.”
Dr. Coles’ purpose, while laser-focused on unraveling the mysteries of the brain to treat neuroscience diseases, extends far beyond life sciences into doing all he can to make the world a better and more just place. (PV)
Blazing new trails to…
gender parity and equity in leadership in healthcare
Title: Founding Partner
Education: B.S., Economics, Multinational Marketing & Management, The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania
Personal Awards: Woman of the Year, Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association (HBA), 2014; 40 prominent business leaders under 40 in the Philadelphia tri-state area, Wharton, 1995; Outstanding Young Women of America, 1985; acknowledged as a significant business leader by the Philadelphia Business Journal in its book Business Leaders of Philadelphia; Shamsi Hekmatv, Woman of the Year Achievement Award, a recognition honoring women who are making a significant impact on the Iranian Jewish Community
Company Awards: HBA’s ACE (Advancement. Commitment. Engagement.) Award, 2018; Vault Consulting 50 Recognition, 2019; Great Place to Work, 2017-2021
Associations: Forum of Executive Women; HBA; Co-Chair, Committee for Economic Development; National Association of Corporate Directors; Building A Civil & Just Society Task Force
Giving Back: Chair, HBA
Hobbies: Reading voraciously, losing badly at poker, looking forward to restarting travel with family and friends
Twitter handle: @ShidehInsigniam
When the pandemic descended last year, Shideh Bina, founding partner of Insigniam, found herself drawing on her innate optimism.
“I leaned on our confidence that we have a bright future no matter how challenging it may look today,” she says. “With the complete acceptance of reality and how afraid people were in the beginning months of the pandemic, we took a bold stand that Insigniam would come out of this pandemic bigger, better, and stronger, and we got to work on that with everybody.”
As part of those efforts, Insigniam encouraged its staffers to interact as frequently as possible. “We do huddles in the morning in each of our offices to start the day, and at the end of each month, we do a happy hour huddle on Friday afternoon,” Shideh says. “Our managers spent extra time and attention on making sure all individuals were being interacted with regularly. We made a commitment to jump on Zoom even if just for a five to 10-minute ad-hoc conversation so that we were always seeing each other.”
Shideh takes great pride in having built Insigniam from a spare bedroom over three decades ago to a firm that spans multiple offices and multiple countries, and has amazing, highly effective clientele from world-class companies all in service of generating meaningful breakthrough, innovation, and transformation. “We have worked with so many healthcare companies that have altered people’s lives,” she says. “Insigniam has touched corporate cultures that make work more meaningful for their people. We have supported clients in developing real game-changing innovations. It really is a privilege to do the work that we do.
“Insigniam exists to serve the concerns and commitments of our clients,” Shideh adds. “If people were to say, ‘boy, that firm made a huge difference and really served our organization in having a new future and set of performance outcomes,’ I would have accomplished what we have set out to accomplish.”
Shideh’s colleagues praise her expertise, high level of effectiveness, and creativity, saying she consistently demonstrates an authenticity and boldness that inspires people at all levels in her organization. Her ability to discuss both her successes, of which there are many, and her mistakes and even failures establishes a connection with people that leads to their own willingness to pursue their dreams and to be their very best.
“I believe that people are big and generous and want to make a difference, and I relate to them that way, even if they don’t present themselves as that way initially,” Shideh says.
Shideh describes her leadership style as “collaborative and outcome-driven, with a splash of fun.” When building teams, she seeks out individuals with a curious mind, strong work ethic and grit, and who are interested in self-development.
“Inspiration is about breathing life into people and projects,” she says. “We always say that inspired people take inspired actions and produce inspired results.”
Shideh actively mentors several people at Insigniam to help lift up the next generation of leaders. “I have learned from each and every one of them and have become a better person and leader as a result,” she says. “Insigniam was always intended to be built for multi-generational transfer. We have an extremely talented group of partners, and we’re making sure that transfer happens over the next few years. It’s satisfying to have something you start that exists beyond yourself.”
Speaking of the future, Shideh participates extensively in pro bono work, ranging from ending sex trafficking to reducing recidivism through the End Violence Project to building leadership among American youth through the Boy Scouts. The partners at Insigniam also encourage their colleagues to do the same by giving each person at the firm paid days to volunteer with charities of their choice.
Shideh is further driven by her commitment to both gender and health equity. “As the chair for HBA’s global board of directors, at a time when the incredibly successful 15-year CEO Laurie Cooke is transitioning and we are coming out of the pandemic, I’ve had the gift of working with remarkably dedicated people as we dramatically accelerate our commitment to using gender equity and parity to support health equity and parity,” she says. “This has been a significant expansion of how the HBA sees itself partnering with other organizations and associations to drive for healthier communities. We see gender equity and diversity of all type as a critical success factor for health equity.” (PV)
Just do it
Sparking innovation by…
setting fearless and audacious goals and giving people the confidence to achieve them
Patricia Hurter, Ph.D.
Company: Lyndra Therapeutics
Education: Ph.D., Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Master of Science, West Virginia University; Bachelor of Science, University of KwaZulu-Natal
Personal Awards: FiercePharma’ s 2017 “Fiercest Women in Life Sciences” list; Inducted into the National Academy of Engineers
Company Awards: Platinum VOCAP (annual award to top 1% in the company) in 2005, Vertex Pharmaceuticals
Community Awards: Advisory Board of the Harvard Kennedy School’s Taubman Center for State & Local Government; Life Science Cares Board of Advisors; CEO Forum/COVID-19 CEO Forum; Friends of WEST; Women Execs on Boards; The BioPharma Hub Peer Group for BioPharma CEOs in Boston
Associations: Mentor for the Posse Foundation scholars; the board of the Harvard Conservation Trust 2014-2020
Giving Back: STEM education, particularly for people underrepresented in STEM; animals (e.g. seeing eye dogs, retired racehorses), and land preservation for maintaining outdoor spaces for recreation
Hobbies: Horse show jumping, reading fiction
Twitter handle: @Dogbluehorse
As CEO for Lyndra Therapeutics, Trish Hurter, Ph.D., sets big, hairy, audacious goals and pursues them fearlessly on behalf of patients. Dr. Hurter has led Lyndra Therapeutics through a multitude of accomplishments and challenges, in less than two years as CEO.
She has helped the company secure approval of investigational new drug applications for three of its drug candidates, started and completed its first Phase II clinical trial with lead candidate LYN-005 as a potential once-weekly oral treatment for schizophrenia, expanded support from both the NIH and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation as part of its global and public health development programs, launched a state-of-the-art manufacturing facility, and expanded the company’s employee base and leadership team by 100.
For Dr. Hurter, her greatest challenge so far was raising a Series C for Lyndra. “This was my first time pitching to investors and trying to raise significant funds for a company,” she says. Part of her story: the company’s lofty goal of getting multiple products approved by 2025, with the first in 2023.
“I strive to take on challenging and important problems and solve them, by empowering and motivating a fantastic and diverse team,” she says.
Dr. Hurter draws on nearly 15 years of experience at Vertex where she had risen to the position of senior VP of pharmaceutical and preclinical sciences.
While at Vertex, Dr. Hurter and her colleagues brought several breakthrough cystic fibrosis drugs to the market, including Trikafta, which broke all speed records through development by going from medical chemistry discovery to FDA approval in about three and a half years.
“This was enabled in part by the world-class capabilities my preclinical and pharmaceutical sciences team had built during my years at Vertex,” Dr. Hurter says.
She maintains that people are most highly motivated when they are working on something really challenging and important, they’re given the freedom to attack the problem in the way they feel it needs to be approached, and receive the support they need.
“I try to make sure all those things are in place,” she says. “It’s also really important that you never blame or point fingers when things go wrong; figure out how to solve the problem and move on.”
Dr. Hurter also believes in setting the tone for the company, showing energy and optimism for the opportunities that lie ahead, and inspiring others to do their best by displaying courage and confidence.
Years ago, when Dr. Hurter changed schools to pursue a science education, she learned the importance of resilience. “From time to time, we encounter issues that seem daunting, but at Lyndra, we strive to bend, not break,” she says. “That means there comes a period of time when we’re all totally focused on finding a solution. Then, before we know it, solutions start pouring in. That passion for solving problems, and the knowledge that what we’re doing can save lives inspires me, and the company, to push forward every day.”
During the pandemic, Dr. Hurter made a point of meeting with small groups of employees weekly for more informal catch-ups. She also encouraged flexibility with meetings to give people a break. Lyndra also provided grocery delivery gift cards for employees who had been exposed to or had contracted the virus to help them shop safely, and offered to pay for hotel rooms to limit exposure to family members or roommates.
Both a mentor and a sponsor, Dr. Hurter founded “IWILL,” a Vertex employee network that is devoted to the advancement of women leaders.
“I am also on the advisory board for Life Science Cares, a national organization that provides a platform for companies and their employees to make a difference on issues of poverty,” she says. “I support the Posse Foundation both financially and as a mentor.”
At Lyndra, Dr. Hurter spends one-on-one time with high-potential employees throughout the organization, to get to know them and hopefully inspire and encourage them to reach their full potential. (PV)
Actions speak louder than words
Igniting change by…
igniting collective action to drive results by always keeping it personal
Title: President, U.S. Business Unit and Global Portfolio Commercialization
Company: Takeda Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd.
Education: B.S. with honors in molecular genetics and molecular biology, University of Toronto; MBA, McMaster University
Associations: Member, treasurer, and the first woman chair-elect of PhRMA’s board of directors; member, board of directors, Edwards Life Sciences; member, board of trustees, Harvey Mudd College
Hobbies: Baking, reading, yoga, long walks with her family and dog
When Ramona Sequeira first joined Takeda Pharmaceuticals as president, U.S. business unit and global portfolio commercialization, she says she received some invaluable advice from the company’s CEO Christophe Weber. “He told me to seek to listen and learn, to spend time to understand the company’s unique 200-plus-year history and culture and why things were the way they were before I make any changes,” she recalls. “He told me: ‘You only have one chance to be new and objective — take that time before you start jumping in to do things.’”
Ramona says this is the best advice she’s ever received. “Those three months of listening helped me bring people along with me on our journey,” she says. “I was better able to tell people the ‘why’ behind my decisions and to put them into context with the broader organizational objectives, while remaining true to our company values and honoring our history.”
Looking back at her career so far, Ramona says her biggest highlights have always come about when she’s felt completely out of her comfort zone. This occurred most recently with the pandemic, when she had to lead by finding new ways to connect with customers, patients, and employees through an incredibly challenging time globally. “I chose to really lean into our values as a guiding light for how to navigate everything that was thrown at us,” she says.
In the early weeks of the pandemic, Takeda was one of the first pharma companies to make its field employees fully remote. “Our top priority was the health and safety of our employees, our customers, and our patients, and we felt it was important to do everything possible to mitigate the spread of the virus,” she says.
Ramona also tapped into her own “superpower” of authentic and vulnerable storytelling. “I shared pictures and videos with employees of me in my sweatshirt and slippers, in different parts of my house, outside with my dog, trying like everyone else to balance work and family during a very challenging time,” she says.
All this was time incredibly well-spent, Ramona says. “We met our goals for the year, despite the personal and professional challenges presented by the pandemic and shifting our business to 100% virtual,” she notes. “I believe our investment in our people is what enabled us to thrive despite the uncertainty and unpredictability caused by the pandemic.
“Now, our focus is on taking the best of what we learned about 100% virtual working while bringing back the best of in-person to retain the connectivity we need to innovate, collaborate, and bring future transformational medicines to the patients who need them,” she adds.
Throughout her 20-plus-year career, Ramona has broken new ground for women leaders in the biopharmaceutical industry. Before joining Takeda, she held leadership roles across multiple markets at Eli Lilly, effectively leading businesses across cultures and healthcare systems. She also was responsible for integrating Shire and building a new business model, values, and culture for its newly combined U.S. business unit.
Colleagues say Ramona has a deep understanding of what it takes to successfully launch products, integrate, and transform businesses and deliver sustainable growth while driving high employee engagement and organizational alignment. She is a passionate advocate of talent development, diversity, equity, and inclusion and an active mentor and coach to numerous individuals, internal and external to Takeda. Ramona says she loves helping talented individuals realize their potential, and shining a light on a talent or quality they may not realize they possess. “I love watching them grow and gain confidence and take on new challenges,” she says. “And I love to listen to their ideas and insights — they often give me a new way of looking at a challenge or suggest creative new ways to solve a problem.”
Ramona has a keen interest in authentic and diverse leadership. Her team is a fifty-fifty ratio of women to men, and she continues to focus on finding promising young employees at early stages in their careers and encouraging them to be great leaders.“Our senior leadership team — the top 200 leaders within my organization — are where our future success lies,” she says. “We need their talent, energy, passion, and commitment to achieve our goals in the coming years.”
The company is expanding its leadership development programming for leaders at all levels and actively encourages employees to seek opportunities across the global organization. “In fact, two of my leaders were promoted this year, and I filled the open positions on my team by promoting people from other divisions of Takeda,” Ramona says. “We are helping to provide a bridge for talent to move throughout the organization. I want my business unit to become a ‘talent magnet’ both inside and outside Takeda.” (PV)
Obey your curiosity
Sparking innovation by…
Kirsten A. Kantak
Title: President and CEO
Education: B.A., Political Science, Economics, Binghamton University
Giving Back: Anything cancer-related
Hobbies: Spending time with her husband and son, cooking, trying new cuisines, traveling, wines, playing terrible golf, fixing her 100-plus-year-old house
Twitter handle: @KantakKirsten
President and CEO Kirsten Kantak is proud of what she has accomplished in her time with Biolumina. “In the years that I’ve been here, we’ve turned the agency around completely — from a place where the future of the agency was uncertain to a place where we’ve achieved double-digit growth for several years running,” Kirsten says. “More importantly, I’ve had the great privilege of working with some of the smartest, most talented people in the business.”
But this positive trajectory hasn’t been without its challenges. When Kirsten first joined Biolumina six years ago, the agency had just spun off a large piece of its business and the staff that went with it. “When you lose that many people, the culture and camaraderie suffer,” she recalls. “We had to rally a group of people around the remaining business, drive a lot of new business, and reimagine the agency as a whole. There was a lot of blood, sweat, and tears in this process.”
Colleagues call Kirsten a modern leader, saying she cultivates and encourages courageousness and creativity from all levels of the agency. Rather than commanding and controlling, she creates an environment that harnesses the power of curiosity and innovation, while delivering guidance that’s thoughtful and intellectually provocative. This approach often results in team members embracing new perspectives and producing fresh creative and strategic ideas.
“My curiosity is the thing that has driven my growth and my approach to leadership,” Kirsten says. “And it’s the foundation of what I believe is my greatest success: Biolumina.”
Curiosity is also a quality Kirsten looks for in her team members, as well as a diversity of backgrounds and experiences.
“We want people who are passionate about what they do, who are driven to do great work and make a real difference in the world of oncology, and people who are kind and freely express gratitude,” she says. “We spend a lot of time together as agency people, and we need to look out for each and support each other.”
As a leader, Kirsten says she tries every day to teach. “We’ve baked this idea into our company values — take the time to learn something and teach something every day,” she says. “I’m a big fan of Tom DeLong, a Harvard Business School professor. He wrote ‘Teaching by Heart,’ which is all about how great leaders are teachers and teachers are leaders. I aspire to this every day.”
Kirsten also strives to inspire by listening to her people and challenging them to learn and grow while taking on new and different responsibilities.
“I also try to be real,” she says. “We’re all human and all have our own challenges, and I don’t want people to believe that they need to be perfect. None of us are. I try to show people that by being open about my own challenges and vulnerable in how I approach things.”
Kirsten enjoys being a mentor. “Seeing how people learn and grow over time is so fulfilling,” she says. “There are people who I’ve worked with for years, and I see them now and am so proud of their work and their accomplishments.
“I was told early in my career that my success is dependent upon my team’s success,” she adds. “And that by teaching my team and helping them to grow, they could be ready to take my job — but that I wouldn’t be out of a job. Instead, I could move up into my next role. I think that a lot of people fear that they’ll be out of a job if their direct reports grow too quickly.”
Mentorship is part of what Kirsten believes to be one of her most important roles: investing in future leaders. “It’s important to have regular open conversations and expose these folks to situations that people at their level might not ‘normally’ be exposed to,” Kirsten says. “We also invest in training for all who are interested. And then we talk about what’s working and what’s not. We openly share what our intended leadership style is and ask people for feedback.
“Sharing stories and anecdotes is really helpful because oftentimes to these future leaders, it seems like their situation or challenges are unique,” she adds.
In helping Biolumina to navigate the COVID pandemic, Kirsten relied heavily on compassion. “Being able to understand what people are going through and, more importantly, take action was crucial,” she says. “We tried as much as possible to talk about people’s challenges and issues and find solutions — flexible hours, different responsibilities, new processes.
“And frankly, a big part of it was just being there and understanding and sharing,” she continues. “We all experienced this pandemic differently, and being there for each other I think made a big difference for people.”
Communication was also key to helping Biolumina make the transition to remote work during the pandemic.
“We focused on making sure that everyone in the agency, no matter their role, was up to date on the agency’s position on the situation,” Kirsten says. “For months, we sent a daily email with a tip of the day — why you should stretch, why a walk is good for you, etc. We regularly shared tips and tricks on how to be effective remotely, run meetings, how to entertain your kids, what movies to watch, what books to read. You name it.
“Creating a sense of community or connectedness during the pandemic was key to us getting through this last year-plus,” she continues. “Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t perfect or easy — it’s still advertising, after all. But in many ways, people feel more connected to each other now than ever.” (PV)
Challenge everything — because breakthroughs come from asking big questions
Sparking innovation by…
Andy Plump, M.D., Ph.D.
Title: President, Research & Development
Company: Takeda Pharmaceutical Company Ltd.
Education: M.D., University of California, San Francisco; Ph.D., Rockefeller University; SB, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Personal Awards: Sarnoff Cardiovascular Research Foundation Spirit Award, 2019; Gilda’s Club NYC Advances in Cancer Research Award, 2018; University of California San Francisco Campaign Alumni Innovator Award, 2018; Stanley J. Sarnoff Society Alumni Achievement Award, 2012
Company Awards: Merck Annual Leadership Awardee, 2009; Merck Transformational Team Awardee – MRL target through Ph 2b redesign, 2006; Merck Transformational Leader Award, 2006; Merck Annual Leadership Awardee, 2005; Excellence in Small Group Instruction Award, UCSF, 2000; UCSF Dean’s Prize for Research, semi-finalist, 1989; MIT Class of 1972 Award for Excellence in Research, 1986
Associations: Hever Group; European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations; COVID R&D Alliance; Sarnoff Cardiovascular Research Foundation, Board of Directors; Permanent Successor to Dr. Sarnoff, Biomedical Sciences Careers Program, Board of Directors; BioCentury, Scientific Advisory Board Member; PhRMA Foundation, Board of Directors, Treasurer; PhRMA R&D Leadership Forum Co-Chair; Boston Symphony Orchestra Board of Overseers
Giving Back: Sarnoff Cardiovascular Research Foundation
With an ambitious vision to reboot a 240-year company, Andy Plump, M.D., Ph.D., has helped transform Takeda’s R&D organization into a dynamic, externally focused drug discovery and development organization with a pipeline that is beginning to deliver a steady stream of transformational medicines to patients.
When Dr. Plump joined the company in 2015, it had many fundamental strengths, but, like many large pharmaceutical companies, the organization had fallen into a period of low productivity, hindered by a fragmented footprint, a lack of therapeutic area focus, an inwardly facing culture, and a narrow focus on small molecules. “My leadership team and I assessed our situation and developed a strategy to rebuild and transform R&D, ensuring Takeda would have a strong and sustainable future,” he says. “We focused our therapeutic areas, consolidated our geographic footprint, and adopted an external mindset that emphasizes partnership and collaboration in addition to our strong internal laboratories. All of this helped us raise a high innovation bar and develop a diverse, modality agnostic pipeline.”
Under Dr. Plump’s leadership, today Takeda has one of the most exciting, modality diverse pipelines in the industry that includes about 40 new molecular entities (NMEs), 90% of which didn’t exist five years ago. “In fiscal year 2021, we have the potential to have up to five or six NME regulatory submissions under review across the United States and Europe, and four NME approvals by the FDA. I’m incredibly proud of what we have achieved so far and excited about the transformative innovation we will deliver for years to come.”
Early in his career, Dr. Plump learned the importance of perseverance and optimism. He had set out to develop an atherosclerosis mouse to model human cardiovascular disease by “knocking out” the gene for apolipoprotein E (apo E) in mice. Excited by the prospect of creating a powerful platform to study and develop drugs that may one day treat cardiovascular disease, he decided to take a leave of absence from medical school to pursue this project.
“After about a year I was stuck — I faced a problem in the lab that I just couldn’t solve and began to question if I made the right decision,” he says. “To add insult to injury, while I was going in circles in the lab, my medical school classmates were moving on. But I was passionate about the science and I truly believed that developing an apo E knockout mouse could have a transformational impact on cardiovascular R&D. We eventually cracked the code and today ‘the heart attack mouse’ is a very common animal model.”
Dr. Plump says if you want to overcome nature, you have to be curious and constantly ask questions to unlock the next insight. He employs a visionary leadership style to rally others to believe that they can accomplish the near-impossible. “As drug hunters, we have an awesome responsibility to patients and society,” he says. “To make an effective and safe medicine we must overcome the incredible complexity of human disease and time works against us. To accomplish this magical feat of making new medicines, we must set our aspirations high and rally teams to focus and believe that they can accomplish the near-impossible. Employing a visionary leadership style helps to create an aligned set of goals and then to inspire great people to work together in teams to accomplish more than the sum of the parts. I try to help the organization focus on what we need to achieve while getting R&D colleagues excited about the positive impact we can have on patients around the world.”
His desire to pay it forward extends to the role he plays as the permanent successor to Dr. Stanley J. Sarnoff at the Sarnoff Cardiovascular Research Foundation, which develops medical students throughout their careers into the next generation of leaders in cardiovascular innovation, research, and medicine. (PV)
Lead when needed, support when needed
Blazing new trails to…
do whatever it takes to get the job done
Deanna M. Petersen
Title: Chief Business Officer
Company: Avrobio Inc.
Education: B.S., Iowa State University; MBA, University of Iowa
Personal Awards: Deal of the Year Awards, 2013
Company Awards: Shire Executive Development Program, The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, 2009; Best Pharma BD&L Team award by OBN, 2013 and 2014; Co-Chair of Shire’s 2010 SVP/VP Leadership Engagement Alignment Development (LEAD) task force
Associations: Former board member, treasurer of Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association (Boston Chapter); the Boston BioPharma Executive Council; Massachusetts Biotechnology Association
Twitter handle: @DMP9818
Five years ago, Deanna Petersen was tapped by the brand-new gene therapy startup Avrobio as chief business officer to bring her deal-making expertise to its negotiating table. According to Geoff McKay, co-founder and CEO and a 2006 and 2007 PharmaVOICE 100 honoree, for a long time, Avrobio consisted of four executives sitting around a small conference table, laying out a bold vision for bringing personalized gene therapies to the world.
Since those early days, Avrobio has become a clinical-stage company with trial sites around the world, strong data across three programs, and more than 140 employees in the United States, Canada, and Europe. And Deanna was an integral part of all these accomplishments.
Avrobio is currently focused on lysosomal storage disorders, including Fabry, Gaucher, and Pompe diseases, and stands ready to expand to other applicable diseases should it be successful in defeating those targets.
Helping to start Avrobio in 2015 has been a career highlight, and Deanna’s career goal is to get Avrobio’s lentiviral gene therapies to people worldwide. She believes in delivering results, making things happen, and doing whatever it takes to get the job done.
She laid out the strategy and executed on the negotiations that helped build the leading lysosomal disorders pipeline in the gene therapy industry. She and Dr. Chris Mason, chief scientific officer, scoured the globe for the technology that helped build the company’s gene therapy platform, including highly efficient automated manufacturing. It took five separate deals to in-license its core gene therapy programs, with additional deals to in-license new manufacturing advances, and strike collaborations with a leading monoclonal antibody conditioning company and a leading diagnostics manufacturer on an assay with the potential to revolutionize precision conditioning for bone marrow transplants and gene therapy.
She has said jokingly that her title upon arriving at Avrobio was the chief of whatever-it-takes-to-get-the-job-done, and she is not exaggerating. She did everything from negotiating loans to directing market research to securing IP to writing press releases. Deanna is very comfortable on every side of the biotech negotiating table.
During her more than 20 years in the industry, she’s built, sold, and bought companies, in- and out-licensed drugs, and been both a researcher and a business executive. She has a reputation as a driven, highly competitive corporate leader with a focus on building biotech pipelines and organizations that create value for both patients and families, employees, and shareholders. And she believes in operating kindly. “It’s not only what you do, but how you do it — you can be driven and thoughtful and kind to others at the same time,” she says.
A fierce negotiator, she had plenty of practice before joining Avrobio. As the former head of business development for Shire’s rare disease division, Deanna and her team determined the strategy and then negotiated and executed more than 40 transactions in five years, including the $4.2 billion acquisition of ViroPharma, the largest acquisition in Shire’s history at that time.
She describes high-stakes negotiations as akin to trying to keep a dozen balls from toppling off a table that’s wobbling wildly from side to side. No matter how tense it gets, however, she sticks firmly to a Sun Tzu-like set of negotiating principles: Study your adversaries like a hawk; find — and use — your leverage; and never, ever let them see you sweat. “If the negotiation isn’t about to collapse a few times, you’re not negotiating hard enough,” she says.
She perfectly balances direct-report empowerment with a clear sense of priorities that must be completed. She will pitch in when needed and do anything from making a CEO-level decision to cleaning the conference room before guests arrive. She calls this leading when needed, supporting when needed. Her mentorship, warmth, and ability to combine it all with smart speed are what raise her above most others.
Not only does Deanna share her knowledge generously at Avrobio, but she is also a magnet for women in life sciences looking to be mentored by someone who has a business mindset, understands the science and can offer sound advice on career development. She is committed to mentoring and has an open-door policy. There is nothing more rewarding than seeing someone grow and succeed, she says. (PV)
Ready for anything
Igniting change by…
unlocking potential by partnering with exceptional and collaborative people
Company: Klick Health
Education: MBA, Marketing/Economics, University of Saskatchewan; BBA, Marketing/Finance, University of New Brunswick; French, Université Laval
Personal Awards: 2021 Industry Person of the Year, Med Ad News; PharmaVOICE 100, 2016; MM+M Hall of Femme, 2016; PM360 ELITE Mentor, 2016; WXN Top 100 Most Powerful Women in Canada, 2016
Associations: Advisory Board, Google Health; Advisory Board, Digital Health Coalition; Board of Governors, Canada’s Most Admired Corporate Cultures
Giving Back: Heart health, which is very personal to her and her family
Hobbies: Reading, taking MasterClass courses, painting
Twitter handle: @klickhealth
In February 2020, Lori Grant was attending her first offsite meeting of Klick Health’s leadership team since being named CEO three months earlier. The initial focus of the Utah-based meeting was to plan out Klick’s ongoing evolution in the coming year, including the return of the Klick Ideas Exchange event, which was to feature former President Barack Obama.
But as news of COVID-19’s spread into Europe and North America continued to mount, it became clear to Lori and her team that a new plan was needed, and fast. Under her leadership, the meeting pivoted from exploring the future to developing a nine-point safety protocol and business continuity plan to guide Klick through what would swiftly erupt into a global pandemic.
By the end of the meeting, Lori had filmed a video informing Klick employees that the company was closing offices and moving to remote working immediately so as to protect the health and safety of Klick’s clients, people, and their families.
Colleagues cite Lori’s clear, calm leadership at that crucial moment as key to Klick’s successful navigation of the pandemic. During a Zoom session with new employees, Lori was asked if the decision to shut down offices and go remote had been difficult. She said it was easy, because as a people-first company, there could be only one course of action for Klick.
“We had no playbook for a pandemic, so we leaned into our people-first founding principle,” Lori says. “We had already halted business travel and implemented in-office health and safety precautions. But closing our New York, Philadelphia, and Toronto offices to protect our people, their families, and our clients — at a time when most offices were still operating business as usual, and others were suggesting we were overreacting — took things to a whole new level.
“By putting Klicksters first in the midst of the crisis, we mitigated fear and anxiety and built an even stronger sense of community and purpose,” she adds. “And as a result, our people were supported, and the business thrived.”
For emphasis, Lori notes that Klick Health recorded its 23rd consecutive year of double-digit revenue growth in 2020. “We have had consistent growth, hiring hundreds of new Klicksters in 2020 to support our continued growth trajectory, which is unprecedented in our industry and provides tremendous career opportunities and accomplishments for our team members,” she says.
That growth comes with the opportunity for Lori to mentor people and help unlock their potential, something she really enjoys doing. She’s mentored hundreds of people over the years and always finds the relationships fulfilling. “The best part is watching your mentees grow, develop, and do amazing things,” she says. “For me, it has led to nothing but tremendous pride. I can’t think of any career highlight that could possibly be more rewarding than seeing that unfold and being part of that journey.”
Lori says understanding there is greatness in everyone is key to unlocking the potential of the next generation of leaders. “When you truly listen to someone and understand when they can’t wait to tell you something, then you have discovered their superpower,” she says. “And then, all you have to do is help them do more of that.”
Lori says looking at COVID as a year of possibility, rather than a year of pause, gave Klick the opportunity to really put its people first and transform the way they work.
“And our team delivered on that,” she observes. “They quickly adapted to working from home, supporting our clients and our communities with COVID-19 resources, information about our PPE relief efforts, humanitarian missions, and innovation that has come out of this new world we’re living in.”
The agency has been tracking these efforts on its covid.klick.com website.
To keep fellow Klicksters inspired during the pandemic, Lori says she and her team leaned into a trio of superpowers: kindness, empathy, and optimism. “I think the world could always use more kindness,” she says. “I learned this early on, having been raised as part of a large family on a dairy farm where I was taught the importance of hard work, respect, honesty, and laughter, and to treat people equally and with respect and kindness.”
She adds that they also have been leaning into Klick’s cultural values. “We adapted to virtual for all of our programs and processes, such as our breakfast meetings and science sessions,” she notes. “We even built our own Town Hall virtual platform so we could host hundreds of Klicksters on a captivating, unique virtual stage.” (PV)
Bringing transformational new medicines to patients
Igniting change by…
being highly strategic
Title: Chief Operating Officer
Company: Blueprint Medicines
Education: MBA, Harvard Business School; B.A., Biochemistry/Molecular Biology and Economics, Wesleyan University
Associations: Boardroom Ready, Women in Bio; Board of Directors, Fulcrum Therapeutics
At 43, Kate Haviland, chief operating officer of Blueprint Medicines, is among the youngest executives in biotech, and has helped the company develop one of the deepest precision therapy pipelines in the industry. Despite her youth, she possesses an impressive breadth of experience and leadership within the biopharmaceutical industry and a substantial background in business development, commercial and strategic planning, and program management. Before joining Blueprint Medicines, a global precision therapy company that innovates life-changing medicines for people with cancer and hematologic disorders in 2016, she served as VP, rare diseases and oncology program leadership at Idera Pharmaceuticals.
Before joining Idera Pharmaceuticals, Kate was head of commercial development at Sarepta Therapeutics, where she was responsible for product development and commercial planning and for cultivating relationships with key opinion leaders and patient advocacy groups. In addition, Kate has served as executive director of commercial development at PTC Therapeutics and held corporate development and project management roles at Genzyme.
During Kate’s leadership of the portfolio management team over the last five years, Blueprint Medicines has advanced nine pipeline products, reflecting truly exceptional R&D productivity. Last year was particularly transformational for the company, which received marketing approvals for its first two medicines across multiple cancer indications in the United States and Europe. Blueprint Medicines is the first company to discover two homegrown medicines and bring them to market within the first 10 years of its founding. Notably, from the initiation of each treatment’s first clinical trial to FDA approval, it took about four years for Ayvakit (avapritinib) and about three and a half years for Gavreto (pralsetinib). Further, the company has also brought five research programs to development candidate status since fourth quarter 2019, including two programs for EGFR-driven non-small cell lung cancer that have the potential to significantly advance treatment over existing therapies.
In July 2020, Kate and the business development team initiated a global collaboration with Roche to develop and commercialize Gavreto (pralsetinib) for the treatment of multiple cancers with RET alterations, a proven genetic driver of disease. The partnership opportunity emerged only after extensive discussions between the companies, which Kate guided by building trust through the companies’ shared commitment to scientific and clinical excellence. Upon signing, Blueprint Medicines received $775 million in upfront payments, making the deal one of the top five largest upfront payments of the year. The partnership accelerated the company’s ability to bring Gavreto to patients globally and has transformed its financial profile, allowing greater investment in R&D innovation across its early-stage portfolio.
The company’s 2020 accomplishments exceeded aggressive corporate goals. In a normal year, these accomplishments would have been considered a resounding success; with all the macroenvironment challenges, they reflect an even stronger testament to Kate’s leadership in empowering her teams to excel.
Another example of Kate’s deal-making prowess occurred in 2018, when she and the business development team collaborated with CStone Pharmaceuticals to develop three drug candidates in greater China. Less than three years into the collaboration, CStone recently received China regulatory agency approval of Gavreto and Ayvakit.
Of all her experiences, Kate says her biggest career highlight has been being part of the team that brought forward Blueprint’s first innovative medicine, Ayvakit, from the filing of the IND application for the first in-human clinical trials to launching the drug globally to treat a rare solid tumor and now a rare blood cancer. “With Ayvakit, we have shown that by targeting the root cause of cancer and by delivering the right drug to the right patient at the right time we can dramatically improve outcomes for patients,” she says. “Along this journey to bring Ayvakit to patients, we built out fully integrated business functions within the company — from discovery to clinical development to commercial. It’s tremendously rewarding to see this work become the platform for bringing our broad and growing portfolio to additional patient populations.”
Culturally, Kate has led a renewed companywide focus on equity, diversity, and inclusion (ED&I). “As an executive leader of our ED&I committee I am assessing our strengths and opportunities, and then taking action,” she says. “Starting last year, more than 40 individuals joined these working teams to help change the way Blueprint ingrains ED&I into business practices and workplace culture.”
Kate says she joined Blueprint because of the compelling vision and opportunity to build the leading independent precision medicine company. To do that, she knew the company needed to develop an innovative portfolio of products to become a world-class company. Blueprint is well on its way to reaching that goal, as is Kate in terms her professional goal: to change what the diagnosis of cancer will mean in the future. “If we can change the lives of people who receive the devastating diagnosis of cancer, we can also change the lives of everyone they touch,” she says. (PV)
Take chances. No regrets.
Igniting change by…
Raising the Bar through adversity
Edward Ikeguchi, M.D.
What do an Olympian, stage actor, and technology innovator have in common? The answer is Ed Ikeguchi, M.D. The CEO of the clinical research technology company AiCure, has won an Olympic gold medal and performed on the New York stage.
His appetite for new ideas and new experiences led him to establish a company that would change the way the industry collects patient and therapy data in clinical trials through predictive analytics powered by advanced artificial intelligence.
In 1999, Ed, along with fellow PharmaVOICE 100 honoree Glen de Vries, developed a plan to help the clinical research industry take an evolutionary step forward. At the time, trials were mostly done on paper. Site managers had to fill out lengthy forms, in triplicate, tear out carbon pages and fax them to pharmaceutical companies. These methods were inefficient and contained countless opportunities for data loss through inaccurate recording or the literal loss of paper records.
By moving data collection and storage online and building software that allowed for near real-time edit checking that helped ensure data was entered correctly, Medidata revolutionized how pharmaceutical companies ran clinical trials. Medidata Solutions remains one of the world’s leading providers of Web-based data management solutions for clinical trials.
In 2018, Ed joined AiCure, an AI and advanced data analytics company that monitors patient behavior and enables remote patient engagement in clinical trials. After two years as chief medical officer, he was named CEO in 2020 and turned his focus to accelerating research use for AI-driven digital biomarkers (DBM) and expanding how the company’s proprietary AI platform could be used by pharmaceutical sponsors.
To get the technology into more hands, and open more eyes to the usefulness of DBM, Ed led AiCure to create Open DBM, allowing researchers in academic settings to access the technology at no cost. Ed believes this will lead to a significant increase in data-validating DBM, while simultaneously allowing others to discover new uses and capabilities for the technology.
Ed hopes that by expanding the platform to sponsors, it will improve efficiencies in, potentially, all areas of study execution. He takes a positive approach to problem-solving, preferring to focus on the progress that has been made in healthcare rather than the inefficiencies.
“I believe there’s power in positive thinking, and when combined with a resolute belief in a clear vision, we can make an impactful difference when the cloud of doubt is removed,” he says.
While he seeks to define a vision and stick to it, he is always open to suggestions and criticism. And he supports those around him to find their own answers so they can take ownership of their own solutions. Diversity in background, experience, and ideas is key to a successful team, Ed believes.
One thing Ed has learned about innovation is it always needs further fuel.
“Software engineering is a bit like raising children: it takes time, projects evolve and they never stop needing support,” he says.
Mentoring and sponsoring are important to Ed, who says he seeks to support the next generation of leaders through healthcare incubators. His best practices are: be honest; build relationships, not just clients; and a demo is worth a thousand PowerPoints.
The past 18 months have been tough on everyone, and Ed has sought to encourage colleagues to take extra time out for themselves, to pace themselves at work, and to err on the side of overcommunication. He has sought to lead through the pandemic with humor, fortitude, and resilience.
To loop back to his other achievements, Ed qualified for the 1984 U.S. Olympic Shooting Team, which went on to win three gold medals in various shooting events. He also performed in an off-Broadway production of the musical Comfort Women in 2015. He would argue that singing onstage every night was the most nerve-wracking experience of his life.
In addition, Ed is a keen artist and says his background as a physician has been invaluable in creating work that approaches the medium from a unique perspective.
“I treat each painting as if they were my own patient, and in doing so, find myself absorbed in the lives and stories that live on through images,” he says. (PV)
The hidden foundation of strength
Blazing new trails to…
fill the gaps in physician engagement in the pharma industry
Title: Chief Operating Officer
Education: B.S., Goa University
Giving Back: Community volunteering, food banks
Hobbies: Sports, especially cricket
If there is one thing we can be sure of, it is that the people who work with Edward Vaz hold him in very high regard. Multiple nominations resonate with words such as “best,” “great leader,” “awesome human being,” and “backbone of the company.” The accolades attest to his ability to lead, motivate, support, and mentor in ways that drive growth in the company, but also in the entire employee base of P360.
“I’ve been told that I have a high ability to multitask across strategic and tactical levels,” Edward says. “And even though I am chief operating officer, I still find it critically important to know that I do not know everything — our teams are the drivers behind our success.”
Edward mentors his team members to grow as individuals and helps them to believe in themselves. He encourages them to develop their own leadership style, so they can learn to be organized leaders themselves. Although he guides them along business objectives, he says much of the credit is due to the strength of the company’s infrastructure.
“I consider mentoring a natural part of my role,” he says. “The best part is the fact that I also learn a tremendous amount from my mentees — it’s a very rewarding experience.”
His advice to himself is to always be humble and always remember how he got where he is today.
Throughout his career, Edward has a demonstrated deep passion for what he does. It is this passion that led him to co-found P360 with 2020 PharmaVOICE 100 honoree Anupam Nandwana. At P360 Edward directs all daily operations, including strategy development, reporting, communication, talent management, operational, and financial performance. He juggles various pharma projects effortlessly, bringing them to successful completion through his critical business knowledge. Edward handles multiple project deliveries in parallel with utmost ease. He has been instrumental in providing needed HR structure and streamlining operations in the company. The joint creation of P360 and all the new, disruptive solutions it has brought to the life-sciences industry to change the dynamics of how pharma interacts with customers is one of his greatest career highlights.
The most challenging aspect that often keeps him up at night is the company’s tremendous growth trajectory that requires the company to continually hire new employees to scale.
Over his 25-year career, Edward has learned that the heart of all businesses — large and small — are composed of people, not buildings or stock numbers. “When you keep this in mind, you embrace the true nature of providing services through your business offerings,” he says.
The company already functioned virtually prior to the COVID pandemic, but still Edward led the charge to have compassion for what the team members and their families were dealing with during the pandemic. The company offered advanced support, counseling, and additional time off to help staff cope with the situation, both physically and emotionally. The company also increased the number of town hall meetings and open forums to allow the teams to speak openly about their pandemic situations.
Colleagues say that Edward is one those bosses who genuinely cares about his employees and that his leadership makes working hard for the company easy. “We consider our staff as our own family,” Edward says.
Day in and day out, he is committed to his team members, fostering their ability to innovate and at the same time maintaining a strong focus on team members’ personal and professional development. He often hires young people with high potential, and is a great mentor to them, giving them stretch assignments and supporting their ability to succeed in those assignments.
At the same time, he’s the person who keeps the wheels turning operationally for the company every day without fail, including managing the HR team, helping to resolve payroll and finance issues, and dealing with issues across India and in the United States. These operational responsibilities are critical to the success of the company and the employees, and Edward’s commitment to the success of the team in every way is an inspiration.
In his capacity as an architect of modern commercial data platforms and applications, Edward has done tremendous work to bring speed to market for new drugs, deliver patient care, and HCP engagement. He has been at the forefront of innovations done by P360 using artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things (IoT) to enable the incorporation of newer technologies in a complex, highly regulated industry.
His actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more. Edward puts the needs of his employees ahead of those of the company and his own, which is why colleagues say he is the heart of P360. (PV)
Sparking innovation by…
putting patients first
Title: President, Consulting and Chief Commercial & Strategy Officer
Company: Parexel International
Personal Awards: Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association (HBA) Luminary, 2020; PharmaVOICE 100 Inspiring Leaders, 2019; The Ohio State University, Distinguished Alumnus Award, College of Public Health, 2013; The Ohio State University Alumni Association, Thompson Award for Early Career Achievement, 2000
Company Awards: Scrip Award for Best CRO, 2020; Parexel’s designated board member to the Association of Clinical Research Organizations (ACRO), 2021
Community Awards: Charlotte Businesswoman of the Year, 2004
Associations: Board of Directors of Tandem Diabetes Care, Inc.; Board member, Cancer Equity Initiative for Family Reach, a national 501(c)(3) organization; Board member, Healthcare Financial Management Association (HFMA); Member Academy of Managed Care Pharmacy (AMCP); Member, American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE); Member, Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association (HBA); Member, Association of Clinical Research Professionals (ACRP)
Giving Back: HDA Women’s Leadership Committee, Volunteer Sponsor; American Cancer Society, volunteer and sponsor; Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, Charlotte NC, Volunteer and Former local chairperson
This is Peyton Howell’s return to the PharmaVOICE 100 list: she was honored in 2019 as well. The accolades for Peyton remain consistent: she is making a lasting impact on the healthcare industry through her “patients-first” principle. She leads the charge for change and innovation that will sustain the industry for years to come. Putting patients first has been discussed for years, but Peyton has further defined this imperative by rallying around the need to focus on the connection between diversity and prioritizing patient populations.
Her success is bound to her leadership style. Colleagues say she has a gift for bringing out the best in everyone. She has mastered the art of motivating others, and this stems from how she treats them. This trait comes through in everything she does, whether she is selling, assessing, solving, or building. She also brings a level of brilliance and humility to the table that is incredibly powerful.
“I am grateful to have had a career and roles that allow me to bring that strong sense of purpose along with my passion and energy to inspire others,” Peyton says. “My goal is to make a difference and to build leadership teams for the future that are inclusive and purpose-focused to drive sustained growth and excellence.”
Peyton’s career spans more than 25 years. Before joining Parexel in 2018, she served as executive VP at AmerisourceBergen, where she led a business unit with a market-leading share of specialty and biotech products and solutions to physicians, health systems, and specialty pharmacy customers.
Amid the global pandemic, Peyton led Parexel to a record sales performance, making it the fastest-growing CRO, according to New Business Awards, for the calendar year 2020. She also facilitated the development of winning strategies for 190-plus COVID-19 projects being conducted in partnership with top pharma and biotechnology companies, many to help develop novel immunotherapies, antivirals, vaccines, and disease registries worldwide. Peyton was also instrumental in advocating for and supporting Parexel’s effort to rapidly adapt traditional clinical trials to incorporate decentralized and virtual trial approaches.
She says the pandemic was one of her biggest career challenges, despite her successes during it. “The real challenge has been the pandemic — creating energy, focus, and confidence, which ultimately has resulted in Parexel emerging stronger and more innovative,” Peyton says. “The leadership skills that are important have changed. Today, I am focused on different leadership skills than when I started my career — a strong sense of purpose, empathy, awareness of how we impact others, courage, an inclusive mindset, and the willingness to embrace uncertainty.”
However, during this time was also one of her greatest career highlights, she says. She was able to implement and watch the impact of her patients-first principle in terms of growth and recognition for the company. “Our new strategy and the refresh of our global brand in 2019 was entirely focused on our purpose and has really unified our nearly 20,000 colleagues around the patient,” she says. “Perhaps most gratifying is the feedback from our customers and the impact they are seeing from our patient-focused innovation and culture. We implemented our new strategy prior to COVID-19, but it has really led us through the pandemic.”
In December 2020, Parexel was awarded the Scrip Award for Best CRO based on independent review by a distinguished panel of life-science industry executives. “To be recognized with this significant achievement during a pandemic year with all of the challenges and to accelerate innovations such as decentralized clinical trials and diversity in clinical trials is some of the most meaningful work during my 30 years in healthcare,” Peyton says.
Peyton continues to be a visionary. She has helped Parexel address the need for more diversity in clinical trials as well as disparities in health outcomes for patients from certain racial and ethnic backgrounds. She has been instrumental in redefining how key stakeholders can address clinical trial diversity and closing disparities in healthcare.
With her guidance, Parexel is finding ways to better engage with minorities in clinical trials and improve overall healthcare support. Parexel has created a workstream response and alliance to support Black employees and take a stand against racism. Peyton currently serves as executive sponsor of the Gender Partnership and Supplier Diversity steering committee at Parexel to make measurable impacts on diversity and inclusion. Additionally, Peyton has been a key sponsor of LGBTQ+ initiatives both internally and externally to support the LGBTQ+ workforce, patients, and CRO community.(PV)
Our brand would follow Apple and Tesla
Sparking innovation by…
integrating each department to think together
Lan Huang, Ph.D.
Title: CEO, Chairwoman, and Co-founder
Company: BeyondSpring Pharmaceuticals Inc.
Education: Ph.D., Chemistry, University of California, Berkeley
Personal Awards: Entrepreneur Award, Jiangsu Province, China, 2019; Graduating Ph.D. Woman Award, Soroptimist International of the Americas, 1997
Company Awards: Lead asset plinabulin received the 13th five-year Innovation Grant from China’s government
Associations: Advisory board member, Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association; member, American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO)
Giving Back: Red Cross
Hobbies: Tennis and tango
Lan Huang, Ph.D., CEO, chairwoman, and co-founder of BeyondSpring Pharmaceuticals, considers the development of the company’s lead asset, plinabulin, to be both her biggest career highlight and greatest challenge.
Dr. Huang is proud that plinabulin has received breakthrough designation and NDA priority review from both the U.S. FDA and China’s National Medical Products Administration (NMPA) for use in preventing chemotherapy-induced neutropenia (CIN) in cancer patients.
“Used in combination with granulocyte colony stimulating factor or G-CSF, plinabulin represents the first breakthrough in 30 years and an elevation in standard of care for CIN, which can cause severe infection, sepsis, and even death,” she says.
Part of Dr. Huang’s pride lies in the fact that plinabulin’s journey has been a challenging one. “Plinabulin is a derivative of a natural chemical from a sea microbe, so no one knows its mechanism of action,” she says. “Without knowing a drug’s mechanism, it is difficult to select the right indication. We spent more than five years and worked with leading academic scientists in the world to uncover its immune mechanism.”
And plinabulin’s journey has only just begun. BeyondSpring is investigating the drug’s use for the treatment of multiple cancer indications, including non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), for which it is just about to complete a Phase III study.
“Through this challenging and meaningful journey, we are successfully translating discoveries from the benchside to the bedside to help cancer patients in need,” Dr. Huang says.
Colleagues say her scientific brilliance is without question, and they also praise her visionary leadership, stellar integrity, and passionate dedication to pursuing innovation and developing cancer treatments that help patients survive and thrive.
Dr. Huang’s dedication to developing cancer medicines dates back to her grandfather’s death from liver cancer. She was particularly close to him, so when he passed away, she decided at the age of 9 that she wanted to develop cancer therapies so no other child would have to experience the devastating loss of their grandparents from that disease.
That dream drove Dr. Huang to move from China to the United States for her scientific education. After receiving her Ph.D. at 27 from the University of California, Berkeley, she entered a renowned lab at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center as a research fellow. She was well on her way to a strong academic research career in an important field — targeted protein degradation — that she loved.
But Dr. Huang realized she wanted to do more than just study these mechanisms in a lab. So, she entered the world of biotech to translate the incredible work that was happening in cancer labs to something that would have a tangible impact on patients.
Dr. Huang believes it’s important to understand the unmet medical needs of patients first, then develop a breakthrough medicine for those patients.
“Developing a revolutionary medicine is very challenging, so we need to believe in our mission and have the tenacity to overcome all obstacles and succeed against all odds, backed by a strong scientific rationale and quality execution,” she says.
Dr. Huang inspires others by setting a clear vision for the company as well as a detailed execution plan. “At our company, I have initiated a weekly session titled ‘How Do I Get Here’ for me and other senior members to share our career journey with young members,” she says.
Dr. Huang says she looks for humility in her team members. “All the people we interview have excellent technical skills, but no one is perfect,” she notes. “When people are humble, they will keep learning and improve, and they appreciate other team members who complement them. This is a great way to build the best and most complementary team for success.”
Dr. Huang enjoys mentoring. “The best part is to share my journey with them and help to sharpen their dreams for their careers and clear a path to get them to realize those dreams,” she says.
Dr. Huang is working to develop leaders of the future by implementing a mentorship/internship program for the children of BeyondSpring’s employees.
“The children can have one week dedicated to learning all aspects of drug development, then pick a specific field in which to intern,” she says. “This way they are learning to be the next generation of leaders.”
Dr. Huang says BeyondSpring took several steps to ensure she and her colleagues remained connected during the pandemic.
“Even with work from home and social isolation, we have achieved so much,” she says. “We have adapted using SharePoint — a collaboration software, and all teams have conducted Zoom meetings efficiently, so people feel togetherness.
“We sent holiday gifts to team members and their families,” she adds. “We also motivated them at our weekly town hall meeting and had in-person celebration parties with masks on for big milestones achieved.” (PV)
Certainty reflects a lack of imagination
Sparking innovation by…
keeping my eyes open
Company: Real Endpoints
Education: B.A., Cornell University; M.A., English Lit., UNC-Chapel Hill
Associations: Founded Indivisible Connecticut District 4, the largest progressive political group in the state, shortly after the 2016 election
Twitter handle: @RealEndptsRog
Roger Longman has been a leader in the healthcare industry for more than 35 years. As the co-founder and managing partner at Windhover Information, Roger served at the forefront of the first wave of pharmaceutical mergers and acquisitions. He and his team at Windhover created a number of industry-standard analytical sources, including must-read strategy publications such as In Vivo and Start-Up, the strategic transactions database, and a major conference business for senior executives.
If his first company focused on the industry’s key challenge of the 1990s and early 2000s, sourcing pipeline innovation, his second company would focus on a more recent, and threatening one: how to pay for that innovation.
Roger founded Real Endpoints to address the increasingly critical and vexing issues of pricing, reimbursement, and coverage, in ways that solve both payer and patient challenges and biopharma’s — particularly how to reward biotech investors for funding innovation while still making the innovation affordable for patients.
Under Roger’s leadership, first as CEO and now as chairman, Real Endpoints has grown rapidly and brought several important innovations to the pharmaceutical industry. His most recent focus has been on looking at new value-based approaches to diagnostics, creating tools and platforms to make these approaches scalable; and developing these initiatives with major biopharmaceutical, diagnostic, payer, and provider organizations.
Roger says his biggest challenge has been broadening the focus from defining differentiated value in solely scientific and medical terms to differentiated value as payers see it.
“I’ve had to demonstrate to CEOs, who have hitherto focused almost entirely on research innovation, why their job is also figuring out how that innovation is paid for,” he says.
With his unique skill sets and insights, Roger has become an invaluable contributor to in-line and product launch success by helping pharmaceutical partners truly understand the market access environment, as well as bringing them closer to the thoughts and processes of key influential stakeholders — particularly payers.
According to his colleagues, while many in the life-sciences community talk about innovation and the need to think creatively to address issues in the field, Roger acts.
“Experience is a wonderful thing, but it can also chill thinking into a frozen certainty,” he says. “And certainty is the enemy of imagination.”
Roger approaches issues with a willingness to challenge preconceptions and risk his ego for the sake of progress — and asks his colleagues to do the same thing.
Colleagues say Roger earns the trust of colleagues and business associates through credibility, knowledge, and skills.
He elevates the entire Real Endpoints team with his smarts, business, acumen, integrity, and good humor.
Roger says when he’s building out a team, he looks for people with energy, curiosity, honesty, and self-awareness. He inspires others by example, doing the best work that he can. As a leader, he believes in taking blame for problems but not credit for success.
“I’d like my colleagues and customers to think I’ve treated them fairly and generously, and that my work has consistently gone beyond the obvious into the truth of the matter,” he says.
Roger has mentored many in the industry and has positively impacted the careers of many people because of his willingness to connect and share. His insights and bold approach to solving problems have enabled his mentees to be successful as well.
As a journalist, and at his first company, Roger helped create the business narrative for biotech’s value — pipeline innovation. In his second company, Real Endpoints, Roger is helping create the basis on which that innovation can be paid for — and sustained. (PV)
Never confuse motion with action
Igniting change by…
showing my vulnerability as a leader, human, parent, cancer conqueror, and woman
Title: CEO and President
Company: Evofem Biosciences
Education: B.S., Business Administration, Husson University; B.S., Communication, New England School of Communications
Personal Awards: Director of the Year Honoree from the Corporate Directors Forum, 2021; MM+M Hall of Femme Honoree, 2021; Inc. Magazine’s Female Founders 100 List, 2020; PharmaVOICE 100 honoree, 2020; San Diego Business Journal’s Businesswoman of the Year, 2019; named a New Champion for Reproductive Health by the United Nations Foundation, 2015; Athena San Diego’s Pinnacle Award for Life Sciences, May 2014
Community Awards: Keynote speaker at Padres Pedal the Cause 2019 fundraising event in San Diego raising more than $3.12 million to accelerate cures for cancer
Associations: Board member, Evofem Biosciences; board member, Tracon Pharmaceuticals; board member, Center for Community Solutions
Giving Back: Padres Pedals the Cause, Center for Community Solutions, Promises 2 Kids
Hobbies: Rowing and drinking very dry vodka martinis
Twitter handle: @Saundraceo
As many companies were forced to put projects on pause during the pandemic, Evofem Biosciences was in the midst of its first commercial product launch. Phexxi, the first and only non-hormonal prescription contraceptive option for women, entered the market in September 2020.
It was a moment Evofem CEO and President Saundra Pelletier counts as the biggest highlight of her career so far. “We assembled a best-in-class team of 70 sales reps and regional managers who hit the ground during COVID,” Saundra says. “And in February 2021, we launched our record-setting ‘Get Phexxi’ DTC campaign, which has garnered more than 411.4 million video views and made Phexxi the No. 1 followed contraceptive brand in the U.S. Since our September 2020 launch, more than 7,000 HCPs have prescribed Phexxi, and over 28,000 Phexxi prescriptions have been dispensed.”
Colleagues say Saundra has innovated an approach to reaching the consumer, using social media in a colorful and sexy way to get the message across that Phexxi is truly a game-changer in the birth control space. Saundra fervently believes in helping women choose when, and if, they have children.
“I want to be remembered as the CEO who protected women from hormones by launching Phexxi and changing the lives of millions of women for the better,” Saundra says.
Saundra’s commitment to women covers the professional sphere as well. She constantly seeks opportunities to lift other women up and strongly believes that empowered women empower women. “It’s why I wrote the book, ‘Saddle Up Your Own White Horse,’ to provide pragmatic tools, tips, and techniques for other women to succeed in life on their own terms,” Saundra says. “I also regularly participate in events with organizations such as the GUILD, a global community for women entrepreneurs, to meet with women and share my expertise.”
Saundra is also very deliberate in her hiring practices to make sure women have a seat at the table.
“Women in biotech and pharma are often overlooked or undervalued within the industry, yet their leadership skills and business intelligence are uniquely positioned to help a company, especially one focused on women’s unmet needs, succeed,” she says.
Due to Saundra’s intentional choice to hire qualified women, 60% of Evofem employees are female. “Evofem is a company by women for women,” she says.
That said, Saundra has also pushed for inclusive representation in Evofem’s boardroom and on its leadership team.
“I know that diversity of thought, background, and experience is essential to growing and expanding the business,” she says. “Long before Nasdaq’s proposed board-diversity rule, Evofem’s board of directors met its proposed requirement with four women and three men as well as representation from BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ communities governing and representing shareholders’ interests.”
Saundra is extremely passionate about being a mentor and role model. “If we do not take the time to invest in the next generation of amazing leaders, entrepreneurs, and glass-ceiling breakers, then who will?” she asks. “Passionate, capable people need to know that they are believed in, they have a safety net, and that although the work will be hard, it will be worth it.”
Saundra balances her direct and fiercely authentic leadership style with an empathetic approach.
“I don’t beat around the bush, and I always approach a conversation openly and honestly, setting clear expectations,” she says. “At the same time, empathy goes a long way. People call me a badass, but I am a kind badass. You do not have to trample people to get to the top.”
She recalls a time when someone told her brother that it must be hard to be the sibling of a powerhouse bitch.
“My brother scoffed, realizing the person had no idea what I am like, and informed him that I am actually the nicest person he has ever encountered,” she says. “His colleague could not believe that a powerful leader could actually also be kind.” (PV)
Pioneering intersystems biology
Igniting change by…
inspiring a new team to drive impact in areas previously seen as not possible
Guillaume Pfefer, Ph.D.
Title: CEO and Partner
Companies: Senda Biosciences, Flagship Pioneering
Education: Master’s degree in Chemical Engineering, National School for Chemical Engineering (Nancy, France); Ph.D., Materials Science, Centre National de la Recherché Scientifique (CNRS), France; MBA, Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania
Company Awards: Prix Galien USA Award for best Pharmaceutical Product of 2019 (Shingrix)
As CEO of Senda Biosciences, Inc., Guillaume Pfefer, Ph.D., is currently living his career highlight: pioneering a novel field of medicine called Intersystems Biology. “Humans are a system of multispecies systems with over 300 trillion non-human cells in constant connection with around 30 trillion human cells,” Guillaume says. “Over the millennia, we have coevolved with these interspecies molecular exchanges that define our life as profoundly as our genetics.”
The idea behind Senda Biosciences is to harness the molecular exchange mechanisms of these non-human species to develop a to- tally new class of medicines ranging from gene therapies to nucleic acids and protein therapies. Senda is the first company to integrate biochemistry and genetics across all kingdoms of the human ecosystem, with a focus on bacteria, plants, and human biology. “Our own multi-kingdom bodies are more inclusive and interconnected than we’ve ever understood before,” Guillaume says. ”The Senda platform is the first-ever atlas of interspecies exchange mechanisms, enabling us to systematically mine intersystems biology for the development of new therapies.
“This is literally an orthogonal new con-ception of health and disease,” he continues. “What we are currently unpacking at Senda Biosciences has profound and far-reaching potential in terms of novel medicines. Just to give you an example, preclinically we’ve shown incredible potential, enabling mRNA biodistribution beyond the liver with specific tissue programmability. We are also opening up new avenues to repeat dosing and sustained expression, efficient oral delivery, and programmable immunomodulation.”
During his career, Guillaume has had many achievements, including the launch of Shingrix, GSK’s vaccine for shingles, which exceeded $2 billion in sales in its second year and received the Prix Galien award for innovation in 2019. He attributes the success to having a team of people working together with an aligned mindset in a supportive environment.
Also, as general manager for Sanofi Pasteur in Mexico, Guillaume and his team established a highly collaborative environment working with the Mexican government to complete an influenza vaccine manufacturing site. He also partnered with the Ministry of Health to introduce a free universal influenza vaccination and whooping cough vaccine.
All these experiences have taught Guillaume that to be truly impactful, you have to first be humble.
As a passionate, high-energy individual, he says he would like to be remembered by his teams for the moments when they achieved the extraordinary together and the drive and commitment that led to those moments. He seeks to inspire his teams with this same combination of humility and passion.
“I spend a great deal of my time, even in a leadership position, to building relationships and making myself available through formal and informal interactions,” he says. “I inspire my team as much as I am inspired by my team. The interconnection and interdependence we thread between us is built out of respect, trust, and powered by a common vision for where we want to go.”
He describes his leadership style as “I work for you,” which is about recognizing potential and helping people to achieve their goals. Guillaume encourages his team to speak up and he seeks to engender trust and confidence. “This is so important because to be a visionary leader you have to have a team of people willing to trust you and have your back while you have theirs,” he says. “This perfect circle of trust allows Senda Biosciences to prevail and remain agile as we pioneer the unchartered territory of intersystems biology.”
Over his career, he has followed the advice of a mentor, who told him never interact with other executive team members, employees, or externally using rank.
“This tip has served me well, as I slowly but surely established trust, gained influence, and opened up honest and direct channels of communication that would have been closed to me otherwise,” he says.
When building teams, he looks at each person’s potential and their willingness to be something bigger than themselves. “One of the few gifts of being a CEO is to help blossom future leaders,” he says. “Recently, we were slow to hire some senior leaders in top positions. On two occasions, I invited two young professionals to step into the positions of their future boss as I served as their back office and mentor. It took courage for these two super-talented leaders to take action.”
In addition to leading Senda Biosciences, Guillaume is a partner and member of Flagship Pioneering, which brings together scientists, entrepreneurs, and investors to support big ideas that have the potential to help humanity. (PV)
Keeps going and going…
Blazing new trails to…
accelerate game-changing treatments to patients
Eleanor L. Ramos, M.D.
Title: Chief Medical Officer
Company: Provention Bio
Education: B.S., Jackson College,
Tufts University; M.D., Tufts Medical School
Giving Back: The American Red Cross
With a clear mission to eradicate immune diseases by achieving the holy grail in immunology, manipulation of immune tolerance, Eleanor Ramos, M.D., who goes by Leni, has put Provention Bio on a path to potentially bring the first drug to market for the delay of an autoimmune disease.
Teplizumab is anti-CD3 monoclonal antibody for the delay of clinical type 1 diabetes (T1D) in at-risk individuals. A finding from a pivotal Phase II study in patients with early T1D showed that with a two-week course of teplizumab there was a two-year median delay to insulin dependency versus placebo, which led to the product receiving breakthrough therapy designation.
Thanks to her early work, the relationships she forged throughout her career, and her passionate pitch to her Provention Bio colleagues, teplizumab became the organization’s lead asset in 2017.
“I’ve championed this investigational drug since leading early clinical studies to overseeing the recent submission of a biologics license application and the FDA advisory committee meeting,” she says. “I’m hopeful T1D patients, who have no other options to treat their underlying disease, will soon have access to this important treatment.”
The team preparing the BLA is experienced yet lean, and has been supported by a variety of consultants and vendors to manage the integration of studies included in the application. “These studies, which were conducted by academia, consortia, and another biotech company, added a unique layer of complexity to the process,” Leni says.
Leni had always been fascinated by medicine. Growing up, she was inspired by her mother — a radiologist — who is her idol and hero. Leni aspired to graduate top of her class, earning summa cum laude honors at Tufts University and Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society at Tufts Medical School.
Her fascination with the immune system can be traced back to her fellowship in nephrology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, which focused on managing patients with renal transplants and understanding the immunology of allograft rejection.
Her deep understanding of the immune system to organ transplant rejection and autoimmunity has been integral to the development of several approved products that have improved the health of thousands, including Roche’s CellCept (mycophenolate mofetil) and Zenapax (daclizumab), and Bristol Myers Squibb’s Nulojix (belatacept).
Leni is committed to finding ways to impact the lives of patients who have few or no alternatives to treat or manage their disease. Having lost her sister to lung cancer, her professional goal is to be involved in a game-changing therapy in lung cancer, especially the type of lung cancer that disproportionately affects Asian women who are typically nonsmokers.
Leni says she can’t expect people to follow her unless she’s willing to get her own hands dirty getting things done, thus she is an advocate of leading by example. “My approach is to envision the big picture and the path to a goal and then execute it with agility and commitment,” she says.
When building teams, she looks for diversity, resilience, and people who are comfortable with ambiguity and unforeseen changes.
She learned early on that you are responsible and accountable for your own future and success; however, supportive mentors and colleagues do make all the difference.
The best advice she received, Leni says, is to focus on what you do best, but don’t be afraid to push through your comfort zone.
As a virtual company, it was generally business as usual for Provention Bio during the pandemic; however, it still required some agility.
“There are times, like when writing a BLA, when you would prefer to be in the same time zone and the same room with your team and a giant whiteboard,” she says.
Moving forward, Leni will continue to maximize the potential of Provention Bio’s rich pipeline of products that target upstream autoimmune pathways and even viral triggers to once again try to achieve the holy grail in her long quest to eradicate autoimmune diseases. (PV)
Living life to the fullest
Sparking innovation by…
Creating a collaborative fearless team and asking for the impossible
Albert J. Robichaud, Ph.D.
Title: Chief Scientific Officer
Company: Sage Therapeutics Inc.
Education: Ph.D., University of California, Irvine
Personal Awards: Chair of the 2005 Gordon Research Conference on Medicinal Chemistry; Chair ACS National Meeting First Disclosure of Clinical Candidates, 2008-2013
Giving Back: Protecting the ocean and the reefs
Hobbies: Master Scuba Diver — more than 600 dives, bicycling, golfing, wine, cars
Albert Robichaud, Ph.D., is set on changing the way the world views the treatment of mood disorders, particularly major depression and postpartum depression. He has always wanted to bring together a team of like-minded individuals, who are fearless and ferocious in their desire to change the lives of patients with devastating neuroscience diseases who deserve better. “I aim to give options to patients that have few, and to allow every person to live their best life,” Dr. Robichaud says.
And he is currently doing that in his role as chief scientific officer at Sage Therapeutics. The highlight of his career was building a world-class drug discovery and development team from the ground up at Sage. Since Sage’s founding, Dr. Robichaud and his team have built an expansive portfolio of NCEs spanning three brain health franchises across 12 indications. “I think creativity and innovation come from a singular belief in the mission and not letting anything get in the way of bringing medicines that matter to patients who need them,” Dr. Robichaud says.
In other words, he doesn’t like hearing the word “no,” colleagues say. After spending years in big organizations where it seemed like there were people whose job was to just say no, he was looking for a place that had the courage and passion to say yes — enter Sage.
One day, Dr. Robichaud received a call from one of Sage’s first investors, asking if he’d come for a short get-to-know-you meeting. He said yes — of course — and drove up from New Jersey for the meeting. The 45-minute chat stretched throughout the afternoon, evening, and into the next day. “We talked about science, for hours,” Dr. Robichaud says. “This was something I hadn’t been doing enough in other jobs. Just talking about science.”
As the third employee hired at Sage, Dr. Robichaud has been talking and doing science ever since. He and his team have made innovation inroads in the development of new compounds, but he is proudest of his team. They also don’t readily take no for an answer, and they do science his way: fearlessly. “I’ve never had a team that has the capabilities of this one,” he says. “We are pursuing revolutionary medicines rather than evolutionary ones. They are self-starters with a penchant for innovation in their DNA; they view science as creative and limitless as music or art.”
Sage set out to explore different ways to modulate brain chemistry, and with Dr. Robichaud establishing some principles to guide the work it is well on its way. One of the first things Dr. Robichaud did was set clear definitions. At the time, most companies were doing trials designed to get a broad label. Instead, Dr. Robichaud focused Sage on specific and narrow trials on defined conditions, examining small populations of patients who were genetically, mechanistically, and behaviorally defined.
“My role is to build the team of the future, that one day will do all of this without me,” Dr. Robichaud says. “My job is to mentor drug hunters and that includes the scientific, management, and personal side. I create an environment where respectful challenge is not only encouraged but a necessary component of a successful team. People don’t work ‘for’ me, they work ‘with’ me. I am passionate about what I do, and I don’t make excuses for how hard I work to accomplish our goals and I expect the same from everyone on the team.”
Colleagues say Dr. Robichaud instills an exciting and creative way to do science, and sets an inspirational tone even when things don’t work out as everyone had hoped. Dr. Robichaud doesn’t see it that way. Every step forward or backward brings out important insights that might open the door to exploring other potential therapies. “We’re taking moon shots,” he says. “Because that’s the approach we’ve taken from day one.”
Sage has one product currently on the market, and the company has announced four readouts to date in 2021 and expects multiple catalysts through the rest of the year.
All this work is the end result from Dr. Robichaud’s mantra: Never settle, never let anyone tell you that something can’t be done, if you really believe in it. (PV)
Be persistent, keep trying
Sparking innovation by…
mentoring the next generation of drug developers
Uma Sinha, Ph.D.
Title: Chief Scientific Officer
Company: BridgeBio Pharma Inc.
Education: Doctor of Philosophy, University of Georgia
Personal Awards: Women Who Lead in Life Sciences, San Francisco Business Times, 2020; Twenty extraordinary women in biopharma R&D who worked their way to the top, Endpoints News, 2019
Associations: Board member, San Francisco-Marin Food Bank; 10-year scientific reviewer for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) study sections to help review academic research grants submitted for NIH funding
Giving Back: Volunteer and donor to the San Francisco-Marin Food Bank for the past 20 years
Hobbies: Italian opera, which she looks forward to attending in person soon
Uma Sinha, Ph.D., chief scientific officer for BridgeBio Pharma, is deeply dedicated to her work. And that dedication is reflected in the milestone she’s reached this year. “I am getting ready to submit my 27th investigational new drug application — IND, which is a culmination of years of work with talented scientific teams from many biopharma companies,” Dr. Sinha says. “At BridgeBio, I’ve worked on nine INDs for potential breakthrough medicines that target genetic diseases. Over my career, I have contributed to the discovery and preclinical development of treatments for hematologic, cardiovascular, and inflammatory diseases. More recently, I had the privilege to be involved with sickle cell research, a field which hadn’t had a new approved therapy in decades. And I have been part of teams that brought seven drugs to market.
“My career in drug development has always felt like much more than a job, and I hope that my commitment to patients helps rally the troops to keep going, even during challenging times like the past year,” she adds.
Dr. Sinha observes that keeping a multinational Phase III trial for patients with transthyretin (TTR) amyloidosis (ATTR) in 18 countries with more than 80 clinical sites going has been an extraordinary feat during the COVID-19 pandemic. “The challenges of the pandemic are not over yet, but our team has been persistent and unwavering,” she says. “We never forget that the patients are waiting for new therapeutic options, and we are working as quickly as possible to help them.”
The shift to remote work necessitated by the pandemic presented another challenge. “One of the greatest challenges was adjusting to the remote work environment and the new way we needed to connect with colleagues,” Dr. Sinha says. “I have tried to be a good listener and flexible, especially for people on my team with young children at home who were juggling work and family demands.”
Mentorship is very important to Dr. Sinha, especially because it proved valuable early in her career. “I had mentors both in academia and when I started out in biotechnology who believed in what I could do technically, and also taught me how to navigate my teams and the hurdles of drug development,” she says. “Now, I get to share this with others.”
Dr. Sinha says her commitment to mentoring and service as a role model for her colleagues is how she exhibits leadership. “I take pride in being able to talk to people across the organization about their work, challenges, and goals, regardless of their level and share advice to advance their career goals,” she says.
Dr. Sinha started out mentoring post-docs and graduate students, and she now gets to mentor a new generation of industry professionals with backgrounds in other fields, like business development. “These newcomers to the industry are passionate about learning about drug development and helping patients with rare diseases,” she says. “It is a privilege to help them learn the tools of the trade.”
When building a team, Dr. Sinha says she looks for ambitious individuals who are dedicated to BridgeBio’s mission and eager to learn from a team of strong leaders. “I also focus on building teams that are technically superb, and I think about how well a newcomer will mesh with the team,” she says. “It’s very important that new additions be able to get along and work well together.”
Colleagues say Dr. Sinha always puts in effort to ensure women have opportunities to expand their knowledge and grow as trusted leaders within the BridgeBio organization. She’s known to extend the invitation to meetings to others, especially women, who otherwise wouldn’t have been invited. And she makes time to talk to people across the organization about their work, challenges, and goals, regardless of their level.
“A true legacy is created when one positively impacts the next generation of innovators, especially in the life-sciences industry,” Dr. Sinha says. “This has been my goal at BridgeBio, and I’ve put great effort into elevating my colleagues to ensure they have the scientific prowess and leadership skills to excel in their careers.
“I recognize that some of the most qualified individuals may be the quietest at the table, so I endeavor to provide the space for those people to voice their ideas with project teams and in broader settings, such as in front of company leaders,” she continues. “I aspire to build up leaders who are pioneers in the industry and are not afraid to be bold in the rare disease space.”
Last year, Dr. Sinha helped launch BridgeBio’s Women at Bridge program, which provides the company’s female team members the opportunity to connect on an ongoing basis, hear from others for career advice and key learnings, and connect as the organization continues to grow.
She recognized this program as an opportunity to amplify women’s voices internally at BridgeBio. The program is now operational across all of BridgeBio’s affiliates, and it has even sparked overall internal diversity initiatives.
“I try to build programs that empower women through all stages of their careers to flourish professionally,” Dr. Sinha says. (PV)
Courage grows at a wound
Sparking innovation by…
stopping to think
Murray Stewart, D.M.
Title: Chief Medical Officer
Company: Rhythm Pharmaceuticals Inc.
Education: B.M. and D.M., Medicine, University of Southampton, United Kingdom
Personal Awards: Hospital doctor of the year award in the UK, 1999
Associations: Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians, diabetes and obesity societies
Giving Back: Homeless causes
Since joining Rhythm Pharmaceuticals as chief medical officer in October 2018, Murray Stewart, D.M., has taken the company to the next level by leading it to its first drug approval: Imcivree. He counts this achievement as one of his career highlights.
Imcivree was approved by the FDA in November 2020 for chronic weight management in adult and children 6 years and older with obesity due to three rare genetic diseases of obesity: proopiomelanocortin (POMC), proprotein convertase subtilisin/kexin type 1 (PCSK1), and leptin receptor (LEPR) deficiency confirmed by genetic testing. Its active ingredient, setmelanotide, is also poised for EU approval to treat these disorders after receiving a positive recommendation for approval from the European Medicines Agency’s (EMA) Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use (CHMP).
Murray joined Rhythm after 17 years at GlaxoSmithKline. As a dedicated researcher, Murray brings novel study design and innovation to Rhythm’s clinical development programs, always pushing and driving for quality and results. He asks the tough questions and brings out the best in everyone.
Murray exemplifies a culture built on excellence and respect. In addition to his work on setmelanotide, he has led a number of corporate initiatives at Rhythm, including the growth of the company’s medical and clinical teams, presentations at industry events, and supporting investor relations by being an external voice sharing the company’s progress.
Colleagues say Murray exemplifies inspiring leadership in life sciences. He is a passionate partner and a true collaborator, and he maintains an incredible commitment to the patients and families that are affected by rare disorders of genetic obesity. He also has developed trusting and engaging relationships with thought leaders, investigators, and physicians around the world.
Murray never misses an opportunity to share stories from patients and their families about the positive impact Imcivree has made in their quality of life. He describes how many patients with genetic obesity disorders often do not seek medical assistance because they believe they are doing something wrong to always feel hungry and struggle with managing their weight. They are often shunned by a society that does not understand genetic obesity and blames not only patients but their families for them being fat. And parents of children suffering from genetic obesity diseases feel particularly guilty for not being able to fix their children.
Murray’s deep knowledge and understanding of the genetic pathophysiology of these rare obesity diseases is only matched by his compassion to find cures, better understand the natural history of the disease, and offer hope.
His surveillance of genetic obesity disorders never stops, nor does his strategic planning and analysis as he is driven to find more cures and treatments. It’s clear that he cares deeply about his work and the patients it impacts.
Murray describes himself as a “transparent and encouraging” leader who inspires others by consistently maintaining a positive outlook. “Sometimes to achieve a lot you have to keep going despite everything feeling hopeless, so you need to be determined,” he says.
Murray looks for that same positive attitude in his team members, as well as flexibility. He is a champion for work that is well done and is the first to congratulate a positive result or conclusion. “I never forget to thank people,” Murray says. “And it’s really helped to inspire and motivate others as we work our way through the COVID pandemic.”
Outside of the company, those who have worked with Murray say he always treats his colleagues as partners and fosters a highly collaborative environment for a CRO/sponsor relationship. He always makes his partners feel as if they and Rhythm are one team, which contributes to high-quality outcomes and a positive experience for both organizations. This makes him a highly trusted and respected peer.
Murray says the best part of being a mentor is seeing people grow. “I don’t hesitate to share the tough learnings,” he says. “It’s important for developing the next generation of leaders in the life-sciences industry.”
Murray says he lives by the advice to be here now, and while his drive and enthusiasm for his work is clear, it’s not his be-all and end-all. “Life is so much more than work,” he says. “This is something I wish I’d realized earlier in my career.” (PV)
Blazing new trails to…
transform the treatment of solid tumors
Paul Peter Tak, M.D., Ph.D.
Title: President and CEO
Company: Candel Therapeutics
Education: M.D., Ph.D., FMedSci, VU University Amsterdam
Personal Awards: Honorary Senior Visiting Fellow at the University of Cambridge; Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences; Chair, Research Directors Group, European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA); EFPIA Innovation Board Sponsored Committee; Editorial Board of Current Biotechnology; Board Director of Candel Therapeutics (Needham, MA), Sitryx Therapeutics (Oxford), Levicept (London) and Citryll (Oss)
Community Awards: Honorary Member, European League Against Rheumatism Medal of Honour; Dutch Rheumatology Society “Toparts” — best rheumatologist in the Netherlands, elected by peers; Elected Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences (UK)
Associations: Member, American College of Rheumatology; Honorary Member, European League Against Rheumatism (EULAR; European Alliance of Associations for Rheumatology); Deputy Chair, Strategic Priorities Fund Multimorbidity Steering Group (MRC, ESRC, NIHR); Member Board Of Trustees at Lorna & Yuti Chernajovsky Biomedical Research Foundation
Hobbies: Gym, photography, music, food, gardening
Twitter handle: @paulpetertak
A physician, academic, and biopharmaceutical business leader, Paul Peter Tak, M.D., Ph.D., strives to integrate all three perspectives in everything he does.
As a physician, he was honored to be named “Toparts Reumatologie,” the best rheumatologist as elected by his peers in the Netherlands based on his clinical work making innovative therapies accessible to patients.
As an academic, he has published extensively in peer-reviewed journals, and was named one of the three most influential rheumatologists in the world.
And as a business leader, while at GSK, he built the company’s immunology network, a collaboration between GSK and leading academics, which provides the latter with cognitive diversity and privileged access to the latest research and facilities GSK has to offer.
“In a period of seven years, I oversaw the development of 10 medicines that are now in late-stage development or have been approved in oncology, immunoinflammation, and infectious disease,” he says. “During this time, I learned how to take my leadership skills to the next level.”
While you might think that was one of his most challenging assignments, Paul Peter says it was actually building the Department of Clinical Immunology & Rheumatology at Academic Medical Center of the University of Amsterdam from scratch with no budget, full-time employees (FTEs), or patients. He worked to get external grant funding and selected the best people to build the department.
“Twelve years later, we had more than 100 FTEs, were recognized as a Center of Excellence by the European League Against Rheumatism and the Federation of Clinical Immunology Societies, built a reputation for our patient care and training programs, and became extremely productive in terms of scientific output,” he says.
Today, as president and CEO of Candel Therapeutics, Paul Peter is focused on developing new treatments for patients with a significant unmet need by focusing on the best science and creating value for society and shareholders. “To achieve this goal, I am focused on attracting and developing the best talent, helping them to work together as high-performing teams and create collective intelligence, and securing the funding to be successful,” he says. “When I explored Candel Therapeutics’ programs in 2020, I saw two investigational oncolytic viral immunotherapies in the pipeline that I recognized as potentially transformational medicines that, if approved, could have a significant impact on patients’ lives. My goal is to bring these products to the market as well as to feed and fill the pipeline based on our new discovery platform.”
A visionary leader, Paul Peter has pioneered new approaches in science and industry that delivered great organizations, breakthrough strategies, and highly innovative therapeutic regimens. “Concepts like lateral thinking and collective intelligence are at the heart of my approach,” he says. “Planning the future with imagination and seeing what might be possible is what I aim for.”
He leads by setting strategy, articulating the mission, and creating a strong culture based on freedom and accountability. He embraces cognitive diversity, social sensitivity of team members, and respectful, candid debate, which all contribute to intellectual team performance. And he implements a solution-oriented management approach that asks questions such as “what’s going well?,” “what would it take to further improve on this?,” and “what areas are a priority to fix?”
“Leaders need to take their trust-building skills to a completely new level to be successful, based on ability, integrity, and generosity,” he says.
Paul Peter has been a mentor for many people in the industry and continues to mentor senior academics, and he seeks to develop and sponsor the next generation of leaders.
“Honest feedback is an important part of helping new leaders develop,” he says. “It is also important to connect people, give them strategic advice, and mention their name in critical meetings.” (PV)
Best possible care, best possible
methods, best possible outcomes
Blazing new trails to…
connect consumer healthcare delivery with clinical research to ensure clinical research is a care option for all patients
Title: Chief Innovation Officer
Company: ICON plc
Education: Western Washington University
Personal Awards: PM360 Elite – Industry Disrupter, 2021
Associations: DTRA, ASCO, HRC, GSBA
Giving Back: Sponsors LGBTQ+ students/leaders that are entering scientific and medical fields
Hobbies: Boating and Broadway, including as Executive Producer on two short movies; exploring the opportunity to buy the rights to a book to make into a Broadway musical
Twitter handle: @KentThoelke
For the past five years under Kent Thoelke’s leadership as chief scientific officer, PRA Health Sciences evolved from a traditional contract research organization to a totally integrated healthcare intelligence organization. As this issue was going to press, in recognition of Kent’s considerable contributions to PRA Health’s growth he was named chief innovation officer of ICON plc, which completed the purchase of PRA Health earlier this year.
Kent’s professional goal is to ensure that all patients can participate in clinical trials — regardless of where they are located — by leveraging novel technologies and supporting nontraditional partnerships to make the model work.
“Today drug development operates in an artificial bubble — outside of the rapidly advancing healthcare delivery models — my goal is to break those barriers down and finally bring together a single healthcare delivery model where patient care includes clinical research as a care option, enabled via technology such as telehealth/mobile health/machine learning and artificial intelligence,” he says.
Kent is passionate about creating a healthcare and clinical trial ecosystem where every patient gets the best possible care. He inspires colleagues by sharing patient experiences and his empathy and passion.
Kent leads by hiring phenomenal staff, by getting involved on all levels, by being authentic, and by not expecting anything from others that he would not be willing to give himself.
He seeks to ensure the next generation of leaders have a voice and aren’t afraid to use it to disrupt the status quo. “The best part of mentoring are when they start to really get it,” Kent says.
The biggest battle Kent, an out LGBTQ+ executive, has faced in his career is the fight for equality. “I have had to fight for domestic partner benefits, partner healthcare benefits, recognition of my husband as a legal spouse for legal documents, and for employment protections for LGBTQ+ employees,” he says. “In an industry focused on healthcare and improving patient lives, we are far from equality in healthcare for LGBTQ+ individuals, who are rarely even recognized in clinical trials. One of the greatest challenges beyond focusing on my professional roles to advance healthcare for others, is to fight to ensure personal equality for me and all of my other LGBTQ+ colleagues in the industry. For most people this may not seem all that important, but I would remind everyone, it was only 12 months ago that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that it was illegal in the United States to fire employees simply for being LGBTQ+. Diversity makes our industry better and I will continue to work to ensure diversity and equality in our industry for LGBTQ+ employees and patients.”
Beyond the workplace, Kent and his husband sponsor LGBTQ+ students in science of medicine. “We currently provide one full four-year scholarship each year and have committed almost $250,000 over the last 10 years to support LGBTQ+ student scholarships,” he says.
At the start of COVID-19, Kent oversaw the launch of PRA’s Connected Health Platform, Care Innovations, and partnership with Microsoft Healthcare, an in-home COVID-19 Monitoring Platform, along with an in-home hospital function — all within weeks of the pandemic. “The shift to remote-based care during the pandemic validated the model I had worked so hard to develop,” he says. “For years I have been telling the biopharmaceutical industry we had to change and adapt to a new healthcare delivery model if our clinical trials were to be successful. I had the vision to move to a decentralized model using technology, and I was a pioneer in this space by being the first to provide this offering commercially to pharma. Being a change agent for the industry has been my career highlight.” (PV)
Sparking innovation by…
inspiring colleagues with what is possible beyond the next horizon
Akshay Vaishnaw, M.D., Ph.D.
Title: President R&D
Company: Alnylam Pharmaceuticals Inc.
Education: B.Sc. (Hons.) Biochemistry, Magna Cum Laude. University College Cardiff, UK, 1983; M.B. B.Ch. with Distinctions in Pathology and Medicine. University of Wales College of Medicine, UK (equivalent to M.D. degree in U.S.) 1986; F.M.G.E.M.S. U.S. Medical Licensure Exams, Parts 1 and 2, 1986; M.R.C.P. Member of the Royal College of Physicians, UK, 1989; Ph.D., Molecular Immunology. University of London, UK, 1995; Program for Management Development (PMD 79), Harvard Business School, Cambridge, MA, USA, 2004; F.R.C.P. Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians, UK, 2014
Associations: Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians
Hobbies: Reading, cooking, soccer
With a passion for excellence, innovative scientific discovery, commitment to people, open culture, and a sense of urgency, Akshay Vaishnaw, M.D., Ph.D., is committed to creating an entirely new class of medicines based on RNA interference (RNAi). RNAi is driven by intracellular delivery of small interfering RNAs (siRNA) that target a specific mRNA for sequence-specific degradation.
Over the past 15 years at Alnylam, Dr. Vaishnaw and his team have worked to take RNAi from an in vitro observation in cultured cells, to in vivo proof-of-concept (POC) in humans, and then ultimately to the rich pipeline and transformative products the company has generated across rare (hATTR amyloidosis with polyneuropathy, acute hepatic porphyrias, primary hyperoxaluria, and hyperoxaluria) and common (hypercholesterolemia) diseases.
“The R&D team at Alnylam had to work more than 10 years to perfect siRNA chemistry and formulations to achieve in vivo delivery, which enabled sequential POC in animals, and then in humans,” he says. “That endeavor was filled with uncertainty and setbacks before we enjoyed the ultimate breakthroughs. The lesson from that journey was that biopharma presents us with a great, but difficult, potential opportunity: the ability to discover and develop medicines that will transform human health. And as exemplified by my experience at Alnylam, that opportunity needs high-performing, creative, and resilient teams, if we are to deliver on the promise.”
Indeed, resilience and determination have been integral to every aspect of Dr. Vaishnaw’s career — from his undergraduate days, to training as a medical resident and fellow in the U.K., Ph.D., and all the highs and lows of life in biopharma.
In most companies, research and development are two separate entities. Dr. Vaishnaw fully believes in the integration of R&D and implements this approach into Alnylam’s organizational structure. This has helped the company to be more innovative in its approach to discovering new medicines. He pushes the boundaries of science to provide the deepest possible understanding of the medicines the company is developing. He is not limited by a conservative or risk-averse approach, rather his natural tendency is to dig deeper and continue learning for the sake of innovation.
He looks for four characteristics when hiring staff: a deep interest in science, ability to participate in robust debate, transparency, and a willingness to act with passion and urgency toward Alnylam’s mission.
Dr. Vaishnaw leads by painting a compelling vision of what is needed and what is possible. He sets high standards and endeavors to hold himself accountable to an even greater degree than those around him.
He says COVID-19 was an opportunity to see if the Alnylam team could live up to the company motto of Challenge Accepted and find new and creative ways to maintain focus on its mission to help patients, despite new and difficult circumstances. “In order to do that, and in the midst of a lot of misunderstanding and confusion, we had to help colleagues understand the crisis, stay safe, reprioritize deliverables, and find ways to communicate effectively and stay connected,” he says. “All of this required a level and type of support that we could never have anticipated. Limitless support, maybe that’s my superpower.”
Dr. Vaishnaw ensured frequent and transparent communication during the crisis, helping to clarify the mission to create transformative medicine, and regularly reported on the progress that was being made despite the challenges.
One of the aspects of mentoring he most enjoys is seeing mentees emulate leadership qualities they aspire to. “It’s crucial to identify and support the next generation of leaders by finding challenging growth opportunities, and vigorously support employees as they tackle their new assignments,” he says. (PV)
Igniting change by…
having authentic, risky, painfully honest dialogues
Title: President and Executive Creative Director
Company Awards: Ad Age 2021 Best Places to Work List; MANNY Award: 2020 Diversity & Inclusion Champion; MM+M 2019 Best Places to Work List; MM+M 2018 Best Places to Work List; Ad Age 2017 Best Places to Work List
James Talerico is Heartbeat’s resident raconteur, in-house iconoclast, and native nonconformist. Unconventional is just how James is wired — harking back to his teenage years when he served drinks to retired coal miners in his grandfather’s bar while doing his Latin homework.
Day-to-day, James brings bucketloads of inspiration for his teams — while still infusing healthy skepticism of the latest thing and a deep commitment to the lasting brand idea. Colleagues say he has long been recognized for his skillful and compassionate leadership with exemplary creative vision and dedication to making a lasting social impact.
Under his guidance, Heartbeat’s work has won too many awards to list, and James has had a hand in every single one. He and his teams have hoisted more than 250 major creative advertising awards in all, and in the past five years alone, the agency’s projects have won more than 50 awards across competitions such as the MUSE Awards, MM+M awards, MANNY awards, PM360 Trailblazer awards, and OMMA awards, among others. James was also named a DTC Agency Vanguard in 2017.
As Heartbeat’s creative leader, James has launched ambitious campaigns that are unafraid of emotion, rich in craft, and tailored to inspire action for clients such as Genentech, Pfizer, Applied Therapeutics, and Agile Therapeutics. As Heartbeat’s business leader with his partner Nadine Leonard, president and executive planning director, he has driven significant business growth without any corresponding loss of robust company culture.
In the past year, even amid the COVID pandemic, Heartbeat continued its trajectory of continuous growth, leading to scores of new staffers joining the agency without ever stepping foot within its walls. James makes a point to get to know each and every new employee; in the office, that meant stopping by to chat, taking them to lunch, or whipping up cocktails after work.
Once the company shifted to a work-from-home structure, James kept up the face time, scheduling personal meet-and-greet Zoom happy hours with every new hire. And beyond just connecting with new faces, James can always be counted on to tune in and enthusiastically participate in nearly every extracurricular event the agency organizes — even as all programming went virtual last year.
“During COVID, I’ve focused on the things we can positively affect now — celebrating every success, accepting, embracing surprise, and asking constantly how can our current decisions lay the foundation for the future,” James says. “On the emotional front, I’ve been more and more open to vulnerability — my own and that of each member of our community. Only through understanding where each person is and how they’re challenged in their world can we meet them where they are, make modifications to support them, and lift them up to the next level.”
Though the agency has grown, James’ personal touches reassure Heartbeaters that the leadership is deeply invested in the culture and social ecosystem. The agency has taken home a Best Place to Work nod from major trade publications, such as Ad Age, for four consecutive years and counting.
Of particular note is the agency’s bevy of awards and promotions for exemplary female Heartbeaters. James has prioritized that women are well-represented — and equally compensated — across leadership positions and creative opportunities at the agency.
Six of the agency’s nine top-level leaders are female, and in 2020 women made up the majority of the leadership roles at all levels of the agency, as well as the majority of promotions.
Ahead of the curve, James worked to shape a barrier-breaking, stereotype-smashing, excellence-enabling approach to diversity and inclusion at Heartbeat many years before DE&I was the hot topic it is today. While advertising has historically been a very white and very male-dominated field, James, and the rest of Heartbeat’s leadership have worked hard to make Heartbeat a special place that more closely reflects the diversity of New York City, where the agency has its headquarters. James has helped build and support new, inventive recruitment pipelines, affinity groups, career development paths, and mentorship programs, among many other initiatives. And the results are quite evident — Heartbeat’s racial diversity statistics, both among leadership positions and across the company as a whole, are setting industry standards. (PV)
Breaking the mold for drug discovery
Blazing new trails to…
Gregory L. Verdine, Ph.D.
Title: President and CEO
Companies: FogPharma Inc. and LifeMine Therapeutics Inc.
Education: Ph.D., Columbia University
Personal Awards: Fierce Biotech 60 over 60 award. AACR-CICR Award for Excellence in Chemistry in Cancer Research, Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry, AAAS Fellow
Community Awards: Honorary Degree, Ph.D., Clarkson University
Associations: AACR, ACS, AAAS
Twitter handle: @glostaman
Greg Verdine, Ph.D., has always believed in the power of evolution and nature and sought to learn from what nature can teach. Radical in his approach to innovation, Dr. Verdine’s group at Harvard, his companies, and his scientific ideas broke the mold for drug discovery. He is working relentlessly on cancer medicines that will save patients who have nothing else available.
Dr. Verdine leans into uncharted territories and takes science in new directions, leveraging novel approaches to tackle disease-causing targets previously elusive to drug hunters. “We have slayed the prevailing dogma and paved entirely new ways to discover drugs, from the first designed molecular glues — Warp Drive/Revolution Medicines, targeting RNA via stereopure oligonucleotides — Wave Life Sciences, search and retrieval of genetically encoded small molecules via massively parallel genomic sequencing, artificial intelligence and synthetic biology — Warp Drive and LifeMine, and the invention and commercialization of hyperstabilized alpha helical peptides to drug intractable intracellular targets — Aileron and FogPharma,” he says.
Dr. Verdine excels at juggling multiple balls while maintaining focus as CEO of two companies — FogPharma and LifeMine. His first company was Enanta Pharmaceuticals, which has two FDA-approved drugs on the market for HCV. His next company, Warp Drive, which was acquired by Revolution Medicines in 2018, was formed through a collaboration with Sanofi’s Sunrise initiative, a strategic partnership model created for the purpose of investing in early-stage opportunities that align with Sanofi’s development and commercialization abilities.
For 40 years, people had been looking at a way to target KRAS, a problem deemed unsolvable with traditional medicinal chemistry. Dr. Verdine’s premise was to see what nature would tell researchers, which led to a solution to KRAS, an important oncogene in cancer. Today, this molecule, being developed by Revolution Medicine, is the only KRAS G12C inhibitor that targets the active (GTP-loaded) form of KRAS.
He is most proud of having co-founded a thriving academic discipline, chemical biology, and a pioneering biotech discipline leading to new modalities to so-called “undruggable” targets.
“I also conceived of, co-founded, and served as founding president of a nonprofit institution, Gloucester Biotechnology Academy, which trains disadvantaged high school graduates for rewarding jobs in the biotech industry, and is leading the economic rebranding, and revitalization of Gloucester, Mass.,” he says.
For two companies he recently founded, Wave Life Sciences and FogPharma, he has taken nontraditional funding paths. Rather than work directly through venture investors, he has creatively engaged his network and friends, garnering excitement and capital to support his brilliant ideas.
He inspires his teams by choosing scientific and medical problems that, if solved, would have an enormous impact on humankind, and he lives every single day in the service of attaining those goals. An exceptional entrepreneur and adventurer, Dr. Verdine balances the pursuit of great science with building a culture that excites and includes all employees.
“I take it upon myself to know and care deeply about what every single person in my organization is doing, and to understand how I can best maximize their potential to do great science and medicine,” Dr. Verdine says. (PV)
Blazing new trails to…
ideation and creativity
Company: Bionical Solutions
Education: B.A., Lycoming College
Personal Awards: Salesperson of the Year Award (Artcraft Health Education), 2010 — 2015
Company Awards: Bionical recognized as one of the most innovative companies supporting pharma in 2020 (PM360)
Associations: President of Del Val Junior Lacrosse, a youth Lacrosse program for boys and girls located in Hunterdon County, N.J.
Giving Back: The Boys & Girls Club of America; ThyCa: Thyroid Cancer Survivors Association
Hobbies: Coaching youth Lacrosse, running, CrossFit, golfing
Twitter handle: @vismich
Since joining Bionical Solutions four years ago, Mike Viscel has helped propel the company’s success, growth, and diversification.
While major companies were already leveraging one of Bionical’s platforms before he joined, since 2017 the company has successfully launched three additional proprietary digital platforms for pharmaceutical reps, healthcare professionals, and patients, as well as other innovative custom solutions to solve brand needs.
“As a result of these pivotal platforms and solutions, Bionical has grown more than 165% in four years, and is on track to grow an additional 30% in 2021,” he says. “As Bionical grew, so did our team, and we are truly lucky to have the most talented and ambitious group of professionals who I have ever had the opportunity to work with.”
During COVID, Bionical has continued to grow, but managing the company through the pandemic was one of the most challenging situations in Mike’s career.
“It required us to adapt and change so many aspects of our company, so quickly, and all at once,” he says. “Like many companies, we went from an in-office/in-person company to a completely remote company, literally overnight. As an agency that prides itself on being creative, we had to rethink the way that we collaborated as a team for ideation and brainstorming, while also ensuring that processes were in place to ensure that we continued to deliver exceptional programs for our clients.”
As engagement changed between stakeholders, Mike says it provided challenges, but also opportunities. The team looked at how to adapt current programs and develop new platforms for a socially distanced world.
“As a digital engagement company, I truly believed that we were uniquely built and qualified to help our customers during this time and set that as the vision for the company through 2020 and beyond,” he says.
To keep Bionical employees connected and motivated(PV), Mike and his colleagues initiated several ways to stay connected, including weekly virtual lunch breaks, Bionical Spotify playlists where colleagues could enjoy music that the whole company built, as well a weekly blog called “The Chronicles of the Bionicals” — a compilation of employee updates and pictures on how everyone was coping with the pandemic.
“I believe the connection we were able to maintain helped keep the team motivated through social isolation during the early days of the pandemic,” he says.
Colleagues describe Mike as the perfect example of how tone from the top can truly affect the culture of a company, saying he works tirelessly to promote innovation and to improve the engagement process in healthcare. He consistently empowers and motivates colleagues to meet and exceed their professional objectives, and communicates openly and frequently about the state of the business, sales, and team accomplishments. Additionally, he encourages team members to present and share their contributions with the rest of the organization.
“I believe curiosity drives creativity and innovation,” Mike says. “I always encourage people to ask a lot of questions, stay curious, and think outside of the box. We work in a highly regulated industry, and I love the challenge of developing something innovative and impactful that can make a difference in the lives of patients.”
Mike’s strong work ethic and the fact that he would never ask employees to put time into something he wouldn’t do himself inspire his people to reach stretch goals and set the pace for the company.
“In addition, it’s critical to be transparent about big goals, empower people to work toward those goals, and trust they will get you there,” he says. “The personal satisfaction people feel when achieving goals is inspiring in itself.”
Mike believes employees are the most valuable asset a company has, and he spends a lot of time on employee satisfaction, as well as ensuring there is professional and personal fulfillment for the team.
“When building out a team, I typically look for work ethic, as I believe it’s a trait that is hard to teach,” he says. “I also look for people who are curious, as they tend to ask questions, learn from others, and look for ways to do things better.” (PV)
Never settle, break it, and build it stronger
Igniting change by…
empowering collective voices that have been unheard and systemically overlooked by traditional medicine for far too long
Company: BioTE Medical LLC
Associations: Founding Board Member, PreventiveMedicine.org; Board Member, International Women’s Forum (25 years); Member, Forbes’ Women Forum; Past Member, Executive Board, both the Data and Marketing Association and the National Retail Federation
Female patients and their providers face a deeply rooted gender gap in medical research that has severely limited clinicians’ understanding of women’s health and the options available for those seeking treatments that do not have pages of potentially life-changing side effects.
In her role as CEO of BioTE Medical, Terry Weber is leading a team focused on exponentially increasing the healthcare options available to women seeking clinical help with life-stage concerns, such as premenstrual syndrome, menopause, and hormone-related diseases. “My team and I are advocating for more research of women’s health and are innovating treatment options so that women have access to more choices over how and with what they are treated,” Terry says.
Advocacy of women is also crucial in senior ranks in healthcare for Terry, noting women are significantly underrepresented in executive positions. “Oliver Wyman reported that only 13% of healthcare CEOs were female, despite women making 80% of the buying and usage decisions in the industry,” she says. “Our urgent challenge is to convince the industry and scientific community to care enough about the 50% of the population making 80% of the buying and use decisions.”
She says she hopes to be remembered as a disruptive and dynamic leader in treatment and research.
Terry has spent her career transforming companies and empowering individuals by creating spaces to grow and ways to evolve that others didn’t consider. “I push the envelope by nature, so my experience forging accessibility in industries where there was none before is not limited to healthcare,” she says. “I modernized and diversified the
auto parts industry by finding and meeting ignored demand among non-mechanic customers. At Advance Auto Parts, I piloted the concept of a more ‘shoppable’ auto store, and, with a focus on service and technology, we grew from three to 1,700 stores.”
In many of her CEO roles, that has involved nurturing entry-level and midlevel teams to become disruptors within their own companies.
“A constant throughout my career has been to find, foster, and promote talent regardless of education credentials or historical stereotypes,” she says.
She seeks to inspire others by sharing her personal and professional experiences — from rewarding successes, to frustrating challenges, to funny moments.
“The first lesson to learn is that your midlevel team is the key to success,” she says. “Invest time and resources into understanding the capabilities and passions of each individual midlevel team member, and proactively prepare them for a crisis. By doing so, you are creating many ‘managers on duty,’ employees who are ready to lead and keep the company on the right track if leadership is pulled in other directions.”
During the pandemic, BioTE switched its in-person education and clinical training seminars on hormone optimization to Zoom, but it also needed a more robust platform to support the 5,000 practitioners whose viability depended on the company. The team began teaching BioTE’s practitioners new technologies and provided scientific education on services they could offer remotely. The team identified and brought in a learning management system, found a teammate who could set up webinars, and listened to a colleague who said, “let’s teach the science of nutraceuticals and peptides.”
“As a result, we’re coming out of the pandemic stronger, with a newly built multi-million-dollar line of business with a new set of products that gave our practitioners a new resource to support their patients’ well-being,” Terry says.
She is proud to have mentored both as an executive and as a volunteer with multiple nonprofit organizations.
“It is my passion to empower the underprivileged and help those who are lacking access to critical tangible and intangible resources,” she says. “The mentoring roles I have continued to seek out are the best part of being seen as a leader.”
Beyond the workplace, Terry is passionate about causes and organizations that lift others up by expanding access to previously inaccessible resources. She has taught children with physical disabilities how to swim, secured microloans for Afghan and Rwandan female business owners, and coordinated access to critical resources like job opportunities and clothing for girls and young women living in inner-city America.
“I’ve also advised and supported the victims of investment fraud at Investor Advocates and coordinated vocational training for immigrants and single parents at American Workshops,” she says. (PV)
Test yourself, your ideas, and your recommendations every day
Igniting change by…
making it a safe environment where employees can challenge the status quo
Title: Executive VP, Managing Director
Education: Philadelphia College of Pharmacy
Company Awards: Best Places to Work, Philadelphia Business Journal, 2020, 2021
Within the first nine months of Nate Wible joining Ethos Health Communications, which would later become PRECISIONscientia, the agency’s largest and main client had to pull the plug on its product, leaving the company with virtually no revenue, and his boss David Sadock, one of the co-founders of the company and his day-to-day mentor, was diagnosed with leukemia and had to leave the business for about a year.
Fast forward 15 years, and the agency has flourished under Nate’s leadership, which has been marked with team building, revenue growth, and a high rate of employee and client retention, which colleagues attribute to his inspirational direction. The agency has grown from 15 people in 2007 to 200 people at the beginning of 2021. In addition, the agency has averaged close to 20% year-over-year growth since 2010.
The figures Nate is most proud of, however, are the high employee and client retention rates. The average tenure of PRECISIONscientia employees is four years; the retention rate in 2019 and 2020 was 86%. Many clients have been with PRECISIONscientia an average of five or more years, and several clients for more than 10 years — well beyond the industry standard of three years.
It was teamwork that created a positive outcome from the not-so-auspicious beginning of Nate’s career, and his leadership that drove that success. “We were able to work as a team after the product was pulled from the market to reach out to contacts and former clients to identify new business opportunities, but it took four to six months before we fully landed something and got up to speed,” he says of the major client loss in his early years. “Working with my teammates and staying motivated, positive, and safely in a job was a challenge, but we all recognized the situation we were in and worked through it together. Fortunately, the new opportunities we won turned into long-term client relationships that formed the foundation of our growth today.”
A career highlight has been the opportunity to take over the reins when his boss and co-founder, Anita O’Connor, retired.
His first years at the agency required a lot of travel in the car with Sadock, which provided him an opportunity to learn from his mentor’s invaluable knowledge and experience. Nate jokes that he earned his healthcare MBA in that car. “I was very fortunate to have learned the business from the ground up and to have worked closely with the owners, and my boss David Sadock, as I learned and grew, and their recognition of my knowledge and ability to lead the business was very rewarding,” he says.
As a leader, he now tries to impart his own earned wisdom to others, and enjoys mentoring new team members and watching them grow, develop, and surpass all expectations. “I can provide the most value when coaching people in the moment and helping them through challenging or new situations, then letting them take off on their own from there,” he says. “It’s amazing to see what can be accomplished when smart, curious, self-motivat
ed people come together with a shared commitment to excellence.”
No stranger to threats to the business, in 2020 Nate prepared his team to meet the challenges of the pandemic head-on. The agency was able to quickly pivot to totally digital offerings in just two weeks. A COVID-19 task force created a strategy and pressure-tested it with the entire agency. In short order, PRECISIONscientia became an expert on virtual meetings that allowed clients to feel confident that they could offer value and solutions quickly and even proactively. “The goal was to provide value quickly, so our clients felt that their programs remained viable,” Nate says. “I credit the success of the pivot to fast, seamless, and strong teamwork. We did not wait for clients to tell us what do to. We told them what they ought to do.”
It has worked. PRECISIONscientia exceeded its financial targets in 2020 and is set up for a strong year in 2021.
Nate has a strong philosophy around creating a safe environment where staff can challenge the status quo. In the dynamic industry, an authoritative structure will fail, so he welcomes new voices to share new ways of thinking. Every voice needs to be heard and have a seat at the table.
Colleagues say Nate creates a calm and safe environment where people are allowed to take risks because that is how best to learn, discover, and succeed. “Healthcare is complex, so when it comes to problem-solving, I learned there are many benefits of being open and honest and working with many people to solve challenges,” he says. “This is a core belief that I help embody and infuse into our culture.” (PV)
Relentless in the pursuit of better medicines
Blazing new trails to…
Title: Chief Operating Officer
Company: Akouos Inc.
Education: Honors Bachelor of Science, Queen’s University (Canada [Dual citizenship: U.S. and Canada]) Master of Science, University of New Haven (California Campus)
Personal Awards: Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association Rising Star Award 2015
Company Awards: Steering Committee, Professional Society for Pediatric Clinical Research, CHOP
Community Awards: Foundation Fighting Blindness Board of Directors Award 2009
Associations: American Society of Gene and Cell Therapy, ASGCT Government Relations Committee
As chief operating officer for Akouos, Jennifer Wellman is taking her extraordinary experience in adeno-associated viral (AAV) vector gene therapy from one hugely underserved area — genetic vision loss — to another — genetic hearing loss.
Since joining Akouos in 2018, Jen’s scope of responsibility has increased from a focus on regulatory, to regulatory and quality, to heading the company’s lead program, and now to helping oversee nonclinical and clinical development as well.
Her biggest career highlight to date was leading the cross-functional program team for Luxturna for 12 years, from 2005 to 2017. In 2017, Luxturna became the first pharmacological treatment for an inherited retinal dystrophy, the first approved gene therapy for an inherited condition, the first in vivo gene therapy, and the first AAV vector product approved in the United States.
As the product advanced toward approval under the sponsorship of a nonprofit hospital, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), another highlight was becoming a co-founder of Spark Therapeutics, now a Roche company, in 2013. “I found it especially rewarding to direct the program for so long after having contributed to the development of the manufacturing process now being used commercially when I was on the bench,” she says.
There were also challenges along the way, in particular leading the cross-functional program team, since at the start of the Luxturna journey there was no road map for developing a pharmacologic treatment for an inherited retinal dystrophy, and there were no approved gene therapies for inherited conditions, no approved in vivo gene therapies, and no approved AAV vector products in the United States.
“We initiated the Phase III clinical trial for Luxturna while still at CHOP,” she says. “As it was progressing, we spun out Spark, hired a large team and established the extensive infrastructure needed to support commercialization of a genetic medicine for a rare condition, and became a public company. The sense of responsibility that I felt managing the company’s lead program was sometimes daunting; however, the exhilaration from the anxiously awaited Phase III top-line data helped propel the team through the arduous process of preparing, submitting, and defending the marketing applications.”
After making a huge contribution with a gene therapy for blindness, today she is poised to make just as big of an impact in another area, hearing loss, which has no approved pharmacologic therapies. “We must do better for patients with rare conditions,” she says. “The impact on affected individuals and their families, as well as the collective impact on the healthcare system, demand more and better treatment options.”
She is respected for her high attention to detail, yet she never loses the broader, strategic perspective. As a leader, Jen is business-driven, and always willing to learn from colleagues. She brings a sense of urgency that brings the best out in those around her and delivers on her commitments. “I lead through my actions and empower individuals to act independently on strategies and action plans that have arisen from cross-functional teams,” she says.
She also knows how to build on others’ strengths; she is a great teacher and takes the mentorship of her team seriously.
During COVID-19, Jen helped to keep her team motivated by staying focused on the endgame — Akouos’s mission of healthy hearing available to all — while celebrating the small victories along the way.
She says having been a remote employee since 2015 gave her a head start on new operating norms, but she has been inspired by how well the team has risen to the challenge, maintained productivity, and established and nurtured connections. (PV)
Get Sh*t Done (there are actually Medidata shirts that say this)
Blazing new trails to…
a new world of personal — not population — healthcare
Glen de Vries
Company: Medidata, a Dassault Systèmes Company
Education: B.S., Carnegie Mellon University
Personal Awards: PharmaVOICE 100, 2006; two-time E&Y Entrepreneur of the Year; Top 40 under 40
Company Awards: Multiple SCRIP, SCOPE, MedTech awards
Community Awards: Trustee, Carnegie Mellon University
Associations: Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association; HITLAB
Twitter handle: @CaptainClinical
As a space and aviation enthusiast, Apollo 13 is one of Glen de Vries’ favorite movies. The scene he loves most is the one where the NASA engineers spread a bunch of parts out on a table to help the astronauts solve a critical problem with only the items found on the spacecraft. It was a life-or-death situation that required quick, creative thinking. In today’s world where the challenges in the life sciences are increasingly complex and the solutions increasingly need inspired thinking, Glen can relate to this scene as he continues to create cutting-edge products. “When people tell me something can’t be done, I get excited to do it,” Glen says.
Glen has been a champion of using technology to optimize the clinical research process long before he co-founded Medidata in 1999. He helped to invent the cloud-based RAVE platform to change the status quo reality. The need for an accelerated path to a COVID-19 vaccine validated just how visionary and necessary Glen’s approach has been, and as a result of Medidata’s digital transformation of clinical development, the company has played a central role in combating the pandemic.
Since the company’s inception, Glen has guided Medidata through its rapid growth to become one of the largest life-sciences software companies and an industry leader in electronic data collection and management solutions.
Glen’s motivation for his long-term career success is his disdain for paper. Not paper in general, but the reams of paper that culminate from data collection of clinical trials before the use of digital tools became more widespread. He decided to create a startup to digitize the process of conducting clinical trials, shortly after earning a degree in molecular biology from Carnegie Mellon in 1994. At that time, Glen was working in a lab at New York’s Columbia-Presbyterian Hospital and was assigned to work on a small clinical trial, during which he was astonished by the mountains of paper and lack of computer tools. As he still says, the enemy was paper.
The industry is steadily moving toward virtual trials that enhance the research and development process without external interruption, which also allows for better data aggregation and analysis, especially for more complex therapies. Patient-centric strategies, like the ones Glen helped pioneer at Medidata, are helping make precision medicine a reality.
“With these new technologies, we can see the progression of a disease or response to a drug in real time,” he says. “Gathering large amounts of diverse data can help us see immediately what is happening with potentially epidemic or pandemic agents — perhaps containing, treating, or even avoiding their spread.
“I’ve had the privilege of working on large, rare diseases, and any way even a single patient’s life can be extended or made better is what has motivated me during my entire professional life,” he continues. “That said, being able to help bring so many of the COVID-19 vaccines to the waiting world has to be one of the highlights of
Glen’s focus on R&D and his deep industry knowledge continue to drive new, game-changing initiatives and strategic partnerships for Medidata.
“Turning Medidata and Dassault Systèmes into a truly patient-centric organization has been one of the most exciting, and frankly most difficult, and therefore most rewarding things in my career,” Glen says. “So many companies in the life sciences have looked at population-based views of efficacy, safety, and value for an incredibly long time. Delivering value based on individuals versus populations requires everything from educating and motivating your workforce, to totally different approaches to product development, customer experience, and ultimately delivering value to patients — whether it’s via an app, a molecule, a medical device, or a combination thereof.”
Colleagues say Glen is an inspirational leader who is not afraid to take chances and push the envelope when it comes to what’s best for patients. They also note he is equally comfortable working with scientists, partners, and employees.
He is an active problem solver with an eye toward creating momentum and encouraging his talented team to push for a better delivery of healthcare.
While Medidata has played an important role in making digital approaches to clinical research the standard versus the exception, Glen will not stop there. He recently wrote a book, “The Patient Equation,” where he provides crucial insights and strategies to help scientists, physicians, executives, and patients survive and thrive, with an eye toward how COVID-19 has accelerated the need for change, especially how to integrate new knowledge, new data, and new technologies to get the right treatments to the right patients at precisely the right times made even more profound in the midst of a pandemic and in the years to come.
“I want to create the infrastructure — from Medidata and others — for a world where better mathematical models truly help deliver the right therapies to the right people at the right time,” Glen says. “I don’t pay too much attention to the competition. I want to stay true to that mission, and deliver on that promise.” (PV)
The future must be created,
Blazing new trails to…
improve our collective understanding of cell therapy biology to deliver revolutionary, lifesaving medicines to patients
Alison Moore, Ph.D.
Title: Chief Technical Officer
Company: Allogene Therapeutics
Education: Ph.D., Cell Biology, Manchester University, England; Bachelor’s in Pharmacology with Honors, Manchester University, England
Alison Moore, Ph.D., is a passionate cell biologist and operations executive, who plays a pivotal role in delivering on Allogene’s mission: to create and lead the next revolution in cancer treatment by delivering to patients the first allogeneic CAR T cell (AlloCAR T) therapies for blood cancers and solid tumors. Allogene is currently and aggressively advancing its allogeneic CAR T portfolio, which was acquired from Pfizer.
In the field of chemistry, manufacturing, and controls (CMC), Dr. Moore has continually evolved strategies across advanced medicinal modalities. Lauded as one of the greatest minds in biotechnology, she has successfully navigated revolutionary clinical development and technological approaches to scientific problems. Dr. Moore currently oversees process sciences, supply chain, manufacturing, quality, and technical operations as chief technical officer at Allogene Therapeutics. “Cell therapy, especially allogeneic cell therapy, could represent the next most important breakthrough in the field,” Dr. Moore says.
Before joining Allogene in 2018, Dr. Moore spent more than a dozen years at Amgen, and before that she held roles at Genentech. With her extensive experience in all aspects of biomanufacturing and CMC product development, working in both operations and research and development, she was instrumental in bringing multiple drugs and technologies to the market. And once manufacturing was introduced, she streamlined processes for enhanced efficiency.
Colleagues call her a distinguished scientific leader and an unstoppable force of nature. Her strategic vision, tenacity, and uncanny ability to connect with and inspire others has forever left a mark on everyone who has been fortunate enough to work with her at any company.
Dr. Moore leads with fearlessness, creativity, and scientific savvy. One of her biggest strengths is the ability to work cross-functionally with various teams, and she is always very clear about the vision and the strategy needed to achieve results.
Colleagues have always been impressed with her ability to remind others to put aside their functional mindsets and to work closely together to better serve patients.
Dr. Moore is so revered in the industry, many companies have attempted to hire her, some more than once. It is Dr. Moore’s expertise in cell manufacturing that puts her above the rest. Unlike other therapeutic areas, in cell therapy, there is no separating science from cell manufacturing. Manufacturing is the core of the company, just like research is, and Dr. Moore has the ability to leap into cell therapy and to build the entire manufacturing capability. Colleagues say when building something that has never been built before with no blueprint, there is a need for someone like Dr. Moore to lead the way.
And lead the way she has. With her more than 25 years of expertise in process development, site operations, including drug substance and drug product, and supply chain, she has already elevated Allogene’s manufacturing processes. She has surpassed all expectations in her role as chief technical officer, most recently the completion of the state-of-the-art cGMP AlloCAR T manufacturing site, Cell Forge 1 in Newark, Calif. With cGMP production set to begin in 2021, Dr. Moore has led the development of Cell Forge 1 from brainstorming to finalization, encouraging and uplifting her team to go above and beyond during the process.
Dr. Moore’s passion lies in the future of cell therapy not in job titles. She has been responsible for larger organizations of 2,000 people. But she chose to join Allogene because the role greatly contributes to her personal commitment to advance the field and her personal desire to create a different world for patients.
Dr. Moore believes in the magic of biotechnology and the convergence of multiple disciplines to try to solve some of science’s most complex challenges. (PV)