To celebrate International Women’s Day 2020, PharmaBoardroom brings you insights from some of the most inspirational female industry leaders we have had the privilege of talking to over the past 12 months.
Janet Woodcock, Director, Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER), US FDA
Science really can deliver better health for all the people in the world but only if we work together and have common standards to make sure that these interventions are fit for purpose and work for everyone
Janet Woodcock is head of the US FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER) and has a wealth of experience at the world’s leading regulatory body, having worked for the FDA since 1986. The US National Consumers League has described Woodcock as, “a passionate advocate for American patients and consumers, an ally to patient advocacy groups, and a fearless leader at the FDA”
In a wide ranging conversation earlier this year, Woodcock touched upon how the FDA is evolving to ensure the safety and efficacy of next generation cell, gene and regenerative therapies, why a sizeable impact from data and artificial intelligence on the US drug approval process is still some way in the future, and how the FDA is collaborating with other regulators in an increasingly globalised system of drug development and approval.
On the topic of collaboration, Woodcock asserted that, “We all need to work together. Science really can deliver better health for all the people in the world but only if we work together and have common standards to make sure that these interventions are fit for purpose and work for everyone. We should also be able to know who these interventions are going to work for; that is part of personalized medicine. That is a very important part of worldwide development, that people do differ, and science will be able to figure that out too.”
Maggie De Block, Minister of Social Affairs, Public Health and Asylum & Migration, Belgium
As a general practitioner myself, I understand we are working with the money of citizens who are contributing through taxes. Therefore, we have a responsibility to act strategically and not create waste
Maggie de Block is a mainstay of Belgian politics and a popular figure as a minister in her homeland. De Block was voted woman of the year by readers of the francophone newspaper La Libre Belgique in 2013, was twice voted the most popular politician in the Dutch speaking region of Flanders (2013 and 2014) and in 2015 voted the most popular politician in all of Belgium.
Formerly a practising medical doctor, De Block has been Minister of Health since 2014 and took on the additional responsibility of overseeing asylum and migration in 2018.
In conversation with PharmaBoardroom in early 2020, De Block outlined how she had worked to reform Belgian healthcare over the course of her tenure as Minister. “I feel that I have implemented policies that have been spoken about for the last 20 years since I first entered parliament in 1999,” she noted. “At this time the conversation was already being had about finding new ways to treat our patients, creating more hospital collaboration, foster prevention and early diagnosis, embracing digitalization, and other many topics. I have been working on not only accessibility, but the quality of care for our citizens, and affordability and accountability.”
De Block continued, “As a general practitioner myself, I understand we are working with the money of citizens who are contributing through taxes. Therefore, we have a responsibility to act strategically and not create waste. This was faced with resistance as many professionals were not used to this mindset, but for the future of patients, we must keep sustainability in mind.”
Shirley Xu, President Greater China, Baxter
Being able to grow with an organization over a long period is a beautiful opportunity
As a 26-year veteran of Baxter’s China operations, Shirley Xu is uniquely positioned to comment on the evolution of the Chinese life sciences industry, how Baxter’s footprint in China has grown, and the importance of female leadership to the global group.
Speaking with us in mid-2019, Xu commented that, “Being able to grow with an organization over a long period is a beautiful opportunity. I have seen how the organization has been built from scratch: how our individual and collective efforts, year over year, have helped Baxter China grow to become one of the most strategic clusters globally for Baxter. This has been incredibly rewarding.”
Xu continued, “More importantly, behind these commercial numbers are the patients that have benefited from our products and services. Recalling the healthcare infrastructure and treatment options nearly three decades ago, they were truly at a nascent stage, but today, we can see advanced treatment options and therapies available to Chinese patients. This drives home the fact that we are committed to our purpose to make a positive impact on society.”
“Secondly, it goes without saying that I really like the people, culture and organization at Baxter Greater China. Baxter Greater China is not a one-person journey but a team journey. But if we have individuals that really buy into the culture at Baxter – a culture of inclusivity, diversity, ethics and compliance – then the company would be able to attract many great talents with similar passions for patients, as Baxter Greater China has done.”
On female leadership, Xu added that “Baxter strongly supports women leaders, offering a very inclusive and balanced working environment, and this is reflected in the gender parity on our Greater China leadership team.”
Lotta Ljungqvist, President & CEO, GE Healthcare Nordics & CEO, Testa Center, Sweden
Our site makes up one percent of Sweden’s total exports
GE Healthcare’s Swedish manufacturing operations are of vital importance to the medtech giant’s global revenues. In Autumn 2019, we sat down with the woman overseeing GE Healthcare Nordics as president and CEO, Lotta Ljungqvist.
Ljungqvist explained that “Our site makes up one percent of Sweden’s total exports and up to USD 70 million will be invested annually between 2017 and 2022 in production extension. GE Healthcare has over 1650 employees here in Sweden and boasts one of the largest teams for GE Life Sciences globally.”
Ljungqvist continued, “GE Healthcare’s Uppsala facility is one of the world’s biggest factories for chromatography resins and produces some 270 different types of chromatography resins, which are used in the purification of more than 90 percent of all biopharmaceuticals approved by the FDA.”
On running such international operations from a relatively small market like Sweden, Ljungqvist commented that “to run a global business from a small country like Sweden, you need to have a global mindset from day one and be responsive to your customer needs globally, as the domestic market is too small. Our bioprocess business serves all biopharma companies across the globe, with all of GE Healthcare Life Science’s chromatography resins coming from Uppsala.”
Ai Hua Ong, Company Group Chairman, Janssen Asia-Pacific
There is a clear correlation between an inclusive culture and innovation
Ai Hua Ong is chairman of Janssen, the Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson, for APAC; a region that includes geographies as diverse as Australia, China, Hong Kong, India, Japan, Korea, New Zealand and Taiwan. Ong is a passionate advocate for inclusion and diversity in life sciences leadership, asserting that “there is a clear correlation between an inclusive culture and innovation.”
With over 25 years of experience at J&J, Ong has seen tremendous progress in terms of patient health outcomes and access to life-saving innovative treatments in the region. Writing exclusively for PharmaBoardroom in November 2019, Ong asserted that the next ten years “will be a period of rapid change, with challenges and opportunities very different to those of the past. Our populations are ageing. Chronic, multi-factorial non-communicative diseases are on the rise. Across the region, a burgeoning middle-class is demanding access to the latest treatments, which these days are rarely small molecule medicines delivered in a bottle. Rather, they are complex biologics or cell therapies that are difficult – and expensive – to discover and develop. It’s not enough to innovate – we must also ensure patients have access to the benefits that innovation brings.”
Highlighting the three core values of humility, ambition, and compassion as fundamental to any efforts to address these challenges, Ong was also keen to highlight the importance of giving a greater voice to patients and patient groups. “Placing the patient at the centre means listening to – and addressing – their concerns and needs,” she noted. “It means bringing the patient voice into the decision-making process at all levels, so that real patients – and not only advocacy groups – are involved in discussions on preferred method of administration, trial design and reimbursement. It also means, in these days of precision medicine, AI, genomics, big data and health robots, ensuring that the patient is always at the heart of a connected, integrated system of data, technology and healthcare workers. We must never forget to treat the patient and not merely the disease.”
Christelle Saghbini, Chairman & Managing Director, Sanofi Egypt & Sudan
[Sanofi’s MoU with the Egyptian MoH] has a focus on oncology and cardiovascular diseases from a holistic disease management perspective
Ranking number 45 on the Forbes ‘Middle East’s 100 Power Businesswomen 2020’ list, Christelle Saghbini heads up the operations of French pharma giant Sanofi in Egypt and Sudan. As one of the top three pharma companies in the Egyptian market by sales value, Saghbini has centred Sanofi’s Egyptian strategy around partnering closely with the Egyptian authorities as well as utilising its French connections.
This includes the occasion of French President Emmanuel Macron’s visit to Egypt in January 2019. “During President Macron’s visit, Sanofi signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Egyptian Ministry of Health to address unmet medical needs. The agreement has a focus on oncology and cardiovascular diseases from a holistic disease management perspective,” explained Saghbini in a Spring 2019 interview with PharmaBoardroom.
Saghbini has also prioritised medical education and awareness-raising in Egypt. She noted that Sanofi has been involved in, “awareness and screening projects for diabetes and cancer patients, while partnering with authorities to improve the emergency care system for acute cardiovascular conditions.” The company’s efforts have been recognized by the Federation of Egyptian Industries with a CSR award for serving the Sustainable Development Goals.
Chang Yi Wang, Chairperson and Chief Scientific Officer (CSO), United BioPharma, Taiwan
We have come a long way from when I started UBI in New York as an entrepreneur scientist with an offering based on inventions and early product revenues without any financial support from either US venture capitalists or Wall Street investment bankers
Chang Yi Wang has had a storied career in biomedical research and entrepreneurship as the first Asian woman to be accepted into Rockefeller University’s PhD program in 1973, the youngest faculty member to join the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center as a primary investigator in 1979, and as the founder of United Biomedical (UBI) in New York in 1985 and UBI Asia in Taiwan in 1998.
Now, as chairperson and CSO of United Biopharma (UBP), a member of the UBI group of companies she founded back in the ’90s, Chang is focused on the discovery, development, and commercialization of immunotherapies & vaccines for chronic and infectious diseases.
The future looks bright for the UBI group of companies, with a promising pipeline and the prospect of significant capital investment in the next five years. “We have currently more than ten proprietary biological products in various stages of clinical development. We are focusing on pushing at least five of these products through clinical trials into regulatory approvals for global commercialization in the coming five years to become a fully integrated group of biomedical companies,” proclaimed Chang in an interview with PharmaBoardroom in Summer 2019.
“We have come a long way from when I started UBI in New York as an entrepreneur scientist with an offering based on inventions and early product revenues without any financial support from either US venture capitalists or Wall Street investment bankers. We are now beginning to tap into various capital markets beginning with the first IPO approval for our animal health vaccine company ShenLian Biomedical (aka UBI Shanghai Animal Health) to be listed on the Shanghai SciTech Security Exchange. Additional IPOs on the HK Security Exchange, Taiwan Security Exchange, and Nasdaq will be explored for United BioPharma, UBI Pharma and United NeuroScience, respectively.”
Wendy Perry, Executive Managing Director, Merck (MSD) Puerto Rico & President, Pharmaceutical Industry Association of Puerto Rico (PIA)
Communicate what your aspirations and dreams are to others around you. If no one knows what your goals are, no one will be able to help you along the way
Wendy is something of a trailblazer for women in leadership in Puerto Rican pharma as the first woman to ever hold her position at Merck (MSD) and the first female president of the island’s innovators association, the Pharmaceutical Industry Association of Puerto Rico. Moreover, both Merck’s commercial and manufacturing operations in Puerto Rico are now being led by women.
Speaking to PharmaBoardroom in Summer 2019, Perry gave some words of wisdom to future female leaders.
“Firstly, it is crucial to own your professional development,” she exclaimed. “It is not the responsibility of your manager to help you grow professionally. Moreover, you cannot wait for the right circumstances to appear, you create your own circumstances. Secondly, communicate what your aspirations and dreams are to others around you. If no one knows what your goals are, no one will be able to help you along the way. Last but not least, you should get a coach, a mentor and a sponsor. Each role is different and has a tremendous impact in your development. A coach is someone who will help you define the path forward and give you the tools necessary to move forward. A mentor is someone who is already where you want to be and will share his expertise and give you advice. Finally, a sponsor will let others know about you, and position you with people looking for a profile like yours.”
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