Editor’s note: This story is part of our 2022 PharmaVoice 100 feature.
When Dr. Yvonne Greenstreet joined Alnylam in 2016 as chief operating officer she became part of a relatively small group of women sitting in the C-suite of a major biopharma company. Four years later, she added the title of president to her role, and her peer group became even smaller. In January 2022, Greenstreet was named CEO of the pioneer in RNAi technology, making her just the sixth woman in the world to head up a biopharma company with a market cap of more than $5 billion.
In April of this year, PharmaVoice sat down with Greenstreet and asked her what the role means not just as a woman but also as a woman of color. It’s a responsibility she takes seriously and is core to how she leads the organization.
“Representation matters,” she says. “And I recognize the significance of somebody like me taking on this role.”
Climbing the ranks of Big Pharma during her time in executive roles at Pfizer and GSK, Greenstreet says there wasn’t anyone in the C-suite who looked like her. And now that she is sitting in a seat of influence, she’s “fully aware of how much that matters” — and that “there’s a lot more work to do.”
“Fast forward 30 years to where we are today, and there’s still not enough women, there’s still not enough people of color,” she says.
Upon taking on the CEO role, Greenstreet stepped into big shoes, succeeding co-founder and CEO John Maraganore — a 2009 PharmaVoice 100 honoree — who was a leader in RNAi technology.
“In addition to [Maraganore’s] achievement — against all odds— of creating a new class of innovative medicines, [he] has built an industry-leading team and culture, that together position Alnylam for continued success,” Greenstreet says.
Early in her career, Greenstreet realized she wanted to have a lasting impact and “deliver healthcare on a bigger scale” beyond being a practicing physician. Now she has the opportunity to deliver transformative medicines around the world. After attending business school in France, the U.K. native realized her “passion is actually the intersection of science, medicine and business because you have to bring all those things together if you’re going to be able to successfully deliver on a mission that is around impacting healthcare.”
“Over the course of my career, I’ve been able to see remarkable innovation brought forward by tenacious scientists, overcoming high hurdles to successfully develop and commercialize medicines that have a meaningful impact on patients and their families,” Greenstreet says. “That never gets old and still drives me to this day.”
Greenstreet continues to build on Alnylam’s innovative culture, noting that the company has “the incredible potential to … rewrite medical textbooks.” In fact, Alnylam was ranked No. 1 on Fast Company’s fourth annual list of Best Workplaces for Innovators, which recognizes “organizations that have demonstrated a deep commitment to cultivating creativity across the board.”
Alnylam, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, was founded on the values of innovation and discovery. With five commercial RNAi therapeutics already on the market, a partnership with Novartis and a June approval for Amvuttra, Alnylam is hitting its stride. The company’s pipeline is deep, with six additional candidates in late-stage development and a half-dozen others in early stage targeting a range of unmet needs in several therapeutic areas including CNS, infectious disease, cardio-metabolic diseases and more.
“It was very important to me that if I had the opportunity to take the helm of this tremendously important company that I was prepared to step up to the challenge. So, here I am.”
Dr. Yvonne Greenstreet
CEO, Alnylam Pharmaceuticals
During the company’s second-quarter readout, Greenstreet says “the recent approval of Amvuttra, which becomes our fifth RNAi therapeutic approved in under four years, and marks our continued progress in building a multi-product TTR franchise,” is a “notable achievement.”
The company is well on the way to delivering on its “Alnylam P5x25” strategy, which was announced by Maraganore in 2021 to become a “top 5 biotech company” in terms of market cap by 2026.
“We’re approaching 2,000 employees globally, about half of whom have come on board in the last two years,” Greenstreet says. “In that time, we’ve also gone from two to five approved products, with excellent launches and continued commercial execution. We’ve also made great strides in expanding our pipeline to include not just very important rare disease indications, but prevalent diseases as well. So, scaling our teams at every function and level within Alnylam has been critical to our success to date, as it will be going forward to achieve our Alnylam P5x25 goals and beyond.”
Greenstreet added: “We’re just at the beginning of what is possible with the technology that we have in terms of being able to impact the health of millions of patients around the world for decades to come.”
Beyond the science, Greenstreet is committed to moving the needle toward greater gender parity and diversity, equity and inclusion. This year, the company was recognized by both Bloomberg — Gender-Equity Index for 2022 — and the Eos Foundation — for gender parity and fair representation for Women of Color (WOC) — for its efforts.
“We are absolutely committed to trying to continue to move the needle for all types of people because we believe that a diverse culture is actually going to make us a better business,” Greenstreet says.
Greenstreet believes that it’s important for leaders and their organizations to be constantly reflecting. “We’re in such a fast-paced and rapidly evolving environment that it can be tough to take note of what’s working best and where there is room for improvement,” she says. “It’s humbling to hold oneself to account that way and it ultimately makes for the most efficient and productive culture.”