Building a global vaccines business
Title: President, Vaccines
Before Susan Silbermann took the reins as president of Pfizer Vaccines, the unit wasn't a standalone global business. Acquired with Wyeth in 2009, it was fragmented across a number of other units, including emerging markets and specialty care.
But since the pharma giant's ($PFE) reorganization took hold at the beginning of 2014, Silbermann has been managing all vaccine operations under one roof--and so far, the business has had quite the year under her direction.
For one, Silbermann oversaw the July pickup of Baxter's ($BAX) marketed vaccines portfolio, which is expected to rack up some $300 million in 2014 revenue.
"I want to make sure we have maximized the opportunities and resources we've been given as a global business, and part of what I do is making sure we're driving as hard as we can for the biggest opportunities," she said. "Obviously, an opportunity to acquire marketed vaccines from a company like Baxter doesn't come along that often."
This year has also seen Pfizer submit its meningitis B candidate to the FDA after nabbing a "breakthrough" designation, as well as earn a CDC nod for universal use of its best-selling Prevnar 13 in adults over 65--a recommendation that could bring it a $2 billion sales boost.
But according to Silbermann, business development isn't a strategy in and of itself; it enables a strategy to come to life. That strategy is closely tied to Pfizer's mission--"to protect lives with innovative vaccines to fight serious disease worldwide"--and it's one that Silbermann says that, after 26 years with the company, she feels lucky to be pursuing.
"Vaccines is one of the greatest opportunities Pfizer has given me so far," she said. "I can finally say I work on something that won't just take away your headache--it'll save your life."
While it's been a quick-moving year, Silbermann knows that things in the life sciences industry don't happen overnight. In addition to curiosity, those looking to break into the field need patience--and the belief that their work can make an impact.
"It might be something you're working on today, like the meningococcal vaccine. Or it might be a vaccine that a young scientist is telling me about that could end up being her life's work, but it might be something I read about in the newspaper after I'm long retired," she said. But either way, she said, "you gotta believe that what you're doing could possibly change the world."
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-- Carly Helfand (email | Twitter)