Sophie Kornowski-Bonnet, Roche

Sophie Kornowski-Bonnet
Tackling new drug deals, the world over

Company: Roche
Title: Head of Partnering, Member of the Roche Corporate Executive Committee

Sophie Kornowski-Bonnet's career took on an international flair early on. The native of France grabbed her Ph.D. in pharmacy in Paris, then jumped the globe to gain an MBA at the University of Chicago before embarking on a global tour with Big Pharma.

She returned to Paris to work as scientific manager for Abbott Diagnostic, went back to Chicago to work in marketing research for Abbott ($ABT), hopped to Sanofi ($SNY), spent 10 years at Merck ($MRK) and then joined Roche ($RHHBY) in 2007. She's been head of partnering now for two years, playing a leading role in working on a round of new deals for the pRED division based in Basel and scattered around Europe and New York. And after 25 years in the industry, she leads a team of 80, working in offices that span the globe, with the spokes in her organizational chart reaching out from Basel to San Francisco, New York, Shanghai and Tokyo.

This job is all about collaboration, says Kornowski-Bonnet: Collaborating internally to work with company teams that could swell to as many as 200 people involved in any particular pact or buyout; collaborating externally with other companies interested in working with Roche.

At the end of the day, she says, it's about "spotting innovation, picking the right one and making the alchemy work, aligning outside with inside."

That kind of alchemy isn't something you learn in class. It's a skill you pick up, helped along the way by the most inspiring people in your life. And Kornowski-Bonnet counts several standout bosses along the way.

"I have been incredibly lucky," she adds. "I have met some top-notch people," starting at Abbott Diagnostic, where she was working at the age of 20 while she was still in pharmacy school. The head of that department "mentored me from the start." And others followed, including one boss at Merck. And she's made a point of staying in contact with the most influential people in her life through the years.

Throughout that time, Kornowski-Bonnet grew used to the idea that she was one of the few, if not the only, woman in the key meetings.

"Do I see it changing? I think it's improving, there are more women in visible positions," she says. "It's a real task to get there, inclusion is not automatic. And one woman doesn't make a diverse group. You need more more than one. Diversity means a real mix (which works both ways when groups are overweighted with women, she points out. (I think it's an effort everyone needs to make. We all have to contribute, make sure we're open minded and have the right set of candidates for every position. This is an evolution, not a revolution."

It's not always been easy. Kornowski-Bonnet has a teenage son, so living on the road is not an option. But the work has always been rewarding.

"I love what I do," she sums up. "As I used to say, get used to me, I'm here forever."

For more:
Taking the pulse of partnering at BIO 2014
Roche's pRED jumps into epigenetics with $521M-plus cancer drug deal
Roche preps an M&A shopping list as it nears a debt-free future

-- John Carroll (email | Twitter)

Sophie Kornowski-Bonnet, Roche
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