PharmaBoardroom recently sat down with Merck’s EVP and Head of Global Healthcare Operations, Teresa Rodó to unpack her important role within the global group and how Merck has pivoted to rise to the supply chain challenges posed by the COVID-19 crisis.
Although many companies now claim to have this purpose-centred mindset, we are lucky enough to have one ingrained in our DNA. This has been brought to the next level with COVID-19
Rodó, a Spanish national and chemical engineer by training, has spent most of her working life in Germany, including stints at Boehringer Ingelheim, Sanofi, and since 2017 at Merck.
Outlining the scope of her current role, which she took on in May 2019, Rodó told PharmaBoardroom that “I am part of the healthcare business sector and head of Global Healthcare Operations, overseeing a team of 7,000 people worldwide responsible for the development, manufacturing, supply, and quality of all of Merck’s biotech and pharmaceutical medicines, as well as medical devices. Our mission is to deliver Merck’s medicines to the 85 million patients all over the world who count on them every day – on time, with the highest level of quality, and in the needed quantity.”
She continued, “Global Healthcare Operations has 18 manufacturing sites across the globe and presence in 60 countries with 160 different nationalities represented in our staff. We have a very diverse workforce united by the same goal: to best serve the patients.”
On how development activities interact with manufacturing and supply chain, Rodó added that “We not only do Merck’s manufacturing and supply, but also prepare for the future through development activities. This includes process development for the next generation of increasingly sophisticated therapies, ensuring that they are available in a timely manner for clinical trials and, upon their approval, for commercial use. In other companies, the process development unit may be in R&D, but here we have it very close to manufacturing which gives us agility and speed to make our drugs available even sooner. This is something rather unique in the way we coordinate our activities.”
With global supply chains strained by material shortages and border closures as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, Rodó was keen to highlight how Merck has been able to ride out the crisis and ensure that patients have been able to continue accessing its products.
“Obviously COVID-19 has presented enormous challenges; I have never seen such a diversity of challenges appear at once,” she admitted. “These range from closed borders to cancelled flights and struggles in getting protective materials for our employees on some sites. However, I am a very positive person by nature and, having seen how we have tackled these challenges and what we have been able to achieve, I think that COVID-19 represents a great opportunity.”
Rodó continued, “We have always had a purpose-centred organisation, working as one for patients, as any Merck employee could affirm. Although many companies now claim to have this purpose-centred mindset, we are lucky enough to have one ingrained in our DNA. This has been brought to the next level with COVID-19.”
“When the already-high levels of motivation and engagement among our employees were combined with the additional sense of purpose and urgency that COVID-19 has brought, our employees have been able to do amazing things. They have been able to find new routes of distribution and new solutions for getting into specific countries. No stone has been left unturned and, I am proud to say that not a single order has been undelivered. Our people have gone beyond their normal work and found opportunities to do things even better.”
She concluded, “We have not had to stop any operations, with the exception of China, where we had to shut down our operations for two weeks, like most other companies in the country as per the request of authorities. All of our sites across Asia, Europe, and Latin America have shown a strong sense of purpose and engagement, allowing us to meet our commitment to the patients.”