Mark Salyer is the first to admit his new role represents a huge professional shift for him. For the past 10 years, he oversaw Teva’s respiratory portfolio, managing the commercial success of big ticket asthma drugs such as Proair and Cinqair. His group was part of a larger business unit that grossed more than $600 million in the first six months of 2017.
But when Salyer became Amarin’s first chief commercial officer, his remit narrowed considerably. His primary responsibility will be Amarin’s only approved product, Vascepa.
However, over the course of a conversation, it becomes clear why he traded a big job at a big company for a slightly larger one at a much smaller organization. Pending outcome results for Vascepa — from the REDUCE-IT trial, designed to show whether the drug’s ability to lower triglycerides translates into a decrease in certain cardiovascular events, such as heart attacks — could significantly and quickly spur the drug’s adoption.
“The exciting part about this company is the pivotal, landmark trial results that are coming,” Salyer says. “We need to start planning for success now. It’s not something you start executing two weeks prior to the arrival of the results.”
Whatever REDUCE-IT ultimately reveals (results from the completed study are expected in Q2 or Q3 2018), Salyer maintains Amarin has “a great story to tell, with or without the data.”
He points to an internal culture that distinguishes the company from competitors, big and small.
“I’ve always focused on companies that focus on people,” he notes. “I’ve been so impressed by the people here. The depth of knowledge is excellent — and in a relatively small organization, no less. That’s rare to find in pharma these days.”
Culture-building and maintenance, Salyer believes, should be a top priority for any commercial chief. He describes a keen desire to ensure “people, patients, and product all work in tandem.”
“Teva’s success in respiratory, for example, was centered around people working together across all functions, whether commercial, R&D, clinical, or manufacturing,” Salyer notes.
Given the people-centricity of Salyer’s professional philosophy, look for Amarin to continue importing high-profile marketers and commercial execs.
Asked about items on his to-do list, he rattles off “to hire wicked smart people” and to make sure every person in the organization is clear on the company’s overarching strategy. “When the strategy is clear, execution becomes strategy.”
At the same time, Salyer acknowledges, attentively listening to customers and proactively incorporating their feedback is more important than ever before.
“Listening before you execute is the biggest lesson,” he continues. “It’s not just about reading market research on the brand, program, or service offering. You must spend a lot of time listening to what customers and employees have to say about what works and what doesn’t.”
Salyer’s focus on community extends to his personal life. “Building a family and business team have parallels. Ultimately, we value creating and being part of a supportive community,” he explains.
“Personally, it’s seeing my wife of 32 years and two wonderful children doing well. Professionally, it’s having the privilege to work with many great teams to change the lives of millions of people suffering from disease.”
Salyer keeps his eyes trained on the big picture, as well as the small.
He anticipates the industry’s biggest challenge will be sorting out how systems and technology companies will impact patient care.
“The pace of change has accelerated through the year. There are new players in the system — Apple, Google, Amazon — and new payer models. In general, there are more barriers that can make it harder for patients to get care,” he notes.
“Staying on top of the changes and defining strategies around them that keep us focused on supporting physicians is a challenge we must constantly master. Our success will impact the care we and others receive.”