Editor’s note: This story is part of our 2022 PharmaVoice 100 feature.
Giacomo Chiesi has one very clear mission: to bring tangible solutions to people with rare and ultra-rare diseases who have no or limited therapeutic options available.
As head of Chiesi Global Rare Diseases (GRD), a unit within Chiesi Group, Chiesi is putting that mission to the test by working to deliver new and differentiated treatments. Launched in 2020, GRD has built a global organization with a presence in more than 20 countries and a 300-person workforce. GRD has a robust pipeline under its belt, including six treatments approved in various countries for a range of disorders — such as thalassemia and sickle cell disease — and others in late-stage development for Fabry disease and more. Before founding GRD, Chiesi launched and built Chiesi Ventures, a venture capital fund focused on rare diseases. He also headed the Chiesi Group’s M&A department, expanding the group’s pipeline with a number of partnerships and building a presence for the company in a number of new countries including the U.S., Canada and Australia.
This track record of success in pharma runs deep in Chiesi’s family.
“My homonymous grandfather started [Chiesi Group] in 1935 and, to this day, Chiesi is a successful family business,” he says. “Growing up, I would often listen to my dad’s stories about his job. What inspired me was his relentless drive for building new things with little or no means, creating new and tangible opportunities for patients while being frugal.”
When launching GRD, Chiesi’s nominator says he was the “main force” behind the company’s creation. As he put together GRD’s team to support the growth of a global organization, Chiesi worked to ensure that each member was united behind the goal of not just developing new drugs, but pushing for greater patient accessibility. Chiesi’s nominator says this approach meant setting a “new paradigm” in how society regards patients living with rare diseases.
“I have learned that leadership is about serving. Some skills I am working on to become a better servant leader are listening, stepping back and appreciating my limits.”
Head, Global Rare Diseases, Chiesi Group
Every step of the way, Chiesi says he encourages his team to “reflect on how their individual efforts have made a difference in the quest to address the unmet needs of the rare disease community.”
“Pursuing the greater good is an important leadership skill and it is a difficult one to master because there is no roadmap,” he says. “It involves, among other aspects, understanding the complexity of society as a system, balancing the interest of different groups while constantly pushing for underserved and underrepresented populations and anticipating future megatrends and their interplay.”
He believes great leaders should build robust organizations that can become independent of their leader. It’s important, he says, to “plan for your succession, form teams that can operate without you and move on.”
As the largest global pharmaceutical company to be awarded B Corporation certification, Chiesi Group is committed to advancing sustainable business practices and recently joined other healthcare leaders in signing the White House Climate Pledge. Chiesi has his eyes on worldwide issues and says his greatest concern is that within the next 30 to 100 years, large areas of Earth will become uninhabitable because of global warming.
“If this happens, the consequences for humanity will be devastating,” he says. “The desertification global warming processes are well underway, and I fear for the young people, including my kids. I have the impression that the process is accelerating by the hour.”
Besides family and his commitment to healthcare, Chiesi says his guitar picks are meaningful to him because “they remind me that the universe is music that flows and is never played quite the same way, and that we should enjoy every minute of our lives because it is unique and can never be repeated.”