Senior VP, government relations and public policy, general counsel and secretary, and chief compliance officer, Alkermes
Kathy Biberstein speaks three languages and has decades of experience in top legal posts at biotechs in both Europe and the U.S. As Alkermes' ($ALKS) general counsel, she came to the table armed with lots of international experience that served her well in the negotiations for the company's big $1 billion acquisition this year of Ireland's Elan Drug Technologies, which about doubled the size of Alkermes' business and moved its corporate home from Waltham, MA, to Dublin.
Alkermes' big merger put it on par with other major biotechs that have looked internationally to grow their businesses. Biberstein seems well suited to lead the legal team for a global biotech. Before she joined Alkermes in 2003 as general counsel, she held the same role for Serono (now Merck Serono) in Geneva, Switzerland, assembling a worldwide legal department for the European biotech group. During the past 8 years at Alkermes, she's served the company's legal interests in pacts involving its most important products, such as Risperdal Consta for schizophrenia and the diabetes drug Bydureon, both of which involve multiple partners whose interests she has had to weigh during negotiations.
On top of tackling the fine details of deal talks for Alkermes, Biberstein made a name for herself nationally during her work on Capitol Hill, where her efforts helped guide patent reforms that strengthened the patent system to safeguard the intellectual property on which companies like Alkermes are built.
"[Kathy] became the face of biotech companies in the controversial battle of patent reform," said Jim Greenwood, president and CEO of BIO. She testified "on behalf of the industry at hearings and meetings with numerous key lawmakers and their staffs to make sure the viewpoint of companies like hers were heard and understood."
Biberstein has a technical background to aid her appreciation of the vital role of technology in biotech. She was trained as an automotive engineer as an undergrad at Kettering University (formerly General Motors Institute) and worked for German automaker Opel. She took her diverse training and language skills (which include fluent French, German and English) to her later roles on the executive board of the World Economic Forum and as a member of the legal team at Crowell and Moring.
"I'm a very curious person," Biberstein said. "I like to learn, I like to ask questions, and I try to ask difficult questions, the ones that other people may be hesitant to ask. I think that's helped me a lot, because it helps move information forward. It helps move the project forward. And I like to take on new challenges, even if it's not in my comfort zone."