Seasoned executive Pierluigi Antonelli went from a career in big pharma to Angelini Pharma, a midsized Italian company that has been undergoing major transformation. He shares the motivation behind the move and the main components of the company’s transformational journey.


Rather than continue on the perhaps easier path he had forged through various roles at huge multinationals like Novartis, Merck and Bristol Myers Squibb, in 2019 Antonelli chose to become the CEO of Angelini Pharma. “Joining Angelini was an important life decision after having worked for multinationals for over 20 years. It was a decision I took with conviction,” he says.

Founded in 1919 by the Angelini family, the still family-run mid-size company has always been primarily focused on Italy, but now a new generation of family shareholders with new ambitions is looking to overhaul it, which was what led Antonelli to step up to the challenge.

“The new generation of family shareholders wanted to propel Angelini Pharma into distinctive innovation, and this was the value proposition they shared with me. It resonated quite well.”

As part of his decision Antonelli also highlights the ability to make an impact within a mid-sized company: “This was a great opportunity to put into action my entrepreneurial spirit. This is more challenging in executive roles within multinationals, but in a family-owned company there is more latitude to impact transformation.”

Angelini’s metamorphosis began with the strategic vision created in 2019 and has progressed, despite the pandemic’s setbacks: “The journey ahead is still long, but we have made significant progress.”


Tackling The Challenging Area of Mental Health

As a part of the new strategy, Angelini has shifted its focus to the difficult area of brain health: “The decision to focus on brain health was the result of an extensive exercise … to outline our new portfolio strategy, the areas in which we should be focusing, and where the science is going. By combining this externally focused assessment with our internal capabilities, we identified selected sub-segments where there are still strong unmet medical needs within brain health/CNS.”

The company reinforced this decision by acquiring Arvelle Therapeutics, a company centred on refractory epilepsy: “Arvelle made a lot of sense as an acquisition target, given its focus on one of the exact sub-segments we had identified. It is by far the largest acquisition ever made by the Angelini group and is transformational in nature. Arvelle’s molecule for the treatment of refractory epilepsy complements well the two molecules we already have in our portfolio, for the treatment of schizophrenia and depression.”

Angelini continues to seek early-stage opportunities. Antonelli believes the company has another advantage over multinationals in this respect: “Typically, unlike multinationals which at times tend to approach acquisitions quite aggressively, Angelini Pharma is a very collaborative partner. We have the Italian approach of working things out collaboratively and efficiently.”


Expanding Its Geographical Footprint

Another big move for Angelini was expanding its presence in Europe: “This ties back with one of our core transformational pillars: becoming a partner of choice. The ability to understand individual markets by having a direct presence is critical in becoming a partner of choice.”

Antonelli concludes: “The journey in front of us is still long but we have a very dedicated and passionate team that truly aspires to translate our vision into reality and is intensely working make it happen. Angelini Pharma is a company to watch.”


Read the full interview here