Follow the leader

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Follow the leader
Follow the leader

Leaders never follow, goes the old adage. But on your way to the top, it couldn't hurt to emulate these senior biopharmaceutical executives, whose career steps carried them to the top of the industry.

GARO ARMEN, PhD, chairman and CEO, Agenus

  • Time in the industry: Dr. Garo Armen has been involved in the pharma and biotech sectors for some 30 years—as a financial analyst, deal maker, board member, corporate chair, chief executive and catalyst for breakthrough science.
  • Career path: In 1979 Garo earned a PhD in physical chemistry from the City University of New York and then joined academia as associate professor of chemistry at the Kings Point Merchant Marine Academy from 1979 to 1981. Leaving teaching, Dr. Armen joined E.F. Hutton & Co. from 1981 to 1986 as a pharma and biotech analyst tracking companies in controlled drug-delivery technologies, including Alza, Forest Labs and Elan. From 1986 to 1989, he served as SVP of research for Dean Witter Reynolds, where he focused on the biopharmaceutical and chemical industries. In 1989, Dr. Armen founded Armen Partners, an investment partnership specializing in healthcare and biotech companies. In 1992, while running Armen Partners, Dr. Armen was the architect of the Immunex/American Cyanamid transaction. In 1994, Armen joined the Elan Board (where he would later serve as chairman) and also founded Antigenics, now known as Agenus, where he is currently chairman and CEO.
  • Prior mgmt. roles: Pharma and biotech analyst, E.F. Hutton; SVP of research, Dean Witter Reynolds; President and founder, Armen Partners; Chairman of the Board of Directors, Elan

How did you get into healthcare/pharma (what did you do before?):

My interest in healthcare and pharmaceuticals was spurred by my mother's illness and, tragically, her death from breast cancer. That very personal and painful experience led me to want to understand drug innovation, and eventually, took me along the path to help develop medicines with the goal of saving lives.

What was your path to the top? What were the key moments and turning points?

The most dramatic moment of my career was the founding of Antigenics—now named Agenus—in 1994. I didn't seek to become its CEO—I was simply fascinated by the possibility of cancer vaccines and how they may dramatically impact patient's lives.

How did you develop your leadership skills?

My leadership skills were borne out of life's challenges and adversities. I arrived in the United States from Turkey alone at the age of 17. Two years later, I brought my mother here who was then suffering from breast cancer to receive some experimental treatments. As a newcomer to a great country, in the beginning, I faced extraordinary challenges and financial difficulties and experienced the harsh realities of building something, seeing it disappear and having to start from scratch. I've learned leadership through persistence with the tenancity of doing what everyone else around me believes cannot be done, such as building Agenus or successfully turning around Elan from near disaster.

Did you have a mentor along the way?

I've had many mentors in academia, on Wall Street and in the healthcare industry. Some that I can credit my success to include Phil Frost (founder of Key, Ivax), Don Panoz (founder of Elan)—these are men who have traveled alone and built their companies from zero; men of conviction and courage who have walked lonely paths only to see success at the end of the road. They have been true mentors and role models for me.

What is your No. 1 managerial strategy?

Surround yourself with passionate, hard-working, smart people, and a team that works harmoniously with each other to achieve success, and strives to do what is in the best interest of the people who we are trying to help. It's also imperative that you have strong strategic advisors who are impartial and are outside of  the company who you can call on for advice and counsel—they allow you to see perspectives and issues that those inside the organization may not be able to see.

Any tips for others looking to move up the org chart?

Read Rudyard Kipling's If—it provides the guiding principles that I've relied on to survive and thrive in the pharma and biotech industry for nearly 30 years. Most importantly, I would tell those looking to rise through the ranks to do what they enjoy and do it right; the rest will come naturally!

Is this industry still “all about the people?”

Everyone in this industry—from research interns to CEOs—are responsible and accountable to those that their work impacts directly including patients, society, shareholders and employees. At the end of the day, all we can do is to do our very best to improve the lives of those that our work impacts directly.

How do you see the industry 10 years from now?

This industry will look dramatically different in 10 years and beyond. Moving forward, we are all tasked with a mission to do what is fundamentally right for patients and do it with a high social responsibility—not just for the purpose of maximizing short-term profits and making money. In 10 years, my hope is that we see an industry which uses science to develop game-changing treatments and cures for the epidemic-level diseases of today.


LIZ BARRETT, president, North America, Specialty Care Business Unit, Pfizer

  • Time in the industry: 15 years in pharma, 12 in consumer goods
  • Career path: A variety of sales and marketing jobs at Kraft Foods; brand/DTC marketing and sales posts at Johnson & Johnson, Cephalon and Pfizer
  • Prior mgmt. roles:  VP, critical care/surgery, VP, worldwide sales & marketing-diagnostics, J&J; VP, oncology for J&J  then general manager, oncology, Cephalon; president, US, oncology business unit at Pfizer

How did you get into healthcare/pharma (what did you do before?)

I worked in the consumer business, and when I joined J&J, I became interested in the healthcare side.

What was your path to the top? What were the key moments and turning points?

Early on in my career, I moved from sales to take a job in marketing at Kraft headquarters, and my boss resigned two weeks later. I was thrust into a position working directly for the VP, giving me an opportunity to demonstrate my capabilities.

In pharmaceuticals at J&J, I led the DTC effort in an area that had not utilized DTC. I was a one-person department and built a program that was a key driver in building a business from $300 million to over $3 billion. I expanded my responsibilities to include strategy and eBusiness, building a small team. Being accountable for the development and execution of this initiative allowed me to demonstrate my leadership, strategic thinking and technical marketing skills.

This success earned me the ability to run four different businesses for J&J. I then joined Cephalon to build an integrated oncology business and launch a great portfolio of products with the support of management. Moving to Pfizer, I have served as US president for oncology and now as president for specialty care in North America. Our business is thriving and we are building a great culture in which people can excel.

How did you develop your leadership skills?

I developed as a leader early as class president and student body president. Leadership is about providing a vision and a road map, building trust and setting high standards.

Did you have a mentor along the way?

I had a few informal mentors who believed in me and appreciated and valued my skills. They were willing to give me an opportunity and became my champion.

What is your No. 1 managerial strategy?

Set high standards, hold people accountable and support their aspirations!

Any tips for others looking to move up the org chart?

Ask not what the company can do for you but what you can do for the company. We have to demonstrate our value and earn the ability to lead an organization. Take time to learn, build a breadth of experience and don't be afraid of hard work. Anticipate consequences, lead change and drive results. 

Is this industry still “all about the people?”

It's always about the people—I'm successful because I surround myself with great people.

How do you see the industry 10 years from now?

Pfizer's purpose is “Working Together for a Healthier World,” so I hope 10 years from now, people acknowledge we are still delivering on that promise.


DIERDRE CONNELLY, president, North America Pharmaceuticals, GlaxoSmithKline

  • Time in the industry: 28 years
  • Career path:  Deirdre began her career in the pharmaceutical industry in 1984 as a sales representative for Lilly in San Juan, Puerto Rico. She rose within the marketing and human resources organizations to become president of Lilly USA in June 2005. She was named president North America Pharmaceuticals for GlaxoSmithKline in February 2009.
  • Prior mgmt. roles: Prior to joining GSK as president North America Pharmaceuticals in February 2009, Deirdre spent 26 years with Eli Lilly. She was named president of Lilly USA in June 2005. She held a variety of executive positions, including SVP of human resources for Eli Lilly, as well as VP of human resources for pharmaceutical operations, executive director of global marketing for Evista, and leader of the woman's health business unit in the US. Before that, she was national sales manager for the Puerto Rico affiliate of Lilly and later became director of sales and marketing for the Caribbean Basin Region. She was also general manager for Eli Lilly Puerto Rico.

How did you get into healthcare/pharma (what did you do before?)

After I earned a bachelor's degree in economics and marketing from Lycoming College in Pennsylvania in 1983, I spent a year helping my father run his insurance company. Then I joined Lilly as a sales representative in San Juan, Puerto Rico, where I was born.

What was your path to the top? What were the key moments and turning points?

The path to my current role began as a sales representative and progressed to a variety of marketing and human resources jobs at Lilly and now GSK.

Some of the key moments in my career were entering the pharmaceutical industry, which set my career path; leading Lilly's business in Puerto Rico and Central America, which gave me my first general management experience; and taking positions as head of Lilly USA and now GSK North America Pharmaceuticals.

How did you develop your leadership skills?

I embraced learning. I've always focused on how I can learn more so that I can be more effective as a manager and leader. I find that everyone I work with and am in contact with is someone I can learn from.

Did you have a mentor along the way?

I would not say that I have had any specific mentors, nor did I seek them out. My attitude is that anyone who has had more experience than me can teach me things. I did learn a tremendous amount from my sales supervisor, Bob Altman, when I was a sales representative in Philadelphia. He helped me learn about management, leadership, and myself. Fifty percent of what I learned about management and leadership came from him.

What is your No. 1 managerial strategy?

Learn, listen and lead. The primary goal of my team is deliver the results, develop the leaders of the future, and serve patients. To do that, I empower my team to make decisions and challenge my decisions. I focus on simplifying our operations by asking; “why do we do what we do, why do we do it this way, and can we do it differently?” I also emphasize a sense of urgency, discipline and accountability for results.

Any tips for others looking to move up the org chart?

Never miss an opportunity to learn and to contribute. Have the humility to know that you're not the only person who can do a job well.

Is this industry still “all about the people?”

Absolutely. This industry has to ensure that its medicines are delivering real value to patients, physicians and payers. We must demonstrate that our new medicines produce better outcomes than are possible through existing therapies and medical interventions. 

To do all of this, we have to earn and keep the public trust. People who take our medicine need to trust that their medicine is of the highest quality, that it is packaged with information of the highest integrity, and trust that they will feel better. Everything we do internally has to reflect that desire to earn the trust of customers and patients

How do you see the industry 10 years from now?

Our industry today is facing many challenges and opportunities. How we respond to those will shape our role in the future, but I'm confident we will continue to make a significant contribution to the health and wellbeing of people around the world. That confidence is based on my experiences with the highly talented and dedicated people we have in our industry who are working every day to bring important new medicines to people who need them. 


JIM DALY, SVP, North American commercial operations, Amgen

  • Time in the industry: 25 years
  • Career path: GSK, Amgen
  • Prior mgmt. roles: VP sales, VP marketing, general manager

How did you get into healthcare/pharma (what did you do before?)

I joined Glaxo right after pharmacy school in the belief that it would be more interesting to sell pills rather than count them.

What was your path to the top? What were the key moments and turning points?

Zantac, Zofran and Advair taught me to “think big.” 

Imitrex, Aranesp and Neulasta taught me to “play to win.”

Relenza and Kepivance taught me to “make no excuses.”

How did you develop your leadership skills?

Imitation at first, followed by trial and error (I hereby apologize to all my early direct reports), culminating in a firm resolve to trust myself and the people around me.

Did you have a mentor along the way?

Thankfully, two. Not so coincidentally, both were teachers before joining our industry. One was my first manager at Glaxo. The other I worked with for 20 years, and I moved 3,000 miles away to work for him at Amgen.

What is your No. 1 managerial strategy?

Build non-hierarchical, cohesive Teams in which people bring out the best in each other when      facing opportunities or challenges.

Any tips for others looking to move up the org chart?

Create “headlines” (evidence of success) and develop “champions” (eye witnesses) within the organization.

Is this industry still “all about the people?”

It is “all about the patient,” where success requires really smart, dedicated people who care about making a difference. There will never be a substitute.

How do you see the industry 10 years from now?

The potential for this industry to make a difference has never been greater—we are living    Moore's Law in understanding disease biology. Unfortunately, the economic, regulatory and  societal challenges have never been more daunting. As an optimist, I am inclined to see a highly successful, productive industry 10 years from now that continues to attract bright, passionate people dedicated to reducing pain and suffering. For all our sake, I hope I'm right.


KEVIN McDERMOTT, VP, managed markets, Daiichi Sankyo, Inc.

  • Time in the industry: 25 years
  • Career path: Sales rep; hospital rep; district manager; corporate account manager; director, corporate accounts; director, hospital & physician group marketing; director, cardiovascular marketing; executive director, account management; VP, managed markets
  • Prior mgmt. roles: See above

How did you get into healthcare/pharma (what did you do before?)

I was a pretty naive new college grad looking to use my pre-med and English Lit majors. I was so anxious to get into this business and even moved to Iowa to get a start (with no regrets)!

What was your path to the top? What were the key moments and turning points?

The path took a nice turn about four years in with some of the best advice I ever got. It was from my regional director back when I was a young district manager. He said you've got a bunch of thoroughbreds ahead of you and you can wait until they clear out or try another race. I switched over to managed markets and have been in it and happy ever since. Message? Find yourself someone who knows your organization well and gives you guidance on optional paths.

How did you develop your leadership skills?

The greatest test of leadership is coaching girls second- and third-grade basketball. Believe me, those years with each of my daughters taught me the importance of clear direction, patience and to recognize incremental success. In business, I have to say it was when I learned the value of listening to the customer and what they were really saying across the desk. When I reliably delivered on what they really needed, that gave me their trust. I became valued by the companies I worked for because I provided that insight and could pretty well predict what was needed in the future. The people I have ended up leading all have the expectation that I'll help them be customer focused and forward looking.

Did you have a mentor along the way?

Quite a few, including some excellent professional coaches. Their best use is helping you help yourself in managing your organizational reputation. I'm not talking about politics here but rather subjective relationships with people. Once you connect to people you work with where they know you are not out to obliterate them, their role or their function,  good things happen. But that trust isn't always easy. I'd always advocate for you investing your time and or money into someone who will force you to manage you perceptions and your relationships.

What is your No. 1 managerial strategy?

As it says in handwritten note on the back of my door, “It's About Them.” Give back more than you ask for, and you will get great performance.

Any tips for others looking to move up the org chart?

Be genuine. Hard work will get you so far, politicking may get you a bit farther (and probably out quicker), but to get to the level you truly desire and define as “I've made it,” challenge yourself to innovate every day. One approach I like is what some performance artists use before going on stage and that is if they don't feel that angst of fear before they head on stage, then they know this won't give their best performance. I always say, what are the competitors doing today to put me out of business? That usually gets me into the right mindset! Oh, and one more thing: If you don't like change, don't take up space on the org chart. This industry demands flexibility right now, so either adapt or move aside.

Is this industry still “all about the people?”

For the most part it is. But recognize that's its becoming more and more about the evidence. It's about how our products actually work in the “real world.” The challenge is we no longer control that information. Some call it the asymmetry of data where customers may have more information about how our drug or device works than us. So then what do you do? You develop a team that can help them turn that information into better outcomes across populations. So it is still about people, but maybe not all the same people you currently have in your ranks.

How do you see the industry 10 years from now?

I hope that we are finally able to re-establish the credibility and trust with healthcare providers, policy makers and consumers that is befitting of the good we do for humanity. We are a group of people who truly prevent disease and save people's lives every day. Our collective actions have erased those same stakeholders' definition of our value. It will take an authentic commitment from the rep to the CEO, a higher level of self governance, and a set of aligned incentives that rewards integrity and has disdain for the opposite to change our course, but I believe!


ANGELA MOSKOW, VP, diabetes marketing, Sanofi US

  • Time in the industry: 21 Years
  • Career path: Sales professional, sales management, marketing, marketing management, corporate affairs. After working with our insulins franchise for the last 11 years, I have recently taken a newly created role to focus on chronic disease prevention and wellness.  I hope to be able to create a new path to help people and organizations achieve wellness and prevention goals much like Sanofi changed the way people looked at and use insulin.

How did you get into healthcare/pharma (what did you do before?) 

I joined the pharmaceutical industry directly after graduating college. I had completed internships in the pharmaceutical and transportation industries and was attracted to what the pharmaceutical industry was looking to accomplish. My father was working in the pharmaceutical arena, so it was a well-known entity to me.

What was your path to the top? What were the key moments and turning points?  

I do not believe you can move forward in an organization without a strong support team.  I have been fortunate to work with great managers and teams as well as having a very strong support system at home. I have been in many situations where I was forced to make a judgment call and then follow this through to move our business forward. My internal guidance has always been, "what is in the best interest of the patients we serve and how can we act accordingly." I also try to ensure that the teams I work with know that I appreciate everything they are doing in support of our brands. There are two highlights that stand out in my mind strongly. The first was at the completion of the launch of Lantus in 2001. It was exciting to turn the many years of planning over to the sales force and marketplace. The second was when Lantus hit its first $1 billion in sales. This was feedback from the diabetes community that this was truly a special product helping so many people.

How did you develop your leadership skills? 

I like to observe others and how they lead their teams. I have found that I can learn as much from positive role models as those that I have chosen not to emulate. Once you determine the type of leader you want to be, you need to practice. I ask for feedback from my team and peers and it helps me grow as a leader. I also try to stay tuned into how my team is doing so I can reach out to assist them, share my experience, remove obstacles and suggest paths forward.

Did you have a mentor along the way? 

Yes, I have had the opportunity to work with many talented individuals that have helped to guide me along the way. Sometimes the best advice I have received is the guidance I did not want to hear, but it makes me stronger in the end.

What is your No. 1 managerial strategy? 

Talented, positive people are critical to a successful team. I like to hire strong people, not micromanage them, and rally everyone around a common goal.

Any tips for others looking to move up the org chart? 

Focus on always doing the right thing for your organization and get to know the people you admire and see making a positive impact on your organization. Volunteer and get into the mainstream of where the organization has stated they want to go. This is not always the easy or most comfortable path.

Is this industry still “all about the people?” 

While good people are still the lifeblood of any successful organization, I believe there has been a shift to a strong focus on innovation. Innovation is key not only from the pipelines and partnerships that develop new products, but also in how the entire healthcare industry is going to evolve.

How do you see the industry 10 years from now? 

In 10 years, I see the industry radically changed in terms of care delivery. The current system is not sustainable and requires a real overhaul. I believe we are going to change the focus of care from one of acute episodes to a longer view of prevention and wellness.  This view is one reason I am so excited about my new role and the contributions I will be able to make.


MARK PYKETT, president and CEO, Neoprobe

  • Time in the industry: Mark Pykett has served in senior management positions in pharma and biotech for about16 years.
  • Career path: After doing research at Harvard University for several years, Pykett began his career in industry by co-founding Cytomatrix, a cellular therapeutics company in Cambridge, Mass. He served in a number of senior leadership roles in pharma/biotech companies before coming on board at Neoprobe in 2010
  • Prior mgmt. roles: President, CEO, Cytomatrix; president, CyGenics; president, Alseres Pharmaceuticals; CEO, Talaris Advisors; director, ADVENTRX Pharmaceuticals; chairman, Talaris Advisors

How did you get into healthcare/pharma (what did you do before?)

I originally completed a VMD (veterinary degree) and a PhD in molecular biology at the University of Pennsylvania medical scientist training program, because I had intended to pursue a career as a research scientist. However, at the tail end of my doctoral fellowship at Harvard University, I had an opportunity to break into industry by co-founding a small biotech company called Cytomatrix. So I entered the drug discovery and development field in a leadership role by running the first company I ever worked for in pharma/biotech. It was an exciting experience to be a young scientist faced with the task of building a company from the ground up.

What was your path to the top? What were the key moments and turning points?

The entrepreneurial path I took made me realize quickly I had to learn leadership best practices, listen closely to colleagues and board members and apply those insights or fail. Being thrust into a leadership role from the start forced me to learn quickly how to manage different aspects of a business and the importance of having great people around to help the business succeed. Integrating the myriad aspects of building a strong, innovation-focused commercial organization has required drawing on the experiences of many advisors, both internal and external to the company, from the fields of science, medicine, business, law, accounting, communications and many others. Turning points happen all the time in this business, so it's important to have deep expertise alongside you to navigate the challenges.

How did you develop your leadership skills?

My leadership skills were initally honed by having immediate, hands-on management of all aspects of a biotech company—including R&D, finance, business development, marketing. There's no steeper learning curve than finding yourself outside your comfort zone, in my case science, in a leadership position that really pushes your boundaries and confronts you with all sorts of unexpected challenges. Over my career, I've focused on development-stage companies where leadership spans many traditional management verticals, so the skills learned are both broad and deep. These experiences have really helped me accelerate my learning curve for future positions going forward.

Did you have a mentor along the way?

Many people have played a decisive role in my career development. Those that I look to as mentors in my professional development provided “lead by example” perspective and served in diverse roles throughout the pharma and biotech community, including other senior executives, advisors, clinicians, finance and marketing colleagues. Working with these senior executives helped me hone my leadership style and approach. Even now, I look to people with experience and wisdom to add to continue to grow and do better.

What is your No. 1 managerial strategy?

It's key to identify and manage risks across different aspects of the company. As chief executive, it's your responsibility to assess and manage risks to your business, and at times it's necessary to make certain tradeoffs across the business functions to ensure your organization continues to succeed and thrive. However, never make a trade-off when it comes to good clinical practice and care. Beyond rigorous risk management and sound decision making, I think it's important for managers to listen.  When you listen, you learn, and leadership roles are fundamentally about continuous learning.

Any tips for others looking to move up the org chart?

Focus on those pivotal events or milestones that allow you to distinguish yourself as a leader in a functional area, on a specific issue or within a certain business function that enhances your visibility and showcases your abilities with colleagues or within the industry. Take on important projects that have prospects for high returns for the organization and you personally. As you get higher on the corporate ladder it becomes harder to do this, so accomplish it as early as possible in your career.

Is this industry still “all about the people?”

Absolutely. Pharma and biotech companies rely on talented people—people with ideas, innovators—to develop novel diagnostics and medicines to improve patient care. Those who become leaders in this industry tend to excel in two areas—they're incredibly smart, talented and hard-working in their area of expertise, and they have and can build strong relationships with outside experts, organizations and communities that help them and their company succeed.

How do you see the industry 10 years from now?

With such a focus now on cost/benefit of treatment, illustrated by an industry-wide focus on comparative effectiveness of products, I think precision diagnosis and precision medicine will be a key characteristic of successful products moving forward. No longer can we advance diagnostic processes or treatments that take a broad-stroke approach to patient care where substantial portions of the treated population realize little or no benefit. Technologies that provide precise diagnoses and pinpoint therapy, thereby improving patient outcomes, I believe are poised to become the market leaders in their respective categories.


MARK TIMNEY, president, Global Human Health – US market, Merck

  • Time in the industry: 20 years
  • Career path: Started as a sales rep with Roussel in the UK. Moved into sales role with ICI Pharmaceuticals in Australia and served as managing director of Zeneca in New Zealand. Joined Merck's Australian subsidiary (MSD Australia) in 1999 as a national sales manager and subsequently held leadership positions in Merck's Asia-Pacific business
  • Prior mgmt. roles: Led Merck's businesses in Korea and then Japan

How did you get into healthcare/pharmaceuticals? What did you do before?

I originally went into finance in my hometown in northern England, but my heart just wasn't into it. I quit my job to travel the world and see where I wanted to live. Jumping into the unknown introduced me to life-shaping new experiences, like coaching soccer in the US and starting a business selling luxury boat timeshares in Australia. I eventually returned to England and decided to try pharmaceutical sales. That challenging experience taught me a lot about selling and relationships. It also gave me the confidence to return to Australia—without a job—where I eventually joined ICI.

What was your path to the top? What were the key moments and turning points?

My defining moments were those points where I took personal risks and sought new, often unknown, experiences. Those opportunities gave me the greatest chance to push myself and quickly develop new skills.

How did you develop your leadership skills?

I took personal accountability and invested a lot of time to put together a clear development plan and then follow it. You can't sit back and wait for someone else to develop you.

Did you have a mentor along the way?

Mentors have played integral roles in my career, helping me develop the skills I wanted to learn. I couldn't have been successful without these mentors who were committed to my success.

What is your No. 1 managerial strategy?

Ensuring absolute clarity—of vision and of expectations—and then getting organizational alignment behind that. After that, I spend a lot of time focusing on people and their development.

Any tips for others looking to move up the org chart?

Focus on the experiences you want, not boxes in an org chart. Those experiences should involve taking on real challenges and learning from both failures and successes along the way.

Is this industry still “all about the people?”

Having the right people with the right skills in the right roles is more important than ever as this industry faces unprecedented changes.

How do you see the industry 10 years from now?

It will be about concentrating on enabling the health outcomes outlined in the labeling of each product. The industry will need to have a sharper focus and better execution on partnerships and solutions that help solve health problems.

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