Brazilian national Maria Fernanda Prado, who began her career in pharma more than 20 years ago, has been at Janssen/Johnson & Johnson for more than half of that time. She has taken on the leadership of a diverse set of geographies —­ from Turkey to Central Europe and Benelux — and is now leaving Belgium to head up Johnson & Johnson Innovative Medicine’s organization in Spain and Portugal.


A Globetrotting Career 

Prado is no stranger to hopping from one region to another, having been responsible for diverse geographies that have included both developed and emerging markets. After leaving her native Brazil where she was commercial director for oncology, haematology, HIV and HCV, Prado led Janssen’s Turkey affiliate for three years before setting off for Central Europe, managing a bloc of no less than 14 countries. Benelux, where the company has a strong footprint, was Prado’s next destination in 2021 when the world was still coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Johnson & Johnson is such a rich organization, with a global presence, with different sectors, that we encourage our talents to experiment with different environments and businesses, to gain diverse experiences and new perspectives,” Prado said in a PharmaBoardroom interview last year, stressing the interest of moving across different geographies within the company.

Prado also maintained that her previous experience in emerging markets had prepared for new challenges. “My experiences in regions with higher levels of uncertainty have prepared me for this role in Benelux and Europe in its current context,” she asserted. “Working in emerging markets is about managing unpredictability and ensuring your innovative pipeline can reach patients despite these factors. This is a useful experience, given the pressure the European market faces today.”


Building Benelux

The Benelux affiliate with a team of 5,000, two international distribution facilities, a clinical pharmacology unit, and the Janssen Belgium campus, is one of the company’s key centres in Europe, and leading it meant added responsibility for Prado. “Janssen has a strong footprint here, with a clear investment end-to-end, from discovery and development to commercialization of its innovative treatments,” she asserted. “As a result, my role comes with more responsibility.”

Prado saw a couple of major milestones during her tenure. Namely, Belgium was selected as the location for Janssen’s first cell therapy (CAR-T) manufacturing centre in Europe. “I think that the choice of Belgium as the European CAR-T production centre is a positive testimony of the value of the country in terms of innovation capacity and quality of people.”

Another turning point occurred during Prado’s time in Benelux when Janssen underwent its biggest rebranding since it was initially purchased by J&J in 1961 and became Johnson & Johnson Innovative Medicine.


Onto Iberia

Prado will now be moving on to manage the Spain and Portugal affiliate based in Madrid, perhaps leveraging Spain’s status as a leading clinical trials hub and its solid healthcare system along with the strides Portugal has made in consolidating its Health Technology Assessment (HTA) system.

She will also be managing a new team and building on the company’s already strong talent.  “One of our key priorities, beyond launching our amazing product pipeline is to form a great leadership pipeline.”


Image source: Johnson & Johnson Innovative Medicine España on LinkedIn