Executive VP, global business development
Anna Protopapas was a lead engineer of one of the largest acquisitions in the biopharma world this year--Takeda Pharmaceutical's $13.7 billion buyout of Swiss drug company Nycomed. Yet, in a way, the takeover has given her more work to do. With the deal providing Takeda with Nycomed's strong footholds in Europe, Brazil and Russia, there are many new opportunities for her business development group to weigh that weren't on the table previously.
The Nycomed deal would be the kind of transaction that someone in Protopapas' position could bank on as a career-topping move after a decade on the job. Yet it's only been since last year that she has been head of global business development for Takeda, Japan's No. 1 drugmaker. Protopapas managed to impress her bosses in Japan and the U.S. during her tenure as chief dealmaker at Millennium, which Takeda scooped up for $8.9 billion in 2008 to vastly expand its stake in oncology drugs. She remained a senior executive at Millennium after the merger.
Prior to Takeda's purchase of Millennium, Protopapas was one of the key members of the cancer drug developer's team that was initially in talks with the Japan-based firm about an R&D partnership. Those talks took a quick and unexpected turn into merger negotiations, and Protopapas helped bring the multibillion-dollar deal to fruition. With both the Nycomed and Millennium deals, she has two big blockbuster transactions to her credit. And she's managed it all with a life outside of work that includes being a parent to three kids.
There's a trend of standout female executives at Takeda. The corporate officer team for the Tokyo-based drug powerhouse now includes Protopapas, Deborah Dunsire, CEO of Millennium: The Takeda Oncology Company (and a 2010 Fierce Women in Biotech honoree), and Nancy Joseph-Ridge, general manager of the company's pharmaceutical development unit. "I think on a global basis, Takeda has embraced senior [executive] women in the organization," Protopapas said.
Paving the road to her success has been a combo of business acumen (she went to business school at Stanford) and technical savvy (master's in chemical engineering at MIT and bachelor's degree in the same area at Princeton). She's been focused on biotech since she joined the business development team at Millennium in 1997, before which she held posts at Morten Metal Technology and Proctor & Gamble.
"Our industry is constantly changing and in order to keep up with the incredible amount of information, I read constantly about various clinical studies as well as the companies involved in them," Protopapas said. "There is so much information in our industry and someone in my position needs to make a commitment to keeping on top of this type of data. I have also been fortunate to surround myself with extremely talented people at Millennium and Takeda who help make me look good on a regular basis."