Here we highlight five of the most important women working in healthcare and the life sciences in Central & Eastern Europe (CEE) today. From regulators to pharma affiliate heads with international remits, these are some of the key movers and shakers in the region’s pharma industry.
Irena Storová, director, SÚKL, Czech Republic
Irena Storová holds an important position overseeing the regulation of drugs in the Czech Republic at the State Institute for Drug Control (SUKL).
I worked in a public pharmacy, clinic and hospital pharmacy, which is very valuable practice for a person working at both the Ministry and SUKL
Storová was appointed in 2018 by Minister of Health Adam Vojtěch as the director of SUKL, the main drug regulatory body in the Czech Republic. In her mandate as director, some of her top objectives are pricing and reimbursement reform, the shortening of administrative procedures, and the continued implementation of the electronic prescription system eRecept. She also steers the organisation in its work to control the illegal export of medicinal products and supervises the newly implemented Anti-Counterfeit Directive with the aim of ensuring patient safety. Another part of her role involves overseeing the production and distribution of medical cannabis, which from 2020 will be subsidised by Czech public health insurance.
Storová worked as a hospital pharmacist for several years before joining the Pharmacy Department of the Czech Ministry of Health. From 2014 to 2017 she served as SÚKL’s deputy director before taking over management of the organisation. In an interview published in the Czech publication Healthcare and Medicine, Storová highlighted the advantages of her experience as a pharmacist in her current role, “The benefits are great and I draw from my experience every now and then. I worked in a public pharmacy, clinic and hospital pharmacy, which is very valuable practice for a person working at both the Ministry and SUKL.”
Jana Mittmann, global marketing director & manager Czech Republic, Slovakia & Baltics, Exeltis
Jana Mittmann, recently promoted to global marketing director of Spanish women’s health specialist Exeltis, has long been committed to improving women’s health in the CEE region
In my 2.5 years of leading the Czech affiliate, I achieved tremendous change for the better!
In December 2019, Mittmann was selected to be Exeltis’s global marketing director and managing director of Czech Republic, Slovakia and the Baltics. She had been serving as managing director of Exeltis Czech Republic and Slovakia for the last five years, building up the Slovakia affiliate from scratch before then taking over the Czech affiliate. Her career has been focused on women’s health since the beginning when she started as a medical representative and product manager at Janssen-Cilag, moving on to become a regional manager at Schering, TULIPpharma and LadeePharma.
Speaking to PharmaBoardroom back in 2016, Mittmann underlined the importance of understanding and adaptability in taking over an affiliate, “Growing the affiliate in the Czech Republic was very different from growing my affiliate in Slovakia for one simple reason: in Slovakia I assumed the mandate to grow our business from scratch, I had a clear vision and strategy which led me to rapid success. In the Czech Republic, however, I took over somebody else’s vision which I had to firstly understand, adapt to and then change accordingly to my vision applied on the Czech affiliate… In my 2.5 years of leading the Czech affiliate, I achieved tremendous change for the better!”
Gabriele Grom, VP CEE, MSD
MSD’s Gabriele Grom is an outspoken advocate for reducing maternal mortality and for increasing health equity between Western and Eastern Europe.
We must ensure that health inequalities between Eastern and Western EU countries do not continue to diverge.
Gabriele Grom was appointed vice president of the Central & Eastern Europe cluster at MSD at the end of 2014. In a recent opinion piece for PharmaBoardroom, Grom stated that “We must ensure that health inequalities between Eastern and Western EU countries do not continue to diverge. At MSD and in the pharmaceutical industry as a whole, we are committed to working together with policymakers and all key stakeholders, to provide the necessary framework which allows for equal access to high-quality healthcare across Europe.”
Grom’s tenure at MSD includes various marketing and sales positions in Europe, a stint with its global marketing department in the US, and managing director of MSD Hungary. She also led the Austrian MSD affiliate before accepting the new mandate as VP of the CEE cluster. She also acts as executive ambassador at MSD for Mothers, a USD 500 million initiative that applies MSD’s scientific and business expertise to reduce maternal mortality worldwide.
Anna Wienner, country director, IBSA Hungary
Anna Wienner took on the role of country director at the Hungarian affiliate of Swiss firm IBSA in October 2015 and quickly set about building and training up an effective and motivated team.
Patience is very important. I am a quick and efficient person but sometimes change needs time.
In 2008 Anna Wienner joined Ipsen as a country manager tasked with building up the affiliate from scratch, an experience that served her well in her next position as country director at IBSA. When interviewed by PharmaBoardroom, Wienner reflected on her career path, “The reason I joined IBSA was the challenge of rebuilding a company. In my previous role, I built Ipsen up from scratch—a truly rewarding experience—but I realized that I needed a change. I believe that the strategic thinking and vision I had for IBSA was the reason I was selected for this position.”
She went on to highlight the importance of strong talent: “My main objective on accepting this position was developing an effective sales force… For me, building something from scratch, as I had done previously, is a completely unique experience because you can select the most fitting people to comprise the team. In this role, I inherited a team, and I have motivated them to achieve and to follow me towards my goals, and in turn, the company’s goals.”
Changing the ingrained habits of an already existing workforce can prove challenging. Wienner commented, “For me, patience is very important. I am a quick and efficient person but sometimes change needs time. I see myself as the revolution for my new team and I am happy they are in line with me now. To effectively reform old habits requires diligence, consistency and, above all, patience.”
Simona Cocos, general manager, Zentiva Romania & Moldova
Simona Cocos stayed with Zentiva after it was divested from Sanofi and leads its team in Romania, citing the affiliate’s importance to the global market.
The fact that Zentiva has a factory in Romania makes us an important base for the company in terms of its worldwide activities.
Simona Cocos leads generics manufacturer Zentiva in Romania and Moldova. She made the transition from Sanofi to Zentiva after the Czech-based drug manufacturing division was divested from Sanofi and became an independent entity. Joining Sanofi in 1995, her early career saw her working as a product manager and later marketing manager, eventually becoming marketing director for Sanofi-Aventis. Sanofi acquired Zentiva in 2008; however, after Sanofi’s decision to divest their European generics unit, Cocos stayed on at Zentiva as general manager of Romania and Moldova.
Speaking in 2015, Cocos underscored the importance of Romania to Zentiva’s business, “Romania is an important market, the second biggest country in the CEE in terms of population behind Poland, and the third-largest pharmaceutical market. The fact that Zentiva has a factory in Romania makes us an important base for the company in terms of its worldwide activities. The Bucharest facility is one of the eight facilities that the company has around the world, and we are the preferred option when it comes to producing new generic molecules.”
She went on to boast the company’s retention of a highly skilled workforce, “Retaining the best human capital is something to which we attach a great deal of importance. We are very proud of the high quality of our employees across our industrial and commercial teams. We invest heavily in the training of our people, we have staff who have been working for Zentiva plant for over 40 years.”